"All the believers were of one heart and mind, and they felt that what they owned was not their own; they shared everything they had. And the apostles gave powerful witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus..." Acts 4:32-33
....Koinonia...Christian fellowship or communion with God, or, more commonly, with fellow Christians....."Koinonia is more than a cup of coffee and small talk; it is the fellowship of the broken sharing brokenness." Ann Voskamp
In the church, we talk a great deal about "having fellowship with one another." There is a great emphasis on being "a community." How do we really define that? Is it closer to being just "coffee and small talk," or is it really "the fellowship of the broken sharing brokenness?" What does "community" look like in your church? What does it look like in you?
I heard Francis Chan speaking recently about this. He referenced his days of pastoring a very "successful" megachurch. Thousands came each week. They listened to him preach, sitting in darkened sanctuaries, then they walked out into the daylight, got in their cars, and went home. To him, this didn't seem at all what church was to be, is to be. Larry Crabb wrote a wonderful book several years ago titled, "Real Church: Does It Exist? Can We Find It?" In it he shared his frustration, and the frustration of many others with how the modern church of the west seemed completely removed from its roots in the first century. For pastors in particular, two characteristics seemed to be in the forefront; burnout and boredom. Even in those who pastored what appeared to be large, successful "fellowships." There was a void in all of it. A void that only the experience of true Koinonia could fill. Koinonia that has as it's center, Christ the King. Chan left his megachurch in order to plant a fellowship that didn't have growing bigger for Him, but growing deeper in Him as it's focus. And in the process, growing closer to Him, and to one another in the journey. Chan, and those who are joining with Him in his house church movement, appear to be finding what Crabb labels the "real church." Are you and I? If we are to, it will mean the tearing down of all the walls we've constructed between each other. It will mean a willingness to be broken, transparent, vulnerable, and yes, available. To Him, and especially to each other. That means personal cost. A "real church" has to be composed of those willing to pay such a price. A price that will not allow them, both pastor and people, to just preach and listen to a sermon, then disconnect, if there was even a connection to begin with, casually walk out the door and go home.
In all the years that I've been "going to church" almost all the "fellowship" I've experienced is of the "coffee and small talk" type that Voskamp mentions. Potlucks, small groups, you name it, most of it never goes beyond the surface. It's seen even in the gathering of pastors, with emphasis on business and the program. Too often we come hungry for more, and leave the same way. It's not often that we are the broken sharing our brokenness. Small talk, broad discussion, a bit of general prayer, and away we go. There are some who've sought to lead the way to that "more", but they are not many. If this is the case for the pastors, what must be the state of the people?
I remember years ago a brother pastor sharing that if he was going through a deep valley, he could share that with his people for a week, maybe two, but he had better have gotten beyond it after that. For all of us, that seems to be about the extent of our wanting "to be real." I recognize that there are many who want to stay in their grief, refusing to let it go. I know too that there are those who seek the attention of others and don't want to lose it. Yet too much of the church just doesn't want to be inconvenienced by having to tend to the wounds and brokenness of others past what they consider a reasonable time. They want them to move on. Could it be because the brokenness of our brother reminds too much of the brokenness of ourselves? So the walls get higher, the hearts get harder.
This has been too long, I know, and there's so much more to say, but I long for, and I think He longs for us to have, something much greater than "potluck koinonia." Real people, coming together as the real church, being one together in and with a real God. We want to emulate the first century church in its explosive growth, but we can't because we know little to nothing of its Holy Spirit centered love of the Father and one another power. Until we do, we'll keep gathering to listen as one talks, a few sing, and then we go home in our cars.....unless of course there's a potluck fellowship after church.