Reaching Family and Friends


In this sermon series we have been looking at what the Bible says about evangelism by non-experts. Of course, we non-experts tend to be a little nervous about evangelism, don't we? You never know what some stranger might do. But a lot of times, our nervousness is misplaced. A pastor's wife shared a story that her husband will never live down. And the reason he will never live it down is that she contributed the story to Our Daily Bread. He had picked up a hitchhiker late at night, but after driving a few miles, he began to be suspicious about the hitchhiker. He felt in his suit pocket for his wallet, and it wasn't there. He slammed on the brakes, told the guy "Hand over the wallet immediately!" and get out. The terrified hitchhiker handed over his wallet, and got out of the car. When he got home he discovered that he had left his wallet at home, and now had the hitchhikers wallet in his suit pocket. He had assumed the worst about this guy. And a lot of people approach personal evangelism with the same suspicions and fears. This chapter will later go on to talk about the persecution that we can expect. But today's sermon should be very encouraging for you.

One of the most exciting things for me as a non-expert in evangelism is that historically most people have come to Christ through non-experts. Even though most of the church's money has been spent on experts evangelizing, down through history these experts have only led a tiny percentage of the Christian population to Christ. And there have been many studies that have been done over the past few years that have verified this finding.

For example, take a wild guess as to the percentage of first generation Christians that you think have come to Christ through a mass crusade. We are not talking about people who have grown up in the church; we're talking about first generation Christians. Just think of a number in your head. Most people think that it has to be a rather high number, and that's why they leave evangelism to the experts. But in reality, every study that has been done shows that less than one percent of first generation Christians came to Christ through an evangelistic crusade. Some of the studies showed ½ of 1% were the result of experts — and this despite the fact that the church has spent most of its money on mass crusades. About 1% of first generation Christians came to Christ through church door to door cold-turkey evangelism. About 2% came to Christ through some other church program. 5% had the pastor lead them to Christ, but even then, it was frequently only after they had been brought to the pastor through the influence of a friend or relative. And that fact isn't even factored into this statistic. Get this figure — somewhere between 85% and 90% of all first generation Christians said that they came to Christ through the influence of a close friend or relative. Now, you add the children of believers into that mix, and you know that this is a huge finding. Of course, if we had read the Bible, we would know that this is the way that God covenantally works.

And in most countries, the friends/relatives equation is even higher. In Irian Jaya, where several people movements have come to Christ, over 98% of people came through the influence of close friends or relatives. What I want to point out this morning is that this is God's covenantal way of acting. He prefers to use non-experts in reaching a world for Christ.

The Context

Average disciples aren't able to cross over cultural barriers very effectively (vv. 5-6)

And it is interesting that even these twelve, who were sent out to do cold-turkey evangelism with strangers, were not experts. They made all kinds of mistakes. And though verse 2 gives the names of what would later be the twelve apostles, Matthew is very careful to call them disciples first. In the Gospel of Matthew they are called "disciples" 68 times and only once are they called "apostles" — here in verse 2. In Acts and the epistles they are always called apostles. The reason for constantly calling them disciples is that they were learning the ropes just like every other Christian. A disciple is a learner. And Christ did not make these twelve disciples do things that were too hard at first.

In verses 5-6 we see that He didn't make them cross cultural barriers. He would do that way later in Acts. He would send them out as missionaries. But here Jesus is emphasizing the kind of evangelism that anyone can engage in. This is the kind of evangelism that the twelve, the seventy, and then the one hundred and twenty engaged in. Verse 5 says, "These twelve Jesus sent out and commanded them saying, 'Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans. But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." He was going to have them mix it up with people who shared very similar background. And the reason is that we will be the most effective there. Experts like Paul majored in cross cultural evangelism, but the average Christian ordinarily did not.

People begin to be open to the Gospel when they hear truth applied to all of life in a comprehensive message (v. 7)

The second thing to notice is that He gave them more than the four spiritual laws. He said in verse 7, "And as you go, preach, saying, 'The kingdom of heaven is at hand.'" The kingdom of heaven was a message about every aspect of earthly existence coming under the reign of the heavenly Messiah. Christianity applies to economics, politics, marriage, child-rearing, farming — everything. And the more we see our kingdom message as being relevant to everything in life, the more people will begin to realize that the Gospel is relevant and practical for the issues they face. So this is the second way that He is helping His disciples to connect with the real needs of the people. He doesn't have them bring a truncated message. It is a kingdom message.

