Many people wanna know "what in the world is up with our site name?" I mean, our fam gets it -pun intended that we'll get back to, but we're regularly bringing the motivation behind this blog name to life for others as our Father introduces us to new brothers, sisters, neighbors, and friends. Now's no different; in fact there's greater opportunities. So we're writing again. :)
We recently moved the Crew into an affluent neighborhood on the rim of the foothills in one of Ventura's coastal suburbs. We don't have to tell you Nothin Was The Same in East Ventura as it was on the ♫ Eastside of the L.B.C. ♫. . where it all began for us. "Started!.." < /Drake voice >
Our new local family just renovated a dilapidated house for their "new pastor and his large family from LA" in one of the city's most desirable communities. We've become instant newsmakers as we touched down center block, 9 going on 10 people deep ;), with our diverse array of caramel-to-chocolate hues. Jamie said one night that it feels reminiscent of when Jesus walked the streets. Everyone knows who we are, where we're from, why we're here, and are eager to learn more about our "mission." Kindling relationships has never been this easy or happened this fast before, let alone relationships centered around that which immediately provides gospel opportunities. As we've begun deepening relationships with the 100 or so siblings who brought us home, we've already been able to invite others to the house, and to the table we gather around, to celebrate the amazing grace it is that God has adopted us in His Son as a family.
Ok we're getting to the point of this blog.
What is Oikos?
Oikos is a biblical Greek word that is often translated "household or family" in the New Testament. The way we talk of a "household" today, in English, means the nuclear family. It's your spouse and your descendants -if you actually decide to have kids. Culturally -and more importantly biblically however, its deeper than you think it is. In biblical culture, as in most cultures still today, people don't live primarily as individuals, but as families [plural]. If you visit places like Nazareth, or Capernaum, or Harare Zimbabwe, the first thing you notice is that the homes people live in are designed for multiple nuclear families to live together, sharing a common life and vocation; just like they did in biblical times. They live in the same buildings or in very close proximity to each other. They own businesses and everyone in the oikos, even children, work to make it a success. They take their vacations together. They face challenges, they mourn losses, and they celebrate victories together. Like family.
To self-made, card carrying, US American Citizens, this concept of Oikos is unthinkable. In the West our understanding of everything including repentance and faith is self-centered not communal. Joseph Hellerman in his book When The Church Was A Family wrote: “They call it radical individualism. What this amounts to is simple enough. We in America have been socialized to believe that our own dreams, goals, and personal fulfillment ought to take precedence over the well-being of any group—our church or our family, for example—to which we belong. The immediate needs of the individual are more important than the long-term health of the group. So we leave and withdraw, rather than stay and grow up, when the going gets rough in the church or in the home.”
No one in the ancient world would have even considered living as an individual or a nuclear family though; it was too difficult to maintain, unrealistic to duplicate, and plain dangerous. When Jesus and the Apostles think of our existence, they date back to the origins of society by God's design, and everything is in the context of extended family relationships where there's flourishing, sustainability, and safety.
When it came to a call to repentance or good news heard in Jesus' day, it was received for "everyone."
Oikos at Seed
Contrary to modern teaching, when we come to the church -a word I've intentionally omitted til now, we're referred to as the children of God, the household of faith, the family of God, brethren, sons and daughters, etc. not individuals with a "personal relationship" with Jesus. Hellerman goes on to write: “Paul's point is not simply that God is now my Father and I am now His son. God, in Jesus' great work of redemption, was not establishing a series of isolated personal relationships with His individual followers. He was creating a beautiful tapestry in a diverse family of sons and daughters—siblings—who are now "all one in Christ Jesus" (Gal 3.28). The saving work of Christ therefore has a corporate, as well as an individual, dimension. For Paul, the church is a family.”
Seed Communities has been amazing. Finding our welcome place at a table with people from all walks of life and a mosaic of culture has enlivened us all. I was called here in August just after returning from my last trip to Zimbabwe. Having lived all over Southern California, we're no strangers to relocation. However, the suddenness and distance of this move was the hardest for the Ross Crew. We'd just planted roots back in our childhood community, a few blocks from the Kaiser Jamie and Brooklyn were born at, and were making significant headway into loving our neighbors and introducing them to the love of God. When Steve got the call to Ventura it seemed surreal. We were all overcome by the grace of God in it, but naturally wrestling with fear, doubt, and disbelief in it all.
Most Angelenos recognize the Central Coast city of Ventura to be a world apart from the likes of LA. For an urban African American family the size of ours it was no different. Well intentioned people expressed what seemed like more concern with this move than our move back to the inner city. With minds clouded by the difficult circumstances leading us to leave our last assignment, and the cautions of others, every conversation in the home felt like a crash course in cross-cultural engagement before an overseas missions trip. But God.
None of the things we'd been convinced of were true. Not only have our neighbors given us the warmest welcome, our church, though not flawless, is perfect. The compassionate group who make up the church was diverse long before we arrived. The sweet community of radically generous people have not stopped caring for our needs sacrificially. The large number of newly transformed lives is represented in an about equal split of recent salvations as those recently called together on mission. In the Montalvo area where we meet, there are countless opportunities to mend what drugs have torn apart in families -where marriages are built on addiction, and inevitably destroyed. This is just the right place for us.
We've already had a few of our LA, IE, & SCV friends visit the Seed House. Our family gathers there every Sunday morning at 10am. We'd love to have you pop in unannounced or plan a getaway to Ventura to be with us. Everyone swears by the weather, and there's a good chance they're right about the best Mexican Food this side of the border (we're currently taste-testing the hypothesis). As you plan your visit, you can follow our website www.seed805.com to stay up on the latest with our new family.