As all churches consider what next looks like after this pandemic, they do not have to look very far in the Bible to find an example of the church discovering what was instore after a world-altering event. In the Book of Acts, Jesus’ followers continue to form the church in the wake of his ascension.
There is a curious passage from Acts 2 in which the writer gives us insight into the church's daily lives. Of all the activities listed, the writer states that they had fellowship, the Greek word koinōnia.
Fellowship/koinōnia is a very distinct word compared to the more widely used word to describe the church, ekklesia, which means assembly. Ekklesia was a technical term used to describe the specific local churches as they worshiped, prayed, studied, partook in the Eucharist, and ministered together.
But fellowship/koinōnia is different. The biblical picture is of a mutual sharing of self, with the group's welfare as the priority, reflecting the church's spiritual maturity. As a result of its koinōnia, the church grew daily (2:47).
What we are witnessing from the Scriptures, what was experienced by those that lived it, is this group of Jesus’ followers becoming more than a church by sharing authentic community.
Throughout the New Testament and proceeding history, we see many church expressions across multiple continents, people groups, and theological convictions. No matter the form, the church is still composed of people, connected around a unifying act of existence.
Even as we witness the growth and organizational changes within the many expressions of the church in the Bible, as the church struggles over power, exclusion and inclusion, money, persecution, and theology, the New Testament writers continually brought people back to the centrality of the Christian community (koinōnia).
As we contemplate what is next for UBC, we must build upon authentic relationships. Such a unique ideal cannot only be theologized and philosophized. No, it is lived out by able and willing participants who understand their presence contributes to the collective that creates community.
My prayer for our faith community is that we will live into the fullness of what it means to experience and build koinōnia. May we experience the fullness of life that comes by sharing it. May we bask in awe of God using our fellowship to grow exponentially, both spiritually and numerically.