Today we continue our series entitled Defining Missional Communities. We are taking 4 weeks to unpack what a Missional Community is, what defines it, and what practices are lived out within a missional community.
We are taking these weeks because, if you have been around Veritas for any length of time, you have probably heard us use the term missional community and we probably haven’t done a great job of actually describing or sharing what that actually means and what it looks like.
The definition of a missional community that we’ll be using for the four week series is this: A Missional community is an (extended) family of missionary servants who are disciples that make disciples.
So last week we covered the first part of the definition that being an extended family. We talked about the greek word Oikos which means family or household. And we laid out 5 principles of Oikos (or missional community life). That being 1. Prayer 2. Shared Meals. 3. Shared Resources. 4. Fun. 5. Common Mission
Today we cover the second part of the definition, that being missionary. Then next week we’ll look at servants. And finishing it up with disciples who make disciples.
So today we are dialoguing around the idea that a missional community is just that missional. Now we have used that word a lot as well and really it is a simple word that just means sent. And you can probably also use the word missionary in place of missional. But I know that in the churches history the term missionary isn’t always the greatest thing due to colonization, non-indigenous forms of mission, etc….. But let’s set that aside and talk about what it means to be a missionary in our world today, right here in our context of Lancaster, PA and how we need to see Lancaster as a mission field.
To do that we’ll look at 2 Scriptures, one a foundational text for understanding the idea of being missional or a missionary and the other fleshes out a way of doing missional/missionary “work” in Lancaster.
The first Scripture that we’ll look at together is John 20:21 which says, “Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” Here we see Jesus, following the resurrection, giving the missional mandate to his disciples and also to everyone who would come after. You see Jesus was sent into the world from his Father, the Father and the Son send the Spirit into the world, and the Father, Son and Holy Spirit send us. To be missional, again as I mentioned, means living a sent life. How would your life be different if you realized that you were sent by Jesus into the world to demonstrate, embody, and proclaim the gospel of the Kingdom of God? How would it change the way you interact with your family, your friends, your neighbors, your enemies, etc?? How would knowing that your everyday existence in Lancaster is in a mission context and that you are a missionary in the form of a teacher, a stay at home parent, a student, a pastor, a graphic designer, etc? You are a missionary just as much as someone who goes overseas to do “mission work”. You are just as much on a mission trip as youth who go on a short term mission trip. Just that this mission trip is for your entire life and it is currently a trip to Lancaster. You and I are sent ones.
But the next question that maybe you are thinking about right now is this: “I believe that I am a sent one. That I am a missionary in my context. But to whom am I sent?” That is a great question and our next Scripture that we’ll unpack together, I believe, can help us answer that very question.
Let’s look at Luke 10:1-12 which can help us address the question about who are we sent to. Luke 10 talks about this concept that we call Person of Peace.
“After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road. “When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ If someone who promotes peace is there, your peace will rest on them; if not, it will return to you. Stay there, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house. “When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is offered to you. Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town we wipe from our feet as a warning to you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God has come near.’ I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.”
So what we see in Luke 10 is Jesus strategy for sending. He sends the 72 disciples out together. Notice that. He sent them out in teams of 2. So often when we think of being missional, being sent, or being a missionary we think of a lone person (and maybe a family) going out into the world. What would it look like for us to be sent corporately together? How would that change things? How would it increase our “effectiveness”? How would it help us not to throw in the towel and give up on this sent life?
So Jesus sends out 36 advance teams to go out to prepare the soil of the people and the towns for the arrival of Jesus. And he makes sure that they understand that this mission isn’t just a walk in the park. That this mission of being sent has some risks. He describes sending these disciples as sending them out as lambs among wolves.
After Jesus sends them out, has them pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out more workers, and warns them that they will be like lambs among wolves, he lays out their missional strategy of sharing the Kingdom of God with people. This strategy is what has become known as People of Peace. In Verses 5-9 we read more about the People of Peace “When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ If someone who promotes peace is there, your peace will rest on them; if not, it will return to you. Stay there, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house. “When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is offered to you. Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’
In Jesus day a Person of Peace was a resident of a town who welcomed the travelers into their homes and extended hospitality for the entirety of their stay in the town. They were simply someone that God had prepared ahead of time to hear the message of the gospel through those who Jesus sent out. So a Person of Peace opened their homes to the missionary team, they fed them, provided for their needs, and were very open to them. But what about in our day and age, how does this missional strategy of a Person of Peace work out? And what defines a Person of Peace today? This is a crucial piece and is foundational to life within an Missional Community.
A Person of Peace is one who welcomes you, likes to be with you (and knows that you are a Christian), is open to receiving from you and serves you in some way. Or put in another way: A person of peace is a person of receptivity (they are open to you and therefore open to your message of the King and the Kingdom), they are a person of reputation (good or bad), and they are a Person of Referral (they are influential and have a web of relationships or a network…or the word we used last week is Oikos…they have an extended family network). We see Jesus utilizing this strategy of discerning a person of peace in John 4 and the woman at the well. She was a person of receptivity (she was open to Jesus). She definitely had a reputation. And lastly she was a person of referral as we see at the end of the story in John 4 when she goes back to the townspeople and tells the about Jesus and many come to know Jesus through this women, this person of peace.
So often we make things harder for ourselves and our missional communities by not following this simple and uncomplicated teaching of Jesus. You see it’s God’s job to bring us the right people across our path and to give us the eyes to recognize them. Jesus wanted the disciples to plant themselves somewhere and not move around. He wants the same for us in our missional strategy. Stay where you are and work with the people of peace and share with them the message of the King and the Kingdom. Jesus told his disciples and he tells us to go and find the people who welcome you, who make it easy for you to talk about Jesus. They are the people who will listen to you and will respond to your invitation to join in with some of your activities.
Now the one thing that we need to recognize in this strategy of finding a person or people of peace is that by definition to find a person of peace means more than likely that you’ll also find people of unpeace. People who aren’t open to you, who don’t welcome you, who don’t serve you, and who have no interest in your King and His Kingdom. So you need to be okay with outing yourself as a follower of Jesus so that you see how people respond. If they reject and push away (not because you are a jerk about it) then they aren’t people of peace. If they are receptive to it and if they stay engaged then more than likely they are a person of peace.
And so in the life of a missional community the person of peace strategy is a way of seeing what God is already doing in our mission context. Finding people of peace means discovering where God is already at work in the neighborhood, or network of relationships that you are seeking to reach. So you are called to find out where God is at work and how you can be a missionary/missional/sent into that context.
So let’s dialogue around the idea of the person of peace. Have you heard that concept before? What strikes you about the person of peace concept? What stands out from the text that you can apply to today’s situation? And have you or can you identify someone in your life right now who as you heard the concept of person of peace a light bulb went off and you said “they are my person of peace”?
1. What stands out from the texts that you can apply to today’s situation? What are your thoughts regarding the missional strategy known as Person of Peace?
2. As we were talking about People of Peace, did God bring someone to your mind who is your person of peace? What next steps might you take in that relationship with the Person of Peace?