The Church that Could Be, Pt. 4: Embodying Koinonia
As we enter a new year, many of us take this opportunity to re-evaluate or re-center our lives and our ministries. Ministry leaders, I want to challenge you to take this opportunity seriously. As our churches move into this new era of what church is being and becoming, it's important that we don't get so lost in the day to day struggles that we forget to dream.
Over the last few days, I want to invite you to look at your church. To look at where it has come from, to look at where it is now, and, most importantly, to dream about what it could be. You can catch the first installment of this series here, the second here, and the third here.
I work a lot with young people discerning calls to ministry, and I see the variety of ways God is calling people to join in Kin-dom work in the world.
It’s powerful for young people to be in relationship with a variety of people doing a variety of things that God has called them to do. And it’s a powerful reminder that we are all responsible for one another, because we’re all part of the same body, the same community, and what we each bring to the table is important.
I don’t know a lot of Greek - barely any really - but one word that has become of utmost importance to me lately is koinonia. I’m pretty sure every church I’ve attended has had a Sunday School class with that namesake, but only recently have I dug into its meaning. I knew it was an early Christian term for community, but literally, one of the interpretations of the word is this: gifts jointly contributed.
Community is literally about a collective contribution of gifts. Gifts coming together to form something amazing, one body, celebrating together, suffering together, living together, serving together … koinonia is a call to community. I certainly don’t want to cross the line too far into the realm of cheesiness … but isn’t there a sense of the word collective in there too? A bringing together of gifts?
So here’s what I know. The last two years have been tough. Really tough. But I keep coming back to my calling.
For me, returning to my calling means reminding myself that I am called to remind the church of what could be, but I also have to remind myself of what could be. That even when they’re called “opinionated,” “overbearing,” or “unteachable,” my contributions to the community are valid and valuable. I am called to bring my gifts, to bring my contributions, to remind the church of what COULD BE.
I don’t know about you, but I want to be a part of the church that COULD BE. So that’s where this sermon turns from me to you … will you be the church of what COULD BE? Will you embrace the call to community, that the community’s role is to remind every individual, every person, that it is also a part of the body, no matter age or stage, ability or orientation, sex or gender?
As those with privilege, we offer that reminder and message to those without - which means we have to know them. As adults, we must offer that reminder and that message to children and youth - which means we have to know them. And to know them, and to embrace koinonia community, we have to first hear and listen to them, give them space for their contribution …. legitimate contribution. We have to know them and show them what COULD BE for themselves, and what it looks like to be community, true koinonia community.
So let’s say you’re on board, let’s say this series of blog posts turned your world upside down, let’s say you are all in for koinonia community … for bringing all the parts of the body in together … what does this church that COULD BE look like?
Well, for the most part, that’s for you to figure out. It looks different in different places. But actually, we get a little hint of where it all starts as Paul continues his letter to the Corinthians. This chapter closes with a full explanation of the metaphor ….
Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers; then deeds of power, then gifts of healing, forms of assistance, forms of leadership, various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? But strive for the greater gifts.
1 Corinthians 12: 27-31
And then Paul segues beautifully, because he knows they’ll have the same question … HOW? This all sounds great, but things are tough. It’s hard to live in community together.
And I will show you a still more excellent way.
1 Corinthians 12:31
And then Paul shares his how. It's not a curriculum or a 5-step method, but a core value - the most core value. It's the core of what it means to be a community, to follow Jesus. It's the message he has for a competitive, petulant group of folks who really want to be the best they can, but things are tough.
If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.
1 Corinthians 13
The how is love. The church of what could be is grounded in love. Koinonia community is grounded in love. My call is grounded in love. All our calls, every part of the body, the body itself - it’s all grounded in love. The how is love.
I pray that you will continually seek out God’s call on your life and on this community, the call to be the complete body, to remember what was, to be honest about what is, but to reach - in love - toward becoming the church that COULD BE.