People of Peace who open their networks to the mission idea
We need more workers. Because there are not enough workers in the harvest. To find missionaries, who are often 1-in-10,000 believers, requires recommenders. Over the past few weeks we’ve discussed ‘mission magnets’ and ‘hub’ people who can help in mobilization. This week, we’ll borrow the idea of ‘people of peace’ from Disciple-Making Movement thinking.
The ‘Person of Peace’ idea comes from Luke 10, where Jesus commissions his disciples to go from town to town. Beginning in verse 5, he tells them: “Whenever you enter someone’s home, first say ‘May God’s peace be on this house.’ If those who live there are peaceful, the blessing will stand; if they are not, the blessing will return to you. Don’t move from home to home…”
There’s a significant amount of thinking and writing in DMM circles about the application of this. For our purposes today, the most important kernel is: we don’t try to reach the whole village or town or area one-by-one, but rather look for the Person of Peace who will open up their relational networks to the Gospel.
Last Wednesday, we talked about households, communities, and Dunbar’s Number: your 150 casual friends, your 50 good friends, your 15 confidants, your 5 closest intimates. Some people are ‘hubs’ connecting communities together. Some are ‘gateways’ to communities—respected by those inside, whose recommendation can ‘open’ or ‘close’ a network to a particular message. (‘Hubs’ and ‘gateway’ people are sometimes the same, but not always: ‘hubs,’ because of their linkages to other communities, may not be trusted as ‘gateways.’)
A ‘Person of Peace’ is (a) a ‘gateway’ into a particular community who is (b) open to the message. In terms of Disciple Making Movements, they are sometimes, but not always, converts. Further, they are sometimes, but more rarely, evangelists or disciple-maker themselves. The key characteristic of the Person of Peace is not that they promote the Gospel, but that they ‘open the gate’ for it. (One anecdotal story is of the imam willing to let a believer come in and discuss the New Testament.)
Likewise, in mobilization, a ‘Person of Peace’ will not necessarily be a missionary, or considering going as a missionary (they may think ‘I can’t go, but I can share this with someone who I know is interested). In fact, they may not be a giver, or even overly mission-passionate—or even, strangely enough, a believer! The only ‘requirement’ for this definition: the Person is willing to allow the message of missions into their network.
We all know people who are gatekeepers on various topics: they recommend books, or websites, or tools, or particular stores or restaurants or service providers. (“You need a plumber? Oh, I know a great guy.”) Their negative reference can also keep messages out. (“I’d be careful of that book; I think the theology is a little poor.”)
You may never know who all of the People of Peace are. Nevertheless, we need to keep the mindset of looking for them. We should never pre-judge a person: a person may not be a candidate or a donor, yet be infinitely more valuable as a gatekeeper to a larger network. We should try to keep in mind the idea that every individual has a role to play, whether on the field or off.
One specific tactical skill this suggests: instead of trying to persuade your immediate audience to act, aim your message at the People of Peace in your audience, and assume they will pass it on. It may be far better to get the forward than to try to argue the Person of Peace into being a respondent. (Ralph Winter once suggested it could be more strategic for a person to stay home and send 100 people than for them to go themselves to the field.)
A few ideas for enabling this kind of resharing:
1. Blog posts and social media reshares are easy to do—in fact, they’re so easy resharing doesn’t necessarily carry the same stamp of credibility (and many specifically say “RT is not endorsement” to indicate they reshare material they don’t always agree with). Nevertheless, resharing often does correlate to a willingness to put the message out there.
2. Well-designed infographics give People of Peace something of value to pass on. They’re easy to reshare, and (depending on the quality) can be appreciated by the people in the Person’s network (so the Person, in turn, is appreciated for providing value). And they can carry, embedded, the message of the mission. As mentioned in #1 above, reshares are easy; but when people take it upon themselves to share an infographic as their own (a new Tweet or Facebook Post, or on their blogs, or print it out or forward it in email), it’s a strong indicator.
3. Well-designed but short videos are great, for much the same reason. Beyond’s DMM Overview video (https://vimeo.com/76341533) has been played thousands of times, mostly because it’s been forwarded by word of mouth. (Good videos can provide inspiration, instruction and encouragement all in the space of under 20 minutes—some in less than 5.) In my experience, resharing a video is a stronger signal than most social media reshares; it suggests they’ve seen the video and approve of it.
4. PDFs and downloadable e-books can contain even more information. I find these are passed on less, but do indicate a significant commitment to the idea of missions.
5. Willingness to pass on an invitation to an event to their circle of influence. This is a much bigger hurdle than simply passing on an infographic, as it’s suggesting something that will require a time commitment of people. It can be a stronger endorsement. Some People of Peace may be more willing to pass on a lighter form: “if you know someone in the area who might be interested.”
The critical point: rather than consider yourself as having a ‘small audience,’ think about who in your audience might be willing to pass on your message. Just because your audience doesn’t respond directly to you doesn’t mean they aren’t listening and taking meaningful action on behalf of the message. By aiming your message at the Person of Peace, you can effectively extend your audience size at least one ‘degree’ or ‘step’ of relationship (to ‘their’ audience). Assume that the message of mission is important, and if well designed, will be passed on to those who might respond.