Since 1946, Every Home for Christ has labored to serve the Church to reach every home on the earth with the Gospel. Now, with the Oikos Initiative, we are putting a stake in the ground and asking a bold question – Is it possible to present the gospel to every home on the planet and leave behind a repeatable gospel message within one generation? EHC has made a commitment to leave no one behind in this twenty year period – and that means tirelessly laboring to ensure that every person has a chance to hear the Gospel explained in a way that they can understand. Every Home for Christ believes that the most effective evangelism happens when the lost are able to see Jesus in the eyes and smile of someone from their neighborhood, or village, or tribe. For a twenty-year period we are putting all our strategies, our resources and our energy behind one rallying cry – to reach everyone on earth before the end of 2038… Yet the Oikos Initiative does not belong to EHC alone, for we firmly believe without unity the task of global evangelization will not be completed. We are calling far and wide for others to link arms and join us on the journey. If you’re a ministry, a church, an evangelist or simply a believer with a heart to reach every home on the earth, we’d love to hear from you.
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Oikos is a Greek word (ancient Greek: οἶκος, plural: οἶκοι) referring to three related, but distinct, concepts: the family, the family’s property and the house. Oἶκος is most commonly translated into English as “house,” “household” or “home.” It forms the English prefix, eco- used in words like “economics,” “ecology” and “ecosystem,” all of which have to do with the habitat.
In ancient Greek culture, the οἶκος was recognized as the basic unit of society, as a cell is the most basic unit of the body. Throughout most of the globe — especially in the majority of Africa, Latin America and much of southern Asia — the household (or extended family) remains an authoritative unit submitted to a head of the household. Even in highly developed societies, the οἶκος is undeniably foundational. Thousands of years and marvelous technological advances only sharpen our certainty that individuals and societies are most holistically and authentically engaged within the home.
The Church itself began its Christian community in an oikos setting. Three times in Acts, the phrase “house to house” is used, and each provides a sketch that confirms the centrality of the home. In Acts 5:42, we read, “Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah” (NIV). In Acts 8:3, we see the Church’s opposition: “But Saul began to destroy the Church. Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison” (NIV). And after Saul became the Apostle Paul, he said: “You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house to house” (Acts 20:20, NIV). Much of the instruction given to the Church in the New Testament epistles was written to home churches meeting in Greek-style houses. The Gospel is nowhere more at home than in the oikos.
With this in mind, Every Home for Christ continues to make the oikos a priority, believing that, if an oikos can be transformed by the Gospel, an entire society can be transformed. The Oikos Initiative assumes a paradigm that was familiar to the Early Church and is still widely understood around the world today: The home, or the oikos, is a critical aspect of Kingdom expansion.
The Bible acts as a compass for all missional activity for 21st century believers. It lays out numerous prescriptions — words that were intended to be obeyed. The most well-known missional prescriptions given by Christ are found in Matthew 28:19-20 and Mark 16:15. In both of these passages, Christ lays out a very simple command for New Testament believers to be concerned about the whole world. He also prescribes that we be concerned particularly with the proclamation of the Gospel and the making of disciples.
In broad strokes, what you see in each major missional command is that God is committed to every last person in the inhabited world — literally, the home- or oikos-filled world.
Every Home for Christ doesn’t believe that we are the ultimate fulfillment of the Great Commission — we are only a part of it. We believe that EHC, by being what EHC is, can stand with the “Faithful Witness” (Revelation 1:5) in being a faithful witness to people where they live. We don’t believe we are elite. We don’t believe that every ministry should endeavor to do what EHC is doing, and we don’t see gospel proclamation to people’s homes as the only way to evangelize. We see this as EHC’s way to be faithful to Jesus.
Ultimately, EHC sees, theologically, that Jesus cares immensely about each person on earth and that one way to “care” like Jesus does is to proclaim the Good News to those He loves.
Every Generation Is Responsible
The first reason that we must try to reach the entire world is that each generation of Christians is responsible to reach its own generation.
According to the Gordon-Conwell Center for Global Christianity, if every Christian were to evangelize every person they know today (in essence, taking responsibility to make sure everyone they know has a chance to hear about Christ), only 18 percent of the world would have the opportunity to hear the Gospel (Johnson & Zulro, 2017). Said simply, to take Mark 16:15 seriously — to proclaim the Gospel to every creature — requires more than a passive approach on the part of the Church. There must be a concerted, global effort to spread Jesus’ fame to the ends of the earth.
In the history of the Church since the time of Christ, there are said to have been 67 or 68 generations. In their study “Seven Hundred Plans to Evangelize the World,” David B. Barrett and James W. Reapsome outline to what extent these generations have taken responsibility for the entire evangelization of their populations.
Each generation of Christians is responsible to reach that generation. For our purposes, a “generation” in the early centuries averaged 25 years. Later it rose to 30 years. So, over the centuries, there has been a succession of 66 generations. To what extent has each of these generations benefited from obedience to the Great Commission, or suffered from disobedience to it? (Barrett & Reapsome, 1988)
In their report, Barrett and Reapsome explain that, throughout history, there have been over 700 plans to evangelize the world. (This number can be updated to over 2,400 as of mid-2017 (Johnson & Zulro, 2017).) They then go on to detail how many plans each generation developed to see the world evangelized. Of over 700 plans, only 341 were organized into formal plans, and only 92 of these plans were detailed (Barrett & Reapsome, 1988, p. 6).
Barrett and Reapsome clearly document what they call 59 neglected generations. Of the 66 total (now 68) generations since Christ, 59 received “very little serious attention from the Church” (Barrett & Reapsome, 1988, p. 8). Each of these 59 neglected generations saw fewer than three attempts to evangelize the world.
The Roman Road of Our Time (The U.S. Dollar)
In the post-World War era, the Bretton Woods system was developed, fixing the exchange rates of Western economies to the U.S. dollar. As a result, the dollar has been the “reserve currency of choice” for many nations around the world and the basis of global trade for over 50 years. A recent study by the London School of Economics, in conjunction with Harvard, indicates that “the dollar is, on some measures, more central to the global system now than it was immediately after the second world war. It remains the world’s principal ‘anchor’ currency, against which others seek to limit volatility (The Economist, 2017).
This gives the U.S. dollar unprecedented capacity. Even while its value may fluctuate, its role as a global medium has not diminished.
While there are indications that this may change in the future, for the time being one could argue that the dollar is the “Roman Road” of our time. For a ministry like EHC, utilizing dollars is central to resourcing the global advancement of the ministry. On a monthly basis, EHC currently sends over 3,000 remittances all around the world (worth millions in U.S. dollars). This is only possible because of the stable banking system in the United States and the accepted role of the dollar around the world. Were the U.S. banking system (or economy) to fail, EHC’s flow of resources toward the evangelization of the world would be disrupted.
The Earth Is Growing
Another compelling reason that we must try to evangelize the world is that it is growing rapidly, making the task of evangelization more difficult by the day.
In 2000, the population of the earth was 6,126,622,000. Today, in mid-2017, the population of the world is 7,515,284,000. Experts expect the earth to grow to 8,141,661,000 by 2025, and to 9,725,148,000 by 2050. Every day, over 360,000 new people are born on planet Earth, and another 151,600 people die. Clearly, this has a real impact on any serious plan to evangelize the world, creating a sense of urgency.
A 33-year-old in 2017 (born in 1984) will have seen the earth more than double in population by the time he or she is 66. If that person were to have a child, and that child decided to evangelize the entire world in 2050, the job would be 2.2 billion people bigger.
Any attention given to the Great Commission must recognize this reality: The job grows bigger by the day. The cost of neglecting the current generation has never been greater in human history.