THE KEY TO A CHURCH PLANTING MOVEMENT
Last month we focused on cultivating the habit of praying the 10:2b Prayer. Beseeching the Lord of the harvest daily for “harvest workers”. Our conviction is that this prayer is the key, the single most important thing we can do (the “one thing”), to see a church planting movement in our city or state or country. For the last month, we have been praying this prayer alone and with our CO2 partner for our particular harvest assignment (region or people group). And, we have been sharing what we are learning with our Leader Team.
OUR FOCUS THIS MONTH
This month we will focus on the next step. That is, looking expectantly for what we are praying for. In order to do this, we need to be clear about what we are looking for. Who exactly are these “harvest workers”?
Start by watching the video below. Then, come back here and begin reading through this article. Read until the Coach stops you. Ask Him why He stopped you at that place and what He wants to say to you about that idea. Enter into a conversation with Him. Repeat.
WHO WERE THE “HARVEST WORKERS”?
Good biblical interpretation (hermeneutics) requires that we not bring our own interpretation or meaning to this term. But, rather, that we seek to understand it’s meaning in the context in which it was used in Scripture. What exactly did Jesus mean when he told us to pray for “harvest workers”? To answer this question, we first observe that Jesus is using an agricultural metaphor. We are beseeching “the Lord of the harvest” and we are praying for people who will work in the harvest field belonging to that “Lord”. (The whole world is his harvest field!)
TWO KINDS OF “WORKERS”
In the immediate context of Luke 10, it become apparent that there are two kinds of people working in the Lord’s field. The first kind is the man (or woman) of peace. This person or persons it located in a household in a specific neighborhood. In the farming metaphor, this is like a family that has a 40 acre plot of land. This is where they farm. This is where they are located. Spiritually, this “plot of land” would represent a specific geographical area (a neighborhood) or people group where one church is planted. (Sometimes we articulate the LK10 Vision this way… to see a vibrant family of Jesus (house church, etc.) on every block of every city in every country in the world.)
The second type of harvest worker in Luke 10 is the apostle (“sent one” in Lk 10:1). Whereas the “house of peace” is rooted in one place, the apostle is mobile. This person is commissioned to travel from place to place, locating the houses of peace and imparting the “virus of the Kingdom” in those households. (Some apostles were probably local – working in just one region or city. Others, like Paul, traveled widely in their church planting ministry. We’ll unpack the various kinds of apostles later in this month.)
In order to know what/who we are to pray for and look for (remember the very specific requests of the man coming to his neighbor at midnight in Luke 11), we need to have a clear picture or description of these two types of harvest workers. We will be devoting ourselves this month to clarifying that picture so that we know what to ask for and to know when we have received the answer.
SHALOM BAYIT (HOUSE OF PEACE)
As Kenny and I spent a great deal of time praying 10:2b, there were numerous insights that the Coach brought to us. One day, I was visualizing the setting in Lk 10:1. “Jesus called 72 others”. I suspect that was 72 plus the original 12. So, I saw 84 men (42 pairs) sitting on the ground as Jesus gave them their instructions. He said that when they entered a town, their primary assignment was to find a house of peace (Lk 10:5-13). What struck me was that no one raised their hand to say, “Excuse me, Jesus. What exactly is a “house of peace”? How will we know when we find one?”
The identification of the house of peace (inhabited by a man or woman of peace) was (is) apparently central to the Lord’s strategy. (“Do not move around from house to house.”) This is the first order of business for the “sent one” (church planter). It seems that this house is to become the base of operation in “every town and place where he was about to go”. (10:1) The word “church” is not used in Luke 10 but I believe it is reasonable to assume that this is the strategy that the disciples used in planting churches in the subsequent decades. (Probably this is what Peter is doing in Acts 10 with Cornelius.)
The problem is that there is no passage in Scripture that defines a “house of peace” (or a “man of peace”). It has been suggested that “A person of peace is someone that God has sovereignly prepared to hear and receive the gospel of the kingdom. A new church is usually about to be formed with the emergence of a person of peace.” I find this to be a very helpful and reasonable description of the “man of peace”.
To this, I would like to add some further insights.
In seeking to understand these terms, we must keep in mind the obvious fact that Jesus was a Jewish rabbi training Jewish workers to bring the Kingdom to the homes and towns of Jewish people (ie, God’s people). While the principles of Luke 10 certainly have application for planting churches among pagans, we must first make sure we understand them in their original Jewish context.
To this end, I want to recommend a wonderful book by Marvin Wilson – “Our Father Abraham: Jewish Roots of the Christian Faith”. Here’s what he says about the “house of peace”:
“The Hebrew Scriptures command that the people of God must “seek peace and pursue it (Ps. 34:14b). In Judaism, therefore, one of the most important family values is that of shalom bayit, “a peaceful home” (or “a house of peace”). In the presence of strangers or among casual acquaintances in the community, it is usually not too difficult to pass the test of shalom. But shalom is difficult maintain in the home. There the true mettle of one’s character is tested on a day-by-day basis…
A shalom bayit is a home marked by the absence of strife. But shalom bayit is far more than a negative concept; it is decisively positive. The Hebrew word shalom is filled with strong and rich imagery. Shalom comes from a very meaning “to be whole, sound, entire, well, complete, perfect.” The rabbis often used shalom as a name for God, in that he is the sum of perfection and accordingly his Messiah is described as sar shalom, “Prince of Peace” (see Is. 9:6). Furthermore, the Hebrew Bible often employs the word shalom in the sense of “be in friendship, in right relations, in harmony” with others. It may also convey the idea of tranquillity, the freedom from strife both externally and internally.” p. 217-218.
The reason none of the 84 raised their hand to ask Jesus to explain “house of peace” is that they already know exactly what he was talking about.
What if Jesus is looking for a shalom bayit as a base of operations (ie, church) to reach your neighborhood? This would mean that the starting point for church planting is the development of a shalom relationship between a husband and wife and between parents and children in a particular house. (Could also be a shalom relationship between single roommates, etc.)
What if a million Christian (ie, God’s people) households in the US got hold of this idea? A million shalom bayits from which the Kingdom could permeate a million neighborhoods?
Motto of the Chinese house church movement… “Every home a church”
WHAT I AM PRAYING FOR AND LOOKING FOR
When I am praying Lk 10:2b, one type of “harvest worker” that I am asking for and looking for is a “person(s) of peace”. A household where the shalom of God has already been at work preveniently (look it up!). They may or may not currently be followers of Jesus. But, when they hear that “the Kingdom of God is near you” (Lk 10:9), they respond with great joy and welcome the King into their home. That home becomes a base of operations for the Kingdom in that neighborhood or people group. That person (or persons) becomes the leader (spiritual parent) of the new church.