Last week I wrote a post elaborating on my “strategic priorities” as we move forward with planting a church. Here’s a brief recap:
- Developing leaders who model the message and mission of Jesus. Luke 4:18-21, 9:1-6, 10:1-12
- Reproducing Home Fellowship with an ethos of sacrificial service. Acts 2:42-47, 4:32-37
- Launching a community service platform that mobilizes Christians to serve Burlington. Jeremiah 29:4-7, Matthew 20:25-28
Last week I discussed Strategic Priority #1, so this week my focus will be Strategic Priority #2…
When we talk about church it’s very easy to think in terms of a building, an institution, a strategy , a ministry structure, or even the personality of the pastor. When the New Testament speaks of church it is always talking about the people. The Bible frequently depicts the church as a spiritual family: brothers and sisters in Christ with God as our Father.
It’s not coincidental that one of the most common terms we see connected to church in the New Testament is households. This term is translated from the Greek word oikos, which literally means family, kindred, household (including servants).1 The oikos played a central role in Greco-Roman culture. This extended family of 40-50 people included not only the immediate family, but “also other relatives and domestic slaves plus a coterie of freedmen, hired workers, and business associates and clients.”2 Not surprisingly, the oikos was central to the spreading of the gospel in Jesusʼ ministry, the book of Acts, and Paulʼs church planting efforts. Here are just a few examples: Luke 14:1-4, Luke 19:5-10, Acts 10:1-2, Acts 16:14-15, Acts 18:7-8, 1 Corinthians 16:19, Colossians 4:14-15, Philemon 1:1-2.
As we scan these scriptures, several trends appear:
- The oikos played a central role in the spread of the gospel. One person would embrace Jesus and this would overflow to the others in the household network. Since these household networks often overlapped, the gospel often spread from household to household.
- Once an oikos embraced Jesus as Lord and Savior, this oikos often became the center for ministry and church planting for the surrounding community. This oikos would grow as Christians from outside the original household network joined the oikos.
- This resulted in a new Jesus-centered multiplying oikos. Often this new Jesus- centered network of relationships would replace a person’s natural oikos if they were the only person in their household to embrace Jesus. In this new oikos class, ethnic, and cultural barriers were removed due to a new common ground in Jesus.
How does this impact the way we approach ministry and church planting?
- We meet in Home Fellowships of 15-40 people where we focus on loving God and loving each other. Our goal is to function as a Jesus-centered oikos serving our friends and community in the name of Jesus
- Our modern day oikos- neighbors, family members, friends, and work mates- is where we should begin sharing the gospel. As we share Jesus with those in our oikos we also gain the opportunity to share the gospel in their oikos.
- As we start new Home Fellowships, each Home Fellowship will focus specifically on sharing the gospel by sacrificially serving either a specific neighborhood or network of relationships in the Burlington community.
Anchorage Bible Dictionary, p58, v6
Church Growth State of The Art, Elmer Towns, p31
Encyclopedia of Early Christianity, 2nd Edition, p546