The Greek word for “household” is Oikos. This is where we get our English word ecology from… Eco (oikos – “house”) – Ology (study of). Ecology is the study of the relationships between living organisms, including humans, and their physical environment. Our English Bible translations will use a few different words in the place of oikos: home, house, household, family. Quite often oikos can extend to our relationship with friends, workers or neighbors. In the same way the word “church” is not speaking about a building, oikos is not speaking of a house (i.e., structure, dwelling, building), but rather speaks about the relational aspect of the people we are close to. On one occasion, Jesus was teaching His disciples and His mother and brothers were waiting outside. Someone told Jesus your mother and brothers are outside. He looked at the people sitting around Him and said you are my mothers and brothers and sisters… In other words, you are my oikos. (Mark 3:31-35).
Stay with me! Don't let all this Greek frighten you off! The concept of oikos is extremely important to understand when it comes to evangelism.
Michael Green, one of our leading evangelists of our day, in his book, “Evangelism in the Early Church”, observes how the New Testament church enthusiastically clung to the oikos principle as its primary strategy to advance the gospel. Early Christians quickly understood that when the message of faith was heard and demonstrated by friends and family, receptiveness to the gospel increased rapidly. That’s why hospitality, integrity and being people of peace is so vitally important for the Christian. These traits build oikos and it’s usually the people we are in association with that “see our good works” and begin to praise our Father in heaven (Mt 5:16).
Your oikos usually consists of up to 15 people. These are people you speak to on a regular basis and have a comfortable relationship with (co-workers, neighbors, friends, family). These are the ones who hear you, watch your actions and see Jesus working in your life. They are the ones, more than the stranger on the street, that will be open to hearing how Jesus has impacted your life. These people know you and have grown to trust you.
In the same way the early church understood and used the oikos concept to spread the good news of Jesus, it would be good for us to take some time tolook into this as well.
More on oikos next week. Some verses to check out: Lk 8:39, 19:9; Jn 4:53; Acts 11:14, 16:15, 31-34, 18:8; 1 Co 1:11, 16