One of the most exciting yet daunting concepts to teach and learn in discipleship is how to discern “people of peace”.
The phrase People of Peace comes from Luke 10 when Jesus sends out the 72 and tells them to go in groups of two from house to house and offer peace to each house. If the “peace rests on them” then stay with those people.
This passage points out that God has a role in who we are supposed to engage with when it comes to sharing our life and begin to share the story of Jesus.
On one hand, it lets us all off the hook that we have to share Jesus with every person we encounter (many people have a form of Christian guilt that they don’t do this enough).
On the other hand, it puts us ON the hook for paying attention to the “peace” or the “shalom” that the Holy Spirit might bring between us and someone we come in contact with.
Those people could be the permanent relationships in life, the relationships where we are present regularly with others, or the passing encounters with people.
If we are looking for what God is doing, he might invite us to “follow the peace” when we least expect it. God may also NOT bring peace between us and someone we thought we SHOULD have peace with.
You are thinking, “OH that is why my cousin is never open to me talking about Jesus.” Right… no peace… no openness… God brings the peace, we can’t force it.
Other times, you feel a connection with someone who could NOT be more different than you. It makes no sense except that God puts shalom between you and the other person. When you discern that peace - follow it. Step towards that person and see what God will do!
When leading people in discipleship groups how to discern people of peace here are some helpful steps:
- Spend time dwelling in Luke 10:1-10 and see how God’s spirit impacts each person as they imagine Jesus sending them out.
- Use the person of peace shape or the “P” alliteration to help them remember the different spaces and ways God leads us to people of peace.
- Experiment with flexing the muscle of people of peace.
The experimenting can take a few different shapes, but here are just a few ideas:
- Head to a mall, bar, festival or a local park where there are a lot of people present. Read Luke 10 together. Send people out in groups of two with the goal of seeing if they can tell if people are a POP or not. Give them the instruction to get “3 names and a story”. When the encounter people, they can pay attention to the peace. Does it seem to “rest on that person” or “return to them”. Suggest a time to meet back up and share the story of what happened. They typically share that finding the person of peace is easier than they thought. Some even feel led to pray for the person or to tell them they will pray for them.
- Take the group to a busy section of your neighborhood where there are a lot of coffee shops and restaurants. Read Luke 10 and then send them off in groups of two to go to different establishments. Instruct them to get a cup of coffee or a meal and then sit each person by themselves. They then can look around and ask God who they should pray for. When they feel like there is someone specific, they can then ask God what they should pray for. (If they don’t feel anything specific, they can just pick someone). They don’t need to go up to the person, but just silently pray for them unless God really clearly compels them to approach the person. Suggest a time to meet up again and share stories and what it felt like to “flex that muscle”. It’s crazy how often the two people felt led to pray for the same person. Trust that prayer is effective and that those prayers altered the spiritual situation for that person.
- In any neighborhood, workplace, campus or park gather the group and read Luke 10. Then send them out in groups of two to do a “resonate walk”. As they walk, they ask God what they should notice. As they look around, they will resonate with what they are seeing, hearing or feeling. As they resonate with something, they can talk to their partner about it. If the felling compels them to pray, then they can pray together for what they see. (ie. kids toys - pray for the kids that live in that house). Suggest a time to meet up again and share stories and what it felt like to “join God in the neighborhood” by listening to their surroundings. Remind them that we typically skim over our everyday spaces and fail to look and listen for what God might be doing around us.
Encourage participants to do the exercise on their own or with a partner in one of their every day spaces and come back and share their experience with the group at the next gathering.
These exercises all strengthen the muscle of looking for people of peace. As that muscle get’s stronger we start to notice people of peace in our every day spaces more readily and thus have more opportunities to participate with what God is doing to pursue the people we come in contact with.