Koinonia is a key element in Christian community. Where is this word found? And what does it mean?
Koinonia: To contribute; to have in common, share, Heb. 2:14; to be associated in, to become a sharer in, Rom. 15:27; 1 Pet. 4:13; to become implicated in, be a party to, 1 Tim. 5:22; 2 Jn. 11; to associate one’s self with by sympathy and assistance, to communicate with in the way of aid and relief, Rom. 12:13; Gal. 6:6; Phil. 4:15* participate in; share.
sharing (13x) G2842 (19x) [Mounce Greek Dictionary]
Let’s consider the most important use of the word for our purposes connected to corporate worship:
“The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a sharing (koinonia) in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a sharing (koinonia) in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.” (1 Corinthians 10:16–17 NRSV)
Paul’s point, amongst others, is that, since we share in Christ, and we share in the wine and bread (communion), this makes us one body (local congregation). Thus we should participate in our gatherings in a way which glorifies God, edifies the members and reveals God to non-believers. That’s unpacking much of the rest of 1 Corinthians which we don’t have time for here.
For our purposes, the thing to note is that oneness in the body implies connectedness of participation in our times together. We are not ‘attending church’, but sharing in a gathering.
We are not singing a song, but sharing a song.
That’s what all of us who helped to coordinate and lead corporate worship desire. Participatory connectedness. What the Bible would call koinonia.
However, we know that this does not happen as often as we would like.
Let’s have a brief conversation about what to do when participatory connectedness does not happen.
Let’s list some of the obstacles to koinonia:
1. Habitual late arrivals
2. Members seated far from other members scattered around the room
3. Uneven access to lyrics of songs
4. Un-dealt with sin between one Christian and another
5. Personal hidden sin
6. Hidden fears, doubts confusion and anger towards God
7. Misunderstanding around the purpose of corporate worship – i.e. the sense that the personal experience is the most significant element.
I daresay you can add many of your own observations. And please do so in the comment box below. From this we can see that some of what it takes to develop koinonia is about practical preparedness, and some of it is about pastoral involvement.
Some questions to myself and all of us leaders of corporate worship:
1. Are you having conversations with the habitual late arrivals? Talking to find solutions, not to condemn, of course.
2. Do you encourage members to move and sit close to each other, and give a healthy reason as to why?
3. If you are using projection, are the lyrics visible and is the font large enough? If you are using songbooks or song sheets are they being distributed well? If you notice people squinting at the screen, are you having conversations about them getting an eye test or bringing their spectacles to church?
4. If you are aware of any unhealthiness amongst relationships in church, are you addressing them or engaging with people who could address them?
5. If you sense there may be hidden sin, are you praying and asking God to reveal it?
6. If you are aware of members who are struggling in their trust towards God, are you offering to pray for them, with them and perhaps sit down and listen to their practical challenges and heart struggles?
7. Are you teaching on the significance of offering all of ourselves as a body in worship, not just our individual voices/hearts?
Much more could be said here, but this is for starters. Here’s the key question for today:
“What do you find is the most helpful way to encourage koinonia-worship in your congregational setting?”
Please add your comments on this week’s topic. We learn best when we learn in community.
Do you have a question about teaching the Bible? Is it theological, technical, practical? Send me your questions or suggestions. Here’s the email: email@example.com.
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“Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.” (Psalms 100:2 NIV11)
God bless, Malcolm
PS: You might also be interested in my book: “An elephant’s swimming pool”, a devotional look at the Gospel of John