In the book of Acts, we read how the early church practiced a vibrant and deep partnership together which is sometimes called fellowship. This included community celebration, meeting together in homes, supporting those in need, serving each other and the community, and co-labouring together to advance the cause of Christ.They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Acts 2:42Partnership, Fellowship and “Koinonia”
This practice of fellowship (or koinonia in the Greek language of the New Testament) reflected a rich tradition in ancient cultures of partnering together in community for the common good. Without devaluing the individual, it implied a committed partnership with each other which went far beyond casual friendship and social interaction. In the New Testament, Koinonia is also translated communion, sharing, contribution, participation, and partnership. Here is one way of defining it.Definition: Koinonia is a community concept from ancient Greece that conveys a sense of commonality, solidarity, and shared responsibility among households or individuals as they partner together for the common good and a common cause.The Example of the Church in Philippi
In New Testament times, one local church that practiced that type of partnership was the church in the ancient Greek city of Philippi. Right at the beginning of his letter to this church, Paul thanks them for their partnership in the gospel.I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:3-6
There is that word koinonia again. As we read this letter, we can see how they stood with Paul prayerfully, practically, and personally in fellowship or mutual partnership (koinonia) for the cause of Christ. The whole letter is an expression of thanks for their close partnership with himThree Dimension of Partnership
A colleague of Paul called Epaphroditus, who was from the church of Philippi, provides us with a living example of biblical partnership. Paul writes this about him.“But I think it is necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus, my brother, co-worker, and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger, whom you sent to take care of my needs.” Phil 2:25
This courageous man was willing to put his own life and health at risk to help Paul. Their relationship had three qualities that I believe reflect three powerful dimensions of Christian partnership. As Christians in community, we are:
1) Fellow Soldiers. We fight our battles together.
2) Brothers and Sisters. We share each other burdens
3) Co-Labourers. We work together for the cause of Christ.Partnership at CityLife
An important expression of partnership in our church community is when people become formal Partners of CityLife Church. There is an organisational element to this—CityLife Partners become legal members of our Church Association. Even more important, formal partnership at CityLife is a concrete way of expressing commitment, involvement, and active participation in church life.
At different times during the year, we recognize and affirm those people who have made the decision to become a Partner of CityLife Church after completing our Life Track 1 and 2 courses. Our partners make the following commitments to contribute to the life of CityLife Church.
• To be a passionate disciple of Jesus
(including a commitment to regular attendance at church services).
• To be in relationship
(including a commitment to be active in a Life Group).
• To serve in a ministry team.
• To reach out to others.
• To give faithfully and generously
(including giving a tenth or tithe of income to the work of the church).
Along with our formal Partners, we recognise that there are so many people in our congregations and ministries who contribute vitally and faithfully to the life of our community. Like Paul, our leadership team gives thanks every time we remember all of you. We pray for you all with joy; and we are confident that “he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil 1:6).Conclusion
In our culture and time, we have developed a concept of passive partners in a company or project. Passive partners are those who provide resources without being actively and personally involved. That is not the biblical concept of partnership or koinonia. The biblical practice of partnership is all about being an active partner in the life of the church—fighting our battles together, sharing our burdens, and working together in God’s mission. It involves personally contributing our time, talents, energy, and resources to our common cause—the cause of Christ.Discussion Questions
1. What does partnership in church community mean to you?
2. In what ways can the biblical concept of “koinonia” inform our practice of Christian community?
3. Which of the three dimensions of partnership do you need to build and strengthen?
a. Being fellow soldiers together in Christian community?
b. Supporting each as brothers and sisters?
c. Being co-labourers together?
4. Why do you think CityLife church has a formal process of church partnership?
5. What different opportunities are there for serving through CityLife Church? List as many as possible before reviewing the opportunities available here
6. Which aspect of koinonia or biblical partnership is most important to you at present?
7. How can you strengthen your partnership relationships as a Life Group in the next month?