LifeShape 8 the Octagon

This information is not original with me, but from a fascinating book I found entitled, “The Passionate Church: The Art of Life-Changing Discipleship.” Since I am a visual learner, I have included my personally designed diagrams along with my own notes to help in my disciple-making and teaching efforts.

Contrary to the popularity of UFC, the octagon has an evangelistic meaning: evangelism will take on a new perspective as you learn to discover the Person of Peace and how the process works from God’s perspective.

The Lord now chose seventy-two other disciples and sent them ahead in pairs to all the towns and places he planned to visit. These were his instructions to them: “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields. Now go, and remember that I am sending you out as lambs among wolves. Don’t take any money with you, nor a traveler’s bag, nor an extra pair of sandals. And don’t stop to greet anyone on the road. “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. –Luke 10:1-6

The destiny of the church is directly tied to how passionate she remains to her mission. We are to participate in Jesus’ command to go into all the world and make disciples according to the model Jesus has given. In the gospels we see Christ evangelizing, but He did not look like most people do it today.

As Jesus was starting out on his way to Jerusalem, a man came running up to him, knelt down, and asked, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “Why do you call me good?” Jesus asked. “Only God is truly good. But to answer your question, you know the commandments: ‘You must not murder. You must not commit adultery. You must not steal. You must not testify falsely. You must not cheat anyone. Honor your father and mother.’” “Teacher,” the man replied, “I’ve obeyed all these commandments since I was young.” Looking at the man, Jesus felt genuine love for him. “There is still one thing you haven’t done,” he told him. “Go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” At this the man’s face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions. Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God!” This amazed them. But Jesus said again, “Dear children, it is very hard to enter the Kingdom of God. In fact, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!” –Mark 10:17-25

In the story of the rich young ruler, Mark tells us that Jesus genuinely loved him, but He also let him walk away. Michael Simpson in Permission Evangelism has an interesting point… Why did He not try harder to win this man that at first seemed so eager? Jesus could have discussed with him the area of riches that kept him from Jesus. Jesus did not run after him because He already knew the man’s heart. Jesus knew and let him walk. Jesus never ran after anyone, but made Himself available to those who were willing to seek the way to God, the truth about God, and the life found in God.

In John 4:35, Jesus tells His disciples to look up for the harvest is plentiful. Disciples through the ages have made the mistake of thinking that if they just work harder that harvest will come sooner. Look back at the circle and find a kairos moment, then go through the steps of observation, reflection and discussion to find out where the harvest is. Find that place where the greatest level of receptivity is present and spend your time there. Sounds a lot like Henry Blackaby in Experiencing God, to find out where God is working and join Him there.

Person of Peace – Finding the Open Person, or the Gatekeeper:

As the disciple enters a house, the person of peace is the one who is prepared to hear the message of the kingdom and the King. Our prayer needs to be that God would bring across our path the person of peace. No amount of coercion on our part can make someone a person of peace. This is the job of the Holy Spirit; He alone prepares the heart for the message of Christ.

Paul found the person of peace in Acts 16. Unable to go to Asia or Bithynia, they heard the Macedonian call toward Philippi. While there he found Lydia, the dealer in purple cloth, who turned out to be a gatekeeper to many others in the area. While in the Philippian jail, the jailer became a person of peace. This is someone whom God has prepared for that specific time. We can’t force the door open, but we must not be distracted so that we miss the doors that are open.

These are things to keep in mind as you look for the person of peace:

Time – There are specific times and places where the harvest is ripe. Not all people of the culture are ready, keep looking. Ask God to help show us when and where the people are ready. Become involved in sowing and reaping. We are to discern the condition of each person’s soul.

Team – Our inward relationships lead to our outward ministry. We are not called to go it alone. The mission-minded church will develop a team strategy for evangelism. Paul had Barnabas, Silas, Timothy, Luke and Titus.

Target – Jesus was strategic in His outreach. He not His disciples could be in al places at once, so they focused on the lost sheep of Israel. Concentrate on receptive peoples and not force ourselves on those not willing nor ready.

Task – How do we accomplish the task of finding the person of peace? The person of peace will 1) welcome you (if not you are to shake the dust off your feet), 2) listen to you (those listening to you are listening to Jesus), 3) serve or support you (we must allow this person of peace to do this). Start within your existing circle of influence and relationships.

Trouble – If the teacher is not welcomed, don’t expect that the students will be welcomed either. Expect trouble in our lives. It is not “if” but “when” trouble comes. Our mission into the world has not changed.

As you continue toward the mission to which God has called you, keep in mind these issues:

Presence: Jesus is Where You Are – we are to act as Jesus would act and speak as Jesus would speak. At work, perhaps the person of peace is speaking in a positive way while others are complaining.

Passing Relationships: The Sprint – these relationships are those we meet in passing, only once or twice; the gas station mechanic, the store clerk, the stranger in line at the bank. We must realize that not all relationships lead people to profess Christ as their savior. Allow some to plant, others to water, and others to reap the harvest.

Permanent Relationships: The Marathon – these are family members and close friends with whom we may spend extended periods of time. It is still important not to force the gospel on this group, but we all too often leave this group out of our intentional witness.

Proclamation as Identification: Many pastors have the opportunity to present the gospel at events like weddings and funerals; there are often non-believers present. This is fine as long as we understand that it will not convince anyone that is not ready to receive the message. Proclamation works to help identify the person of peace, then enter into relationship with them.

Preparation: Moving People Along the Scale – this is like cultivating soil and planting seeds in advance of the harvest. Our words may help turn someone else’s soil, then someone else will come to water or harvest. We must learn to identify the role of pre-evangelism, the events that help move someone toward a decision to follow Christ.

Perception: Feeling the Temperature – we must be spiritually sensitive to situations and circumstances. After relational encounters, ask the temperature of the people in this setting. What may be the signs that someone is interested in learning something about the spiritual realm or about eternity?

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