This spring I found myself intrigued with one of the many beautiful banners created by Vic and Irene Sotropa, displayed in our sanctuary. It featured the word “koinonia.” (See photos.) I began thinking about the meaning of this word, and asked myself if it is an appropriate description of our church family. Both that banner and the matching one also present the word visually: a group of people holding hands and forming a circle.
The word “koinonia” is mentioned 19 times in the Greek New Testament and is frequently used in the English Bible, depending on the translation. It is often translated “fellowship,” referring to the fellowship of believers in Christ.
According to one definition, “koinonia” is a “shared community that involves deep, closeknit participation among its people;” The redeemed, pastors, and lay people, are on one footing with each other before God. The church is our spiritual home.
In his sermon given earlier this month, Eric Warren said that the congregation does not create community; it is God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, who creates it. As the redeemed, we are invited into fellowship with God and with one another. It is a gift we are given.
This doesn’t mean that we are without responsibility within this family. It is ours to maintain and nurture what has been given. In Philippians 1:27, we learn one way of doing this: Paul speaks to the church about “standing firm in one spirit, striving side by side with one mind for the faith of the gospel.” We stand with one heart and mind with every member, regardless of differences in age, culture, and colour. We are blessed with a splendid diversity of ethnicity in our church.
Koinonia calls for ongoing care. We must be alert to those with special needs: the sick, the lonely, those in financial distress, etcetera. And in that process, we must not allow ourselves to become ingrown. As we stand “side by side,” we are called to welcome strangers to our fellowship. We should not be so engaged in meeting friends and family that we ignore the newcomer. Some time ago, members of our sister church, Argyle Road Baptist, were urged by leadership to practice a five minute rule: it was to resist speaking to those they knew well for the first five minutes after the close of the service, and, in that time, to speak to someone they didn’t know well. This is something we at First Baptist could also do. When we meet for fellowship and a cold drink after morning worship this summer, let’s make a habit of greeting newcomers and those who stand alone. In this way “alone” could become “side by side,” and this is true koinonia.
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