As discussed recently, Mike Breen’s “State of the Evangelical Union” forecasts discipleship entering the center of evangelical focus. That conversation puts identifying ourselves around tribal customs or doctrinal distinctives in the rearview mirror. It also reorients worship gatherings and the functions of public worship leaders. We no longer invest biggest in “front porch” events with star preachers or concert-level musicians to introduce the gospel for spiritual seekers. Large-group worship services are, rather, equipping-oriented celebratory gatherings which propel followers of Jesus into the world, scattering and emboldening us as disciple-makers.
They “scatter” us into our neighborhoods. The locus for evangelism won’t be in “big church” public gatherings, but the “oikos,” or extended family household, according to Breen. He says the “family on mission” will emerge as the core vehicle for sharing the gospel with our neighbors. Don’t wager on crusades or altar calls to introduce your lost friends to Christ. Enfold them into the discipleship rhythm of your household, and watch it “rub off” on others.
This makes a lot of sense. What is more viral — a sermon series on Christian marriage or a great parenting class, or getting to watch Christian marriage and parenting in action over a series of in-home dinners? Breen says that when 20 to 50 disciples regularly get together in a rhythm of life to carry out their mission in the neighborhood, it makes a perfect landing place for people at different stages of a spiritual journey to hop on the train. They come to the gospel over time as they see its transforming power demonstrated in an ordinary extended family on mission.
Your “oikos” or “family on mission” would be the social-sized group with whom you most share your lives. With whom does your family play? With whom do you share purpose? Your oikos is your “high play, high purpose” community with a semi-permeable membrane that can include others in that play and purpose. What if the core of who we were in Christ began to revolve around life in this extended household on mission? Might this be a better discipleship metric and vehicle than church attendance?
Cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead once said, “Never doubt that a small, committed group of people can change the world. Indeed it’s the only thing that ever has.” Discipleship, as Baptists have classically believed, is for ordinary people living in and demonstrating the transforming power of the gospel. I’m in.
John Chandler is leader of the Spence Network.