God prepares people to be open to Christian ministry by putting needs into their lives (v. 8)

The third thing about the context that is important is that God had already been preparing the way for the message by bringing needs into people's lives. Verse 8 mentions sickness, incurable diseases, and the demonic. And these needs would be another way in which Christ was letting the disciples connect with others. It is extremely rare to find a person who is unwilling to have you pray for a very sick family member. Most people figure that prayer can't hurt. I have one unbeliever who is constantly asking me to pray for him. So we need to keep that in mind. Are there needs that God has brought into the lives of my friends, neighbors, and associates? And is there any way that I can minister to those needs?

When unbelievers see the reality of God's power in our lives, it makes them sit up and take notice (vv. 1,8). When they see us engaged in mercy ministries (v. 8) it makes them sit up and take notice.

The fourth context that is worth looking at is that God gave these disciples power over Satan and disease. Verse 1 says, "And when He had called His twelve disciples to Him, He gave them power over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease." When they were able to cast out demons and heal the sick, others began to sit up and take notice. Paul said, "I did not come to you in word only, but in word and power." When people see the reality of God's power at work in our lives, it makes them sit up and take notice. When they see us expressing love through mercy ministries, they sit up and take notice. And we could spend an entire sermon looking at these word and deed ministries. But I'm not going to be focusing on the context today. I'm going to be focusing on oikos evangelism. But these are five contexts that make oikos evangelism so powerful.

Demonstration of faith (vv. 9-10).

The last contextual thing that I want to mention before I get to the issue of households is that Christ wanted them to live a lifestyle where it could be clearly seen that they were living by faith, and God was coming through for them. He told them in verses 9-10, "Provide neither gold nor silver nor copper in your money belts, nor bag for your journey, nor two tunics, nor sandals, nor staffs; for a worker is worthy of his food." Later He asked them if they lacked anything during this time, and they said "No." So people were not only seeing that they had power to do miracles; they were seeing that God was real in the day-to-day issues of finances, food, protection, and strength. I think this was giving people a glimpse into the reality of God's presence in their lives and of God's provision for them. And this is an ingredient that sets oikos evangelism apart from cold turkey evangelism. Dr. Thomas Wolfe said, "It is here, also, that we catch an eye-burning hint of the key to oikos evangelism: Life transformation." You can pull the wool over a stranger's eyes, but you can't pull the wool over the eyes of those in your oikos. They can see whether your Christianity is real or not. And if it is real, it will impact them.

These are five marvelous contexts for household evangelism to take place. They need to be in place in every one of our homes if we are to be successful in oikos evangelism.

Finding Potential Households (v. 11)

But let's get into the heart of what I wanted to talk about this morning — helping people reach out to their own spheres of influence. Even though these disciples were at a disadvantage by going into towns where they didn't know anyone (and so there is a place for some cold-turkey evangelism, and Ray Comfort shows you how to do that), the families that they won to Christ were not at the same disadvantage. Later in this chapter we will see that very few people responded positively to this kamikaze style evangelism of the disciples. There were some towns where there was not a single interested person, let alone a convert. It's a tough kind of evangelism. Most of the converts came through the one household that they reached in each town. And I find it interesting that Jesus didn't want them to keep engaging in door-to-door evangelism or open-air crusades. In verse 11 He wants them to try to find one convert household, and once they get that convert, they were to remain in that household. We'll look at why in a moment, but let's look now at verse 11.

Verse 11 says "Now whatever city or town you enter, inquire who in it is worthy." Now that's an interesting concept. God is saying that there are some people who are not worth your time and effort on evangelism. Now that may seem like a harsh thing to say, but when you think about it, it is very realistic. We obviously can't evangelize everybody at once. There was a weeding out process that the disciples went through to determine "Who are the best candidates for our efforts right now? Who are open to the Gospel?" He is basically saying, "Don't waste your effort and your precious time trying to convince those who are not interested in the Gospel. You can't shove the Gospel down people's throats. God has to prepare them. Now I should hasten to add that some of these resistant ones might open up to household evangelism by somebody else at a later period. And Ray Comfort would add that you shouldn't assume that they aren't ready if you haven't presented the law to them. But at this point we are talking about people who are strangers in a town. This was not their home town or neighborhood. And so they needed to look for people who were especially open to the Gospel.

