Missionaries Must Nurture Relationships, Part 3

A “Person of Peace” And The Family

I thank my God every time I remember you. 4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.” (Phil 1:3-4, NIV)

Paul wrote this letter to the Philippian believers around 62 A.D. while he was in prison in Rome. He was so happy about their partnership in the Gospel. He opens his letter with these words to them;

Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all God’s holy people in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons: 2 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 3 I thank my God every time I remember you. 4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Phil 1:1-6, NIV)

Philippi was a Roman colony in Macedonia. There were not many open doors for ministry in Philippi for there were few Jews there, and no synagogue. But God opened door there and into all of Europe. Acts 16:11-40 describes how Paul pioneered the church in Philippi. Paul met Lydia who accepted Jesus and opened her house to Paul and those with him. Paul met with the brothers there and encouraged them. A jailer and his whole family accepted the gospel and were baptized as believers. They were the first in Europe to join with Paul in propagating the Gospel. The Philippians remembered and supported Paul in his gospel ministry from the time he left them. Paul thanked God for their wonderful partnership. They continue to be his most faithful supporters in so many ways. When Paul remembered them, his heart was filled with joy and he honestly felt that it was a privilege to have them as partners in the gospel along with him.

In Acts 16:11-40, we can see three components of mission that are needed for every mission to be effective. We find Paul and his missionary team preaching the Gospel in a new community. We see Lydia and the jailor. They are converts. The jailer’s family all accepted the Gospel. They are the ones who invited Paul and his mission team into their homes. They are the ones that introduced Paul to their friends and neighbors. A new Gentile Christian church could be established because God worked in the hearts of these people, the first believers. Maybe Lydia or the jailor, were a “person of peace” and the other an “ancestor of faith”. We also see families. Paul did not have a family, but we see Lydia, who may have had one and the jailor who did. All of these are partners in the Gospel, vital components in forming this new church plant in Philippi and making inroads into Europe.

Part 1: Introduction

In this series we are investigating the different components of a successful missionary endeavor. In the development of a mission, there are not just missionaries. There are other missional entities, which partner in unison, to allow the body of Christ to thrive. God desires for all of them to work together. The important thing is to recognize these parts of the body and nurture working relationships with them as we live as missionaries. Anything less is neglecting part of the body of Christ and hindering the work of the missionary.

I propose that the most fruitful path to embark on, as missionaries, is nurturing solid relationships with six missional entities, all of which are part of the body of Christ.

  1. Relationships with… a sending church
  2. Relationships with… a mission agency
  3. Relationships with… a receiving church
  4. Relationships with… a missionary team
  5. Relationships with… a “person of peace”
  6. Relationships with… the family

This paper will define the six areas of relationship building. Our own family experience as a house church will be reflected upon. The things learned from the current mission to the Canada will added. There will also be some advice on how to nurture the relationships in the six areas.

The first part dealt with the necessity of nurturing relationships with a sending church and a mission agency. This second dealt with relationships with a receiving church and a missionary team. This third part will expound on the relationships with a person of peace and the family. The point of all this is to share about some ways that missionaries can be strengthened as they follow Jesus. Let’s see.

Part 2: Nurture A Relationship With A “Person Of Peace.”

A “person of peace” is one who is able to invite the missionary into a community. In the cross cultural setting, the missionary is the outsider. They are the minority. They may not even have a means of entering a community, without an invitation from an insider. Successful missionaries wait for God to send a person of peace to invite them into a community in order to serve the Gospel mission among the people.

With no “person of peace”, there is little hope in establishing a thriving Christian community among a particular people group. There is the heavy burden of being a constant outsider. There is always a long range prayer that someone, within the community, would come alongside the mission. But that may take years, decades, if it ever happens at all.


A person who is sort of a “person of peace”, but not really….is what my previous ministry called an “Abraham of faith.” Missionaries pray and pray for an “Abraham of faith”. This person is the first native convert that answers to same call of God which the missionaries have answered. They share in the same vision and mission as they come alongside the missionaries in a life of service with them.

