“So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God…” – Ephesians 2:19
In his letter to the Ephesians, where Paul teaches us how to see the Church through God’s eyes, Paul takes a paragraph at the end of chapter 2 to compare the Church to a building. The case can be made that to see the church as a building is a reminder that the Church is to grow.
What we may miss in our English Bibles is that in this paragraph (verses 19-22), Paul uses a number of variations of the Greek word for “building” or “house” – oikos – to draw out some lessons on how churches grow.
The lesson of verse 19 is that a growing church will build out, by practicing evangelism.
In verse 19, after telling the Gentile Christians that they used to be “aliens” (the Greek word is parokoi, which means “near the house”, like a green card resident), he turns around and tells them that now in Christ they are “members of the household of God” (the word is oikei, which means “belonging to the household, related by blood to the family”).
There’s a clear invitation to practice evangelism imbedded in this verse. Paul’s reminding us that we’re surrounded by people just like this, who are at various places in their relationship to God. Some are “far from the house”, others are getting “near the house”, but the point is to help people actually come “in the house”. In the Parable of the Sower, Jesus made the same point – that when we sow the seeds of God’s Word with others, the spiritual condition of people’s hearts will vary dramatically.
When I think of sharing my faith with others, I sometimes imagine a scale that runs from -5 (representing a person whose heart is hard as granite; they couldn’t be any further from God’s house) to a 0 (representing a person who is right there on the cusp of believing in Christ.)
Remembering this encourages me that when I share my faith with someone, my assignment may only be to nudge them from -5 to -4. It might feel to me when the conversation is over that I’ve failed miserably. But if they have all these negative stereotypes about Christians, and I just gave them a reason to question those stereotypes, then my interaction with them would be a win. I moved them nearer the house.
Another thing I find useful about thinking of people’s spiritual receptivity as a spectrum is it reminds me that not every unbeliever wants to burn me at the stake. Sometimes we think that everyone’s a -5, and if I open my mouth it’s just going to stir up a hornet’s nest. But there are lots of people out there who are at a -2 right now, or a -1. They’re near the house. “You’re not far from the kingdom of God,” Jesus said to somebody once. And if I would but strike up a spiritual conversation with them, and speak naturally, and not be an idiot, and try to be warm, ordinary, winsome, not argumentative and judgmental but honest and humble, then in short order, they might be in the house. Building out is one way healthy churches grow.
For Further Reflection
- Have I ever tried sharing my faith with someone and had it blow up in my face? Why should I not necessarily think of that conversation as a failure?
- Read 2 Timothy 2:23-26. When it comes to evangelism, what does this passage tell me I should and shouldn’t do?
Bear Clifton is a pastor, writer and screenwriter. He’s just released his latest book, “Living Under The Cross: A 40-Day Devotional Journey”. His blogs and devotionals can be enjoyed at his ministry website: trainyourselfministry.com and his writing website: blclifton.com. Bear is also the author of “Train Yourself To Be Godly: A 40 Day Journey Toward Sexual Wholeness”, “Ben-Hur: The Odyssey”, and “A Sparrow Could Fall”, all available through Amazon.