I have a heart conviction that the Lord has been bringing to me, with regards to Oikos and to those involved in simple church life, which I wish to share.
Many of us are involved in missional faith communities, simple churches, house churches, kingdom ministry or whatever term we use to describe the gathering of disciples of Jesus in what is commonly called “church”. There is also a growing kingdom focus of Christians in the market places, businesses, educational institutions, sports clubs, chaplains, cafes, etc.
We have a conviction that when these disciples gather, it is most effective when there is an environment that is highly relational and interactive, that allows each person to be accountable and to actively participate, learn and grow as disciples of Jesus. The simplicity of these gatherings allows the focus to be on these things and on being missional in connecting with people in the broader community.
In addition there is strong evidence that this was the general pattern followed in the New Testament and the early church. These characteristics were also found in many of the movements in Christian history. A few of the many examples that embodied many of these principles are the Priscillian movement, the Celts, the Moravians, the Waldenses, “Luther’s third order of service,” the Anabaptists, and the Wesley movements (Wolfgang Simpson - Houses That Change the World pp 59-75)
Most current examples of movements in the world where there is explosive growth of the church such as in China, India, parts of Asia and Africa also follow this pattern.
BEWARE A CRITICAL ATTITUDE
However, we must be careful not to be critical of other expressions of church. It is evident that God works amongst groups and churches wherever people are hungry for him and have a heart for those who are not yet followers of Jesus. Established, conventional and even more institutional churches in many cases also reach and disciple people.
This leads me to a conviction that the Lord has been bringing to my attention. If we have at any stage engaged in a critical or judgmental spirit toward other expressions of the church, we need to seek the Lord’s (and others’) forgiveness. God blesses unity and love within the body of Christ, which we are all part of regardless of how we gather.
I am also amazed at how God is doing a work amongst leaders and churches to lead many of them to become more focused on the harvest, on making disciples, and on supporting movements. It seems that there are real opportunities to encourage, support, and in some cases to partner with larger established churches to accomplish the expansion of the kingdom of God. I have seen examples where mega churches have blessed, released and continue to support missional agencies that are focused on reaching the lost and making disciples. These are optimal and exciting developments. Movements involve rapid multiplication, which typically results in groups of disciples meeting in simple missional groups in all types of places - homes, work place environments, public buildings etc. There is adaptability and a flexibility that is necessary when there is rapid growth and multiplication of disciples and groups.
Oikos has a twofold focus – to support a discipling, missional and movement focus amongst established churches and to be part of supporting new movements of disciples who make disciples with a kingdom focus. Many of these will be fresh expressions of church. For myself I want to have a clear foundation for God to bless, both individually and as a team, and I invite each of us to pursue the same.