In this article, I review Dr. Carolyn Knight’s book In Search of Persons of Peace: Inspirational Stories of How Ordinary People Influence Multitudes for Christ and share whether I believe it would be a valuable addition to your library of world missions resources.
In Search of Persons of Peace: Inspirational Stories of How Ordinary People Influence Multitudes for Christ, Carolyn Leslie Knight, Greenwood, IN: One Mission Society, February 1, 2016. 184 pages.
About the Author
Dr. Carolyn Knight served as a pioneer evangelist and church planter in East Africa for ten years. She currently facilitates church-planting movements in Asia with Every Community for Christ and trains new missionaries with One Mission Society. In addition, she is the founder of Light in Darkness Ministry, a ministry devoted to reducing women working in the sex industry. Her background as a church planter and as a trainer of church planters qualifies her to speak authoritatively on the church-planting strategy of praying for and finding persons of peace.
In the book In Search of Persons of Peace, Dr. Carolyn Knight explores the biblical references to the person of peace concept found in Matthew 10:1-42, Mark 6:7-13, and Luke 9:1-6 and 10:1-24 and combines insights into these passages with biblical and historical stories of missionaries who encountered persons of peace in the people groups they were/are trying to reach with the gospel.
The stated purpose of the book is to challenge us to search for such persons of peace in the groups of people we are trying to reach with the gospel and to thus inspire us to share Christ more often and with more people.
Dr. Knight introduces the concept of the person of peace by telling the story of Kolean, an elder and sage of the Santal People of India, and Thakur Jiu, the long-hidden creator of all in Santal lore.
When Norwegian missionary Lars Skrefsrud and his Danish colleague Hans Borreson found the Santal people and eventually learned their language, they began to preach to them about Jesus. On one occasion, Lars was preaching in a village when he heard someone in the crowd excitedly saying that the stranger must be talking about Thakur Jiu. This was the beginning of a friendship between Kolean and Lars.
In the course of their friendship, Lars shared the gospel with Kolean and he was converted to Christ. Since Kolean was a respected elder among the Santal people, he became the person of peace who acted as a bridge to many of the Santal. As a result, during Lars’ thirty years in India, 85,000 Santal came to Christ.
Weaving similar stories into her narrative throughout the book, Dr. Knight identifies the defining characteristics of a person of peace: they are receptive to the gospel, they are well-known in their community, and they are connected and willing to refer their acquaintances to God’s messengers.
When we look for persons of peace among the people group to which God has called us, we search for people who are willing to receive something — they have an open mind and are willing to listen to new ideas and suggestions. They are welcoming and willing to listen to those who speak about Jesus.
In addition, the people we look for have a reputation (either good or bad) in their community. They are well-known and have influence within the people group we are trying to reach.
Finally, persons of peace who will become a bridge for us are connected to many others in their community. Today, we might call such people “networkers.”
Dr. Knight finishes with several practical tips on how to find and interact with persons of peace. For example, she stresses that the search for persons of peace begins with us praying that the Lord would send more workers into the harvest. We are to be willing to accept hospitality from others. And we should expect some level of rejection of ourselves and of our message. These are just three of several helpful principles which Dr. Knight includes in the final two chapters of the book.
Strengths and Weaknesses
In my opinion, the strength of the book is found in its liberal use of stories in describing persons of peace. These stories helped me remain engaged in the book and gave life to the principles which Dr. Knight outlines.
A good example is the story Dr. Knight relates about Gladys Aylward and the mandarin, the ruler of the Chinese province of Jiangsu.
When Aylward and the inn she managed ran out of money and could no longer feed those staying at the inn or Aylward, the mandarin came to her and asked her to travel from village to village in the province and inspect women’s feet so that the new law which forbade the practice of binding women’s feet could be enforced. Aylward agreed on the condition that the mandarin would allow her to preach the gospel to the women she visited. The mandarin agreed and thus became the person of peace Aylward needed to reach in the city of Yancheng and its surrounding villages.
“Through her person of peace, the Chinese government gave (Gladys) Aylward entrance into every village home in her province, supplied her needs, gave her protection to travel as a single woman all alone in a foreign land, and paid her to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ to an entire region of China. All this was provided by a government that did not want her to be there. We serve an amazing God.”
I did find the book a bit of an awkward read at points as some of the language Dr. Knight uses is fairly informal. For example, early in the book she says that the purpose of the book is “to motivate and challenge you to get in on the exciting search for persons of peace.” This made me feel that the publishing process may have been rushed and perhaps not enough care was taken in the editing process. But that is a minor drawback in the midst of numerous positive aspects of the book.
Conclusion: My Overall Impression of the Book
I found the book to be a valuable exploration of a concept which is often discussed in missions circles but does not seem to be treated in those circles at any length (in a brief online search, I found several brief articles which speak to the concept, but Dr. Knight’s book is the only resource I have found which explores the concept in detail).
I would encourage anyone trying to reach the lost with the gospel (which should obviously be all of us who have sworn allegiance to Jesus our King) to purchase the book In Search of Persons of Peace: Inspirational Stories of How Ordinary People Influence Multitudes for Christ and implement its principles in your efforts.
Please feel free to ask questions about the book in the comments on this book review. I would be more than happy to tell you more!