Koinonia – Fellowship – part 1
This talk was given by Paul Wintle on .
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- The introduction to the talk and the reading of Acts 2:42–47 are not included.
- The reading of a poem after the talk is not included.
This thirteen year old, this kid, this young man, kind of got what community was all about. He learned over these two years that it’s OK to get to know one another; it’s OK to have friends; it’s OK to get on with people and to want what’s best for others. He was learning the skills of being part of a community; to talk about the important stuff; to share; to be together; to enjoy having things in common. Because that’s what fellowship does; that’s what fellowship is.
There’s a Greek word which sums up this word fellowship or community in the New Testament and it’s called koinonia. We’re going to be looking at this interesting word over these next few weeks, discovering what it might mean for us as a community, as Main Street Community Church, and so we will be going on a journey to imagine who we are and, perhaps more importantly, who we are becoming.
I’ve been here for eight months now; doesn’t time fly? Was that a hurray I heard? Thank you. What I wasn’t expecting after a few months was that the elders would be leaving. And you’ll remember that when we heard the news we had a month of prayer, back in June. We needed as a congregation, as a fellowship, we needed to learn what it was like, to imagine what it was like, what it will be like, to have a church without these fantastic people Rick and Sue and Sue and Martin, away from us. So we prayed for that month in June. Some verses we shared during that time and, in particular, one verse rings in my mind and it’s from Acts chapter two and verse forty two, ‘They devoted themselves to the Apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayer.’
[Aside, taking a drink of water] I’m talking too much today.
These four aspects of the Christian life are key to our relationships, both with one another and with the God we love and live for. Together and today, I want us to look at one of those four ingredients, this word fellowship. It has a number of uses in the New Testament and, as we think about a next phase together, we realize and remember afresh that the faith community is about being. It’s about being together. It’s about the common threads, the things that draw us together, with Jesus as the head of the church, the one that we look to. And it’s easier to do when we have one another to encourage in our faith journey.
And so, even though we say a fond farewell to Sue and to Rick today, they are still part of us because of the faith and trust that they have in Jesus, it is the same faith that we have. It’s one of the things that we have in common with them: we believe in Jesus so do they.
We come together here in the building to worship God, to pray, to break bread together, and to devote ourselves to the teachings of the Bible: it’s the stuff that happened in Acts chapter two.
‘Then the believers had everything in common.’ Imagine that, they had no possessions because everybody owned everything between them. All the people, to use the words of John Lennon, had nothing to kill or die for because they all loved one another and wanted what was best for their community. There was no need for greed or hunger because they shared everything that they had.
The early church in Acts chapter two looked to try to live in peace with faith, not this religion or religious stuff. Yes, they were going to go through tough times as they began to move away from the related religiousness that came from their Judaic background and that would cause issues, but what families don’t have difficulties?
Imagine that kind of life where people looked out for one another, where they looked forward to being together. The activities we have here at Main Street enable us, to some extent, to learn to be together. The Sunday sandwiches, the pub meets, the coffee mornings even our Bible studies on Tuesdays. All point to having fellowship, this community, this commonality.
That’s what the world needs. It needs us to love it. Lennon’s last song, Imagine, says, ‘I hope one day you’ll join us.’ It’s my prayer that all who are part of the community here at Main Street will feel included and valued as we look to devote ourselves to teaching and to the fellowship to the breaking of bread and to prayer, that we will know the love of Christ’s.
The word koinonia, this fellowship word, has overtones of more than just friendship and being together. It’s about mutual interests, sharing life together, having closeness associations. It’s not just coming together because we believe in Jesus, it’s about a deep fellowship and a relationship with one another.
Social groups are set up because we have things in common. I was talking to Una this week and she goes along to the Opal group. Somebody was telling me about the stitching group that they go along to, there are dominoes’ leagues, reading clubs. As human beings, we’re meant to be together; we’re designed to be social beings; we’re designed to be in fellowship. And that’s why I believe it’s important that us meeting together, formally and informally, is just as much church as what we do here and now. The fellowship, the family, the importance of being together in doing life together is really important.
On the flip side. Imagine, as Tom Wright did in his commentary on Acts, imagine where people ignore this common life. People can become isolated; they can lose faith. Imagine where people no longer share the breaking of bread. They fail to remember that Jesus and the resurrection are the centre of everything. Wherever people do these things but we forget prayer, imagine that, because we would then forget that God’s people are heaven and earth people, we are meant to be connected to God in heaven through prayer. Because prayer makes no sense whatsoever unless heaven and earth are joined. Because that’s what prayer does. Imagine a society without these four things: without fantastic teaching, without common life, without breaking of bread, without prayer. Tom Wright says if you lived in such a world and then suddenly found yourself swept up in this pattern of living you would know new dimensions have opened up. You might see how the world might be. That’s what I’m talking about when I talk about who we are and who we are becoming.
