Where Discipleship Starts

“Go and make disciples”

What goes through your mind when you hear those words?

Often, when I talk to people about discipleship their faces begins to change. Their expressions say something like,  “I know I should, but the idea is overwhelming.”

Maybe you can relate?

Maybe you want to take Jesus’ words seriously, but you don’t know where to start…because you don’t know where to find disciples.

But what if I told you finding disciples is actually easier than you think? What if I told you, you probably already have some?

In the first century, early Christians didn’t go looking for disciples. Instead they started with people they already knew. (And not in some kind of  Amway-like sales approach.)

They simply started with people that were already under their influence…people who naturally [because of birth or business] would listen to them…people who were part of their “oikos”.

Oikos is the Greek word for “household”. But it means a lot more than that. Win and Charles Arn write, “In the Greco-Roman culture, oikos not only described the immediate family in the house but included servants, servant’s families, friends, and even business associates. An oikos was one’s sphere of influence, his or her social system composed of those related to each other through ties of kinship, and territory.”[1]

And in the first century one’s oikos  was “A key element in [the disciple-making] process.”

For example, in Acts 16 when a jailer asked Paul and Silas what he must do to be saved, they reply, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household [oikos].”

Then look what happens next…

Paul and Silas “spoke the word of the Lord to [the jailer] and to all the others in his house [okia]. At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his household [oikos] were baptized. The 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 household [okios]. (Acts 16:31-34)

For the “regular” New Testament Christian the discipleship pattern was not to first go out and evangelize and disciple strangers. The early Christian likely was not even thinking about how he could evangelize and disciple his pagan neighbor…at least not at first.

Rather, the priority for the early Christian was to evangelize and disciple those he already knew. People already under his care, people who were already a part of his okios.

So much was the focus of discipleship on “households”, that a Christian could not even be eligible to lead others in the church until he had a track record of discipling his “oikos.”

The Apostle Paul writes, a church elder “ must manage his own family [oikos] well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family [oikos], how can he take care of God’s church? (1 Timothy 3:4-5)

In a similar manner, when it came to the early church evangelizing their non believing community, not everyone was called to the task. Instead early Christians specifically set aside particular church leaders to be  evangelists (Acts 21:8, Ephesians 4:11, 2 Timothy 4:5). Much like what we do with pastors today.  This was because, the priority of discipleship in the early church was in the following order: Household, Church, Community/World.

So if you want to be faithful to Jesus’ words, “Go and make disciples” but aren’t sure where to start, may I suggest you start with those God has already given you. Start with your oikos.

Forget about the stranger for second, and don’t stress about not teaching in the church.  Take your cues from the early church and make your first priority your household.

If you are faithful there, then in time God may call you to disciple those in the church. And if you are faithful in the church, who knows God might just call you to make disciple of all nations…but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

For now, just start with your oikos.

 

 

 

 

 

Now, if you’re wondering how to disciple your “oikos”, here’s a couple of links to get you started:

The Four Tasks of Discipleship

The Path of Discipleship

 


 

[1] Win Arn and Charles Arn. The Master’s Plan for Making Disciples. Second ed. p. 39 -40