The Greek word koinonia occurs 20 times in the Bible. It
means fellowship, sharing or communion.
It refers to Christâ€™s sharing with us by taking on a
physical body, as well as the sharing he allows us to do
with him by allowing us to take on a spiritual life in him. It
also refers to the sharing we do with each other as
members of his body, the church.
I have experienced many forms of sharing in the churches
Iâ€™ve been a part of--from the little church in Happy,
Texas, of my childhood through the Los Angeles churches
at Vermont Avenue, where we reared our family, and
Culver Palms in later life, with a sprinkling of college and
military churches from Falls Church, VA, to Bremerton,
WA, in between.
Koinonia refers to sharing material things (Romans 15:26-
27), sharing emotional empathy (Philippians 3:10), sharing
the Lordâ€™s Supper (1 Corinthians 10:16), sharing
salvation (1 John 1:3), sharing in spreading the gospel
(Philippians 1:5), sharing the Holy Spirit (Philippians 2:1),
and sharing in efforts to do good (2 Corinthians 8:4).
The church has been a fellowship to me in all these areas.
I have shared food, clothing and shelter with Christian
brothers and sisters, and they have shared with me. I have
shared joys and sorrows and rejoiced and wept with
theirs. I have regularly shared the bread and wine that
represents Christâ€™s sacrifice for each of us and draws
us into deeper fellowship with him and with each other. I
have taught others, helping some come to Christ and
others to draw closer to him, just as they have taught me
over the years. We share Christâ€™s gift of the
indwelling Holy Spirit, which makes us living stones in his
holy temple. And, being more an activist than a mystic, I
have worked with thousands of other Christians in one
effort after another over the years to make Christ alive in
Despite the good results of koinonia, it isn't all positive.
Fellowship and close sharing can cause people who aren't
a part of the "in group" to feel left out. It can create a style
that fails to allow for deviation. How can something so
good create evil? Itâ€™s because it's made up of people
like us--individual Christians who are both generous and
selfish, kind and cruel, caring and indifferent.
We are the church, the fellowship, the body of Christ in
the world. â€œIf we claim to have fellowship with him yet
walk in darkness; we lie and do not live by the truth. But
if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have
fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his
Son, purifies us from every sinâ€� (1 John: 1:6-7). Thatâ
€™s the good news of koinonia.