Are You Listening for Persons of Peace?

by Paul on October 14, 2009

Here is another excerpt from my book.  Let me know what you think.

In Luke 10, Jesus sent the disciples into villages and towns He is about to visit.  In verses five through seven, He gave them some interesting directions,

“Whatever household you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this household.’  If a son of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; but if not, it will return to you.  Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they offer, for the worker is worthy of his wages.  Don’t be moving from house to house.”

These verses raise five questions.

  • Who is the Person of Peace?
  • Why are Persons of Peace important?
  • Can we find Persons of Peace today?
  • What does a Person of Peace look like?
  • How to we listen for the Person of Peace?

David Watson (http://www.davidlwatson.org), a church planter who uses the Person of Peace principle as part of church planting around the world, says,

“The Person of Peace is the one God has prepared to receive the Gospel into a community for the first time.  There are two major categories of Persons of Peace – some are Persons of Peace by nature and some become Persons of Peace as a result of God’s direct intervention in their families or communities.  There are numerous examples of both categories in the Bible.  Cornelius and Lydia are representatives of the “Person of Peace by Nature” category.  The Philippian Jailer and the Samaritan Woman at the Well are examples of those who become Persons of Peace through the direct intervention of God.”

Rather than only receiving the Gospel personally, a Person of Peace opens their whole community to the Gospel.  Then, as a community, they begin the process of discovering God together.  Eventually, after studying selected passages in the Bible from Genesis to Jesus, the whole community decides to follow Christ.  At that point, the whole household or community is baptized and begins the process of learning and implementing the functions of Church as described in the Bible.

David Watson comments on the impact searching for the Person of Peace had on church planting,

“Our understanding of the Person of Peace changes the way we plant churches.  It radically increases the number of churches planted.  We have seen church planting teams go from planting a few churches per year to planting dozens of churches every year, and in some cases, even hundreds of new churches every year.”

When we look at church planters like David and the way they engage entire households and communities with the Gospel through the Person of Peace, I think we can say that the Person of Peace is vital part of modern missions.

I think finding the Person of Peace is an important part reaching online communities of lost people.  In 2007, “Who is God?” was the top “Who is…?” sentence googled.  Many people search for answers to their deepest spiritual questions online.  I can’t help but wonder how many were Persons of Peace who might have welcomed the Gospel into their entire community if a follower of Christ had been present in the digital space for them to find.

Many church planters I know don’t want to make a list of all the characteristics of Persons of Peace.  They worry that people will turn it into a checklist, that someone isn’t a Person of Peace unless they meet ten out of ten characteristics on the list.  The reality is that characteristics of Persons of Peace vary from community.  I cannot say, for example, that a Person of Peace is always an outgoing person.  Many are quiet.  I can’t say that all Persons of Peace are honest people.  Some are crooks!

That being said, there are a few characteristics present in every Person of Peace.

  • They do not know Jesus as their Savior, follow Him, or intentionally obey His commands.  They are lost.
  • They are spiritual people actively searching for answers to their spiritual questions.
  • They want to learn more about God.
  • They want to include their household/community in their quest to learn more about God.
  • They have enough credibility in their household/community to get their household/community to join them in their quest to know God.

Given those characteristics, read through Acts, identify Persons of Peace, and write down other possible characteristics Person of Peace might have. (Just because I’m writing this book doesn’t mean that I do everything for you!)

Although Persons of Peace are searching for answers to their spiritual questions, that doesn’t mean they are going to wander into your church or Bible study and across your website, blog, or internet campus.  You have to meet them where they are rather than expect them to come to you.  You have to walk among the lost if you want to find Persons of Peace, plain and simple.

Francis of Assisi said, “Preach often; if necessary use words.”  That sounds really good, but if people cannot easily identify the reason you behave a certain way, they will assign you a motive.  We should use words more often than Francis’ quote suggests.  My youth minister tells a story of a young man in Singapore who practiced lifestyle evangelism.  He lived what he believed every day, waiting for the day his coworker would ask him the reason he acted the way he did.  He faithfully followed this practice for two years when one day a coworker said, “You know, I’ve noticed something different about you.”

