Since 2010, I’ve served as the leader of missional innovation at RiverTree Church, in Northeast Ohio.
As part of a team working to help the church move further down the missional path, one of the first things we taught was this missional strategy called Person of Peace. It is the strategy Jesus gives to help us naturally and easily identify where we are called to go.
I believe that many, many disciples can be released to go out as witnesses simply by implementing this basic strategy. The Person of Peace concept contains within it the essence of missional DNA. As a result, it is flexible enough to fit into a wide range of church cultures and alongside whatever models for witnessing and disciple making you may already use. Lived out in practice, finding your Person of Peace accelerates your mission.
So how do you identify your Person of Peace? Below are five characteristics I’ve found quite helpful in identifying the Person or Persons of Peace we’ve encountered.
Your Person of Peace is not a Christian (this is about reaching lost people who won’t otherwise be touched by the Gospel), yet is someone who:
1. Welcomes you
2. Receives you (and thus, probably unknowingly at first, receives Jesus in you)
3. Serves you
4. You intentionally invest in
5. Operates as a gatekeeper, opening relational doorways into their network of relationships.
I often summarize it as, “They like you and you like them.” Part of the liberating factor for us as Christians is that the Person of Peace only works properly with those who are willing, so it is the very opposite of manipulation.
Put simply, whom would you most love to see become a disciple of Jesus? The question really is that simple—whom do you sense God has called you to love the most? Who is your heart best shaped to reach for Jesus?
We taught this repeatedly to the men and women at RiverTree who would become the leaders of the first generation of missional communities. (For more on missional communities, visit my blog alexabsalom.com). We kept bringing them back to the challenge of this question: “Who are you called to love intentionally?” When people are stuck, we sometimes frame the question a different way: “Who do you most want to see saved?” If someone replies, “The whole city,” narrow the question: “Who specifically would you most love to see reached for Jesus?”
If the answer is a particular community (e.g., bikers, high school students, those in a local juvenile correction facility, families with preschoolers, young adults—all of which are real examples from RiverTree), then probably that context will be where your Person of Peace is, since clearly you feel called to that neighbourhood or network of relationships.
As a family, we have lived this process. Originally from England, in 2007 God called us as missionaries to the United States. Our journey of faith saw us landing in Oklahoma City, finding ourselves in a new country where we had no favour, knew hardly anyone and barely understood the culture—or even the accent! So Hannah and I did what we always do: We prayed and asked God to show us our Person of Peace.
In England, our Person of Peace had been the principal at the kids’ school. This time, the “she” was a “they”—a family who lived in our neighbourhood. They were out walking past our new house when I happened to be doing yard 10 work. A first conversation ensued, and before I knew it our family had been invited for dinner, and our new friends were busy serving us with gusto. The couple became (and remain) truly close to us. We love them dearly and would do anything for them—and know the same is true in reverse.
They opened up a whole network of relationships for us in our neighbourhood. These various households became our extended family—adopting us foreigners at all the holidays, doing life together, coming and going out of homes and generally building great relationships. Gradually, God conversations began to surface, and over the course of several years there was a sweet spiritual awakening in that place. And so we went on the journey of discipleship together, helped by a missional community that our friends graciously allowed us to begin in our neighbourhood. Looking back, it really was such an easy and enjoyable journey, with Hannah and I just listening to God and obeying the simple steps He gave us along the way.
In hindsight, I think our key step was that we began by asking Jesus to show us the harvest that was already around us—by identifying our Person of Peace. Below, I’ve listed a few questions to help you identify your Person of Peace and draw him/her/they to Christ, as well as help others to do the same:
Who are you called to love intention- ally? Who comes to mind in response to, “They like you and you like them”? Who is your heart best shaped to reach for Jesus? Who is already responding positively to you? What is Jesus saying to you as you pray about this?