Without a person of peace, sent by God, missionaries lay unreal expectations on their ancestor of faith, and other Bible students. Such a person is loaded with hopes and expectations by the missionaries, to help the missionaries navigate within the culture and invite native believers into church. Their plan might be to send a native Bible student to the community to make friends with the people and then the missionary would take over the discipleship. It is like a disciple assembly line. Though many hopes are laid up them, the converts might not function as a “person of peace.” They are a convert, yes. They may participate in ministry, yes. But they may not be able to penetrate a culture as the missionaries hope. They may operate outside the culture, for years with the missionaries. It is important not to lay hopes and our own expectations on those whom God sends. Bill Mills and Craig Parro of Leadership Resources International say it well,

“It is not only our dreams that cause us to be vulnerable and to give up in the ministry. The dreams of others also bring us great pressure. Many of our pastors are losing heart because they are not measuring up to the expectations of their people. Following Jesus’ ministry lifestyle of “wanting to see what God is doing” and entering into His eternal work is our greatest protection from burning out under the expectations of those whom God has given us in ministry.” (Finishing Well In Life And Ministry. Bill Mills and Craig Parro. Leadership Resources International. 2008-6th printing. p. 240)

“I have heard from many pastors of small churches who find it very difficult to attend their denominational meetings or even to meet with a small group of fellow pastors. Rather than being built up and encouraged, these times often cause them to loose heart. It seems that there is no possibility any more for a small church to be healthy and have substantial ministry, for the pastors are sent the message, ‘If your church is not growing numerically, there is something wrong with you and your methods. If you are doing it right, your church will grow.” In North America we are future-oriented pragmatists who are committed to progress and who expect growth. We are convinced that “if we do these things that are proven to work, then we will achieve the success we desire.” However, God does not fit into that mindset. As we have seen in other places in our study, many pastors are losing their ability to endure under these pressures to produce.” (Finishing Well In Life And Ministry. Bill Mills and Craig Parro. Leadership Resources International. 2008-6th printing. Page 241.)

It is so difficult to engage in cross cultural ministry without a “person of peace.” In one northern Canadian community I heard of a missionary family who built a house church across the lake from a First Nation community. They were not in the community. They tried to minister for a while, but eventually stopped. They were always on the outside of the culture. It is doubtful that fruitful long-term mission can be established without a “person of peace”, for the ministry will always be operating on the periphery of the culture.

We never had a person of peace to invite us into the culture of the campus. We were happy if we had a house close to the campus to live in and minister out of. We would begin a ministry among the students without an invitation into the community. We simply moved to a town and regularly went to campus to invite students to study the Bible. If they accepted the invitation to 1:1 Bible study…great! If not, then we would move on. I never thought we needed a person of peace to invite us into the campus community. This had significant repercussions in the success of our mission.

I was content to carry out my mission, without a “person of peace” for fourteen years. We had a faithful Bible student who became a faithful friend and fellow worker in our mission, for a while. After she left, there were a few other Bible students, but none were the “person of peace” that we needed. As a result, we were constantly operating on the periphery of the campus culture for fourteen years. In the end, I can say that I never did become part of the campus community, not even the campus Christian community. I was operating on the outside of the culture, never making lasting inroads into the community we were called to serve.

Without a “person of peace” and being a single family house church, ours was a lonely mission. There was always a looming sense of failure, for we were always wondering why we couldn’t become established in the campus culture. We spent 14 years pondering how to better serve as a campus ministry, but it just didn’t happen, mainly because we didn’t have a close relationship with a “person of peace”, inviting us in. What we needed was a Christian who was an insider to the campus culture, to introduce us and support our work. That person might have been, possibly a Christian professor or a Christian leader on campus or a Christian worker on the campus. I am not sure. But one thing I know, that person would have been heaven sent.

Recently, a retired Baptist pastor asked me, “How do you find this person of peace?” I came to the conclusion that it is really a divine event. That person must be established and introduced by God himself. There is no way that we can find such a person on our own. We must pray, depend on God and keep our eyes open. In this way all the glory goes to God, and not to our own strategies and human efforts.

In the mission, I am now involved in, a “person of peace” literally made an impassioned plea for missionaries, to our receiving church, two weeks before we first made contact in the region! It was obvious to all that this was the hand of God for God’s fingerprints were all over it. All people involved in the mission, were in agreement and together we proclaimed, “Amen!” for God had sent a “person of peace” to invite the missionaries into one community. Each community that the missionaries hope to serve with the Gospel will require a “person of peace.”

