Growing an Oikos: Changing Mindsets
Today we start a new mini-series all about how to help you make the shift from thinking about church in terms of a series of events, towards becoming an extended family on mission – or ‘oikos’ which is the Greek word used in the New Testament for households of faith. Don’t forget you can pre-order the new 3DM book ‘Family on Mission’ now and it will arrive through your letterbox in early June.
A few years ago, when I was a member of our church staff team responsible for our missional communities, and before ‘oikos’ and ‘family on mission’ were often spoken about, I was deeply moved when a member of one of our communities came up to me in church one day and said that his missional community was his FAMILY. You see without much teaching and training on our part the leaders of this community had ‘got it’. Through the challenge of ‘what is God saying to you’ and ‘what are you going to do about it’ they had, through prayer, prophetic words, revelation and action become a FAMILY on MISSION.
It hadn’t been easy for them. There were many challenges but over time they moved from just being a missional group, meeting regularly to serve and reach out to the poor and homeless, to becoming a family. The family consisted of all kinds of people. It involved everyone. They were vulnerable, accountable, adaptable, committed, open and honest, having responsibility, and looking out for each other, being sacrificial, being there for each other often in very tragic situations. They came together regularly to eat, pray, and share resources. They had predictable patterns, leaders who they honoured, a shared vision and they were a family of about 30 people.
So how did this happen? What changed the mindset of that group? I believe it was their identity and the texture of the group that changed. The structure was always there but it was the way they began to operate that changed. They began to realise and understand that they had to be open to those they were reaching out to becoming part of the family. They were no longer outside of the group. They were real friends. Life is richer when it is shared even with those who annoy us from time to time! They were learning to live as Jesus did; they had an identity.
This change happened first among the original community. As they faced the challenges and fun of living out the vision God had given them they were drawn closer together and began to understand the importance of being a family. This understanding led to them recognising that those they were reaching out to were also called to be a part of this family. This in turn led on to a gradual shift in how they related to one another and to the inclusiveness that created the family. They became a ‘family on mission’ as they all sought to live out the vision.
Our identity is deeply rooted in family because the basic nature of God is family. Today the normal expression of family has been lost to us. But family in this context is not just for people with children or the perfect couple living in the suburbs but it is for people from all kinds of backgrounds coming together single, divorced, single parents….it includes every human being.
The difference between this group, which began as a missional community being a church activity, to becoming a family, was the call on everyone who belonged to share and contribute in the family business.
Building a Family on mission is a sacrificial call, it takes time to build, but is something we are all called to participate in.
Jenny Rosser lives in Durham with her husband David. They have been involved in the development and implementation of Missional Communities for the past 11 years.