Many of today's simple/organic churches start when a Christian with a vision of a group meeting in a home or other culturally relevant context invites his/her friends to start a church. The problem is that usually those coming only know the person who invited them; they may not know the other people involved. It takes time to develop friendships. It's more of a challenge to develop a sense of community, especially if the only time people get together is for a meeting. There's no natural context for community.
The dictionary definition of community includes:
- a group sharing common characteristics or interests
- a group of men or women leading a common life
We assume that Christians have a natural affinity with each other because the Holy Spirit dwells in each of us, and therefore community should be instantaneous. It is true that there is an immediate bonding and recognition of the presence of Jesus when Christians meet each other for the first time. But there's more to community than that.
One of the fastest ways to develop community within a group of strangers is to share a common goal and task. Working together towards something specific provides a natural way to share life.
When you use the person of peace principle to work with a group of not-yet-believers, you are entering an existing community who already all know each other. (The person of peace is a person of influence who has a community gathered around them. Often it's their family.) They get together naturally to celebrate birthdays or just to hang out together. They already go shopping together, or help fix each other's cars. Now they are doing what they know how to do (be family) but with Jesus at the center.
We have seen that in several contexts. Perhaps the most obvious one was when we worked in the low-income housing projects. Our person of peace, Rosa, accepted us as part of her family. There was instant community because she and her relatives lived life together anyway.