The Opportunity in Ordinary Life

We church leaders preach “the priesthood of the believers,” yet few of us live it with any measure of effectiveness. Though this priesthood addresses the needs of one another in the church, we must also serve as “everyday missionaries” to the surrounding community. Today’s America is a stewpot of self-identified people groups. To address each requires the effort of a host of everyday missionaries—ordinary people interacting with friends on a follow-me-as-I-follow-Christ journey.

Leaders, will you take seriously your task to equip your church members to disciple others into Christ? to live as God’s Ephesians 2 masterpieces?

I wrote Equipping Everyday Missionaries in a Post-Christian Era to help church leaders prepare members to serve as everyday missionaries where they live, work and play. One strategy is to encourage everyday Christians to build discipling communities outside the “box” of the church building.

The Premise

In Acts 16, when Paul and Silas met with Lydia and her crew near a river in Philippi, they touched a circle of Godfearers apart from any synagogue. Add the Philippian jailer to the mix, and they left behind a microchurch that served as the seed for something larger.

We need to be open to similar activities on the fringes of our churches (while resisting the temptation to attach them to our congregation). These are often best coached to grow into something independent of us.

This brings to mind one such opportunity in my life that had both rewarding and hard lessons. 

Opportunity Taken

A mother-daughter team belonged to one of our in-house microchurches. When that group lost the apartment where they had been meeting, and they had nowhere else to go, these two gracious ladies offered their home as a meeting place. Sadly, the leaders rebuffed their offer for reasons I won’t describe here. Meanwhile, I was discipling a young man who was a member of the original group and anxious to learn about leadership. The following week, my young disciple, my wife and I met at the home of that mother and daughter.

We arrived to find the husband/father, Hale, in the living room drinking beer and watching a Lakers game. Our tiny, intimidated crew scurried into the kitchen.

Hale had approved the use of the living room for our gathering, so I decided to watch the ballgame with him while the rest of our group met in the kitchen. At the end of the evening, we explained that we liked to wrap things up with a song, and we asked him to accompany us on his guitar—foggy from the beers, he decided to use an autoharp instead. The kitchen crew joined us as he strummed along to our poor chorus. We then asked if he would play again as we sang the following week. He showed up at our next meeting sober and ready to display his musical ability on the guitar. After several months of participation, he decided to follow Jesus.

Two important things happened in the aftermath. His adult sons and their families often stopped by the parents’ house for snacks on their way home from softball games. Hanging out in the kitchen, they overheard their dad talk about his new alcohol-free life in Christ. After several months of this, they decided to follow their dad on his walk with Jesus. Both sons are now leaders in churches we planted.

Opportunity Missed

The other significant result was an evening when my new friend Hale left our group, guitar in hand, to minister to the crowd gathered at the home of a neighbor who had recently died. A few moments later, we heard worship songs coming from the despairing family.

I said this situation was both rewarding and hard. It was rewarding because an extended family came to Christ and became leaders in our churches. It was hard because I realized we had missed an opportunity to pursue Hale’s and his family’s expanded oikos in their neighborhood.

Let me explain what I mean by oikos. After Jesus healed the demonized man in the Gerasenes, the man begged to travel with Jesus (Mark 5). Jesus refused the request while extending a greater purpose for the man’s life: He instructed the man to return home and tell of what the master had done for him. The word that translates “home” in our English Bibles is oikon or oikos, which generally speaks of an extended household, including friends and even employees. Surrounded by millions, each church member lives in such a household. Every one of us has a private village. This circle is where we can most effectively share what Jesus has done for us and for others.

The Church Growth Movement taught us to construct “fishing ponds” by staging events where people could invite their friends. These artificial constructs are expensive, can degenerate into shallow outcomes, and often rob time from disciple making. While producing converts, they make more spectators than everyday missionaries. The approach overlooks the reality that each of us lives in an organic fishing pool. These include friends, co-workers and neighbors. Special interest groups may be the most fruitful of the oikos surrounding everyone you know. It’s our job to heighten awareness of the missionary call on our members to their oikos.

Back to Hale’s story.

The night of that wake had opened an avenue into a Hawaiian Homestead neighborhood. I could have (and should have) discipled this family to amplify the gospel in an oikos of people who would never darken our doorstep. Hale’s family could have led a microchurch in that community while remaining active in our congregation. We win some and lose others. The importance is to learn from our losses.

Embrace the Value of Oikos.

Unfortunately, those who enjoy church life for any length of time find their relationships focused on the church, its activities and, quite often, its campus. Reinforcing the value of the oikos outside the church is essential if we will equip everyday missionaries, pointing them toward the fields white unto harvest. Identification with an individual or a new group of people precedes influence, and friend making should lead to disciple making.

A man named Paul is one of my early disciples. He recently gathered some friends he met in a coffee shop on a Saturday morning. They decided to meet weekly, and have done so for a couple of years. Over time, the atheist began declaring himself an agnostic. A Jewish man now sees Jesus as the Messiah. Paul built a community among those he intended to reach.

Another friend, Danny, is a hip-hop DJ. He leads Zoom groups among his peers. A third friend, Jate Earhart, is a computer gamer who began sharing bits and pieces about faith. Those gospel droplets turned into prayer opportunities. He now operates an online “gamers church” numbering more than a thousand participants on several continents.

Each of these men ministers in a tribal group outside of their home church. As pastors, we should see opportunities that take our people into other tribes, even if the majority of their effort never adds to the number of people gracing our chairs on a Sunday.

Adapted from Equipping Everyday Missionaries in a Post-Christian Era by Ralph Moore © 2022. Available at Exponential.org/books.

Ralph Moore is church multiplication catalyzer for Exponential and the founder of the Hope Chapel church-planting movement.