Today we begin a 4 week series entitled Defining Missional Communities. I’m pretty sure you have heard this term, especially if you have been around Veritas at all. As we label ourselves a missional community. But what it the world is a missional community? How would you define it? Is it just another fadish church growth term which is all hype and flash with no substance? And what are the practices of a missional community? And if we are a missional community here at Veritas, what are the things that should mark us, define us, and what are the things that we should be about as we move forward? These are the things that we will spend the next 4 weeks unpacking together.
Here is where we are heading over the next 4 weeks. First of all here is how I would define what a missional community is. A Missional community is an (extended) family of missionary servants who make disciples (who make disciples). So over the next 4 weeks we will unpack 1 of the 4 main parts of that definition. Today we are looking at the idea of Family, or extended family. Next week we’ll be looking at missionary. June 15 we’ll be looking at servants. And the last week June 22 we’ll be unpacking the idea of being disciples who make disciples.
So today we’ll be looking at the idea that a missional community functions like an extended family. And to do that we’ll be looking at Galatians 6:9-10. Galatians 6:9-10 says, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.”
Paul is writing this letter to the church in Galatia. Now you need to know that Galatia was, at the time of Paul’s writing, a Roman province. And no doubt functioned in much the same way as other provinces and cities within the Roman Empire as well as the Greek city states.
Paul was warning the church at Galatia against discouragement, the tendency to lose hopefulness, rather than succumbing to fatigue. Paul here in this verse is using the metaphor of childbirth and the fear and weariness a woman experiences in labor but before delivery of the baby. It describes a time when the work is hard and painful, but also unfinished and unrewarded. It’s easy to lose heart when we feel like that, but that is exactly when we must hang on and not grow weary while doing good.
No doubt it was hard for the band of believers in Galatia to continue living the Kingdom life in the middle of the Roman empire. When everything around them from the coins to the government to life in general was pulling them away from the Kingdom of God (really not to different than today). But Paul was reminding them that if they didn’t become discouraged, that if they continued to live the Kingdom life together, that they would reap a harvest. Maybe not in this life, but definitely when the moved on from this life.
Are you going through a really tough time? Do you feel like you are losing heart? Do you feel like throwing in the towel and getting out of the game? Or taking a breather from the Kingdom life because it is too hard, and you aren’t seeing any results? First of all, you aren’t alone. We all experience this fatigue, loss of hope, and moral and we have all, no doubt, felt like throwing in the towel and giving up on the Kingdom life. But the next verse that Paul writes gives us some, what might seem like crazy advice in relation to continuing to move forward in the Kingdom life.
Paul continues on and lets the church at Galatia know exactly how they might not be tempted to lose heart and become discouraged. And it wasn’t to just keep your head down, watch out for number 1, or to just go with the flow. No, Paul’s challenge to the followers of Jesus in Galatia was really countercultural (in one way, and in another using the structure of the culture to propel the mission of God forward in the world). He told them to do good to all people and especially to those who belong to the family of believers. This is how the church isn’t to lose heart and throw in the towel. By serving others and especially to those in the family of believers. That if you feel like throwing in the towel, take time to do good to others. To look past yourself, and to others around you. And especially to others who are in the family of believers. Talk about countercultural. To put others first and above you is a way to move beyond giving up, and will indeed bear fruit in the long run, and it might be a long run.
And here is where Paul uses language and concepts that were rooted in the culture of his day in order to talk about moving the Kingdom of God forward in the world. When Paul says to do good to those who belong to the family of believers, he uses a greek word for family that his hearers would understand and relate to. The greek word for family, or house, or household is the word Oikos. Now the idea of Oikos or family or household is not to be confused with our American, nuclear family understanding. Don’t think that if you knocked on the door of a house in Paul’s day that you would find a mother, a father, 2 kids, and a dog. That is not what Oikos was. Oikos was about extended family. Oikos was an everyday, extended family unit that everyone functioned in- a place where extended families spent time together, shared meals, took care of business, and looked after each other. We are talking that Oikos’s in Paul’s day were between 15-35 people which would include the head of the oikos (the oldest male), his extended family (wife, children, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc..) and the household slaves as well. In fact, Oikos has been the norm for almost every culture for most of human history, even in the United States before the 19th or 20th century.