It’s not about vision statements and strategy documents, like the school. It’s about having Jesus in common. It’s about our church becoming a community we are designed to be, followers of Christ, filled with his Spirit, becoming a community that others desire to be a part of.
Fellowship, a common life together as believers united in our faith in Christ. So, so important, and no more so than when we say farewell to people that have been part of our journey for so long. Sue and Rich have been with us as faithful supporters, good servants and mighty helpers. This fellowship without them is bound to change.
As you know, as leaders over these last few months we’ve sought to see what the changes might look like in terms of leadership style and structure without the Tusts and now without the Spilmen. I’ve put together a document. I don’t want to call it a letter as it sounds too formal. They are available for everybody to take and look at after the service. I’d just like to read some some bits. It’s taken a fair while to kind of get to this where we’re at but it’s not a huge change presently.
And so we’ve had a unique set of circumstances where both our elders are moving away. So it’s forced us to look at our leadership structure. We thank God for Martin and Sue and Rick and Sue for their skills, their love, the time they’ve taken in shaping our church, in particular since Tim and Eunice left. But we also look at new opportunities. We look at Jesus’ leadership style and it stressed the importance of relationships over structure amongst the twelve disciples, as we were thinking earlier with Bernard the bear. Jesus brought together a group of … interesting people: doctors, ultra-religious people, tax collectors, fishermen. He called them to follow him. And he called this network of life ‘the kingdom of God.’ Something we were looking at in the first few months that I was here.
It seems this network kind of leadership style is the one that Jesus, the servant King, made work. Instead of inherited historic ways of being, it uses personal relationships, enabling all of us to take part in different ways and at different levels, different times, using their own God-given abilities and skills and gifts. At the same time it does away with perhaps perceived layers of leadership, giving way to perhaps a more flexible way of being and doing church.
And so a network leadership style of Main Street might presently look something like this as it does, with me being the church leader, coordinating facilitating and leading what makes us up what makes the ethos of us. Assisted by Moira, and Andrew Faraday supporting as leaders along with characters who are gifted in practical and spiritual areas such as the pastoral care team coordinated by Ishbel, the worship team coordinated by Jill, and the premises development team who will be taken on that Dick will be taking over from Rick.
None of this would be possible without the constant support and prayer, and care, of the trustees of the charity, the legal entity feel like that makes up Main Street Community Church’s buildings and charity. Jeff Wood heads that up as the chair, Gareth is the treasurer, Sue Spilman will continue to be a trustee for the time being, and Paul Horton a man with many, many skills and experiences.
I’m grateful for those who already help in these areas. But if you feel that you could offer support in perhaps in a way that’s not mentioned – teaching, prayer, thinking ahead, something else there isn’t yet part of that structure, please let me know, please let me know. Because according to The New Testament, 1 Peter chapter two verse nine says, ‘You are chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, people belonging to God.’
We are all together. Paul teaches that one part of the body is no more important than the other because we are all interdependent. That’s how the body grows, it grows together. It was never a case that leadership was a lonesome occupation. And so let’s pray that God will continue to reveal where he wants each one of us to play our part, serving our community, serving Frodsham.
We do look to the past with thanksgiving. We remember that we need to look to the future.
We are called primarily to love, to love one another. And that involves relationship. Not all of us have the gifts or desire to be labelled a leader but that doesn’t mean that we’re unimportant. Everybody who is part of our fellowship, everybody is welcome to join in the work of Main Street. By choosing to join us, you’re already part of us. I want to get to know each one of us more deeply. I want to be part of a fellowship.
And so as we continue together on Sundays and other times. As we meet to study God’s words, to share, to pray, to share communion together, I pray that God will bless us and guide us, I pray that he will help us to imagine what life would be without our long-standing elders. I pray that together we will move towards bringing the kingdom of God to Frodsham as it is in heaven.
But you know it’s not actually about me. It’s about Jesus amongst us as a fellowship. It’s about our fellowship being Jesus where we are, gathered like we are today and scattered in our everyday lives. Imagine, because Jesus calls us together in fellowship to follow him.
So, Father God, would you please help us to imagine what it’s like to be part of your kingdom, part of your fellowship here? In Jesus’ name. Amen.
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