Few believers carry at the front of their minds the truth that all Christians have the lofty, yet simple calling to be in fellowship with Christ. We generally think instead that our calling is unique and that it pertains primarily to vocation. It is common to hear people say, “My calling is to be a teacher” or “God called me into the business world,” or “I’m called to be a plumber” or something else of the sort. Almost never does anyone say, “My calling, as a Christ follower, is the very same calling that every believer has.” Almost never is it taught that Christian calling takes us higher than any job on earth could ever do.
According to the Scriptures, our calling is a matter that unites us. The apostle Paul wrote to the church in Corinth: “God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (I Corinthians 1:9).
Are you blown away by the verse that you just read? I Corinthians 1:9 is nothing less than breathtaking. If it were to say that you and I are called to meet weekly with the president of the richest country in the world, we would likely gasp. But this New Testament verse says something much, much greater, and yet most believers yawn when they read or hear this verse.
Part of the problem is that we don’t understand what fellowship is. We think fellowship is a meeting or a potluck dinner or a Friday night game night that is really not much more than a G-rated gathering of party-loving, semi-boring churchgoers. Fellowship, however, means “to do life together, to partner together, commune together, to share our lives together in Christ in life-giving community.”
The English word, fellowship, is a translation of the Greek word, koinonia. Koinonia refers to Spirit-filled group dynamics. Koinonia is togetherness in the love of God Himself. Koinonia has to do with everyone being included and everyone being listened to and justly accounted for. Koinonia protects the vulnerable. Koinonia takes a stand against abuse. If every local church would honestly engage in biblical koinonia, loneliness and shame would be displaced by Christian love.
Instead of having fellowship, many local churches are using corporate practices and classifying members as “potential giving units.” Hired church staff are rarely seen as shepherds taking care of sheep; technically they are seen as “human resources.” The norm is for Christian churches to operate as business corporations. Although business is itself a vital part of society in which owners seek to earn an honest profit, the church does not exist to make a profit.
The Church is the Body of Christ as distinguished from a religious corporation. When churches go corporate, they fall into the trap of corporatism. Corporatism forbids koinonia. Corporatism tries to keep control of the congregation by using corporate authority as a means of extorting people for their money, their time, their talents.
If the church could but remember and understand its calling, it would be a place where people stand in awe of the marvel of God’s Presence, Immanuel, “God with us.”