Oikos is a Greek word used in the New Testament to refer to extended households which functioned together to work towards a common purpose or mission. Oikos meant community and as it refers to the church community, it paints a picture of the way a church community should view their combined ministry and purpose. In the early church, the oikos was the vehicle for the discipleship training, mission work, fellowship and sending out force of the church community. The oikos provided the support and structure needed to do the work of the ministry.
If we are to intentionally work on doing the work of the ministry and live on mission, then we must reclaim some of that sense of family community that may have been lost in this highly independent and individualistic- centered world. The church community is in reality an extended family. We are the children of God sent out to proclaim Christ. We do this as a family. What I sometimes see is that the church, in some instances, has become very consumer oriented. We have forgotten fully what the church is supposed to be. It is not a place where we are served for the sake of being served or where we go hunting for the right church that will fulfill our needs. It is a vehicle for the ministry where fellow believers- extended family members- can come to be equipped, encouraged and sent out on mission together. Yes, we are to take care of internal needs because that is indeed a role of family, but the main goal is to get fed and cared for so that we can be of greater use in the ‘out there’ world. It is an UP-IN-OUT relationship. Focus upward together on God in prayer, devotion and worship, Focus inward on the needs of our church family and Focus outward to those who are far from God out there in our everyday world.
As missional communities, we are to express the “scattered and gathered” aspects of church family. The times in which we gather, help to strengthen the family in the times in which we are scattered in our different cultural contexts whether it be at work, the home, school or wherever we might find ourselves. And as an oikos family, our gathering times happen at times other than just in the church worship service. It can happen as we hang out as a family together informally at family dinners, entertainment times, birthday parties, small group meetings, local mission work in the community, the area coffee house as we discuss the spiritual life. There is no secular-sacred divide. We are the church no matter what the context.
For more information on this subject check out Leading Missional Communities by Mike Breen.