When it comes to discipleship, there are many strategies and tools to go about getting started. One of the strategies that is closely tied to the strategy of Jesus is called "Person of Peace." Jesus had spent time with His followers and had been showing and teaching them everything they needed to share with others. Jesus' followers had already begun multiplying because Jesus sends out 72 instead of 12. So the 12 had already been at work helping to reach and multiply disciples.
After some time with the 72, Jesus tells them they have what they need and sends them out. Note: there were no seminary degrees offered by Jesus. Armed with their knowledge and experience with Jesus, they marched into surrounding villages and continued the disciple-making efforts by preaching about a coming Kingdom. And what was their primary strategy to get that message out as quickly as possible? The person of peace.
Here's how the story reads from Luke's account in chapter 10.
After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go. And he said to them, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals, and greet no one on the road. Whatever house you enter, first say, 'Peace be to this house!' And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him. But if not, it will return to you. [Luke 10:1-6 ESV]
Jesus was very intentional that He wanted His followers to connect with a person of peace. Someone who was going to be open to their message, but also someone well enough connected in town they would be able to continue to multiply disciples. If they didn't find a person of peace at one home, they were to move to the next. When they finally found a person of peace, they would move in for a few months and begin a disciple-making relationship with that person.
Why is the "Person of Peace" Important?
The understanding of the person of peace is critical for all disciple-making efforts. Often times we might fixate on a neighbor who isn't open to the Gospel and we might waste months or years hoping they respond, when they simply aren't open to it. The person of peace allows us not only a path to share the Gospel with someone, but opens up an entirely new oikos (household, network of relationships) that person can now reach. Instead of waiting years for one person to respond, a disciple-maker can rapidly multiply through a person of peace.
“A disciple-maker can rapidly multiply through a person of peace.”
This is also how disciple-making movements are born. It's not a one-person, pastor show on Sunday mornings that creates the movement. It's a movement where the person of peace reaches an entire network of people. With this in mind as the foundation, it's simple to see how the disciples multiplied so rapidly and created a movement that by 313AD was approximately 30million people strong and made up nearly half of the known world.
Examples of a "Person of Peace"
There are multiple examples in the New Testament that give us a glimpse at the characteristics of a person of peace. One of my favorites is the story of the Samaritan woman Jesus meets at a well. You can read that entire encounter here in John 4. We also see traces of a person of peace in the Centurion in Luke 7. Philip meets an Ethiopian Eunuch who was very spiritually open as a person of peace. Cornelius (Acts 10), Lydia and the Philippian Jailer (Acts 16) are also other examples.
Now let's be clear; Jesus has a distinct advantage over us in identifying a person of peace. He knew people intimately because He created them. So let's give ourselves a little bit of grace, understanding that we aren't the Son of God. Reading each of those encounters can help us to begin to put some pieces in place and learn to understand how to identify this person. But when it comes to this skill, we aren't Jesus. It's okay.
With the woman at the well as our backdrop, let's take a closer look at the person of peace.
Identifying a "Person of Peace"
1. They are not a believer
To be fair, the woman at the well did share some similar beliefs to Jesus, but they differed on some points of the Law and about the coming Messiah. Her beliefs differed enough from the coming Kingdom that Jesus still took the opportunity to share with her.
Many times I have identified potential disciples who are already believers. Part of that thinking comes from the idea of "low-hanging fruit." However, in the case of a person of peace, they are likely not believers yet. Many believers in our churches require extensive de-programming from what they believe church should be in order to become disciple-makers.
The best disciple-makers the church has yet to see are not in our pews, they are in the harvest.
2. They have spiritual questions
While they aren't believers or followers of Jesus, they definitely have questions. These questions may be the "big" questions we are familiar with. Things like, "If there's a God, why is there evil in the world?" Or, "How can you say God created the world in six days when science says the world is 13 billions years old?" Those questions exist and need to be walked through at some point.
But the person you might be sitting across from may simply have spiritual questions or maybe a spiritual frustration. I talked to a barista recently who when we started talking about God she said, "Me and God are kind of pissed at each other right now." We talked for 15 minutes. She is open and spiritually frustrated.
The woman at the well seems to be a little frustrated when she turns the conversation about her personal life into a theological discussion about where to worship. She is frustrated with the Jews and she is wrestling with that tension. And Jesus engages her question but takes her beyond a simple answer and shows her an entirely new Kingdom that is to come.
3. They reach a new relational network (oikos)
When Jesus gets into the Gospel part of the conversation with her about His identity, she loses it. She leaves her jar at the well, which was the whole reason she was there in the first place. She bolts back to town and immediately shares with the entire town. The entire town makes its way out to come and see this man claiming to be the Messiah.
Jesus didn't have to work up a really creative sermon series title. He didn't work up an ad campaign on Facebook. He didn't purchase banners or Google ads. He didn't even get out a protest sign. He had a conversation with one person of peace and that one person had a huge relational network. Jesus' effort with one woman was multiplied into an entire town.
The problem I see in disciple-making efforts is that we too often fixate on one person that we just "have to reach." That person is no longer a person to us. They are a target or a project. Jesus taught His followers to find a person of peace and allow that person to use their influence to reach many more. Even Jesus didn't reach everyone and He didn't fixate on a target. He found the person of peace, shared the message of the coming Kingdom and allowed them to multiply the message to others.
Where do you find a "Person of Peace?"
In John 4, Jesus waited and began speaking to the woman. That's how it happens often. We pray boldly that the Spirit will lead us to the person. Jesus said He would "make you fishers of men." This means we drop hooks. The only way you know if the person is a person of peace is if you drop a hook. Dropping a hook looks a lot like the early stages of a Gospel conversation.
Each step of the conversation helps you identify, with the leading of the Holy Spirit, whether the person is a believer, if they have spiritual frustrations and questions and if they are connected to an entirely new oikos separate from yours. This means starting conversations in line at Target, with the waiter or waitress, with the barista at the coffee shop, with that dad on the soccer field and to your neighbor when you're outside about to grill. Finding a person of peace requires you to drop some hooks.
And sometimes, the person of peace finds you. I was about to get on my motorcycle recently after having lunch with my wife. A gentleman approached me and asked about the bike and if I like riding. We talked motorcycles for 15 seconds. We introduced ourselves and I had a feeling he was a person of peace. So I asked him about what he does and he told me. Then he asked me what I do. This is where the real test would begin.
I told him I was on staff at a church, but that what I do is make disciples. I said Jesus has been transforming me and I walk with other men to help them discover that same Jesus. He was open and receptive. We exchanged phone numbers and have had lunch multiple times. He’s reading Scripture and we are walking together to reach more people in his sphere of influence.
I drop hooks to find a person of peace.
Other times God walks them into your lap.
If your heart races at the thought of making disciples and leading them to multiply and make more disciples, then you need to know the person of peace strategy. It's a critical element in the disciple-making plan. It was Jesus' go-to method with His first disciples and as He multiplied His efforts it was one of the first things He trained and prepared His followers to do.
What are other characteristics of a person of peace you can think of?
What questions about this strategy come to mind?