Much has been said and written about evangelism, Dagen and many others have their opinion about evangelism in Sweden in 2010 (here, here, here, here). One of the aspects of church is not only the involvement in the new community of believers through a new life in Jesus Christ. There is an aspect that so many people forget… and that is the involvement and care for the old network of family and friends. In our church (New Life Stockholm) we have seen whole groups of people turn to Jesus because we try to consider the fact that people belong to networks and are more than just individuals “whose souls have to become saved”.
Don’t leave anyone behind is not a theological statement; I want to create an awareness that faith in Christ Jesus without a doubt has a dimension where we have to leave something behind; when Jesus says “follow me” there is literally a step which requires us to leave something else.
At the same time, as we will shortly see in the scriptures that we will read, there is a dimension of engagement and involvement with those who are non-Christians, whether family, friends, colleges, classmates.
The NT describes many situations where we find the implementation of this dimension of Christian faith.
- Faith is not only a personal matter, although it has to start with a personal decision.
- Faith is also a community matter.
- The problem today is that we have privatized faith and separated faith from daily life, basic daily decisions and behavior.
- Faith is not private; faith is community and has a direct consequence for we way we make decisions, create values and it directs the way we behave and the direction we go.
It is an unquestionable fact in the Bible that those people who find faith in Jesus in Christ influence other people around them as a direct consequence of their newly found faith. Let’s read some Scriptures…
Lydia’s Conversion in Philippi
Acts 16: 11From Troas we put out to sea and sailed straight for Samothrace, and the next day on to Neapolis. 12From there we traveled to Philippi, a Roman colony and the leading city of that district of Macedonia. And we stayed there several days.
13On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. 14One of those listening was a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. 15 When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. “If you consider me a believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my house.” And she persuaded us.
25About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. 26Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everybody’s chains came loose. 27The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. 28But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!”
29The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. 30He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
31They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” 32Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. 33At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his family were baptized. 34The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole family.
In verses 15 & 31, 32 we get some important information, in both cases with Lydia and with the jailor we read about the fact that their households had come to believe and were baptized along with them.
The word which we have translated into “households” comes from the Greek word Oikos. In other scriptures, for example in Acts 10 verses 24 & 27 we read that this Oikos is more than just a family, or traditional household as we know it.
The Oikos represented the basic social unit by which the early church grew, spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ, the risen Lord.
Michael Green, “Evangelism in the Early Church”, confirms that “the (oikos) family understood in this broad way, as consisting of blood relations, slaves, clients and friends, was one of the strongholds of Graeco-Roman society.
We can see what an Oikos meant to the early church.
- An oikos was the fundamental and natural unit of society, and consisted of one’s sphere of influence-his/her family, friends, and extended to acquaintances, neighbors, slaves and employees.
- And equally important, the early church spread through oikoses-circles of influence and relationships. The first church didn’t have mass campaigns for evangelism.
Bringing along our Oikoses in relationship to God is the God-given and God-created means for naturally sharing our SUPERNATURAL message.
- The early church spread as people within the Oikoses saw how people were transformed, how people turned from their sins, how broken people were restored, how broken relationships were mended and how hopelessness turned to hope!
- In the early church, it was the restoration of balance, the restitution of wrongs, and the fragrance of an attractive new life that drew so many to the new Oikos that God was forming. (God’s church is also called Oikos – a new Oikos where people find a new home).
Don’t leave anyone behind! In the Scriptures, which we just read we identify how, God is not only dealing with individuals, but with whole groups, Oikoses. Summary: The apostle Paul and his small group of people were together involved in these encounters.
What can we learn:
- Don’t go alone; you belong to a group of people who share the same faith; open your old Oikos to brothers and sisters who can help you to touch their lives with the Good News!
- Be active, not passive. It is a deliberate choice.
- “Begin to speak” — people must hear the Word of God.
- When one person accepts Jesus as Savior, ask him if he/she would like to have you help them share the Good News with their Oikos!
- The new Christian’s credibility with them opens the door for God’s love!