Last week we highlighted that growing a lifestyle of imitation and discipleship is hard because it is countercultural: One of the ‘goliath’s’ that exists in our modern day culture is the nuclear family. When we read about Jesus sending out his disciples in Luke 10, we tend to think the disciples knocked on the door of a single house and engaged with a couple of adults and two or three kids. This is because we read it with our cultural lens.
The disciples engaged with households. Extended family.
Not one unit but multiple units.
In an increasingly pressurized and compartmentalized Western society, where we are desperately scrapping to hold on to any sense of “the family unit”, the nuclear family has become ever more inwardly focussed: Our resource, time and effort goes purely in to preserving this identity. But in doing this, we are in fact doing our marriages and families a disservice. This is because we lose something that’s been the bedrock of family life and parenting throughout history.
For this reason, we have also lost the opportunity to disciple people through imitation because so much of life is lived behind closed doors or at arms length.
Consequently, starting to grow extended family can often feel unnatural and awkward.
But we need to take a chance and let people in.
Not everyone – we choose carefully and move slowly. Trust and relationships are built over time – not given or proclaimed as real just because we want them to be.
Many of us will need to let go of control. It will be messy and blurred. But the problem is that if imitation only “happens” at a certain time or in a certain place it loses it’s power. It needs to happen through shared life.
This shared life in New Testament was called oikos – the extended family. This word appears across the New Testament, for example in Acts 20.20, where Paul writes “…I have preached the gospel publicly and from house to house” – in effect from household to household. He spoke in a public setting and as an event, but he also modeled and demonstrated his message in the context of home and household. To a New Testament reader, this “household” was the epicenter of day-to-day extended family relationships and business. (note to the Western thinkers – this is a CONTINUUM of household and temple that we exist ON, not two COMPARTMENTS that we choose BETWEEN!)
The problem is that Oikos (like all of the gospel message) is simple but hard. In trying to make it easier, we often make it more complicated.
Over the rest of the summer we are going to look at 5 aspects of Oikos to give us something to aim for and to move towards. They are the hallmarks of how the people of God operated throughout scripture and specifically in Acts 2:
· Prayer/Spiritual life together
· Shared Resource
· Common mission together
In the coming weeks, we’ll give examples and experiences of how we have seen each of these at work, along with some tips/practical advice