His heart leapt!  Was this the moment he’d been praying for?

“You’re a vegetarian, aren’t you?” His friend finished.

A Person of Peace should easily identify you as a spiritual person who is open to discussing spiritual things.  This requires you to be open about what you believe without shoving it down people’s throats.  We will talk how to be conspicuously spiritual without being obnoxiously religious in the next chapter.

As you walk among lost people, you will find spiritual people.  These people understand that there is a spiritual dimension to this life.  They may be searching for truth.  Your very presence may encourage them to search for truth.  You need to be aware of these people, pray for them, and be willing to talk about spiritual matters with them.  I’d love to tell you exact keywords for this kind of search, but I haven’t found any.

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Puschendorf October 14, 2009 at 1:43 pm

our problem is, to get in touch with the PoP´s … so I would like to know more about the next (following) chapter . :-) Hope you will blog something …

Laura October 14, 2009 at 1:46 pm

Paul,
Funny story about your youth minister. I like it….
Couple things that you may want to look at. 1) At the top you say the verse raises 4 questions, but then you've listed out 5 questions. Thinking it's just a typo.
2) I've heard the term "person of peace" (POP) being used for christians as well as non-christians, so I'm thinking that a little bit of expansion on why in your definition you've stated they should be non-believers. For example, I've heard the term used towards folks who hold bible study group in their house, but aren't part of a formal church. A church planter who wanted to expand on that group and plant a church with them, refered to them as a POP.
Hope that helps….looks like you're off to a great start with some good ideas!
Keep up the good work!

Bob October 14, 2009 at 3:43 pm

I think the people looking to identify a checklist are using a part of their personality I relied upon for decades, but there is a better way. Achievers want to be right, check off the list and also accomplish something. They do NOT want to experience the grief of being in a bad relationship and "wasting time."

I suggest that the Holy Spirit picks the hinges to the door of community. Look at Cornelius. God picked him. Jesus picked the woman at the well. He also picked the Gerasene demoniac. That man asked to come with Jesus. Jesus said, "No, stay here and tell your story." He did. The next visit saw the entire region believe!

I would not pick a man with so many "issues" but Jesus did, and he does. If we can learn to walk in the Spirit to this level, we will see these communities open up through the people God chooses as the door. They might not have half the "best traits" but only need one-His choice.

You stimulated that whole line of thought. Thank you. It was a pleasure reading and processing this blog.

Mark Acuna July 7, 2010 at 10:39 pm

I like to think of it this way – God is at work in every community and neighborhood. His work does not begin with us church planters, but it includes us. I pray that God would open my eyes to see what He has been doing in the community; what people He has focused on, and what He has been doing in their lives. When I begin to see these things, I ask God to show me how to partner with Him in continuing the divine dialog in this person’s life. I must be totally spontaneous, because the person of peace could cross my path at any moment in my daily activities. When God taps me on my shoulder and says, ” Do you notice that person?” I must spring into action or the moment may be lost. I don’t worry what I’m to say or do – that’s the purpose of being Spirit-led and being a sheep that hears His voice. The person of peace will have been prepared by God to stop long enough that God will tap them on the shoulder and say, “Listen to this guy.” Amazing.

pauldwatson October 14, 2009 at 1:59 pm

Hey Laura! Thanks for catching they typo! It should be 'five.' I'll correct it! I know many Christians use the term Person of Peace pretty loosely. Consequently, we find Believers looking for Persons of Peace among Christians and starting groups with Christians rather than using the Person of Peace approach to engage the lost. We make a distinction so that when we challenge people we train to 'find Persons of Peace' that they understand that we mean 'among the lost.' I also feel this definition is closer to what Jesus meant in Luke 10 and we see by example in Acts.

We use 'Persons of Good Will' apply to non-Christians who never receive Christ but welcome you to work in their area.

Thanks for the encouragement!

pauldwatson October 14, 2009 at 2:00 pm

Finding Persons of Peace is difficult. I will talk a bit about this.

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