In order to find God’s “person of peace” missionaries and sending churches need to acknowledge the need for one. They need to pray and build relationships with a receiving church until God sends that person who can invite the missionary into the community they pray for. Don’t stop until it happens. Don’t be content with just finding a faithful Bible student or church attendant. Pray for a “person of peace.” And when God sends that person of peace, nurture that relationship for they are a gift from God. And remember to keep your eyes open for the next “person of peace” opening the way for the next community.

Nurturing the relationships with that person of peace, and even with an ancestor of faith, involves grace, respect and shared authority. Missionaries must include them in ministry decisions. They can not just be there to “rubber stamp” the missionaries’ ideas. They must know that they are an integral part of the mission, and not someone who is being exploited to only further the missionaries’ agenda. They need to be consulted on strategy and their suggestions taken seriously, for God sent them to the mission for a reason. Paternalism will never work when nurturing a relationship with the person of peace or an ancestor of faith.

Part 3: A Missionary Must Nurture Relationships With Their Family.

I have heard it said that a person’s ministry can only go as far as their marriage. God wants to reveal his glory through our family. He wants to reveal his grace, mercy, hope and truth through the family. Even if people don’t listen to the gospel, they can see the Gospel lived out among our family members.

I must confess that I did not spend the time and effort that I should have developing the relationships with my family members. Over the 14 years as a pastor of a “single family” house church, I was just barreling forward with the mission, trusting that the family thing would take care of itself. Julie and I are celebrating our 23rd year of marriage this year. Our kids are relating to us. We are a family. We love each other. But we never directly focused on marriage development. It was all ministry activities, every day. We didn’t have the support and counsel of a local receiving church. We had occasional talks with the pastor of our sending church. We never went to marriage retreats. We never really talked about family things. We simply remained true to our mission. Mission took precedence over family. We called each other co-worker and our family a house church. We felt that as long as we remained true to our mission everything else would fall into place. We also benefited from our Catholic upbringing that emphasized staying married no matter what. There was also the example of people in our church organization who remained married. Though there have been some hard times, God blessed us over the last 23 years.

There is a temptation, among missionaries, to treat their kids as though they already believe in Jesus and as if they accept the mission as their own. I thought this way. I pushed the kids to engage in Bible study and keep the Sunday worship service going each and every week. I was proud that my kids could set up and run a Sunday service all by themselves if they needed. But the kids may not even believe in Jesus. The pushing of the kids to make ministry happen, may turn them off from wanting to come to Jesus. It is also hard to have a Sunday service when there is an unwilling atmosphere in the room. Pushing the kids will make the parents into authoritarian leaders, for without pushing the kids, the ministry probably would not stand. The kids may never want to part of what the parents are doing. The ministry runs the risk of being a one generation ministry.

After 26 years as a shepherd and Bible teacher, one would think that I would be a wonderful counselor. But this is not true. I learned to teach and preach, but not counsel wisely. I am really handicapped at talking to those closest to me. I never focused on nurturing familial relationships. But it is never too late to start, is it? Missionaries, in a cross cultural mission, must nurture relationships with their family members.

The family relationship must be developed. One of the best ways to nurture that relationship is to pray with one another regularly. Take time out to study God’s word together. Serve in the church together. Talk to one another. Look at Ephesians 5:22-33 as Paul talks about the relationship between husband and wife.

“22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. 25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. 28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.” (ESV)

The relationship with the kids is important. In a mission, the ideal is for the kids to host visitors and minister with the parents. They can sing, pray, lead the youth group, and a whole host of things. But if the kids don’t want to be part of the mission, it is very difficult serve in a cross cultural context. What happens when the kids don’t want visitors to come over? When they express their dislikes for some people? What about when they remain quiet, held up in their rooms, simply waiting to leave the home? A lot of such things can be avoided if the relationship with the kids is nurtured well. Paul comments on this too in Ephesians 6:1-4…

“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” (ESV)

The kids need to be met where they are at with the Lord, and not imposed with unreal demands to serve the ministry, just because the parents have a calling. The kids need to be respected, encouraged and talked to and ministered to according to where they are with the Lord. This will mean a deviation in ministry goals for the single missionary family. It could mean allowing the kids to fellowship with a receiving church. Pray for God’s wisdom.

One missionary asked me, “How is your church strengthening families?” I would say that the family culture is what is different. In the last three years there was one marriage conference. There has been two, “eight session” small group encounters. Putting the priority on marriage is not formally preached all of the time. But the church culture promotes it. There are no guilty feelings about missing a Sunday worship service or taking a vacation. Parents are putting their family first and mission after family as God allows and talking about it freely. The phrase, “being too family centered” is never spoken. The words co-worker and housechuch, when referring to family, are never spoken. People take family vacations. Family is highly honored. And the kids enjoy being in church. There is multigenerational worship and marriages.

