From what I have seen, anytime you come across an obscure and untranslatable term in a culture, the more obscure and untranslatable it is, the more you should want to experience it. Take the Danish practice of hygge, for example. It’s a term that’s best translated as “coziness,” but it’s more about that elusive feeling of coziness that might come from being wrapped up in a warm blanket with a good book and a cup of hot chocolate. Or perhaps you’re more partial to the Norwegian practice of friluftsliv. Friluftsliv is the practice of deriving a deep sort of satisfaction from enjoying the outdoors in its many forms.

Perhaps it’s no surprise that many of the best terms are Scandinavian in nature. The easiest example is our own practice of sauna—need I say more? What is it about packing a swelteringly hot steam room full of sweaty bodies that seems to bring people together and break down barriers and inhibitions? If you know, you know…and if you don’t? You just need to experience it for yourself!

One of the Bible’s own unique terms is the concept of koinonia. This is the word for the special fellowship that results from the body of Christ coming together. Perhaps most famously we see the early church devoting themselves to the fellowship in Acts 2:42. That’s koinonia. It’s deeper than just hanging out together, it’s about what emerges when we participate in a kind of spiritual fellowship with God and one another. Like sauna, hygge, and friluftsliv, it’s better experienced than described. The first time I knew I was experiencing koinonia was on a bike ride to Key West. I’ve referenced it before, but I continue to do so because it was so pivotal for me. I had been experiencing loneliness and a sense of purposelessness in my life, and during the week of the ride that veil lifted completely. It was incredible. Since then, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what exactly made it such an impactful experience—what exactly makes koinonia. I’ve come to the conclusion that there are two main ingredients: we have to be on mission, and we have to be together.

The mission component theoretically should be easy. In Matthew 28, Jesus commands His disciples to go and make more disciples. These are our marching orders and will be until He returns. There are many other wonderful experiences that we may have along our journeys—like having a career, falling in love, starting a family—but all of these are secondary to Jesus’ ultimate rescue mission of disciple making. This is why the Church exists.

The togetherness component can be more challenging. In my understanding, we live in the most individualistic culture on the planet that has ever existed. It’s no surprise then that we sometimes experience feelings of isolation and meaninglessness. We were built for community, but so many have lost touch with how to find it. Koinonia calls to us.

To experience the life-giving fellowship for which we were made, we have to do something different. The solution is not necessarily to participate in a bike ride to Key West. Other options are available. In the fall, we are building towards launching Life Groups: small groups designed to create the kind of missional togetherness that creates life. We believe that Life Groups will create life-giving koinonia for those who are in them. Moreover, we also think that they will help us to fulfill the Great Commission in the way that Jesus intended—by being on mission together. Koinonia is another one of those cultural words that truly has to be experienced to be understood, and this experience has the power to change the world.

Pastor Matt Hagsten