Paul is saying that the church, those who are followers of Jesus, are actually extended family together. Families centered not on blood relations, but on Jesus. That if you belong to Christ, then we belong to the same family. We are truly brothers and sisters. And what would be like if we actually saw each other that way, and actually lived like an Oikos, or an extended family.
Now I know that saying that we should do life together as an extended family might conjure up all kinds of issues. We all have family issues and we all have different dysfunctional issues related to families. So maybe you are saying, “If you want to be family, count me out. Because I don’t even want to be a part of the family that I am “really” apart of.” I definitely hear you. But let’s unpack what an Oikos looks like and how we as Veritas should be doing Oikos/extended family together. And I don’t know about you, but after I was finished looking at these principles to Oikos life they spoke deeply to me, and I desired to be a part of this type of extended family. And I desire and pray that Veritas will continue to move, develop and grow into these principles and apply them to our life together.
But what does it mean, practically to be an Oikos or extended family together? I believe there are 5 Key principles in living an Oikos life that help to inform some of the underlying values of a Missional Community. Prayer/Worship, Meals, Shared Resources, Fun, and Common Mission. So let’s unpack each one a little bit and then talk together about how we being to practice Oikos life together as Veritas. (which will be challenging, hard, etc… but really worth it in the long run)
1. Prayer and Worship: Oikos was a place for spiritual growth and expression. As an extended family, we gather together in times of prayer and worship. Does our community come together before God on a regular basis and not just on a Sunday morning? Do we have regular times that we pray and worship together?
2. Meals: How many examples are there of the disciples eating or sharing food together? Lots! Sharing meals is such a key part of building community and growing extended family relationships! How often does our community share a meal together?
3. Shared Resources: An Oikos meant members of the family becoming interdependent and sharing what they had (we see the disciples spelling out this principle for us in Acts 2:42). This is often the hardest aspect of Oikos for people to grow in, as it can be the most countercultural. This could look like sharing possessions, offering regular time to help someone out, supporting someone financially, inviting someone to live with you… The list goes on! It’s about finding somewhere to start. Where could you and I take the next step in shared resources within our community?
4. Fun: When do we simply enjoy each other’s company? Jesus said of his disciples: “I no longer call you servants…but friends” (John15:15). Its important that we are growing deeper in friendship, as well as personal discipleship. When are the times that you know that we can just be together and have fun?
5. Mission: An Oikos had common purpose as well as relationship. Our community needs to be galvanized around a common vision and direction. The mission of the family should be known to everyone in the family. Where are we trying to make a difference? Who are we reaching out to? How are we being committed to seeing the kingdom break into a neighborhood or network of people?
So this is what it looks like to be an Oikos, or an extended family together. To be a missional community. It is definitely challenging. And while I believe Veritas lives out some of these key principles to extended family life, we definitely have a way to go in this area. And it won’t happen overnight. Some of these go so counter to our culture that it will take a long time to work through together.
So let’s share together around the idea of Oikos. Let’s share which principles of extended family life excite us. Which ones challenge us the most. Which ones do we need to really focus on this summer? And where are we currently strong on.
1. Thoughts, comments, ideas, application, etc…. regarding the Scripture and/or message? 2. Which one of the 5 key principles to Oikos life do you find most exciting? Which one resonates most strongly with you? Why? Which one do you think Veritas does well with right now?
3. Which one of the 5 key principles to Oikos life challenges you the most? Why? Which one do we need to work on the most within Veritas?
4. What is God saying to you and what are you going to do about it? What is God saying to us and what should we do about it?