In nurturing relationships with the family, I would say “work at it.” Be intentional. Embrace awkwardness. Enter into honest conversations and prayer together as a family. Keep the oneness in your marriage a top priority. Acknowledge that God himself brought you together for a purpose. Open your eyes to see how God is leading your family specifically. There are doors open around you, specifically for you and your family.

Part 4: Conclusion

As missionaries engage in mission, they need to nurture relationship with a “person of peace” and with their family. Without a strong relationship with a person of peace, the mission will always operate on the outside of the culture and community that the missionaries are praying to serve. They will have a sense of failure in their hearts and make unreal demands and expectations on their family and Bible students that God sends. They must pray and keep their eyes open and enter into partnerships with the person of peace, and not just exploitive relationships to advance the mission. With a person of peace the missionaries can penetrate the culture and build a mission serves the people they pray for. Missionaries must also nurture relationships with the family. They can only go as far as the family relationships go. The marriage relationship must be worked on with determination. With a family they can have longevity and be a great Gospel witness among the people they are called to serve.

This far we have reviewed all six missional entities that missionaries must nurture relationships with in order to serve their mission well. They are…

  1. Relationships with… a sending church
  2. Relationships with… a mission agency
  3. Relationships with… a receiving church
  4. Relationships with… a missionary team
  5. Relationships with… a “person of peace”
  6. Relationships with… the family

A concluding, Part 4, will be written to tie everything together and include even some quotes from responses made. God bless.


  1. forestsfailyou

    Can you give an example of how to deal with a child who does not want to participate in church.

  2. Kevin Jesmer

    I would say it involves a whole lot of letting go and letting God. As I lived as a pastor of a single family house church, I depended on the kids. They were our praise team. They were the testimonial speakers. They were the members of the daily devotional prayer meeting. They made up most of the small congregation. When they were young they were eager to participate. I cannot be totally sure of their motive. But they were with us. We had many good years. But when they turn 15 or so, then the pull to other things begins. Then there is the lack of desire for music practice, long faces in group Bible study, sleeping in the pews. I kept the mission together with my authority as a dad, a 6 ‘ 2″ 240 lb dad, with a loud voice. I imposed rules, like daily bread Monday to Friday; Group Bible study; No Saturday night sleep overs; etc. Weekly 1:1 Bible study. Negotiating deviations from the schedule. Rules were keeping our house church going. I was sad, authoritarian and estranged from those closed to me. I was creating young people who couldn’t choose to follow the Lord, for I was making the choices for then. But I couldn’t stop because the whole mission was my identity. It was our family identity. The whole church plant would fall apart without the imposition of my rules. When my oldest turned 18 I asked Mother Barry, “What rules should I have for her now that she is 18?” Mother Barry said, “Shepherd Kevin, why don’t you just get rid of all your rules?” I was in shock. I knew that that was the beginning of the end of our life as a house church. I decided to lift my rules for the oldest and them, slowly for all of the kids. If they chose to study the Bible or go to church with us, that was their choice. I decided to not make people feel guilty or subconsciously punish them for make decisions I didn’t agree with. Then the inevitable happened…the end of the house church. It was so hard for me. I cried and cried. I lost my identity. I felt abandoned, even betrayed. Julie and I had to reinvent ourselves.I had to begin trusting God for my life and ministry and not just in my human pushing power. But God began to work in my kid’s hearts. They began to decide for themselves. Three are involved in a church. They are not doing ministry with us, but they decided to follow Jesus personally with their own calling. It is not Julie’s and my calling, but their own. There is no house church. Two are still working things out. But they are all growing. It was kind of hard for me because I had nothing to do with the work that God is forming in their young hearts. I don’t shepherd them with formal 1:1 Bible study. But Julie and I pray for them. Three learn inside the local Bible churches. Fruit is being born in their lives. God gets all the glory this way. In conclusion I would say, do your best to plant the Gospel and get them to participate in church at a young age. At the right age, let go and let God. Pray for them to decide to follow Jesus. Pray for them to make independent adult Christian decisions and respect those decisions. Don’t try to push them with subtle psychological tools. Trust God.

