"Oikos," aside from being a popular brand of yogurt, is a word infused with a great deal of meaning, hope, and promise. While in the Bible it can mean "a house"(an inhabited house, home, any building whatever, any dwelling place), or "descendants," I'm using it in the sense of "all the persons forming one family, a household.
In English, "household" connotes the nuclear family. In the Greek however, its usage is broader and encompasses family, neighbors, coworkers, and friends, and those with whom we come into regular contact. These 8-15 people may be your neighbors, coworkers, local barista, grocery store clerk, parents on your kid's sport team, your hair dresser, professor, physical therapist, roommate, business associate, mechanic, waiter at your favorite restaurant, dog groomer, gardener, carpool buddies, dentist, etc.
This concept of family is nothing new to Granite Creek,
but oikos does offer a fresh way to reemphasis our way of doing things at Granite Creek Community Church. God has placed has 8-15 people in your sphere of influence who are unchurched and need to hear the Good News. During this season of oikos, I want to better equip you, (the church body) to reach your 8-15 people. The latest statistics from Surprising Insights from the Unchurched, by Thom Reiner, state that 96 percent of unchurched people are open to attending church if a loved one or friend invited them.
Think about this: there are people within your oikos just waiting for an invite to church. Mark 5:19 exhorts us, "Go home to your own people (your oikos) and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you." God has been working in their lives and we get to serve as the bridge that brings them closer to Christ.
Oikos in the Bible
This concept of oikos is found throughout the Bible:
- Luke 8:39 The demoniac was told to return to his household and described the great things done for him.
- Luke 19:9 Zacchaeus was told salvation was on his household.
- John 4:53 The centurion's entire household was saved following the healing of his son.
- Acts 18:8 Luke describes how Crispus, leader of the synagogue at Corinth, believed in the Lord with all his household.
- Luke 15 In the three parables about a lost coin, a lost sheep, and a lost son, all tell of the rejoicing when the lost was found. In all three cases they told their friends and family. The message of hope was passed on through the oikos.
- John 1:40-41 This verse tells of Andrew bringing his brother to Christ.
- John 1:44-45 This passage tells of Philip bringing his friend Nathanael to Christ.
Michael Green, in Evangelism in the Early Church, observes how the New Testament church vigorously adhered to the oikos principle as its primary strategy for the Christian advance. Early Christians grasped that when the message of faith was heard and demonstrated by friends and family, receptiveness to the Gospel exponentially increased.
I believe oikos flourished in the early church because of two foundational characteristics: integrity and life transformation. If the people you regularly come into contact with see you living the lifestyle you claim to represent (that of a Christ-follower), that speaks volumes, and your life then becomes an open invitation. Conversely, the person in your oikos will also be keenly aware if you exhibit a lack of integrity (disconnect between our words and actions).
What we have become and are becoming is the testimony of Christ's transforming power. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, "If any man is in Christ he is a new creature. Old things pass away and all things become new."
Growing the Oikos Way
Research shows that churches with growing congregations contain a greater percentage of Christians who take seriously oikos principle—that is inviting the 8-15 people with whom they regularly interact. A whopping 75-90 percent of new church attendees come to church because someone within their oikos invited them. The two primary entry points for new church goers are Sunday service and small groups.
Developing an Oikos Strategy
According to church health guru Thom Reiner, each one of us (that includes us Granite Creekers) lives at the intersection of four worlds: biological, vocational, geographical, and volitional. The biological world consists of people related to me by blood or marriage (siblings, mothers, fathers, in-laws, etc.). Coworkers and business associates comprise one's vocational world. The geographical world includes immediate community, such as neighbors. The volitional world is a world of my choice—that is, leisurely activities, sports, hobbies, etc.
If each one of us pooled 8-15 people from our four worlds, our oikos makes sense. This odd Greek work ceases to sound foreign and abstract and takes on real significance when viewed through the practical lens of our everyday lives. If each one of us committed to inviting just 8 people from our oikos, think of how many potential new Christ followers we could welcome to Granite Creek! That's 2,400 new believers (300 adult regular attenders X 8 people each=2,400)! Talk about a huge evangelistic potential!
As a church body, it's critical for us to not only understand, but embrace and act on this Greek word. It forms the core of how we will "do church" in 2012. Luke 10:2 says, ". . .The harvest indeed is abundant, but the farmhands are few. Pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest." Through oikos, Granite Creek Community Church stands ready to answer the call of the harvest in 2012! I encourage you to begin praying which 8-15 people you're inviting to church. Let's roll our sleeves up and harvest church family!