I remember when I first heard the concept of a “person of peace.” The concept is based on the account of Jesus sending out the disciples two by two to minister in the surrounding communities recorded in Matthew 10, Luke 9, and Luke 10. As He sent them, He gave certain instructions about what they were to do, what they should pack, and how they were to respond based upon a person’s reception. Specifically, in Luke 10: 5-7 Jesus instructs them:
“When you enter a house offer peace. If a Person of Peace is present, your peace will rest on him. Stay in theat house, eat and drink what is put before you, and do not move around from house to house.”
I wasn’t sold on the concept because I thought that it was too much system for so little scripture. Entire techniques have been developed around this passage. How to find people of peace, what their characteristics are, how to engage and develop them, etc. In a way, we become “scouts,” for the Kingdom. But is this right? As Ross Rhode states in Viral Jesus: Recovering the contagious power of the Gospel (p. 45). Strang Communications. Kindle Edition.
“If Jesus could do only what He saw the Father doing, we can do no more or less. This process of talking to only the person of peace and his household—a person God will indicate—or doing only what we see the Father doing is a supernatural process, not a natural human one. Therefore, evangelism done biblically is not a matter of randomly preaching on our own initiative to anyone who will listen. It is God setting up the circumstances for preaching, Peter (Acts 2–3). Or it is God setting up the circumstances for us to meet the person of peace, as He did when Paul met the Philippian jailer (Acts 16).”
Ross is right, it is not for us to determine who this person of peace is, but only to identify whom God has already chosen. As a missionary on the field or even short-term missionaries, we tend to get over zealous in identifying these people of peace, crowning and anointing them as such, and then developing our desires without taking a reflective and discerning pause. We rush into church planting or even disciple making “through” this person of peace. We tend to put all our eggs in one basket. When we’ve come to the understanding that any sort of manipulation in evangelism is wrong and leave those practices behind, the church often substitutes those practices for manipulating the person of peace. I’ve seen and experienced what can happen when our desire to discover a person of peace is swapped out for a self determined declaration of who that person of peace will be. We want to be credited for “starting a work.”
I have one issue with Ross’s statement above, is that the parable of the sower would seem to indicate that it’s fine to “randomly” preach (scatter) on our own initiative with God’s directive Mark 16:15 and with the Spirit’s guidance. John 16:13
Finally in this first part of the series of the Person of Peace, I’d like to address the issue of haste. I’ll admit that I am just as eager to see entire communities come to Christ. I always have great anticipation when going into a new region, especially where Christ is not known or the people are held captive in some other Kingdom. I want to find a person who can be a liaison, go-between, connector, or person of peace. But, if my desire is to do this first, principally, or hurriedly, then I’ve lost my way. The only way to avoid hastiness in discovering this person of peace, is to make disciples like Jesus told us too, which is often slow and messy, and wait patiently. As much as I or a short-term missions initiative would like to establish a person peace before we depart, it often does not happen on our time schedule. In part II of this series, my goal is to discuss “Electronic People of Peace,” or “Looking for people of peace in virtual communities.” For now, a few questions:
1. Have we made entirely too much of this doctrine? Why or why not?
2. Should we seek to make many persons of peace and let the Lord sort them out, or is that counter productive?
3. We stumble on these people of peace by going out and announcing the Gospel of the Kingdom. Shouldn’t that be our primary concern?