A young man recently wrote for some advice on joining a Live Dead team in the Arab world. Team Leader Overseer Dick Brogden offered insight and ten priorities to pursue today, before ever leaving for the field.
The young man writes:
Where I am right now: I’ve been married for three months. I am $70,000 in debt with a plan to pay it off in two years. My employer is eliminating my position, which is fine because I want to be in full-time ministry. I’m going through a series of interviews for various pastoral positions now.
Still my passion for the Middle East and its people does not subside. I want to use my talents and gifts for the global movement. I have much to learn, but I think I would be very good in a cross-cultural context, particularly among Arab Muslims. I have family in Lebanon, so I would like to be there. I don’t know if it’s for one month or 50 years.
Here are the obstacles: (1) I need to pay off debt, and (2) my wife does not want to move overseas. That’s the biggest obstacle, but not an insurmountable one. If God wants it done, it will be done. I am not overwhelming her with the idea of serving overseas given the big transitions in our life. We need to see how they play out. My thought is that if she went to the Middle East for a short time (3-6 months), she may fall in love with it and feel called.
Where do I start? I am a missionary at heart. I have the background and gifts to be a long-term missionary. I am teachable. I want to learn from the best. But life is moving, and things are happening, and I have no clue how this fits into my future. My belief is that we do not need a “calling” to go to the Middle East. It would just be a decision that derives from obedience to Jesus’ commandments, but how can I practically navigate this one?
Sorry to load you up with all this! Priority number one is to eliminate our debt. Hopefully we can do that in two years. Are you taking applications, and what’s the chance I get to work with you?
Thanks for your time!
To start, so it’s on your radar, we do not send our missionaries back to their countries of origin if they still have family there. It becomes too complicated for them over time. The demands of team and the demands of family become nearly impossible to navigate. So if you want to come with the Assemblies of God/Live Dead to the Arab world, you are most welcome, but it would be some place other than Lebanon.
A short-term trip is usually helpful in processing God’s leading. Three to six months is problematic—it can be difficult to leave your responsibilities stateside for that long. But two weeks or one month is often doable—and then you can build from there.
You called yourself teachable, to which I respond that everyone is teachable until he or she is put in a repeated crucible of being told to do what he or she doesn’t want to do. It’s probably a little premature to label yourself teachable—that remains to be seen. Let me encourage you to pursue a lifestyle of forgiveness and refusal to take offense.
In calling vs. obedience, obedience is the key. You do need to know that your particular obedience (which now must include your wife and any future children) lies in the Middle East. Jesus asks some to come here, some to go elsewhere, and others to stay and send. Usually this is what we mean by the call—a clear certainty that your obedience is to the Middle East as opposed to elsewhere. If you do not know that, you will falter in times of pressure. For this reason (by this definition) we do need to be called.
We are taking applications, but not to work closely with me. This is just a matter of logistics. Our team in Cairo is now 100 persons—75 adults and growing. That’s too many for me to mentor directly. I have divided our team into eight super teams, each with their own leader. We are trying to follow the Biblical precedent of each leader having no more than twelve people to pour into. Discipleship takes life-on-life, depth, and intimacy. So if you come to Live Dead, you will be discipled and mentored, but not by me directly. I can only invest my time in my key leaders.
As to priorities, paying off debt is a priority and a critical one, but not priority number one. Let me list what I consider the priorities starting with the most important.
1. Learn to abide in Jesus.
This is both the discipline of abiding (fixed, long, regular times in the early morning reading the Bible and praying) and the state of abiding (all day long communion with Jesus and instant obedience to what the Spirit says).
2. Learn to lay down your life for your wife.
Lay it down to honor and cherish her and to lead her spiritually.
3. Be connected to, involved in, submitted to, and serving a community of faith, a local church.
Put yourself into a position of submission to the church’s leadership. Within that church, learn to pastor people, lead small groups, disciple new believers, and evangelize. We have no use for those who do not evangelize or disciple in their own culture and think they will start doing so in a cross-cultural context.
4. Pray and fast for the nations and unreached people groups.
If a position in a local church does not develop and/or you work in the marketplace, start a Friday lunch prayer and fasting time where you pray for the nations and unreached people groups.
Invite others in the church and/or marketplace to pray with you, discipling them to pray Scriptural prayers for those without access to the gospel. Pray for the unreached on a daily basis in your personal life. Mobilize others to do the same.
5. Find accountability.
Find a like-hearted godly brother and have a weekly accountability relationship based on prayer and mutual challenge.
6. Give generously.
Give at all these levels: a tithe to your local church, a further tithe to missions, give every time an offering is taken, and give to the poor at some intimate level (not a sponsorship, but someone with whom you share life). Do this even with massive debt. You will have to live simply, forgo eating out and entertainment, learn to read, and be content with used clothes and furnishings. There will be great joy and blessing as you learn to live simply and with kingdom perspective.
7. Wherever you live, make friends with an Arab Muslim family.
You will not reach Arab Muslims in the Arab world if you don’t do it at home. Work on three encounters:
- Love Encounter: Friendship, hospitality, and life-on-life
- Truth Encounter: Talk incessantly to them from the first encounter about Jesus and the Bible. Make it your aim to win them to studying the Bible with you.
- Power Encounter: Pray daily for miracle breakthroughs of the Holy Spirit in their life through dreams, miracles, and power encounters.
8. Develop your body and integrated health.
Do this through good nutrition, habitual exercise, regular Sabbaths, date nights, early to bed and early to rise (rather than watching TV or wasting time).
9. Be a lifelong learner.
Develop your mind by reading about history, mission biographies, current events, missiology, and cross cultural communication. Find some classes to study Arabic.
10. ALL THE ABOVE IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN PAYING OFF DEBT.
Paying off the debt is critically important, but if you neglect the above, it will be in vain. Work hard, and live simply with a wartime sacrificial mentality. God will reward your efforts with surprise gifts and unexpected promotions if you do the above.
Now, you’ll notice in the priorities above no mention of convincing your wife through words that she is called or that her obedience lies in the Middle East. But I assure you if you are faithful in the above, Jesus will take care of your wife’s heart, ears, and feet.