I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now…Philippians 1:3-5
When I first parachuted into Philadelphia, my conviction was that I was sent to catalyze a group of partners who were already in town and build the next generation of the church for the next generation of the megalopolis. I found them. To be honest, it was a little shocking to see my conviction come to fruit. I don’t mind tilting at windmills, but seeing God make Circle of Hope was not like that at all.
Lately, the leaders of Circle of Hope have realized that we are a whole new church. What we need to do is do it again. To express heart all that Circle of Hope has become: 50-plus cells, almost four congregations, mission teams large and small, we need to find the partners the Lord is touching. These are people who can see the possibilities of who God has made us and take hold of the vision of what He would like to do. We need to welcome them in and catalyze the next 600.
I’ve always liked the word “partner” to describe the relationship I have with people who have been plucked from nowhere with me by the story of Jesus. What we end up doing is so much like being dance partners: moving together to the music of God. How we end up moving so often begins like the Jr. High dances I remember so well: full of anticipation, fear, awkwardness and thrill. Coming together and moving together for a common good given by God is being truly alive.
The word “partnership” in the NIV translation of Philippians, above, could have been translated “dance moves,” I suppose. It is trying to make sense of the rich Greek word “koinonia.” A few years ago, it became popular to just use the word koinonia without translating it at all. That might be the best idea, since the idea of it is often too rich to sum up in English. In the various translations of these few sentences of Paul’s letter to the dancers in Philippi, the translation leans two appropriate ways. On the one hand, some translators lean toward the “being” side of koinonia — like when Jesus says “good trees bear good fruit,” they lean it toward being good trees. Thus Paul is thankful for their partnership, fellowship, communion, and sharing in the gospel. Others lean the translation toward bearing good fruit. So Paul is grateful for their participation, sympathetic cooperation, help, contribution and collaboration in the gospel.
I have always been interested in this interplay between being and doing. The monastic discipline organized the day around contemplation and action from the earliest times to get a handle on it. It is like a dance. A broken creation that is spirit and flesh needs to keep practicing that dance. Circle of Hope (a good tree) and its mission (to bear good fruit) is a way to work out that ancient discipline in the Philadelphia region. I am amazed at how we are doing it! At this point, we have made room for many more partners and we have been given a vision that requires them. If we often resemble a Jr. High dance as we are getting all those people to move together, that’s OK.