When you enter a home, greet the family, 'Peace.' If your greeting is received, then it's a good place to stay. But if it's not received, take it back and get out. Don't impose yourself. Luke 10:5-6 (The Message).
The Person of Peace concept has become a significant strategy for entering into new communities with the gospel. It's particularly prevalent in US church planting and international CPM (Church Planting Movements) strategies. Sometimes the Person of Peace concept is presented like its the miracle bullet for evangelizing. Other times it is presented as a demand to make someone into your person of peace.
Here's some things we've learned about the Person of Peace strategy from ten years of mission work in Kenya and ten years working with Kairos Church Planting.
1. We meet Persons of Peace as we go on mission. Luke 10 begins with Jesus sending out 70 disciples, 2 by 2 with a mission: proclaim "the kingdom of God is near!" These disciples were on a mission. They were going. As they went into these villages and towns they would meet people. Some of these people would turn out to be persons of peace. We need to be on our mission if we are to expect people of peace.
2. Persons of Peace are gifts from God. Jesus didn't say "think about someone you know . . ." His command was go, do your work, and as you do it some people you encounter will accept the message. I see people of peace as gifts from God. They encourage us. They connect with us. They resource us. But they don't really do these things because of the close relationship they have with us (though often the relationship does become close). They support us because they connect with the message! They are God's gifts of provision so the mission can be accomplished. We should pray for these gifts of God because we need them so the mission can happen.
3. Persons of Peace drive the mission forward. The idea that the person of peace is someone who likes you and whom you like is quite attractive. But I've worked with some persons of peace with whom I didn't really resonate. We could work together. We respected one another. But we weren't really friends. In spite of this, these persons of peace really opened up relationship networks for the gospel in their communities. Despite the fact we were not really friends these people propelled the mission of the gospel forward.
This week a church planter and I were coaching on networking strategies. How do you go about entering into a new community and finding those Persons of Peace?
Here's some ideas we came up with:
1. Ask people who know your community to help you understand it. These are people like realtors, school principals (particularly elementary schools), and police officers. Tell them who you are, what you are doing (this is your confession of faith as a planter), and how they can help you. If they agree they've begun to show signs of a person of peace because they are helping the mission.
2. Invite people to work alongside you in service events for your community. There are many good organizations, non-profits, and already existing activities in a community that always need help. You can become a resource for them (i.e., you're their person of peace). As you invite people into the activities of these already existing groups you also let them know you are doing this because you are starting a new church and you believe a church is a helping contributor to the community. When you do this you are building an identity and giving the people you invite the opportunity to connect with that identity. So, when someone asks, "Why are you here helping?" you want them to be able to say, "I was invited by Joe who is planting a new church here."
3. Organize special events that gather people, then let them know what you're doing as a church planter and invite them to next steps. The key, again, is to not hide anything. Be up front with who you are (a church planter, a Christian, a Jesus follower) and what you are doing (starting a new church). Take the mystery out of the picture. Give clear invitations to learn more. This provides people the opportunity to grow into becoming Persons of Peace.
My experience has been that most of the Persons of Peace with whom I have worked didn't come fully engaged. They learned about me and about my mission over time and with exposure. God gradually formed them into Persons of Peace.
I pray you keep your eyes open for those budding Persons of Peace in your community, your life, and your ministry. Receive them with joy. They are God's gifts to you for His glory.
Recently I received an email asking why are most churches not growing and are so evangelistically anemic? Here's my answer:
You are right on target, and it bothers us all. I'd say, taking men and women together, that 60% of the possible church planting type people we talk to about sharing faith say they have never led anyone to the point of committed faith in Jesus. My question is, if tist is true, then how to do church leaders think they can even help those already with faith towards a more robust, active discipleship? It seems like a devolving loop of less and less.
The other side of the coin is the idea that we need to help everyone in our churches become "super disciples." This doesn't seem realistic either. Most people in our churches just want to be people who live good and do good in their world. They want to be pretty good disciples, not super disciples.
I'm a believer in pursuing simple ways to raise the evangelistic temp in people's hearts that also increase their discipleship. Here are three basic, fundamental actions every church should take to raise the evangelistic temperature of their people:
1. Church leaders (particularly staff ministers) must practice weekly, deliberate spiritual conversations with random and planned people each week. Random people are those we just meet in daily life and strike up conversations with them. While these meetings are random, the conversations are not. We must deliberately ask good questions of them and keep our eyes and ears open for the work of God in their lives. Planned people are those with whom we are investing relational energy, helping them walk their journey into faith in Jesus Christ. We have a system, a plan, that helps us lead them forward toward faith.
Then we need to season our conversations, lessons, and sermons with these spiritual experiences with others. This both models the content of these conversations and develops the expectation that this is a normal expression of Christian life. If we are not faith sharers how could we expect those we lead to share their faith.
2. Train your people with simple tools that help them share faith. Here are two simple but very effective tools.
First, encourage your people to pray for wait staff in restaurants. This is so simple. Here's what we say, "We're going to share a prayer for our food, is there anything we can pray for you about?" The responses you will receive doing this is amazing. As simple as this act is it makes our people step out and make a faith confession. It also blesses everyone we pray for.
Second, teach your people what we call the "3-Step Questions." Here are the questions:
3. Create invitation events that give your people the opportunity to invite others to participate. Every year a church should have three or four big day events. Friends Day, Easter, and Back to School are three of the most common. Other types of invitation events are service days, Vacation Bible Schools, and content activities such as Financial Peace, Love and Logic, and marriage seminars.
Along with these general events that expose people to Jesus and the church we also need to have some event whose purpose is to give people the opportunity to consider the claims of Jesus's lordship for their life. The course Kairos most commonly encourages is the Alpha course.
With these three simple actions we create a culture of sharing faith with each other (how many Christians never really talk about their faith with other Christians even) and with those in our relationship networks.
These are things Kairos trains on in Strategy Lab and through our website. Keep raising the evangelistic temp of your church.
You can learn more about evangelizing in today's world from the Kairos Sharing Faith workbook.