When I fly on an airplane, I am associated with the people next to me. We are in close proximity to each other. We are on the same flight, experience the same bumps, the same views, and the same food. But despite having the same experience and being next to one another, we are not in community. We are merely associated with one another. We don’t participate in each other’s journey or a mission larger than ourselves.
Sadly, the word “fellowship” has often been trivialized and relegated to mere association with other believers. It has been placed on church flyers for gatherings and parties as part of a cliché: “food, fun, and fellowship.” But the word for fellowship, koinonia in the original language, is much stronger than mere association. It carries the connotation of deep participation.
Believers were created to participate, not just associate, with one another. In Acts 2:42, believers devoted themselves to the koinonia/participation. In Philippians 1:5, Paul thanked the believers at Philippi for their koinonia/partnership in the gospel. We must repent of community as mere association and reclaim community as true participation and partnership.