These are the notes from part two of a three week series on the foundational values that drive Burlington City Church. In part 1 we asked What is the church? and What is the church’s mission? For part 2 on March 25, we asked, How does this practically look in 2012 Burlington, VT?
As Iʼve personally prayed over this question, two major factors influenced my perspective:
1. Studying the role of the households in the early church as the good news of Jesus went viral from Jerusalem, through the Greco-Roman world, and beyond. I think itʼs highly significant since it was central to Jesusʼ ministry, the churchʼs described in Acts, and the churches that the Apostle Paul started and wrote letters to. The earliest evidence of a house being converted explicitly into a place of worship is around 250 AD.
2. Taking a trip to SE Asia where I was able to meet with people who were involved in starting churches in areas where people had very little knowledge of the Bible, Jesus, they had no preconceived notions about church, and the culture was generally hostile towards people becoming followers of Jesus.
Weʼll begin with a scripture that we looked at last week: Acts 2:41-47. We asked this same question last week: What do we see happening in this scripture?
As we read through the book of Acts we see that the Jerusalem church was a growing spiritual family made up of smaller spiritual families (or households) that were multiplying throughout the city and eventually to other cities around the Roman empire.
As we read through the spread of the Jesus movement in the gospels,the book of Acts,and Paulʼs epistles we can easily miss the significance households played. Many scholars agree that itʼs almost impossible to understand the spread of the gospel and the growth of the early church without understanding the role that these households played in both Israel and throughout Greco-Roman culture.
When I say the word household what do you think that means?
The term household is translated from the Greek word oikos, which literally means family, kindred, household (including servants). The oikos played a central role in Greco-Romanculture.Thisextendedfamilyorhouseholdof 40-50 people included not only the immediate family, but also other relatives and domestic slaves plus a social circle of freedmen, hired workers, and business associates and clients.1
Here are a few examples:
Luke 19:1-10- Jesus & Zaccheus
Acts 10:1-2, 23-24- Peter & Cornelius
Acts 18:5-8- Paul & Titius Justus
Romans16:3-5- Prisca & Aquila
Philemon 1:1-2- Philemon
As we scan the New Testament scriptures and the stories from early church history, several trends appear:
1. The oikos or extended household played acentral 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.
2. 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.
3. This resulted in a new Jesus-centered multiplying oikos or spiritual family. Often this new Jesus- centered network of relationships would replace a personʼs original household network if they were the only person in their household to embrace Jesus. In this new spiritual family 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
The “normal” approach is that as we outgrow space, we look for a larger and larger space to meet in weekly.
Or as we outgrow our home…
1) 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 or spiritual family serving our friends and community in the name of Jesus
2) Our modern day oikos or household network– neighbors, family members, friends, and work mates- is where we should begin living out the mission and message of Jesus. As we share Jesus with those in our oikos we also gain the opportunity to share the gospel in their oikos.
3) As we start new Home Fellowships, each Home Fellowship will focus specifically on sacrificially serving, sharing the gospel, and making disciples with a specific neighborhood in the community or a specific network of relationships.
Once a month or every other month we will gather these Home Fellowships for a larger-scale worship gathering that will be primarily focused on celebrating what God is doing throughout Burlington City Church and to look forward to what God is calling us to do as a church.
I want to make this clear: we don’t launch new Home Fellowships simply because we’re running out of space. We launch new Home Fellowships because a group of people sense God is leading them to be on mission in a specific neighborhood or with a specific network of relationships.
Here’s a big question: as home fellowships expand around the city what will insure that we function as one church?
- Shared vision & values. This means you buy into what we believe concerning Jesus, His message and Mission, and how we believe the scriptures inform our strategy. I imagine if you did not buy into this on some level that you would not be here.
- Shared and mutually accountable leadership. We hold all of our Home Fellowship leaders to the qualifications for elders/overseers/pastors listed in 1 Timothy 3. If someone goes off the farm spiritually, morally, or theologically the other people on the pastor-elder team will remove them. All of our Home Fellowship leaders and leaders in training meet in a weekly leadership huddle that is all about accountability and equipping. I want to go on a tangent here: we’re all about equipping leaders who can live out the mission and message of Jesus in this community and culture. The reason we’re importing leaders like Michael Ly and Ryan Bell to serve as community pastors is not to replace local leaders but to equip local leaders. When they move into an area of the community it’s not only to launch a Home Fellowship but also to equip others to do the same in that area.
- Shared resources. When we bring together the collective giftedness, talents, relationships, and money we can make a huge impact. Whether it’s pooling resources to do a men’s or women’s retreats, a sports camp for teens, funding an English program, or even one day doing something crazy big that we never imagined possible.
In just a few weeks, we’re launching a Home Fellowship in Winooski. This is one of several Home Fellowships we hope to launch in the next year. There are three main reasons to jump on board with this Home Fellowship:
- You already live in the Winooski community- it’s where you do life.
- You’re willing to move into that community because you sense that is the context where God is leading you to live out His mission.
- You’re willing to go join the new Home Fellowship to temporarily support the ministry there and then do the same in your neighborhood.