There are two Greek words most often translated “church” in the New Testament. One is ecclesia,which is the structure of the church and its government. The other is koinonia, which is sometimes translated “fellowship” or “communion.” However, koinonia is a bonding far more than even “communion” or “common-union” can really capture. It represents a union so strong that the parts cannot be separated without the threat of death. For a single member to be removed from a true koinonia would be akin to the amputation of a limb.
I have been to many churches around the world, and I’ve been a part of some really good ones, but it is my opinion that the greatest ones I know are only experiencing about 10% of what we are meant to have in true koinonia. I think for most, it would be much closer to 1%, with many not really having any at all. At this time, this may be a safe place for the church to be. How can that be? It is dangerous to pursue koinonia without Jesus truly being the Head of the church. Our relationship to the Lord must be valued much higher than koinonia, or it can quickly become an idol.
This being said, if we are truly getting closer to the Lord, we will be getting closer to His people. We cannot be joined to the Head without also being joined to His body. If we are truly growing in our love for the Lord, we will be growing in our love for one another too. As we are told in I John 4:20: “for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.” One sure way to measure any believer’s true love and unity with the Lord is to look at their unity and love for His people.
Just as you can have the best government structure but still have bad government, if you do not have good people in it, you can have the best church structure and government and still have a church that the Lord Himself will not even come to, if it is not built first and foremost on koinonia, not ecclesia. To have ecclesia without koinonia is to have a form of godliness without the power, and the Apostle Paul warns us to “avoid such men as these” (see II Timothy 3:5).
The power of the church is koinonia, not ecclesia. Ecclesia is important, but it is the wineskin. Koinonia is the wine. If you don’t have wine, you don’t need a wineskin. But if you have wine and don’t get a wineskin, you will not keep the wine for very long. So we need both. However, “the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing,” and koinonia is the main thing. This is why we are told in I John 1:7: “If we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship (koinonia) with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.”
We are not told that if we walk in the light we have ecclesia, rather if we walk in the light, we have koinonia. Now if we are walking in the light and continue to “grow up in all things into Him who is the head” (see Ephesians 4:15 NKJV), we will see the structure and government of the church grow as we grow in koinonia, just as we see in the Book of Acts. This will be a natural formation that takes shape that fits with and keeps the koinonia, but not one that makes the koinonia fit into it.
The church is called first and foremost to be a family, not an organization. If we become an organization before being family, it is not likely that true kingdom family life will happen. When we build onecclesia first, we are not likely planting churches but franchises. Our God, who obviously loves diversity and creativity so much that He made every snowflake, tree, and every one of us different, is not found in “cookie cutter” franchises, regardless of how much they may claim to be His church. Because of this, a true evaluation would be that much of what is called “church” today is mostly form without true power.
This will soon change. A glorious church is about to take shape. "