You are probably not the key person to engaging your neighborhood. Read this again so that it sinks in: you are most likely not the key to engaging your neighborhood-someone else is. Those of us who consider ourselves outgoing extroverted networkers can find this especially challenging because we want to become the relational cogs in the neighborhood. The newer you are to the neighborhood and the more unchurched the area, the more this principal applies. You may project friendliness and meet a lot of people quickly, but developing deep relationships (i.e. true friendship) takes time. You’ll often notice a people already rooted in the neighborhood with these strong extensive networks of relationships. Many times God will move on one of these individuals (and sometimes a group of people) who are open to you, your message, and serve as a bridge to their larger network of relationships. These are your persons of peace.
Plenty of examples exist throughout the New Testament. Here are a few:
- Matthew inviting Jesus to dine with his friends- Matthew 9:9-13.
- Jesus sending out seventy two of His disciples- Luke 10:3-7.
- Zacchaeus’ encounter with Jesus- Luke 19:1-6.
- Paul, Timothy, & Silas meet Lydia- Acts 16:13-15.
- Titius Justus opens his home to Paul- Acts 18:7-11.
Several trends appear that can help us identify persons of peace in our neighborhoods.
Persons of Peace serve as a bridge or gatekeeper to other relationships. This does not necessarily mean they are in positions of power or that they recognize their own relational influence with other people. The more unreached an area, the less chance this person is already a follower of Jesus. We can see in the New Testament examples that this often appears to be their initial encounter with Jesus or His message.
Persons of Peace like you, they really like you. This may sound superficial and shallow, but 100 % necessary. The true test is whether they like you while (or after) recognizing you are a follower of Jesus. The less evangelized an area, the more needed this is, because their stamp of approval gives you added credibility. It’s not impossible to build credibility without a person of peace, but much much harder because you are basically “borrowing” their credibility with others.
Persons of Peace show you hospitality by welcoming you into their territory. This is where they do life and very often their home. This is a big deal because they are dropping boundaries and allowing you to enter their comfort zone. They not only like you- they trust you. We can spend so much time trying to bring people into our territory that we can miss the opportunity of a much greater impact by entering their sphere of life and influence.
Persons of Peace genuinely want to help you and serve you. This can be disconcerting if we want to always be the givers. We must learn to receive as well as give in a gracious manner. Allowing others to give by helping and serving you shows that you trust them- it requires a certain level of vulnerability. This is often a significant step towards them serving with you. We all hope for more givers than takers on our team.
Persons of Peace introduce you to other valuable relationships. They may introduce you to their family over a meal or invite you to a party with a bunch of their friends. This sometimes takes time, although with Jesus and Paul these invitations happened relatively fast. In the New Testament, these entire relational networks would often become followers of Jesus.
Persons of Peace are interested and receptive to the message of Jesus. We need to enter these relationships expectantly prepared to proclaim Jesus’ message and to allow His power to work through us. Often (but not always) the person of peace becomes a catalyst for sharing the message of Jesus with their community and becomes a core leader in the spiritual family. Sometimes they do not become a follower of Jesus, but still serve as the relational gateway for sharing the message of Jesus with others.