Koinonia may be evolving into something totally different. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting that the Bible is an evolving document. It most certainly is not! I am declaring that the way koinonia is lived out has morphed and that we need to take note of it and let our group leaders know about it.
In case someone is wondering what this strange word is, Koinonia is the Greek term that is used multiple times in the New Testament. The most common English translation of this word is fellowship. Jerry Bridges reminds us in his amazing book, True Community, that it, “is actually translated several ways in the New Testament: for example, participation, partnership, sharing, and of course, fellowship. “ When it comes right down to it, Jerry gives the best definition I’ve seen when he describes koinonia. His definition is, “sharing a common life.”
If “sharing a common life” is the true definition of koinonia, and I believe it is, it is here that we find the evolution, not of the term, but of the way koinonia is lived out. We live in a post-Christian era. This is an era when the masses believe there is no truth, that is, unless it’s their own. This is an era when a believer voicing God’s perspective on moral expectations is deemed judgmental, hypercritical, and condemnatory. And it is in this Post-Christian that, if a disciple of Jesus Christ speaks the name of Jesus publicly or suggests someone has the need of Him as their Savior, that Christ follower is deemed a fanatic and set apart for emotional martyrdom.
In past eras believers didn’t need to come together for encouragement and to find a people of like moral values and beliefs as much as they do today. When Judeo-Christian values were norm and Christianity truly was the practice of the land, conversations with everyday people about religion and things of faith were, in most instances, acceptable, even common practice. Not so today.
When Paul wrote the Philippian church, a church in a city saturated with many different ideologies, he emphasized, “Just one thing: Live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or am absent, I will hear about you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind, working side by side for the faith that comes from the gospel, not being frightened in any way by your opponents. This is a sign of destruction for them, but of your deliverance—and this is from God. For it has been given to you on Christ’s behalf not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for Him, having the same struggle that you saw I had and now hear that I have.” (Philippians 1:27 – 30)
Koinonia living in a post-Christian era demands, 1) living life, “in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ” (vs. 27), 2) “standing firm” (vs. 27) even when we are treated as, “strangers and temporary residents” (1 Peter 2:11), even, “when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you” (Matthew 5:11), and even in that time when, “they will hand you over for persecution, and they will kill you. You will be hated by all nations because of My name.” (Matthew 24:9).
Paul describes what it means to live in koinonia relationships in an era when believers are considered to be outsiders. We are to be, “with one mind, working side by side for the faith that comes from the gospel” (Phil 1:27). And if you do this, you will, “not being frightened in any way by your opponents.” (Phil. 1:28)
Moreso than ever, we need to embrace living koinonia relationships. Hebrews 10:24 – 25 shouts to believers of the importance of being together in these times. It reads, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”
In this post-Christian era, believers need encouraging, intimate, ongoing relationships with a handful of undeterred Christ followers who are sharing a common life, the life of a practicing, sacrificial, sometimes persecuted disciple of Jesus Christ. And these kinds of relationships happen best in a small group where the small group leader has been trained to understand and guide their group members to live, “in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ” (Phil 1:27) while at the same time clinging to one another as they live what the world considers an outrageously ridiculous, radical life, “with one mind, working side by side for the faith that comes from the gospel” (Phil 1:27) continuing to “encourage one another” (Hebrews 10:25).