They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Acts 2:42
That word, fellowship, is an interesting one. The word in Greek is “koininia” which literally means “come together.” In the Christian community, it means a little bit more than just to being together in one place. It means to come together as a unique community with one another with Christ at the center.
Why though? Why do we gather together?
Perhaps the answer to that question goes back a lot further than just the book of Acts. Perhaps it goes all the way back to our creation. In Genesis 1:26, God says, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us” (NLT).
The “our” in that statement refers back to the Triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Think about that for a minute; this is how we were created – in the image of God. God put his hands on us. Everything else in the Genesis account was spoken into being but humanity was formed, touched by God, and then breathed into by Him. All humankind that followed were knitted by God in our mother’s wombs (Psalm 139. )
We all bear God’s fingerprints.
If we look up the words formed and knitted and translate them literally we find out that we were squeezed into shape, spread out and joined together, then breathed into by the Triune God. It’s as though humanity were a divine, hands on, interactive, group project to reflect God’s image in the world.
We were created in community for community.
Our souls look for it. Community has its root in the idea of common identity. It’s not a “Christian” thing; it’s a humanity thing. We crave this idea of being together. Just look the weekend – how many gathered this weekend for something we’ve created called “football?” Sports, clubs, politics, interest groups, book clubs, and parties are all examples of ways we gather.
No one is forcing us together but something innate within us draws us to be with other human beings. Psychology Today puts it this way: “Every single one of us craves the feeling of being part of something bigger than ourselves. By nature, we are tribal”
Early Christians recognized the power of community and created opportunities for the faith community to experience God together. Corporate spiritual disciplines such as common prayers, liturgies, and celebrations were incorporated into Christians living, not as prescriptions or required religious activities, but as ways to experience community. Much like a sports team will have a fight song and a cheer so that the crowd gathers in one voice or fans of a musical will learn the songs and sing them together, there’s a unique feeling of belonging found in joining together in these spiritual disciplines and practices.
What is really incredible about the Christian experience of community, or koininia, is that what we gather around isn’t specialized to any age group, life experience, or special interest. We gather around Christ. Jesus says in Matthew 18:20 that where two or three are gathered as his followers, he is present with them (NLT).
There’s no limitation to that promise!
There’s no specified location or special practice that needs to take place. There is nothing needed than for two or three people who claim the name of Christ, who are Christ-followers or Christians, to be together.
No age limits.
No life experience limits.
No special interests.
Any limits placed on our Christian community come not from God but from us.
Think about that for a minute. The opportunity to gather, to come together with God and with each other has no limit except for that which we impose.
We were created with an innate desire to be in community. Our children need community. Our elderly need community. Our middle-aged empty nesters need community. Our young and tired parents need community.
As the church, let’s do our best to create space for this coming together without limitations to experience Christ in our midst. Maybe we employ some of those spiritual disciplines that the early church has given us. Maybe we gather together for times of worship and prayer. Maybe we join together to serve one another or our community.
But regardless of the method, we gather… and He will gather with us.
For more information about
- Kids in Worship
- Determining which Type of Family Ministry model works best for your church
- Encouraging the continued conversation through Practical Discipleship at Home
- And much more!
About the author
Christina Embree is wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and family minister at Nicholasville UMC. She is passionate about seeing churches partnering with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. Currently studying Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family, Seedbed, and ChildrensMinistryBlog.com.