In response to my recent posts regarding Lean Experiments (here and here), some of you wrote to ask what the role of prayer was in relation to this iterative model of experimenting with methods to find People of Peace.
V commented, “The problem with using this approach for finding a Person of Peace is that prayer is left completely out of your equation! Prayer should be the starting point (and the middle and throughout our work) for any spiritual endeavor. We have always prayed for a person of peace prior to launching out in a new area, and through prayer God leads us to them, or them to us. Pretty simple, I know. But it does require interceding and listening for His voice. Only then would I take the leap of faith.”
I completely agree with V, generally speaking. Lean Experiments should not be considered a way to “brute force” the search for a Person of Peace, and prayer should always precede and saturate the search. Case study after case study of movements shows that Extraordinary Prayer always precedes a movement and the discovery of a person of peace.
How, then, do the two relate?
Think of Prayer and The Search as two activities that proceed in parallel. To the question, “How then should we find a Person of Peace,” one might equally answer “Prayerfully” and “By systematically seeking.”
Prayer does things in the spiritual realm which we cannot fully perceive or understand; it also shapes our own hearts and puts us in a mindset where we are open to finding People of Peace. If we seek prayerfully, we won’t be prejudging people: “They could never be a PoP.” If we aren’t going about the task prayerfully, we’re going to be blind, unable to see.
Lean Experimentation augments this idea of “not prejudging” by giving us a search mechanism that gets us “out of our boxes” and into “new places, new people, new times.”
We see a kind of “Lean Experiment” articulated in Luke 9 and 10. Jesus gave an “if/then” for every town. If they were received, they should enter the house and teach; if they were not received, they were to depart the town. Lean Experiments are a simple method of “speaking peace” to a town and observing whether there is any peaceful response back: if not, time to move on.
For the disciples, this experiment was possibly a little more straight forward. They were sent into the towns of Israel. These were not huge megacities. Today, larger agglomerations of people can potentially be broken into town-like populations. We see sociopolitical groups within cities that can be mini-communities: the poor, the sick, the middle-class, the enslaved, the politicians, the taxi drivers, the royalty, the criminals, and so on.
It’s not enough to enter such a group once and see if there’s any response: in our complex world, the “Person of Peace” might not be around if you enter the market at 10am. Maybe he’s working his first job then, and he runs his hawker stall at 6pm at night. A Lean Experimentation model can enable us to move through these different communities, at different times, in different ways, as a “search algorithm” for People of Peace. But this should always be done prayerfully!