“Oikos”. Sounds like something you’d shout out in a market to catch a friend’s attention, doesn’t it? Or maybe not! This greek word became the focus of much excitement at Familylife’s Vision & Equipping (V&E) this year, because the word is full of meaning and hope. Oikos can mean “house” or “descendents“. There is a sense of family grouping and relationship in the meaning of oikos; of community and belonging.
The idea of oikos is so much more than what we often think of when we talk about community these days. Our main speaker, Nick Johnson, pastor of Long Lane Church, Liverpool, thinks that community is a hugely overused word. We talk about community as a collection of people with something in common. For instance, the “black community”, “gay community”, “Muslim community”, “Christian community” and we refer to ‘the community’ as if it’s one homogenous thing, but it’s not. The word community is being commonly used to represent and even legitimise a particular point of view or opinion for a whole, which may not be the case.
We might do well to completely rethink what we actually mean by community.
Many people, if asked, have a longing for community, seeking a sense of belonging. This kind of community exists because there are relationships where people really care for one another and share with those in need; where there is a common purpose or something that holds people together and drives them forward towards a goal.
Nick helped us explore the theme of “Building Kingdom Communities” from a Biblical and practical perspective. I was struck by a number of things:
- Community is important because relationships are important and communities are collections of relationships.
- Community is about the small and the everyday, it’s not about large numbers of people or grand plans. It’s doing life together.
- Honesty is a vital ingredient to build real relationships, which starts with us and a willingness to be vulnerable.
- We’re called to be a blessing to those around us.
- We’re also called to pull in people who are NOT LIKE US.
We also spent time discussing the how; how can we build community?
It starts with being rooted in our identity as followers of Jesus to be life-long learners, growing in our character and the way we do relationships that are loving and other-centred. Authentic people and authentic relationships build real communities. Conversely, people who demonstrate a disconnect between their words and actions put people off. People who lack integrity become a problem for those within a community as well as those looking in and wondering whether to join, which they probably won’t.
Building community has to start somewhere. It takes initiative.
Carl Brettle, Neighbourhood Prayer Network, said that for him building community means: prayer, care, share. Three very practical approaches. It can be helpful to notice a person’s needs so you can come alongside.
We also reflected on the value of failure. “You won’t win them all!” Not everyone wants to join in and that’s ok.
During the course of the day we heard many stories and examples of living lives and marriages with integrity, community building and outreach. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who left inspired and equipped to want to begin building an ‘oikos community’. The things still going around my head are: this is exciting, what am I going to do in the next six months? How can I make time?
I’ll let you know.
Christine Daniel, February 2020
Nick Johnson’s talk is available to listen – please contact us if interested.