I have written in my past 5 "why" blogs about the first 3 primary values that we have chosen to focus upon in the formation stage of our development as a community of Jesus followers - ADORATION, HOPE, and KOINONIA (fellowship). I began this series by referring to the kind of learning environments that we focus upon - informal and non-formal. I also inserted a bit about embracing a non-sectarian attitude and posture in order to love, respect and embrace other Jesus-loving ministries, churches and movements. The 4th main value that we are seeking to impart into the heart of our community is DISCOVERING PURPOSE. Just as there is power in knowing the "why" of our community, it is even more vital to us that each member of our fellowship discover her/his personal "why". Whether on large or small scales, people who really know their God-given identity and purpose will be history-makers. They will bring renewal to the whole creation through emoting His presence and wisdom!
In the past, the spiritual cultures we planted, joined and helped lead tended to say to prospective members - "God has given the founders and leaders of this body a clear and compelling vision/mission that we would love for you to "catch". We desire/need you to join in with us to love, labor, fund and make sacrifices, as we have, to help this work of God become fruitful." Though this kind of message has some Biblical elements and merit, we have felt directed to aim at and convey something different to people who are and/or may want to become a part of our spiritual family.
We try to communicate something like this - "As founders and pastors of this community, we want to equip and empower you in every way we can and walk alongside of you in friendship to discover and accomplish the will of our Heavenly Father for your life in every season of your journey. This is what we earnestly desire for you and yours."
It seems good to the Holy Spirit presently that we have taken this approach and that He is promising us that whatever more corporate vision/mission He has for us will naturally-supernaturally emerge, dawn upon us all and grip our hearts. We believe that the personal ethic Jesus taught us in Matthew 16;25 applies to corporate groups and organizations as well - "For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." We haven't been called as a community of faith to exist in order to preserve our existence. Rather, we are called to build and develop a rich spiritual culture in which people are empowered to hear the Lord's voice and to do what He instructs them to do. We simply trust that if we will focus on building people of Christ (i.e. making disciples), that our Lord Jesus will build His church. (Matthew 16;8)
Some might point out that this approach sows into our group the seeds of our own demise. But we would reply that a solitary seed goes into the ground in order to die, but to then mysteriously give rise to bringing forth much fruit! (John 12:24) I pray that we might always delight that the powerful rhythms of death and resurrection are at play in our community.
A third primary value that we choose to focus upon as a community of Jesus followers is KOINONIA. This is a very rich word used in the New Testament that is translated fellowship in English versions of the Bible. The Moravian Christians considered this experience/practice a sacrament. When the aged apostle John wrote to believers, he presented koinonia as both a overarching means and outcome of our faith in Christ.
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life-- the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us-- that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. 1 John 1:1-3
Koinonia implies an interactive sharing of life that flows out from a direct connection and friendship with God and an interpersonal sharing of this divine life flow with fellow believers. Koinonia. spills over to even touch people who have yet to come to faith. It is a central bonding agent that knits human hearts together in Jesus Christ and gives them a powerful sense of belonging to both God and one another. When believers who are living in the light of God open their hearts widely to each other in vulnerable communications, they feed Christ to each other in unique and special ways. The Holy Spirit travels the two-way streets between their hearts and they enrich one another in the faith, hope, love and joy that comes directly from the great heart of God through their individual personalities.
The first believers devoted themselves to amplifying the experience of koinonia (Acts 2:42) along with applying the apostle's teaching about the ways of life in Jesus, prayer and regularly sharing meals. I think of community meals and celebrating the Lord's Supper as parabolic of how we feed and share Christ's life with one another in koinonia. When the believers did these 4 things, the Holy Spirit took control and accomplished wondrous and miraculous things among them. (Acts 2:42ff.) Their church life was profoundly simple and simply profound. It was a life on life, authentic, sacrificially giving, humble, bold, practical and joy-filled community culture. They didn't attempt to create programs and structures to do their loving for them...imagine that! Instead, they simply and actually loved one another in hearty ways.
We think that church programs, traditions and structures that do not promote, but especially tax, the experience of koinonia among their members actually need to be cast off and given a proper burial or, better yet, never be instituted in the first place! In our brief journey as an intentional community, we have first labored to come to know and be known by a small group of friends in Christ, and by this, come to love and be loved by such a circle of friends. Right now, we have 4 cluster groups and a 5th one beginning. This atmosphere is helping us to be loved by God on deeper levels and empowering us to live more gratefully and joyfully before Him and others in our day to day lives.
A VOICE OF HOPE
Michael Sullivant's Blog
I am a child of God, husband, father, grandfather, spiritual father, author, speaker and hope coach.