What do you do if all of your friends are Christians, but you want to reach beyond the church? Or, what if you’re new in town? Or you want to reach out to a specific group of people, but don’t know anyone in that community?
What you need is a “Person of Peace.”
In Fresh Expressions lingo, the person of peace” is someone who may or may not be part of your church or team, and may not even be a Christian, but resonates with what you are doing. A Person of Peace has the ability to open doors for you to people in their networks or connect you with resources that can enhance the mission you are engaging.
Where does the term “Person of Peace” come from?
In Luke 10, Jesus sends out the disciples into what he describes as the harvest field. He invites them to go empty-handed, just themselves and the invitation to bear witness to the nearness of the kingdom of God, eating and drinking with those who welcome them. “When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ If someone who promotes peace is there, your peace will rest on them; if not, it will return to you.”(Luke 10:5, NIV)
Someone who “promotes peace,” as Scripture references, is not necessarily someone who is a follower of Jesus (thought they can be), but is someone who resonates with the peace that is being shared. They welcome you into their home or business and extend hospitality. They are known by the rest of the community and can vouch for you. They can serve as a bridge between you and the neighborhood or network you now find yourself in. They can resource you in ways you cannot resource yourself.
Three Ways to Find a Person of Peace
One of the frequent questions I hear in our learning communities and trainings: “How do you find Persons of Peace?”
There is no magic formula, but here are three things to keep in mind as you are looking for the Persons of Peace in your context.
1. Talk passionately about what you are doing
Are you excited about the vision God has put on your heart? About the people with whom you are building community and exploring discipleship? Then, share that excitement as you intersect with people along the way. Articulate the dream of what you are doing and why it matters to people and why it is a blessing to the community.
Our church started a coffee shop about 18 months ago. The manager, a church member, is regularly articulating that this is about more than just selling coffee: “Our dream is that this would be a space where people would feel safe and welcome to gather and connect and do life with other people.”
The pastry chef who sells the coffee shop our baked goods began to really resonate with the vision. She is not a member of our church. I have no idea what her spiritual life looks like.
But she leaned in…”Would your coffee shop be willing to host a fundraiser for a group that has impacted my life?” The group was Bikers Against Child Abuse. So in August, she hosted a family block party in the parking lot of the coffee shop, creating relational opportunities that we would not have had, and inviting us to join in an initiative that supports victims of abuse.
In another mission, the local brewery owner became interested in partnering with a Pioneer to provide the computers for a computer lab for after school tutoring, because he saw the need in the community and loved that this mission was seeking to serve children in the local community. A conversation with local business owners about how a fresh expression could love and serve the community turned into a partner who wanted to help resource the initiative.Looking for a person of peace? Talk passionately about what you are doing. Click To Tweet
2. Pursue conversations with people
Ask people about their story, their perspective on the neighborhood, their take on what is happening in their midst. As they talk passionately about what THEY care about, you can get a sense of whether they might be interested in the vision of community that God is putting on your heart.
I was doing a listening exercise in one of our Fresh Expressions Learning Communities, and our group happened to come upon an event at the local library: “Coffee with the Mayor.” Great…we thought…we’ll get the mayor’s insight on what is going on in the town we are seeking to learn about. While the mayor was delightful to talk with, it was actually the librarian who emerged as the potential person of peace. She knew the struggles of the community. She had instituted food drives and clothing drives for local families. She knew the local school officials and the kids who hung out at the library. She had developed a corner of the library for Spanish resources for the growing Latino population. The mayor was a great guy, and good local leader with whom to shake hands and intersect. But if I were starting a fresh expression in that neighborhood, I would be spending a lot of time at the library with Jo-Ann, who clearly shares the heart of the mission, has the pulse of the neighborhood, and the connections with people.
Another fresh expression found their Person of Peace on the street corner. She was the “Queen of the Streets” among the sex workers walking the streets for customers, and as she began to recognize and trust the fresh expressions pioneer who was out in the neighborhood loving and serving the women every week, she began to recruit her friends and introduce them. This Person of Peace emerged as the Pioneer reached out and valued her perspective and her story. Because she was treated with dignity and love, she began to trust, which ultimately led her to open the door to relationships that would have been closed without her legitimizing this Pioneer and this mission.
3. Pray for People of Peace
Pray for God to provide people of peace for the sake of the mission.
Pray for God to reveal those who might people of peace who you might not recognize as God’s provision.
Our church could not have scripted that an owner of a Title Company would have necessarily been a Person of Peace for our mission. But, he was looking for a building for his offices, and we were looking for a building for our church and coffee shop. As he shared his hope to open a day care so his employees could be near their children throughout the day, we knew this was a person whose values resonated with our own. The more our team conversed with Bill, the more we begin to sense that this may be a Person of Peace that God was putting in our path. We had been seeking God’s guidance and praying for potential partners all along the way. Ultimately, God opened the door to a relationship that we could not have orchestrated, and we were able to join forces and become joint owners of a building neither of us could have afforded on our own.
In another mission, a leader started recognizing the need for a fresh expression of church with the Spanish speaking families connecting with the church’s daycare program. She didn’t speak Spanish, so she began to pray for God to supply the Spanish speaking resources needed to step into this vision. Inexplicably, she began to discover one, then two, then several Spanish speakers in the congregation that she had not previously known.
Another Pioneer had been envisioning starting a fresh expression with young adults in a local café. Then, out of the blue, the local food pantry reached out and wondered if there was anyone at the church who would be interested in starting a Bible study group with clients who were expressing interest in gathering for faith conversation. The door swung open wide, and the leader discovered that what actually energized young people in the area was making a difference in the community…through missions like the local food pantry. The Person of Peace at the food pantry not only invited access into her network, she also helped the Pioneer reshape a mission that engaged young adults not by hanging out around a café in the “hip” part of town, but instead hanging out in a community of life and faith discussion across the socio-economic divide at the local food pantry.
How do you find Persons of Peace?
There is no formula, and the timing is not always what we would plan. But in God’s time and God’s wisdom, if you are open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, you might see that God is sending you people who resonate with the peace you are seeking to share in your local neighborhood or network.
Strike up conversations.
Share your passionate vision with others.
And open your eyes to the surprising, and sometimes not so surprising, people God sends your way.Open your eyes to the surprising, and sometimes not so surprising, people God sends your way. Click To Tweet
Shannon serves as Director of Training, leading our team of mission strategists and trainers in the development and implementation of the Mission Shaped Ministry course through Pioneer Learning Communities. She is also a pastor on staff with Riverside Church in Sterling, VA, a Church that worships in two languages and engages in several Fresh Expressions of Church. In the last several years, Shannon has been involved with the Presbyterian Church’s New Worshiping Communities initiative, and has directed the coaching network that supports pioneer leaders. Shannon lives in Springfield, VA with her husband Patrick and teenage daughters Catherine and Suzanne.