What is community?
It seems to be a buzz-word lately in Christian circles. We talk about building healthy communities in our churches, and fostering good communities online. We discuss the aspects of community, like social interaction and sharing of possessions. We think about our voices being heard and our needs being met.
But what does God say about community? After all, we are His people. We were created to have community with Him. So how does He define it?
There’s an interesting word recorded in our New Testament: koinonia. It’s an ancient Greek word that is often translated as fellowship. But before you start thinking about coffee dates, ice cream socials, and potluck dinners — that’s not what koinonia really means.
You see, when Scripture talks about having fellowship, it refers to much more than simply eating together. It refers to living-breathing-relationships.
True biblical fellowship is an ongoing partnership with other Christians, as Jerry Bridges discusses in his book True Community: The Biblical Practice of Koinonia.
Bridges explores this idea of active partnership, explaining what it means throughout Scripture and drawing relevant applications for our lives today. He starts with the basis for any true biblical community: union and communion with God (ie, salvation and continual communication with God).
He then considers individual aspects of Christian community. For instance, the fellowship of sharing testimonies about what God is teaching us. Or the fellowship of sharing finances, to support our pastors and missionaries. Or the fellowship of sharing our skills and spiritual gifts, to build the church and increase her effectiveness.
True Community also explores some less common — and more challenging — aspects of biblical fellowship.
For example, sharing in suffering: partnering with other Christians who are suffering by identifying with them, acknowledging their trials, and agonizing in prayer on their behalf. Maybe you aren’t suffering for Christ’s sake, but others are every single minute, and you are part of the same family.
Or sharing in service: giving our time, talents, and energy for the benefit of meeting someone else’s needs. We can share in teaching new skills, or producing art, or setting things up behind the scenes. Be reliable, let others count on you doing what you promise. And be willing to share the responsibilities without sharing the applause.
And sharing in missions: holding the ropes for those who go down into the mines. Perhaps you aren’t called to live in some foreign village, but you can certainly partner with those who are! You can pray for them, support them financially, encourage them with cards and packages, and remember them when they visit your church on furlough!
True biblical community is relationships-in-action.
True Community explores about 10 major aspects of biblical fellowship. Its 12 chapters are readable, thought-provoking, and relevant to Christians today across the world. And each chapter ends with a few discussion questions, which makes it ideal for Bible studies or small group settings.
I would highly recommend this book. In fact, it’s going on my favorites list.
It was instructive. Even though I grew up with Christian education and solid Bible preaching, I grew in understanding as I worked through its pages. It was convicting, as it echoed Scriptural principles about partnering with other believers.
And it was interesting enough that I’d like to read through it again sometime…
Maybe with some of you?
Would you be interested in reading this book together at some point?
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