Although Jesus sometimes dealt with individuals, in the book of Acts, there are only two examples of individuals becoming disciples. In Acts 8, Philip leads the Ethiopian eunuch to the Lord, and in Acts 9, Saul is converted on the road to Damascus through Jesus' supernatural intervention. Other than that, all the examples given show either households or groups of people becoming believers/disciples. For example, Cornelius and his household became believers; in the city of Philippi, both Lydia and her household and the Philippine jailer and his household found the Lord.
many other cultures, the group is more important than the individual. It is
only here in the West that we have such an emphasis on the individual. This
would certainly have been so in New Testament times. The word oikos usually
translated household, implied much more than the nuclear family. It would have
included the household servants and their families as well as the extended
is the modern day equivalent of oikos? I think it is the individual plus
their sphere of influence — their friends and families, the people they work
with, the ones they interact with on a daily basis.
In our Christianized church culture, we are very satisfied when a single person commits to Jesus. Our expectation usually ends there. We do not anticipate groups of people finding Christ. We are content to fish with a rod and line rather than expecting an abundant catch.
There are a number of strategic reasons why this happens which we will examine in future posts.
Continuing the topic of church planting:
I immediately went through the Gospels looking at every
reference to fishing. There were several. Even though in Mongolia, I did not
have a concordance, it became apparent that several different methods of
fishing were described. Sometimes the disciples threw or cast their nets into
the water (e.g. Matthew 4:18), at other times they let down the nets from the
boat (Mark 5:4). Sometimes they fished from the shore; at other times they were
in deeper water.
Soon after this, we went to India. There we met with a
friend of ours, a church planter who works with fishing communities along the
coast of rural Andhra Pradesh. So we asked him about the fishing practices in
these primitive villages. He immediately told us about different fishing
techniques that these people use. He described a net that looks like a
butterfly net that they use to catch fish along the shore. He described a long
dragnet, or seine, a net several hundred yards long that two boats would let down
in a circle. This net would catch large numbers of fish at a time.
When I returned home and could access the Internet again, I
looked up fishing nets in a concordance. To my surprise, I found that different
words in the Greek were translated as "fishing net" in English. There
was a word that implied a net like a purse. Usually a generic word for fishing
net was used.
But perhaps the most interesting scripture occurs in Matthew
13:47-48 where it says, "Again, the Kingdom of
Heaven is like a fishing net that was thrown into the water and caught fish of
every kind. When the net was full, they dragged
it up onto the shore, sat down, and sorted the good fish into crates, but threw
the bad ones away.” The word used for fishing net here, is dragnet or seine.
Last week, I sent out a tweet asking people to vote on the next topic I will be covering in this blog. The votes are in! By a 2 to 1 majority, people would like to hear more about the subject of church planting. So over the next few weeks, I will be covering that topic.
I often hear the comment, "Jesus did not tell us to plant churches, he asked us to make disciples." This is indeed true. However, the phrase, "make disciples," only comes once in the Gospels, or indeed in the whole of the New Testament for that matter, and that is in the Great Commission in Matthew 28. But both disciple making and church planting are very clearly demonstrated throughout the book of Acts. The two are inseparable. When disciples were made, a church was the result. The job of the apostolic teams that were sent out was to preach the good news of the kingdom. The result? New disciples gathered into churches.
On another note, I am excited to see that the new book by Frank Viola and Leonard Sweet is in the Amazon top 10! (http://amzn.to/9j6hqd) Congratulations to both!
I recently read the book "Imaginary Jesus" by Matt Mikalotos and George Barna. It was a book I could not put down (rare in the Christian genre). Matt uses an "almost fiction" approach and brilliant humor to lower our defenses and then hits us hard with the truth. We often either create Jesus as we want him to be or believe in a Jesus that others have invented for us.
Will the real Jesus please stand up!