All People Everywhere
In the New Testament, we have a pattern worth reconsidering: that of reaching whole households.
There is actually a massive shift in evangelistic model from the OT where people seek after God to the NT where God is seeking after man. In the OT, the model was to put the people of God in one location. As they obeyed God, God would bless them above all others in very visible ways which would serve to draw all men to the God of Israel. Israel failed to obey and God’s blessings were withheld, replaced often by judgement instead. The life of Christ heralds this more aggressive approach where God becomes the seeker. This pattern is continues throughout Acts and the Epistles. Now, God’s people would be planted everywhere throughout countries and at all levels of societies. Rather than earthly blessings, faith, hope, and love would be the markings of God’s people that would validate the true God in the world.
Rather than being based in a single country with a single temple to “house” God, the new arrangement would be distributed everywhere with many, many homes for God and His people.
Friends, Relatives, Associates, & Neighbor Focused Evangelism
Matching the “Household” conversions in the book of Acts (Acts 10:1-11:18; 16:11-15; 16:25-34; 18:1-11), some people are refocusing on inviting friends, relatives, associates, and neighbors into their homes for time together and into the Life of Christ. What we see most evident throughout the New Testament is a primary focus on the household (FRAN) as an evangelistic outreach center where new churches are planted.
In Luke, we have homes as the center of ministry with:
1. Healings – Luke narrates three healings in a household setting including Simon’s mother-in-law, the centurion’s servant, and Jairus’ daughter (Luke 4:38-41; 7:1-10; 8:41-42, 49-56).
2. Shared Meals – Jesus is the guest of a Pharisee (Luke 7:36-50; 11:37-54; 14:1-24). Luke’s describes a meal that gives occasion for teaching. We see this feature in the accounts of Jesus’ meals with the Pharisees and with Mary and Martha in Luke 10:38-42. Zacchaeus is the first instance in Luke-Acts where salvation is pronounced upon a household. Finally, in the Emmaus incident of Luke 24:13-35, we have the intertwined motifs of table-fellowship/household mission, journey, and teaching.
In Acts, we have homes involved in both evangelism and discipleship:
Public evangelistic proclamation occurs early in Acts in reaching the Jews (note particularly Acts 2:4-6; 41; 46). After a period of ten to twelve years, starting in Acts 8:5-25 we have the move of the Gospel to reach Samaritans (half-Jews by family lineages) and a proselyte (a converted Gentile), the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:26-40). The focus around the home and reaching households can be seen in the stories of:
1. Cornelius – The gospel reaches the first Gentile and God confirms this previously hidden movement of the gospel to all men everywhere. The story of Cornelius is told four times in Acts (Acts 10:1-48; 11:1-18; 15:7-11, 13-21).
2. Lydia – The conversion of Lydia’s household is significant because it constitutes the first conversion on European soil. That Paul and company encounter Lydia in a place of prayer (i.e. a synagogue?) and the conversion still takes place in the household emphasizes the growing importance of the household (at the expense of the synagogue) in the expanding missionary efforts. (Acts 16:11–15)
3. Roman Jailer – With the jailer’s conversion, we see the first instance where a true pagan is converted entirely apart from Judaism. This is indicative of the continued concentric movement of the gospel from Jews to Samaritans to God-fearers and now to pagans (Acts 16:25–34)
4. Crispus – The final household conversion occurs in the home of Justus, a Gentile, which is right next door to a synagogue. Therein, Crispus, the leader of the synagogue, is converted along with his entire household. This striking scene of a Jewish synagogue leader being converted in a Gentile home effectively demonstrates the new people of God comprised of Jews and Gentiles.
Friends, Relatives, Associates, & Neighbor Focused Discipleship
The New Testament speaks of groups of believers meeting regularly in the intimacy of a home rather than a dedicated church building. This house church was a Christian fellowship group formed in and/or around a household (Gr. oikos). Acts speaks of such gatherings of disciples in households with Lydia in Philippi (Acts 16:15); Jason in Thessalonica (Acts 17:5-9); and with Gaius in Rome (Acts 16:23).
Paul speaks of such a church in the household of Aquila and Priscilla in Asia (1 Cor. 16:19) and in Rome ( Rom. 16:3, 5), as well as Aristobulus (Rom 16:10), Narcissus (Rom 16:11), and numerous others in Rome (Rom 16:14-15); of Stephanas in Achaia (I Cor 16:15); of Philemon (Philemon 1,2); and of Nympha in Laodicea (Col. 4:15).
From the first, the church met in the homes of those reached with the gospel, pulling in their entire household within it’s influence and care (Acts 2:42-46; 5:42). Paul’s practice was the same: to publicly proclaim the gospel, and to expound in depth within homes (Acts 20:18-20).
Will you consider offering God your home to reach your whole household (children, relatives, neighbors, friends, associates) and then continue together growing as disciples?