Is continuous revival possible? This question is pondered in the inner recesses of countless hungry men of God. Fed with a profusion of negative input from defeatist circles, these revival hungry, soul-conscious men of God struggle for the biblical answer. Darts of negativism that speak of “the falling away” and “the departure from the faith” drape around them like a death garment.
While it is true “that in the last days many shall depart from the faith,” God has also promised to “pour out His Spirit upon all flesh.” It would do well for us to again base our observations on God’s neverchanging Word. In times like these, this is the only stable source. Hungry men of God are tired of hearing those who parrot the well-worn phrases of defeatism and negative thinking. Either Jesus Christ is “the same yesterday, today and forever,” or He is not! We either are an extension of the church in Acts or we are a shabby counterfeit. It is our conviction that God’s church is alive and well today!
The church in the Book of Acts was a revival church! In chapter 2, we read of both the birth of God’s church and its increase: “and the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2:47). We further read of the church referred to as a multitude (Acts 6:2), that the “number of the disciples was multiplied” (Acts 6:1, 7), that God’s church “increased in number daily” (Acts 16:5), and that churches, not just people, multiplied (Acts 9:31). Thousands or myriads (a measurement of 10,000) was used to describe the accelerated growth of the church in Acts 21:20. It is the devil’s business to subtract and divide, but God adds and multiplies!
The church today can have continuous revival and growth. The secret lies within the church obeying the mandate to go, baptize, and teach (Matthew 28:1920). The sowing of the seed of the Word of God will bring forth a harvest, If it is sown bountifully and continuously, then there will be a bountiful and continuous harvest.
The church now is awakening from a winter of deep slumber. God’s people are discovering the true biblical principles that produce a consistent growth. For too long God’s church on this earth has been hampered by a profusion of methods. Methods have their place. Any that will assist in leading people to the feet of the Lord Jesus are to be commended and
used. But it appears that by focusing their attention on method, Satan has sidetracked many. Instead of discovering the power of the New
Testament church, many have become masters in the art of methodology.
A method is “a way of doing something, a means or manner of procedure.” Methods change; they are never static. Methods vary according to regions, grouping, and population density. We have all witnessed how fad-type methods move through the church, soon to be replaced by still another method. What is needed is to replace methods with sound biblical principles.
Unlike methods that vary with time and place, principles always remain the same. A principle is “a basic truth, law, or assumption, a truth that is a foundation for other truths.”
Methods must always follow principles. To reverse this order is to bring confusion and frustration in the greatest work in the world! Our desire is a continuing, on-going revival.
The basic principle employed by the New Testament Church for continuous growth and revival was that of “Oaks Evangelism.” What is Oikos Evangelism? In the Greek text of the Scriptures, we will find two words, oikia and oikos. These words are interpreted as “house,” “household,” or “home” in our English Bible. In Classic Attic Greek, “oikia” referred to the physical dwelling, (the house itself) while oikos referred to the people dwelling therein. In the New
Testament these words are used to speak of both the inhabitants and the house itself.
Our Lord Established a Principle
When Jesus had healed the demoniac of Gadara, in answer to the young man’s request, Jesus replied, “Go home [oikos] to thy friends and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee….” The Amplified Bible translates this verse, “Go home to your family and relatives and friends, and bring back words to them of how much the Lord has done for you Jesus told this young man to begin with his “Oikos.”
According to noted authorities, there were in Bible days at least three types of social groupings that still remain in societies today. 0 The first mentioned is (composed of near relatives.) In New Testament days, a man’s servants were included in his “oikos” or household. 0 The local community of friends and neighbors. 0 There was what the authorities refers to as “the clan.” These were people held together by a common bond such as a union, a job, a parent-teachers’ association, a ladies sewing circle, or the local Bass club. These three groupings-common kinship or relatives, common community or friends, and common interest or associates-make up the natural groupings that people easily flow into.
It was in these natural groupings, all under the name of the “oikos,” that Jesus told the young man to minister to “your family and relatives and friends.”
Over and over again we note this principle in the Book of Acts: “And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple and breaking bread from house [oikos] to house [oikos]….” It is easily noticed that the Temple was a rallying point to recharge, to equip the church to go to their “oikos” and minister the words of salvation.
For further clarification’-we need only notice the move of God in Caesarea. It was said that Cornelius “feared God with all his house [oikos]” (Acts 10:2). The record further states that the angel’s message was, “Call for Simon whose surname is Peter; who shall tell thee words whereby thou and all thy house [oikos] shall be saved” (Acts 11:13-14). When Peter arrived, he found that “Cornelius waited for them and had called together his kinsmen and near friends” (Acts 10:24). “And as he talked with him, he went in, and found many that were come together” (Acts 10:27). Cornelius had gathered his “oikos” together. In this natural setting of family, friends, and associates, revival came to the Gentiles.
Micheal Green, author of Evangelism in the Early Church, says, “The (oikos) family understood in this broad way, as consisting of blood relations, slaves, clients, and friends, was one of the bastions of GraecoRoman society. Christian missionaries made a deliberate point to gain households they could use as lighthouses, so to speak, from which the gospel could illuminate the surrounding darkness. We are then, quite right, in stressing the centrality of the “oikos” household to Christian advance.”
