In the New Testament, Jesus discipled his followers in his missionary methods. Not only did he call them to become ‘fishers of men’, he provided the example for them. He trained them thoroughly through example and instruction, and after the climactic events of the cross and resurrection, he sent them out with the great commission to continue the process of making disciples.
With this great commission firmly in our minds, we need to examine closely how Jesus trained his disciples. Many people have read through these passages (listed below) on how Jesus trained his disciples and not thought that this teaching is applicable to us today. Two reasons prevent us in applying Jesus teaching practically.
1. We have already been trained in how to do mission through our church experience. The way Jesus trained his disciples seems a world away from our experience… so surely it doesn’t apply to us… right?
2. The other problem is that we have traditionally read the Bible, the gospels in particular, as a devotional book. We have been taught to read it asking devotionally what does God want to speak to me? We rarely look at the way Jesus did ministry and see it as paradigmatic to our own ministry.
‘How did Jesus actually do this?’
In missionary writings, much has already been written about Paul’s missionary methods, but scant regard has been made about Jesus’ missionary methods. It was only once I had sat down and re-read the gospels, asking ‘how did Jesus actually do this?’ that I went through the paradigm shifts necessary think of Disciple Making Movements. We need to reset our thinking, sit at the feet of the master and learn afresh what it means to become a fisher of men.
One important principle in which Jesus trained his disciples (and thereby vicariously trained us) was the principle of the person of peace. In Luke 9, & 10, Matt 10, Mark 6 Jesus gathered his disciples, trained them, gave them authority over the evil one and then commissioned them. Amongst a number of instructions, he told them to find a house, and stay there until they moved on to the next village. To find a ‘worthy person’ or a ‘man of peace’. Finding this household, or person peace, was core to his instructions on how to enter into a community with the message of the Kingdom of God.
A Person of Peace can be a man or woman, young or old, rich or poor. They are the person prepared by God to provide entrance into their community for the gospel. Jesus modelled this in the way he called his disciples. We first see how the gospel spread along relational lines when he called Peter and his family. Peter’s house becomes the first ‘house of peace’ from which the gospel spread. Read John 1:35-50, Mark 1: 14-20 & Mark 1: 29-34.
We see in a number of stories Jesus reached one, and then through that one person reached whole communities. Think of the story of Levi (Luke 5:27-39), and all the tax collectors that Levi reached; think of the women at the well of Samaria (John 4:1-42) reaching her village; of Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-9) and his household; or the demoniac of Decapolis, Mark 5:1-20, 7:31, 8:1ff.
We see communities of sinners being reached by one of their own, an outcast and calling out her whole village, an influential (albeit corrupt) businessman testifying to his whole community, and finally, a previously demon-possessed man reaching a whole region of cites for Jesus. In each of these scenarios Jesus didn’t reach the communities, the people of peace did!. The principle is we win the one to win the many.
It seems that Jesus had a ‘radar’ to identify these people. It was a different connection method each time. Spiritual conversations (the woman at the well), challenge to obedience (Levi), power encounter (Demoniac) and acceptance and eating together (Zacchaeus). But the one constant is that he found people of peace that multiplied.
People of peace can also be seen in the early church in the spreading of the gospel amongst the Gentiles. What Jesus started continued on in the ministry of his disciples through the book of Acts. A few examples are
* Cornelius, Acts 10
* Lydia, Acts 16:13-15
* Philippi jailer, Acts 16:33-34
* Jason, Acts 17:1-9
* Aquila and Priscilla, Acts 18, 1 Corinthians 6:17
* “And the church that meets in their house” is a natural fruit of the Person of Peace idea, Romans 6:1-16, 1 Corinthians 1:11, 1 Corinthians 1:16 (Note: Paul did not usually baptise households, that was up to the inside leader … he shared the good news and others baptised!), Col 4:15, Philemon 1:1-2
The person of peace strategy is the opposite of extraction evangelism
Jesus spoke about making converts in Matthew 23:15 (NIV) 5 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.” Challenging stuff. He was speaking of the religious extracting converts out of communities and making them just like them, something Jesus didn’t think was a good idea.