How did they find that out? Well, first of all, they did spend some time in cold turkey evangelism. But I find it very significant that they were not involved in street preaching very long. They did it just until they were able to find a household to target.

Second, their mercy ministries would have put them into contact with people who perhaps otherwise would not have darkened the door of the church. And they are beginning to get reactions as they mix testimony with their deeds of mercy. One person is thankful for the healing, but is not interested in the Word of God at all. But off in the corner there is a person who has been healed and who seems to be different. She is a Lydia and God has opened her heart so that she heeds the things that are spoken. So one way of inquiry was to see the reactions that people have to our mercy ministries, our deeds of love and kindness as we do them in the name of Christ.

Third, word of mouth may have been another means of inquiry. Today we have vast resources of inquiry. We have radio, newspaper, seminars, surveys and other methods of determining who is open and who is interested without ramming religion down their throats. Ray Comfort loves doing surveys. But there has to be an inquiry; a weeding out process to determine who is worthy of further expenditure of time, resources and energy.

The Priority Of Household Evangelism (v. 11-14 with Mark 6:10; Luke 10:7)

But let's move on to point number III. As we compare verses 11-14 with Mark 6:10 and Luke 10:7, we find that Christ had them spend most of their efforts at evangelism by leveraging the position and influence of the first family that became Christian. This shows that there was a priority in His mind for household evangelism.

Now let me back up a little bit and define terms. Lest you think that household only means a man and his wife, let me give you three definitions of the Greek word oikos. Dr. Thomas Wolfe says, "An oikos was the fundamental and natural unit of society, and consisted of one's sphere of influence - his family, friends, and associates." That's assuming of course that most businesses were family businesses. The Master's Plan for Making Disciples defines it this way: "The word oikos is the Greek word for 'household.' In the Graeco-Roman culture oikos described not only the immediate family in the house, but included servants, servant's families, friends, and even business associates." Ralph Neighbors defines it this way, "An oikos was one's sphere of influence, his/her social system composed of those related to each other through common kinship ties, tasks, and territory."

Thus when God told Cornelius to gather together his oikos (Acts 11:14), the text says that he "called together his relatives and close friends" (Acts 10:24). That was his oikos. One great example of this definition of household is Abraham's household. Before Ishmael was born you might think that his household included only Sarah and Abraham, but Genesis 14 indicates that his household included 318 men who could fight. The text says that those 318 men were all born into his household. They were his servants. They were in some way connected to his family business. In the old South, the whole plantation, with all of the servants and slaves was a part of the plantation owner's household. OK — so that's enough for definition.

Now I want you to see how the oikos was the most important aspect of their outreach, because if you can grasp this point, it will be liberating for you in terms of evangelism. Let's read Matthew 10:11-14 and then look at the two parallel accounts that give a bit more information. Verses 11-14 say, "Now whatever city or town you enter, inquire who in it is worthy, and stay there till you go out. [You stay with that person.] And when you go into a household, greet it. If the household is worthy, let your peace come upon it. But if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. And whoever will not receive nor hear your words, when you depart from that house or city, shake off the dust from your feet." Here is how Mark 6:10 words it — "And he said to them, 'In whatever place you enter a house, stay there till you depart from that place.'" That converted household was to be strengthened with their teaching. Luke 10:7 — "And remain in the same house, eating and drinking such things as they give for the laborer is worthy of his wages. Do not go from house to house." Did you get that last phrase? "Do not go from house to house." Door to door evangelism is statistically one of the worst forms of evangelism that you could engage in. Jesus told them not to even bother.

