June 29, 2010

Meeting Together – Koinōnia and Fulfilling Hebrews 10:25

Posted in False Beliefs about Attending Church, False Beliefs About The IC, IC Doctrine and Practices, Misconceptions Dispelled, Uncategorized tagged , , , , , at 7:03 pm by Set Free Indeed


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.

Acts 2:42
Romans 12:10
Romans 15:14
1 Corinthians 11:23-26
Matthew 28:18-20
1 Peter 3:15-16
James 1:27
1 Corinthians 12:12-27
Ephesians 5:19-20
1 Thessalonians 5:11
2 Timothy 3:16-17

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14 Comments »

  1. I’ve often struggled with this for years. If I’m not in an official church setting, am I in sin? Thank you for this blog. It is encouraging to my soul.

  2. Elizabeth said,

    It is sometimes hard in our Post-Reformation worldview to understand that for Christians of the Middle Ages, there was no awareness that there was such a thing as Institutional Church or an Ecclesiastical System. Although the abuses of Bishops and priests certainly did much to ignite the firestorm of the Reformation, it was also caused by the rise of the merchant and middle class, and nation-states. This is why, the institutional church continues to be so closely connected with political power structures. It simply shifted from connections to Kings and Princes, to connections with intellectuals, merchants and politicians. It’s simply a matter of following the money! IMHO, the Reformation is a smoke screen, nothing really changed too much!

    And yes, there were people who truly loved and sought to follow Jesus, but it didn’t take long before they too were co-opted back into the political power structure and hierarchies. Part of our sin condition is that we become too caught up in our own survival and comfort and forget that Jesus taught that we must die in order to live and give in order to receive.

    This survival instinct, that is present in all institutional structures (and individuals) is a far cry from Jesus instructions to tend to the poor and the widow, the sick and the marginalized! I believe that the IC, if she can remember what God is calling her to do can be an effective voice in furthering the Kingdom that Jesus proclaimed, but we have to separate ourselves from the lure of power and prestige…of fitting in, and being important. The teachings that many of you seem to have come under are ones that perpetuate a false understanding of what the church is truly called to be. It isn’t just a vehicle to bring people to individual salvation (as important as that is), but also called to bring attention to unjust structures and systems and to work for their change. As long as the church is too closely tied to the political system and caught up in her own survival, this will never happen.

    I for one, give thanks to God that the influence of the IC is waning, because now we can truly get on with the business of being disciples.

  3. Elizabeth said,

    Getting back to the Hebrews passage, we should be sure to focus on the whole verse. All this meeting together is to do one thing, to “stir up” or “provoke” (NRSV) each other to love and good deeds. To use this passage as a stick to beat people up for not attending Sunday worship is to misuse God’s Word in a way that I’m sure would make Jesus cry.

  4. Sheryl said,

    In denominations that use the KJV, I point out that missing a service is not “forsaking”;)

  5. Elizabeth said,

    I’m not happy with the idea of having to choose one or the other. Jesus told us to “Love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love our neighbour as ourselves”. Loving Jesus means loving those he came to redeem including those involved in the IC. I would say that loving the church, means loving the ecclesia, God’s beloved children, created in His image and likeness and called to continue his mission in the world He loves. Loving our Lord Jesus and loving the church (no matter who you define it) and the world are two sides of the same coin. There is a lovely little song that goes “I am the church, you are the church, we are the church together.” Churches are made up of people who are attempting (albeit imperfectly) to learn together what this means (at least in my congregation–and I know of many others who would agree with me). I don’t see any need to make a choice, it is a both/and situation. Loving the Lord Jesus impels us to continue his mission in the world as we await the fullness of his return, otherwise our love is nothing more that empty words, like clanging gongs.

    • Loretta said,

      Hello Elizabeth. Thanks for bringing this up. Yes of course we are to both love the Lord Jesus AND His people (the church, the people of God, the flock). I was speaking of the issue of love for and loyalty to the Church Institution System. I was trying to relay that, in the middle ages, the Western (Rome centered) Roman Catholic Church Ecclesiastical System (which by the way was married to the kings and governments in Europe) compelled the people to love and be loyal to “IT”, to the Pope, to the Church (Mother Church) itself. Many true believers died because though they loved Christ and their fellow brethren, they refused to give obiescense and loyalty to the Pope and the Church System. Their love was for Christ and other Christians and their loyalty was to Christ alone. They had to make a choice when commanded to respond in the Inquisition where their loyalties lay. They had to make a choice. (An example is, they were required to believe that salvation came through The Church, and they refused to confess this, confessing instead that salvation is only in Christ (by faith). I have actually heard recently of some Reformed Churches teaching things like loyalty to The Church (Inc.), and the pastor is mediator between the people and God. These are Roman Catholic doctrines. Allegiance is going to be an increasingly significant issue as we see things progress with what I identify as the Beast government system and the Harlot (apostate) Babylon Church system who are married to each other do their antichrist thing.
      love,
      Loretta
      Revive Me O Lord. wordpress. com

