June 29, 2010
Meeting Together – Koinōnia and Fulfilling Hebrews 10:25
How do Christians fulfill Hebrews 10:25 in the scripture? It may not be what you think it is.
Hebrews 10:24-25 – 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.
Hebrews 10:25 = Mandatory “Church” Attendance?
Many in the IC have used this passage of scripture to brow beat Christians into thinking that weekly attendance in an Institutional Church fulfills Hebrews 10:25. They suggest that a Christian must “come to church” every week for the majority of the year for the purposes of worship and fellowship. (except for the sick and shut in, or the family vacation) If a Christian refuses to so do, they are often considered backsliders, and “bad Christians” who are in sin because they do not attend a local church building.
Is Christian fellowship merely dependent on having our names in the membership rolls of an institution?
Christians ideally aught to fellowship on a regular basis, for this is the pattern of the church. We sharpen each other, and through our spiritual gifts and the worship of God can come edification for all saints. However, is this what the local IC is teaching it’s members? The IC is pushing a perverted doctrine of mandatory church attendance with the motive seemingly being to keep believers in attendance in their building.
As you guys already know, church is not something you attend, but something you ARE, so that dismisses the myth that “attending” an Institutional Church for the sake of attending only fulfills the purpose of Hebrews 10:25. That scripture speaks about genuine fellowship amongst the body of Christ, meeting together, and the spirit of some who have totally abandoned assembling with Christians in any capacity. We know that there are unregenerate church goers out there, so “going to church” alone solves nothing.
Koinōnia – Communion Fellowship
The assembling Hebrews 10:25 speaks of is a little something called koinōnia.
“Koinōnia is the anglicisation of a Greek word (κοινωνία) that means communion by intimate participation. The word is used frequently in the New Testament of the Bible to describe the relationship within the early Christian church as well as the act of breaking bread in the manner which Christ prescribed during the Passover meal [John 6:48-69, Matthew 26:26-28, 1 Corinthians 10:16, 1 Corinthians 11:24]. As a result the word is used within the Christian Church to participate, as Paul says, in the Communion of – in this manner it identifies the idealized state of fellowship and community that should exist – Communion.” – Via Wikipedia.com
If you checked out the definition, communion fellowship of the body of Christ is more than just perfect attendance to a meeting in a building, it is characterized by intimate fellowship with members of the body of Christ, anytime, anywhere, anyplace. Every believer in Christ craves this sort of communion with the body, as they should.
Here is the heart of the matter, and I don’t care if you choose to fellowship in an IC or at Starbucks. Are you experiencing koinōnia with your fellowship? Do you break bread together, or is your bread stale crackers and grape juice? Is the definition of “fellowship” at your IC only confined in the 30 minutes after service is over? Are you being stirred up to do good works profitable for the Lord? Are you in communion and fellowship with the members of the body of Christ in your local congregation, not just once a year, but often? Does your church encourage intimate participation amongst all members of the congregation, and not just the select few who we delegate to do all the officiating?
My (Lack of) Koinōnia in the IC
One of the greatest concerns I remember having at my IC was that I wasn’t experiencing koinōnia but once or twice a year but with a select few.
Searching for answers, I was told a range of “solutions” to my fellowship dilemma. “Join more ministries, and you will find fellowship there!” but joining a ministry of which I wasn’t called just to have “fellowship” seemed disingenuous to me.
I was also told the KJV rendering of Proverbs 18:24 “A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly.” I think I am as friendly as the next person, and honestly, that wasn’t the problem. I’ll elaborate on what I believe the issues were in a later blog. I knew something was missing, and God was helping me put my finger on the issues at hand.
I found myself being spiritually depleted, longing to fellowship with other saints around me. I read the word, I was in constant prayer and communication with the Lord, but the Lord has a body, and Christians should have the desire to commune and fellowship with other members of the body of Christ. Attendance at the IC I once frequented was so dull and mundane at times, even when people were shouting for joy, loud, and boisterous around me. We were more concerned with effectively executing the church calendar, programs, and the next sermon, instead of building a community of believers who actively commune with one another. We were too busy to fellowship, and many of us were stressed, discouraged, and hurting inside, but instead of confessing our faults to one another, and bearing one another’s burdens, we were burdened down to the point of exhaustion with more work to do “for the kingdom.” If this was the burden Jesus was talking about, then I was starting to think that I wanted no part of it.
Koinōnia by Example
Now instead of just telling you what I believe this passage means, I’d rather give you some pointed examples. My sister who writes a blog aptly titled Revive Me O Lord has my wheels spinning as to what fellowship in the biblical context REALLY is.
- At the outdoor cafe with a precious saint who loves Jesus and desires to walk with Him.
- On the phone in the middle of the night for an hour with a sister who is confused and distressed about what is going on at her Institutional Church.
- Sitting at my kitchen table with my husband, comforting a brother in the Lord who is devastated and heartbroken almost to the point of despair, due to intense personal suffering, sorrow and trials. He is ignored by the people at the Institutional Church.
- Chatting poolside about what the Lord is doing in our lives, with a friend I have not seen in two years, while our kids swim.
- Having lunch with my dear girlfriend while sharing with each other about the painful reality of what the Lord is allowing in our lives in order to sanctify, purify, refine, prepare and separate us unto Him in unwavering devotion.
- On a few blog sites and internet radio podcasts I’ve found which help, edify and encourage.
- Via email with brothers and sisters I have “virtually met” all over the globe who love and follow Jesus.
- On the street with saints God arranges for me to meet when I’m out talking with people in the community.
- In a living room in a house in my city.
- In my car with four people while we drive for an hour and a half to meet some other believers for a time of mutual encouragement, and taco truck tacos, eaten while sitting on the ground.
- In my car driving, talking for hours, on a road trip with my daughter.
Now what if the person who did all of those things above didn’t have membership in an IC… would you say that this person is in sin because they don’t attend a church? Do you believe the person above is forsaking the fellowship of the saints? It looks to me that this person craves it… thrives off it even.
Conclusion – How Do We Meet Together?
Now there are some who believe that in order for fellowship to be “official” amongst the saints, you must assemble in a church building where clergy are present, especially pastors and elders, whose job is to officiate over a religious worship service, and preferably, some member of the clergy who is a trained orator will bring word from God through a sermon. This is a pattern that has been followed since at least The Great Awakening, but is a sermon with clergy officiating over a religious service the ONLY valid way that Christians come together for fellowship? This blog writer says NO.
I’d dare say the bible never prescribes such a pattern for fellowship as being mandatory, so you won’t see me endorse one type of fellowship gathering or style over the other. The point is simply that we as the body of Christ are more effective for the kingdom of God when we come together, and assemble for the purpose of edifying one another, and glorifying God. Hebrews 10:25, and a host of other passages supports that we should meet together often, but never says what “often” means, how many people you should meet with, or if that meeting takes place in a prescribed setting with clergy present. (I have yet to find the concept of the clergy in the bible, but I digress) Remember biblical decency and order is not order the way the gentiles see it in the world around us.
I leave you with these scriptures as something to think about. I pray it pushes you to good works prepared in advance by the Lord. Be the church, and do the will of God.
1 Corinthians 11:23-26
1 Peter 3:15-16
1 Corinthians 12:12-27
1 Thessalonians 5:11
2 Timothy 3:16-17