Why were they supposed to stay in that one oikos? Many have the misconception that God blesses mass crusades, door-to-door evangelism and other methods more than the evangelism of relatives and friends. But the reverse is actually true, and it is because of God's promises to Abraham. If you want to read a simple book on this covenantal approach to evangelism, it is The Masters Plan For Making Disciples, by Win Arn and Charles Arn (two brothers). It is published by Church Growth Press in Pasadena. What they show is that God continues to use this principle, but that we need to be less haphazard in our taking advantage of the oikos principle. They show you how to write down the names of your web of relationships and how to start influencing them. It's highly recommended reading. They show that up to 90% of Christians in America have been won to Christ by the people in their oikos, not by experts. We need to begin to stop thinking in terms of individualism in evangelism and realize the impact that a Noah, an Abraham, a Phinehas, a Joshua, a Zaccheus, a Justus, a Crispus a Philippian jailor can have upon his oikos. The way the Philippian church was started was through Lydia's influence upon that large group of women. That was her oikos. And each woman that was converted in that oikos had an oikos of her own containing many that Lydia did not know. So did each person in the Philippian jailer's oikos. There was this ever-growing web of relationships within that church.

And this is what made for the phenomenal spread of the faith in the first few centuries. The famous historian Kenneth Scott Latourette, in A History of the Expansion of Christianity, vol. I, said of the first five centuries, "The primary change agents in the spread of the faith . . . were the men and women who earned their livelihood in some purely secular manner, and spoke of their faith to those whom they met in this natural fashion." Christ knew that if the disciples could find one household through their evangelism, that household could eventually impact the entire city.

The oikos is central in evangelism and it far outstrips the efforts of pastors, evangelists, Sunday School programs or anything else. And that only makes sense. It is sheep that reproduce sheep, not shepherds. If shepherds were the key to evangelism, Christ wouldn't have had them stay in one house. He would have had them constantly engaging in open air and door-to-door evangelism. What were they doing in that one house? They were equipping that household for the work of the ministry among their web of relationships.

Were there mass crusades in the book of Acts? Yes. But Luke tells us that immediately upon the conversion of these people, these new church members began the process of household evangelism. Acts indicates that those new households were the focal point for worship services (20:7 and other passages), Bible studies (5:42), Christian fellowship (2:46) evangelism (17:5; 16:32), follow-up (18:26) and many other church activities. The church seemed to revolve around households. Turn to Acts 18:7 just as one example. "And he departed from there and entered the house of a certain man named Justus, one who worshipped God, whose house was next door to the synagogue." [Here was a prime target such as Christ was talking about in Matthew 10. The next verse illustrates the principle of web relationships. Your household may have an impact upon another household, which in turn has close contacts with another household. In this case, because Justus's household was so close to Crispus' house there was a web relationship and verse 8 says,] "Then Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his household. And many of the Corinthians, hearing, believed and were baptized."

Now let's look next at the power of Christian presence because this is really the most exciting aspect of the whole passage.

The Power of Christian Presence (v. 13)

Wherever the disciples went, there was a peace of God that went with them according to verse 13. There was a supernatural presence bringing peace. Verse 13 says "If the household is worthy, let your peace come upon it. But if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you." So peace is traveling from you to the house, and sometimes back again. It's not just a greeting. If a household hates you, how is peace coming back to you if it's simply a greeting? So most commentators say it is not just the greeting that is being talked about here. In fact, Luke makes this crystal clear. Luke 10:5-7 tells the seventy when they went out, "But whatever house you enter, first say, 'Peace to this house.' And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest on it; if not, it will return to you. And remain in the same house." (etc.) So there were more houses that were greeted than actually had the peace come upon it. And the simple explanation of what Christ means is that the shalom or welfare of God invaded a house when the disciple entered, and it left the household when the disciple left because the disciple was not welcome and therefore God did not bless. And that is why he speaks about judgment after that. The peace that invades a household is in some way temporarily setting aside that household from God's judgment and making it open to reconciliation. Every one of you men ought to be like Joseph — when Joseph entered Potiphar's household, God's peace invaded and the business was blessed.

Now Luke indicates that the only households that were set aside in that way were ones that had at least one believer. He says, "if a son [singular] of peace is there, your peace will rest on it..." This is why 1Corinthians 7 says that the moment one person becomes a believer, the whole house is sanctified — it is set apart to the Holy Spirit's working. The unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy. So Paul was quick to tell them not to leave their household. He said, "For how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife?" By your godly presence you sanctify them; you set them apart.