Have you ever wondered why many Christians have been made to feel guilty when they extend an effort to win their own family to God? Somehow Satan has made them feel false condemnation. Have you further seen the frustration of leadership trying to train workers to overcome the fear of meeting strangers behind closed doors? Have you ever knocked on a strange door yourself, hoping no one would be at home?
Our work of winning men to Jesus would be much easier if we went in the natural setting of working on our relatives, friends, and associates. These people are the ones we know on a first-name basis, see everyday, and with whom we converse easily. The New Testament church claimed these groupings, their “oikos,” for Jesus Christ. By following this pattern, one would rarely have to knock a strange door and then only to increase or recruit new ones into his “oikos.”
The Testimony of Statistics
Surveys on church growth and evangelism reveal some interesting statistics. The most important, however, is the fact that 90% of all people won to a church were won by another family member, friend, or business associate.
This writer has personally taken surveys in audiences where he ministered and found this to be remarkably accurate. People are now being won to the Lord Jesus through “Oikos Evangelism.” This is happening without people even understanding the principle. What would happen in God’s church if everyone would understand and use this dynamic principle? An on-going, continuous revival would result! Case in Point To illustrate, let me give this illustration. A friend, who now pastors in a neighboring state, came to the city where I pastor to witness to his brother and sister-in-law. The sister-in-law received the Holy Ghost in their home. After a few months, the brother received the Holy Ghost at our church. Then the sister in-law told her three sisters, and they received, plus their families. The three sisters worked on their friends, and two more families were brought into the church. Then they all went to Chicago to tell the rest of the family. Ten people received the Holy Ghost during that visit. This all developed from one brother having a burden for his brother. (Is it selfish to win your family?) This has now mushroomed to a total of sixty-five souls and it is still growing!
How To Begin Oikos Ministry In Your Church
You should begin by exposing the term ` oikos” to your friends, and fellow worshipers. Pastors will want to preach a series of sermons on church growth, individual responsibility, and the “oikos” ministry. It must be pointed out that this is not a new method, but a Bible principle to be believed and practiced. It is a key to continuous revival.
Secondly, ask everyone to define their “oikos.”
Ask them to write down their relatives, friends, and associates. It is important that you verbalize your “oikos.” This will help to make them a part of your heart-burden. Pray over them using your “oikos” list as a prayer list.
Thirdly, meet with these people in small groups, such as a study group in your home. A home Bible study in their home is most desirable. Remember the Early Church went from “house to house.” Every home in their “oikos” was an evangelistic field, every living room became an altar. The church building proper is for training and inspiration. The real place of action is beyond the four walls of the church building.
Importance of Home Bible Studies
Thousands of people are committing themselves to take the gospel into hundreds of homes across our fellowship. Baptistries that used to remain empty are now filled. Converts are being baptized at all hours of the day and night as the urgency of the hour to evangelize, to have revival, is being felt. One of the great reasons for this evangelism is home Bible studies. Home Bible studies are important for three reasons.
1 Introduction Into Evangelism. This remarkable tool allows the Christian witness to be introduced to his “oikos” network. This nonconfrontive approach in the living room of the candidate for salvation is a master tool to create interest, to generate conviction, and to allow the seed of the Word to be sown in the heart. The results are astonishing. By far, this is a proven evangelism tool that puts new converts on the pews of our churches. One who employs this method
has truly become “a fisher of men.”
2 Discipleship. Many concerned pastors realize that far too many of those who pass through our baptismal pools never continue. One of the big reasons is poor follow-up and lack of disciplining the individual. The end result of the great commission is to “make disciples.” The bottom line is how many were discipled to be fruit-producing Christians. This in no way is a slam at mass evangelism. We believe and should promote revivals such as those recorded in the Book of Acts. We further believe, however, that everyone of the converts should be discipled! The church must not only have a “delivery room” where new ones are born into the kingdom of God, but it also needs to have a “nursery” where they can be nursed and helped through the early days and weeks of their new life.
One of the best tools for discipleship can be the home Bible study. A caring, trained teacher to share weekly in the new convert’s home the rich, warm Word of God through home Bible study can establish new converts in the truth and in Christian living. Many questions the new converts have can be addressed to the trained teacher who can help them with the answer. The influence of that teacher, praying and sharing the Word in a home for ten to fifteen weeks, will produce lasting results. It will help to begin family altars. It will make the pastor’s job so much easier. More times than not, a concerned pastor will want to
immediately involve the new convert in a discipleship class that he teaches, using either a series he has developed or the My Father’s House series.
3 Fellowship. The church in the Book of Acts “continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship” (Acts 2:42). There is hardly a more beautiful word in the Bible than fellowship. This word implies more than just a “fun gathering.” It speaks of a sharing, caring group that ministers to one another’s needs. The home Bible studies offer fellowship for the new converts. The new believer soon discovers that the old crowd, as a whole, does not care to be with him. Consequently, there may be a sense of loneliness that will plague many new ones as they make the adjustments to their new life-style. Being associated with a godly teacher and his wife helps “bridge the gap” until they can be completely acclimated in the church.
What are we talking about? A continuous, on-going revival! Our reference is not to “revival meetings,” which have their place and purpose, which is to reap the seeds the church has previously sown, but to continuous revival with people receiving God’s greatest gift on Sunday morning, Sunday nights, and throughout the week, fifty-two weeks a year. This is God’s ideal plan. Let us employ the New Testament principles and see our Lord add “to the Church daily such as should be saved.”