NHA Pastors Embrace Koinonia by Dick Kiernan
“No hymns allowed!” Our story starts with a joke on Pastor Steve Magee. He called to ask if his church could belong in the NH Alliance. He explained that they recite the Lord’s Prayer and sing hymns and I responded jokingly, “Absolutely not, no hymns are allowed!” If we are holding to Jesus and the Gospel and the Scriptures, we are not just one stream of Christians, or one worship style. In Romans 14:13 “Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way.”
“I responded jokingly, ‘Absolutely not, no hymns are allowed!’”
This conversation led us to ask, how can we deliberately establish an alliance while respecting our denominational differences? St. Paul advises, “I appeal to you…that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought,” (1Cor 1:10). At that time some were following Paul, or Peter, or Apollos – various leaders – but Paul said we must follow Christ! Everyone has been formed in their own denominational stories and come to deeply held convictions. Rather than discount these, what if we all came to embrace every element of Christlikeness found in each other’s denominations? From all this we agreed that the more that we came to deeper experiences in Christ from our varied experiences, the more that we would come closer to each other.
Actually, we see this concept in 1 John 1:3, “We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.” The word for fellowship in this passage is “Koinonia.” It means Christian fellowship or communion with the Lord that we share with each other. We see this word in Acts and the Epistles, but the concept is apparent in John 17 oneness, John 15 abiding in the Lord, John 6 communion, and so many other experiences of life in Christ.
We are on a new journey; brothers growing in fellowship and prayer. Over many meetings we have been seeking a practical outcome and a dream: what if we form a group of 12 representing every major denominational stream, and what if we reach out to all others holding to the one Gospel so that every denomination could be invited into deliberate fellowship? Our regional pastor’s fellowships may have certain identities, but could we expand and deliberately include every Gospel oriented denomination? We are not naïve about this challenge but we know that Paul expected this koinonia would transform everything so that there would no longer be alienation between Jew or Greek, slave or free, male nor female—we are all one in Christ (Gal 3:28). God’s love is meant to change everything.
It is not just a nice idea, unity is essential to our mission.
So the NHA koinonia group includes a Presbyterian, a non-denominational pastor, a Methodist, a Nazarene, a Lutheran, a Congregationalist, an Anglican, a Catholic, a classic Pentecostal, and a charismatic and we know we need a Baptist! How about an Orthodox? We are also looking for close cousins to reconnect all the branches of our family trees; Lutherans are related to Evangelical Covenant, to Evangelical Free, and to Moravians. We thought that our 12 might seek out 72 others. We did the math; our group of 12 need to reach 6 others to make 72. We are all involved in regional or local pastors’ fellowship. Imagine every single denomination coming into koinonia as we all grow more as members of one another (Rom 12) the one Body of Christ (1 Cor 12). What if every denominational koinonia brother reached out to their own tribe? It is not just a nice idea, unity is essential to our mission because “they will know we are Christians by our love for one another,” (John 13:34,35). Will you answer the call?
“they will know we are Christians by our love for one another,” (John 13:34,35).