Well, here is where it gets really exciting. This means that God has already invaded your whole sphere of relationships at work, in your neighborhood and with your friends and relatives. It is an objective peace. It is a genuine, powerful working of God's Spirit. The book of Daniel indicates that angelic hosts invade wherever God's saints are, and they begin to be involved in this sanctifying process. God has already prepared the way for your friendship evangelism. The Spirit has invaded their space. Your guardian angels that are always with you have invaded their space. The kingdom of heaven has invaded their space. This gives you a tremendous advantage in evangelism that a stranger would not have. If you can really grasp hold of this principle it can give you optimism, joy, faith, expectation of what God can do through your friendship evangelism. I know that Ray Comfort makes fun of friendship evangelism, but he is only making fun of those who never take advantage of these principles and never open their mouth to witness. If you have ever been discouraged about what you can do, this ought to give you hope that God can use you powerfully. In Matthew 10 the presence of a household was far more important than the presence of an evangelist. I counted up the number of families that we have, and this means that our church has 35 powerful outposts that are already empowered by God for taking new territory for King Jesus.


Let me end by giving nine good reasons for why this oikos evangelism should be exciting to you. And if you are trying to unscramble the words at the bottom of your outlines, here are the hints:

  1. First, it is Biblical and has every reason to be richly blessed. If we can get American individualism out of our heads and begin to think covenantally, we will realize that the oikos is the foundational vehicle for growth of Christ's kingdom.

  2. Second, it is a natural network of relationships for sharing the love of Christ. It's the most natural means of reaching out.

  3. Third, the oikos members are more receptive to another member of their oikos than they would be to a stranger. Plus, they are more likely to see the kingdom worldview being lived out.

  4. Fourth, it allows for unhurried, natural sharing of God's love. They are going to be around for a while. They can't help but see the whole covenant context of the Gospel in your lives, whereas a door-to-door evangelist is usually going to be seen as an irritation, and more times than not will have the door slammed in his face. They will never be able to see the whole covenant context of the Gospel. So oikos evangelism is less hurried.

  5. Fifth, it more naturally fits in with the affirming character of hospitality than it would with total strangers. There is something about an oikos (household) that is affirming.

  6. Sixth, once a person comes to Christ this provides a more natural support and nurturing relationship. People tend to drop out if they don't have friends in the church. With oikos evangelism, friendships are already there. You don't have this huge loss of people out the backdoor because of lack of support and nurturing.

  7. Seventh, it tends to win entire families. This is especially true if a man is the first one to come to Christ. But it is also true of the extended family and clan. Missionaries were shocked in the 1800's to find entire tribes becoming Christian within a matter of weeks. It had taken them a long time to win one convert, and then almost overnight the whole tribe became Christian. Dispensationalists were suspicious of this people movement phenomenon, but it has happened so frequently that very few people question it any more. It's the way God works.

  8. Eighth, it tends to assimilate converts into the church more fully. Why? Because they already have friends and relatives who can bring them in.

  9. Ninth, it is a constantly enlarging source of new contacts. Each member of one oikos almost always has some relationship to another oikos. So your web of relationships will include people that your brother-in-laws won't, and vice versa. And when each member of your family starts writing down a mind map of the people in their oikos, there is a huge area of overlap, but it is always fascinating to see the new oikoses that are added.

So to repeat those nine words, it is Biblical, natural, receptive, unhurried, affirming, supportive, inclusive, assimilates, and is constantly enlarging. Those are all great reasons to embrace oikos evangelism.

Some of you are new to Omaha and have not yet developed very large oikos relationships, but others have huge untapped possibilities. If you are new to Omaha, you may have to focus on building an oikos. You can begin to build a local web of relationships by having block parties, BBQ's, Open Houses, or inviting business associates over for lunch. Or you can work together with the church on the first part of the message: finding the contacts through Ray Comfort's kind of cold-turkey evangelism, through deeds of mercy, surveys, starting neighborhood watch programs and other community services.

For this morning I have just one challenge for you. Realizing the power of peace that you have brought to your work, to your neighborhood and to your circle of friends and relatives, I want to ask you to write down the names of your entire oikos web of relationships and start praying for each one, strategizing how to reach them, and making plans. Amen.

Charge: Realizing the shalom of God that has already invaded your oikos because you are sons and daughters of peace, start being more strategic in how to reach them. Begin at least by writing down their names and praying for each one.

Reaching Family and Friends is part of the Evangelism series published on July 4, 2010

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