  6. Loretta said,

    amen sister! I am the church. I am the ekklesia, we are the ekklesia,
    the called out assembly /congregation; the people of the Lord, gathered
    for and unto HIM.

    ekklesia is never capitolized in the Bible! Capitol C Church was an invention of the IC. But church/ ekklesia in the bible, is little c.

    Now check this: the word church in English is translated from a northern European (scandanavian?) word circe which comes down from kyriakon a LATE Greek word that is not the word ekklesia, and kyriakon means, “house of the lord” (house of the lord=a god) as in, pagan temple. The earliest English translators (Wycliffe, Tyndale) did not translate ekklesia, church, but assembly or congregation, because ekklesia is the Gk NT word for the OT assembly, congregation of Israel, THE CALLED OUT, ASSEMBLED PEOPLE OF GOD. When the early English translators came to the GK word for a Roman god/ goddess worshipping pagan temple they used the word CHURCH. Using the word Church to translate ekklesia was a very convenient “ecclesiastical” decision made by the political and religious powers that be. Church denotes a building, an institution a place controlled by the Leaders who have power, and authority.

    • Loretta said,

      The Puritans used assembly. King James, Westcott & Hort et all, made sure we had the word church translating ekklesia. This strengthens the (Babylonian) System. Now we have Reformed Evangelical pastors who used to urge people to love the Lord Jesus Christ, urging the saints to love the Institutional Church. Scary because this issue was the primary issue in the middle ages and Reformation era concerning persecution when the State (Roman Catholic) Church insisted that everyone’s allegiance be to the IC, when true believers insisted their allegiance shall be only to the Lord Jesus Christ. I believe this issue shall return with a vengeance and people will once again be forced to choose.

  7. Elizabeth said,

    As an ordained minister in an IC (Anglican/Episcopalian) I can tell you that many of us long for our flock to engage in exactly the kind of koinonia fellowship that you describe. Although I would never disparage the place of corporate worship in the life of a believer, you are quite right in pointing out that the “busyness” of the IC does little to bring about the fullness of a transformed life that Jesus promised us.

    As some have said, Christianity is not so much a religion as it is a relationship. Our Trinitarian understanding of the nature of God is based on a relational understanding of God as three persons in a relationship that is characterized by a radial giving and receiving of love. In the incarnation, God’s self giving love was made present in the world and Koinonia fellowship is the way that the church bears witness to this understanding of God; by selflessly giving and receiving love.

    At its best corporate worship can draw the worshipper closer to the transcendent God, but does little to incarnate the presence of God. That can only happen in close, intimate relationships that are marked by the kind of self giving that you describe.

    But we need both transcendence and incarnation….so please don’t totally give up on the institutional church; perhaps the witness of people like you who are committed to living into the fullness of life in Christ can shine like lights into the darkness of IC. There are many Institutional Churches who would welcome you, encourage you and support you on your journey.

  8. Jazmin said,

    Amen!!! I agree with you 100%…The Lord set me “FREE from the IC” in April of ’09 and it wasn’t until I came out of that system, that I came to experience true body life. May the Lord continue to illuminate you! God Bless! 🙂

  9. Sisterlisa said,

    (((Standing ovation)))) Thank you for this!

  10. David said,

    Wonderful article. You are on the right track! I read your sister’s site and agree also. There are a few true believers who are out of the system and are having fellowship in non conventional ways. The clergy system is not built on allowing the Spirirt to teach through whomever God chooses. It is a business that is compromised with the government much like the church in the early days when it merged with the Roman government. I am glad you were open to the Spirit prodding you through your sister. I will pray God bless you both and continue to draw you closer to Jesus our Lord and have true revelation from the Spirit outside of the man made system.

  11. Bryan said,

    Excellent article, thumbs up, I recommend it. I appreciate this website and all your efforts to show that there is Christian life outside the IC. Thanks again and LORD bless.


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