    • Joe Schafer

      Incredible answer. I couldn’t agree more.

    • Apart from not quite understanding SB’s advice, I agree. Thanks for sharing this article, and comment, Kevin.

  3. “I asked Mother Barry, “What rules should I have for her now that she is 18?” Mother Barry said, “Shepherd Kevin, why don’t you just get rid of all your rules?” I was in shock. – See more at: http://www.ubfriends.org/2015/10/03/missionaries-must-nurture-relationships-part-3/#comment-19643

    From an outside observer, I find this odd. I would not take parenting advice from someone who does not have children.

    Why does SB say that adults in ubf need many rules, but children should have no rules? I agree that teenagers should not be controlled with many rules, but I also am not an advocate for lawlessness.

    SB is advocating the opposite of good parenting advice. Young children need many rules, and then less and less as they grow until they become adults with interdependent minds and can think critically.

    SB is thinking in terms of UBFism philosophy, which teaches children have less rules, and grow into more and more control. UBFims slowly binds your life with more and more rules until you cannot think independently well.

    • Joe Schafer

      I have found her to be full of contradictions. In private, she may offer advice that is sound. But then she stands in support of UBF leaders who do the exact opposite.

    • This isn’t odd to me. I have had different interactions than Brian, but this doesn’t surprise me.

      I sat in a vaunted “Mother Barry Group Bible Study Leader Training” once (every missionary I knew literally quivered when they mentioned I was going to this at a staff conference) and I saw many missionaries trying to give hard lessons and strategies for teaching the Bible study. When I got finally fed up and said, “Actually, the Holy Spirit needs to lead it. All of these things might work or not, we need to follow Him, not a set of strategies!” She looked at me and actually laughed happily. She liked that idea.

      Joe says she’s a ball of contradictions. I’ve been reading the Dune series recently and I think the author had a deep understanding of how religious movements (let by easily corruptible religious people) are overwhelming in their power to deify a person, and in this way take away their freedom.

      If she speaks openly and honestly about specific problems with leaders, there would be civil war in UBF, I have no doubt. She is caught up in protection those she loves, I think.

      Hilarity and contradictions always come out of a situation like that. She’s a wonderful person but is caught up in the same tidal wave that possessed dr lee.

    • I’ve been reading the Dune series recently and I think the author had a deep understanding of how religious movements… – See more at: http://www.ubfriends.org/2015/10/03/missionaries-must-nurture-relationships-part-3/#comment-19655

      So are you saying that you’re the Kwisatz Haderach to MB’s Bene Gesserit affiliated Lady Jessica? I kid, I kid.

  4. I really love and applaud you Kevin for your soul-searching, research and presentation of real issues here. This is helpful and uplifting, I think, to any believer who reads it.

    I like your point about family, especially. I got the funniest looks when I often spoke in my sunday messages that “God made the family before he made the Church.” It’s true. God’s church started with a family (that is, if we are willing to view Adam and Eve as the Church). Missionaries looked down, seeming impatient or like, “This guy is ridiculous. Why we have to bear with this. We should suffer a lot for him.” But Americans almost always looked up and smiled. They liked the idea that family and church should have a healthy balance.

    Ruth and Boaz were not put together through the Church but through love, and God accepted and used it.

    Paul also said that if a person’s family is healthy, he can then be a deacon or overseer.

    It’s amazing that we studied Genesis so many times and simplified the problems of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph into “faith” or “no faith.” Their family issues were very real and they made very real mistakes.

    If we look at the faith perspective, Rebekah wins. But if we look at the family perspective, she’s well-inentioned but fatally manipulative.

    God used it. But there were consequences.

    When I brought up how David’s family problems ended up being Kingdom problems, I got similar reactions, by the way.

  5. Kevin Jesmer

    How i interpret the comment, to give up my rules, was this. I was way too controlling and legalistic in trying to keep the single family house church together. The comment put the brakes on my legalistic controlling in ministry matters. We still had house rules, but a whole lot less. And the kids were teenagers already. If I hadn’t gotten through to them by that time, well….let’s just say…God had to get through to them. I actually started trusting God more.

    • Thanks Kevin. It is just very interesting to me to tie together the things SB has said. Her words to you led to the collapse of your house church. Her words to me (via her New Year letter in 2011) led to the collapse of my house church (She said to be a man of integrity, so I did it!)

      Just random observations.