The person of peace strategy is the opposite of extraction evangelism. Our traditional evangelism method is to convert one person for the Lord, extract him or her from their community and bring them to our church, or new church plant. In doing so we usually alienate them from their community. We change their language and friendship networks. Extraction evangelism stops movements. Mass evangelism does not find people of peace either.
Both mass evangelism and extraction evangelism can become barriers to finding the Person of Peace. These methods are opposite to the Person of Peace strategy, where one is discipled and they, in turn, disciple their whole family or network. We go slow in finding the one, taking the time and care to disciple this new inside leader. Once discipled, the gospel multiples quickly, churches are planted within communities and within relational networks. We keep them within their communities.
We go slow in finding the one, taking the time and care to disciple this new inside leader.
The Person of Peace is a pivotal concept within our understanding of Disciple Making Movements. Extraction evangelism usually kills multiplication. It is through the Person of Peace strategy that we can reach whole groups. They understand their culture and language, they have networks in place, they already have deep relationships, they have been prepared by God to be the doorway to communities.
They have usually ‘got a story’ of God preparing the way. Often they are the ‘halfway people’ we see so often. People already on the journey.
We identify a Person of Peace as someone who welcomes you and your message. They are drawn to your spirituality because they are hungry. They open their house (literally or figuratively) to you. They are hungry for spiritual encounter. They have usually ‘got a story’ of God preparing the way. Often they are the ‘halfway people’ we see so often. People already on the journey. They also are keen to tell others what they are learning. We summarise this as Open, Hungry and Sharing – OH&S.
Finding such ‘worthy people’ is how Jesus entered and reached whole communities, and what he taught his disciples to do. The big challenge is to find these God-prepared people. We are called to be dependent on Jesus to show us the people that he has prepared. The task ahead is to be prayerful, and Spirit-led to identify People of Peace. It requires patience and perseverance.
When Colleen and I were working in India, we saw this in action time and time again. It was through one person that a whole community was reached. We had the privilege of working with a Nepali Brahmin, who after coming to Christ, planted numerous churches within the Nepali community. A Kashmire Muslim, who after a powerful encounter with Jesus, was able to turn around to his community and bring the gospel to them.
Churches were planted that we could never dream of doing ourselves! A man who was living on the edge of a slum, having lost both his legs in a train accident and after receiving the good news, became a church planter in the gospel-resistant slum we were trying to reach. These and many other stories showed us the power of the Person of Peace principle. We didn’t set out to do this, we stumbled on this after seeing who the gospel spread like wildfire through these people.
When we live as conspicuously spiritual people, then those who are open, hungry and willing to share will find us.
David Watson comments “There is one final important point to ponder when thinking about finding People of Peace – being conspicuously spiritual! As disciple-makers, we need to be conspicuously spiritual people who live out our faith without apology. It is not about being religious, but rather about being spiritual. When we do this, we will find the People of Peace.
When we live as conspicuously spiritual people then those who are open, hungry and will share will find us. There is less of us finding people of peace but rather the people of peace will find the conspicuously spiritual disciple-maker.
This is about faith and living it out in all circumstances, regardless of consequences. It is about loving God and loving people. It is about obedient thinking and living. This kind of life draws in people who are interested in spiritual matters and opens the door to communities for establishing obedient bodies of believers who Head is the Lord Jesus Christ” (Contagious Disciple Making, 2014).
After trying traditional church planting methods here in Australia, I came to realise we have to go back and rediscover what Jesus taught his disciples was not just for ‘back then’, or for places like India. But they needed to work here … in Australia and the West.
Jesus’ training of his disciples applies to Western nations as well!
As we have applied ourselves to finding People of Peace, we see this becoming reality before our eyes. We see stories of hard communities being reached by such People of Peace – policemen, indigenous women, households, and the list goes on. It is perhaps the biggest paradigm shift we have to make to see movement become a reality in the West.
Perhaps it is also the most exciting.