Students are naturally inward focused. Developmentally, they are wired to think about themselves. And our custom designed, special order, have it your way culture helps them keep the focus on “me.”
We understand from the gospels, however, that Jesus set us up to live lives on mission. The Great Commission doesn’t have an age attached to it. In fact, Jesus poured his life into his disciples, trained them up to do what they saw Him doing, and then left. Who did he leave the movement of building out what we now call the “early church”? He left it to a bunch of young guys – many believe them to be in their teens and twenties!
That’s the carrot dangling in front of me. I know it’s possible! And I’m motivated more than ever before to lead a ministry that is sending out everyday missionaries into the hallways of middle schools and high schools, into sports teams and clubs, into neighborhoods and extended families. The hurdle is helping students make the shift from me-centric to Kingdom-minded.
Looking at how Jesus led his disciples, we see he gave them clear strategy when he sent them out on mission. In Luke chapter 10, as Jesus is sending out the 72, he lays out a strategy we now call the “People of Peace” strategy. He tells them to look for people who welcome them in, want to serve them, and are open to the gospel. If you run into someone that doesn’t fit that description, dust off your feet and move on. The Holy Spirit is the one who goes before us to prepare hearts and get them ripe to hear the gospel. Our job is to boldly partner with Him as we go about our days, living life with others, and showing them through our words and actions what God is really like.
Jesus tells them – “heal the sick, and tell them, ‘The Kingdom of God is near you now.”’ In other words, show them what God is really like – in His Kingdom there is no sickness. And I love Luke 10:17, where you see the teenage hard-wiring coming out. “They joyfully reported to him, ‘Lord, even the demons obey us when we use your name.”’ And Jesus reminds them – I can almost hear him – “Guys – yes, you are right – I have given you power over the enemy. But it’s not about you.”
So Jesus trained them to look for People of Peace, and he trained them in the supernatural – to do the things Jesus was doing. (I’m telling you…when students see the power of God show up through healings or other signs and wonders, their focus is very quickly shifted to how incredible God is! …but that’s a blog post for another day.)
Back to People of Peace… we’ve been using this language with students for a few years now. We’re just starting to see the early signs of fruit bubbling up. I remember this past year, one of our student Missional Communities was having an “out” night. This is a night where they are intentional to invite friends into their Missional Community who are People of Peace to them – open to them and potentially open to hearing the gospel. The “regulars” of the MC know that their job that night is to radically love other people’s friends. One of our students invited a Muslim friend to come with her that night. They were playing games, making pizzas and focusing on community and relationship. There was no plan to sneak in a gospel presentation at the end. No tracts handed out at the door on the way out. It’s simply about students inviting friends into this incredible community of believers and allowing them to see through their love and how they treat each other that something is different. This friend was introduced to new people and was having a conversation as she was making pizzas with the group. Her comment was something like this: “How long have you all known each other? You all seem like family.” (Insert happy dance.)
Person of Peace. She was welcomed into radical community. She was loved no matter what. She sensed an environment where students functioned like family. Win.
Helping students understand how to recognize People of Peace is on the top of our list this year. We’re going to nail this one. Scratch that…GOD’s going to nail this one. Breakthrough is coming! It’s key for us to hit a tipping point where it’s not just our high capacity leadership students who are living missionally. This is for everyone.
Practically, there are a few connections we’re making.
- We’re doing a teaching series on living missionally and People of Peace on Wednesday nights this year in October. We’ve tossed around all kinds of ideas on how to bring it home for them. It will involve something about having them identify who their People of Peace are, write down names, and pray as a Missional Community for these People of Peace friends. (Clarification: People of Peace are friends, not projects. But it’s important we help students identify who they are so they can be more intentional.)
- Giving them a safe place to practice. Students don’t share the gospel with their friends because they feel awkward and they don’t know what to say. We’re going to let them practice with us first so they can work out all the awkward and the first times and feel a bit more equipped to let it flow out into their natural-life conversations.
- For students who are hungry for more, we are doing special trainings this year for those who are ready to live as everyday missionaries. Not only will they be able to name their People of Peace, but they will come up with a plan on what the Lord is calling them to do about that and accountability on how the plan is going.
- We are working hard to celebrate what we value. We want to do a great job at telling stories about what God is doing as students are stepping out and boldly living like Jesus in their world.