Evangelism… the dreaded "E" word. Evangelism is a word that is heavy and often guilt-ridden. What picture comes to your mind when you think of 'evangelism'? Do you picture a street preacher? A Sunday School class that you have taken? Do you picture sharing your faith with the person sitting next to you on the airplane? There is a lot of baggage with the word evangelism in church circles, but I want to share a concept that Jesus taught that has really helped me in understanding and sharing the gospel with others. The idea is called, "People of Peace."
After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go. And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals, and greet no one on the road. Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house!’ And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him. But if not, it will return to you. And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages. Do not go from house to house. Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you. Heal the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ But whenever you enter a town and they do not receive you, go into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet we wipe off against you. Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near.’ (Luke 10:1-11)
As Jesus sends out the 72 disciples, He gives them a command to find the 'son of peace' and to stay and invest with those people. Jesus says that a 'Person of Peace' is someone that welcomes you into their life, they receive you, they serve you, they listen to you and they respond to you. Jesus also tells the disciples they will find people who are NOT People of Peace and to move on and not worry about investing with those people. The Person of Peace is someone who, for whatever reason, gives you access to your life and invests in your life. God is challenging His disciples to invest in these People of Peace.
A comforting truth and reality is that God is working in the lives of people before we ever enter the scene. God has been speaking and wooing their hearts towards him. Think about the Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13:1–9, 18-23). Certain soil is fertile and ready to hear the word, while other soil is hard or full of weeds or rocky. God is working in the lives of the people in our work, neighborhood or social spaces. As we enter life, God is calling us to invest in those He has given us inroads with and those with whom He has been tilling the soil of their hearts (1 Corinthians 3:5–9).
Investing with these People of Peace is also how the gospel spreads. The People of Peace are the gatekeepers to their community. As they become disciples of Christ, this will allow the good news of Jesus to become real to their communities. Remember Acts 10 when Cornelius the Centurion invited Peter into his home and not only he, but his whole household came to know the Jesus? The People of Peace in your life are the gatekeepers to others that do not know the Lord.
So what does this mean for "Evangelism"? The Person of Peace concept moves evangelism and mission from being something we cram into our lives, to something we live out where we are. So when you shop, play sports, pick up kids, go to work, meet neighbors you can invest with your Person of Peace. This strategy and viewpoint starts and ends with relationship. Connect and invest with those who welcome you into their life, receive you, serve you, listen to you and respond to you.
Here are some points to consider as you try to figure out who your People of Peace are and how you can invest with them:
- Pray. We must be listening to the Holy Spirit and be aware of how God is trying to get ahold of us.
- Our presence in peoples lives gives us credibility to act and speak... so be present.
- We must proclaim Christ through words and deeds.
- Some relationships are passing and some are permanent. Passing relationships are like a sprint and permanent relationships are like a marathon. Pray, wait and watch... God is never in a hurry, and He is never late.You may not lead the person to a relationship with Christ in a passing relationship, but you may move them closer to Christ.
Pray that God would give you clarity about 3 People of Peace in your life. Pray and watch for opprotunities to invest with your People of Peace. Share what God is doing to those in your community and encourage each other as ambassadors of the good news of Jesus.
Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work. Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest. Already the one who reaps is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.” (John 4:34–38)