True Christian fellowship—what the Greek New Testament calls koinonia—is the Spirit’s gift to the Church. Yet this fellowship is critically lacking in the institutional church today. And this lack goes to the very heart of the impotence, rigidity, and so-called irrelevance of much of the modern church.

The Church is especially under attack today for its rigid institutionalism, its “morphological fundamentalism.” Critics call for more relevant structures for the Church and for a new ecclesiology. I would like to suggest that the New Testament concept of “the koinonia of the Holy Spirit” offers a possible starting point in this quest for more intimate, less institutionalized structures for the Church’s life—a starting point that is at once biblical and contemporary.

A Fellowship Crisis

The Church today is suffering a fellowship crisis. It is simply not experiencing nor demonstrating that “fellowship of the Holy Spirit” (2 Cor. 13:14) that marked the New Testament church. In a world of big, impersonal institutions, the Church often presents itself to modern man as just another big, impersonal institution. The Church is highly organized at a time when its members are caring less about organization and more about community. One seldom finds within the institutionalized church today that winsome intimacy among people where masks are dropped, honesty prevails, and there is that sense of communication and community beyond the human—where there is actually the fellowship of and in the Holy Spirit.

The considerable popularity of Keith Miller’s The Taste of New Wine (Word, 1965) is largely due, I believe, to his identification of this lack in the Church. He strikes a responsive chord with thousands of sincere Christian laymen when he observes, ...

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