In my early days of campus ministry, I remember wanting a playbook. Really I just wanted someone to tell me what to do as I ventured onto campus every day. Now, thankfully more resources exist, and yet I often find it hard to convert the broad concepts I read into practical daily tools I can use in my ministry.
One of those broad concepts that has become a key ministry tool for me is the concept of “people of peace.” When I think back on the most strategic times on campus, I think about connecting with people of peace. Mike Breen, author of Building a Discipling Culture, defines a person of peace as “one who is prepared to hear the message of the kingdom and the King. He is ready to receive what God will give you to say at that moment.”
People of peace are often the key to campus ministry. Recently a friend struggling to start ministry on a new college campus told me, “I wish I had more resources about people of peace—who they are and how to find them.” People of peace are important because college ministry is cyclical, leaving us to continually follow where the Spirit is at work as our paths cross new people, praying that they will be open to the gospel and to partner with us to open more doors for students to hear the good news on campus.
The term person of peace comes from Luke 10. Jesus sends out seventy disciples in pairs, telling them, “Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road. Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house!’ And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you” (Luke 10:3-6).
Acts 16:14-15 contains another key example of a person of peace. The apostles go to a place of worship in Philippi and meet a woman named Lydia. While the story here contains few sentences, it is packed with implications of her influence throughout the rest of the New Testament. Paul writes, “One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. And after she was baptized, and her household as well, she urged us, saying, ‘If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.’ And she prevailed upon us.”
These are beautiful examples of what to be looking for as we seek to join God at work with others on our campuses. Here are some things I’ve learned the hard way when it comes to identifying people of peace in real time.
People of peace are rarely who you think they will be.
They may be pre-Christian, newly Christian, or a long-time Christian who has yet to be challenged with the idea of being sent. If you’re relying on a narrow set of stereotypes, you may overlook them entirely.
I often prayed for the athlete, student body president, or sorority chapter president. Sometimes God used them in the ways I prayed. But I am humbled time again by the people that leave long lasting impacts on our ministry through resources, favor on campus and people they brought along on the journey.
People of peace have deep networks, yet sometimes these are not the obvious (to us) avenues to meet new people. I think about the students God used to bring friends and favor on campus, students who were into frisbee golf and board games. We had no idea at the time how God would use them or how many doors they would open for the gospel to be spread. To identify people of peace, we have to remember that “man looks on the outside appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). Rather than look for the cool kids, look at who is eager to help. Think about who has wide networks and influence in their “thing,” even if it’s niche.
They share their resources liberally.
People of peace catch your vision naturally and offer to help. They will come alongside you, Christian or not, and see the benefit of what you want to do on campus. It will feel like a mutual partnership, like being in step with the Spirit alongside them. They will connect you to key campus leaders, access to meeting spaces, open doors and people.
Some key people of peace have owned homes near campus, allowing us to use their space for leadership meetings and other key events. They invited friends to events they hosted, many being evangelists before they themselves had fully committed to Christ.
Their networks may not fit into your neat ministry systems (at first).
People of peace have their own ecosystems. When these people discover the gospel, they become freshwater springs of life flowing to everyone around them. We need to lower our desire to control what those environments look like. Otherwise, we may cut off those springs of life at the source, diverting the energy of the Holy Spirit and hindering their impact on campus. If we’re not careful, we import our frames and controlled ministry environment onto the people we’re trying to reach and shut down natural connections.
I have found that if I am more committed to my weekly rhythms rather than empowering the people of peace, I miss out on allowing them to reach their network for Christ. If they are an RA and have little free time, it is my job to figure out how to empower them to take the gospel back to their places, rather than wait for them to bring their people to ours. If I wait for that, it may never happen.
Imagine in Acts 16 if Paul had told Lydia, “Go bring your family to our next house church gathering and we will do a special service there.” It might have been a totally different story. Instead, they were all baptized right there on the spot. Lydia went on to open doors for the apostles and the early church, hosting worship gatherings in her home, funding the church and seeing her whole family follow Jesus.
They are found on the paths of risk.
People of peace are found when there is something big enough to draw them out. Allow the Spirit to unite your hearts in a common vision and mission. In a safe cul-de-sac, there is no need for a bridge. God brings people of peace as bridges to accomplish a God-sized vision he has placed on you and your leaders’ hearts. This means taking a step of faith onto a new path.
As you talk about that vision boldly and take steps of faith, people are compelled to join, connecting you to their network and their resources.
Like all things in our purview, the most strategic part of identifying and working with people of peace is prayer. As you build, meet and strategize, specifically ask God to connect you to the people in whose hearts he is already at work, waiting to unleash their God-given influence and potential. Let’s help leaders write down names of people God may be wanting to use as people of peace in their dorms, majors, families and workplaces. I pray we don’t gatekeep the gospel but seek to empower the leaders on our campuses to experience the joy of giving their life away for Jesus.
Tradecraft: For the Church on Mission by Caleb Crider, Larry McCrary, Rodney Calfee, and Wade Stephens
Building a Discipling Culture by Mike Breen
(Excerpt on People of Peace Chapter here)