AGTS News: Live Dead with AGTS Ph.D. in Intercultural Studies participant Dick Brogden
by Tammy Bicket ('92)
Dick Brogden, Ph.D. in Intercultural Studies participant at AGTS, walking with protestors in Tahrir Square during the Arab Spring revolution in Egypt. Photography by Randy Bacon, www.randybacon.com
Dick Brogden is going places. You might think it's because of his increasing acclaim as a speaker and author (he was the keynote speaker for youth and adults at the closing service of the 2009 General Council, and he's the author/editor of a best-selling e-book, The Live Dead Journal). You'd be wrong.
Dick Brogden is going places because it's what Jesus has called him to do. He's going places to show Christ's love to people who not only do not know his name but have never heard the name of Jesus glorified either. "Apostolos in the Greek is 'sent ones,'" Dick explains. "The context always involves being sent to places where there is no church, where there are no Christians and where there is no witness. Biblical missions is to be commissioned to go to represent Jesus where he is not glorified, where he is not known."
Given those parameters, it's not hard to find a suitable place to go. More than 40 percent of the world doesn't have access to the gospel. Of the world's 16,448 people groups, more than 7,000 are unreached—not a single church, Christian or Christian witness is known to exist; 3,300 of these groups are Muslim, representing 1.26 billion individuals. More than 80 percent of Muslims have never known a single Christian. "We believe the great opportunity of our age is to engage the world of Islam with our magnificent, divine Jesus," Dick writes.
Unfortunately, unreached people groups are unreached for a reason. "The easy ones have been reached," Dick says. "The places today where the church does not exist are harsh, fierce, lonely and demanding; yet we must still go there.
Dick and his wife, Jennifer, are missionaries to the Arab world.
Dick shares a quote from David Mathis: "The goal of missions is global worship of Jesus by his redeemed people from every tribe, tongue and nation." He explains, "If unreached people in lands that are oppressive, Islamic, fiercely resistant and torn by war are going to glorify God, someone is going to have to rise up and live dead."
This is the heart of Live Dead: planting churches among unreached peoples through teams. "Live Dead is a way to brand what we have been doing for 15 years in Sudan—and what many others have done before us," Dick says. His doctoral thesis and research at AGTS have been intricately connected with the Live Dead concept and initiative as well as the Live Dead Journal.
"John 15:5 says, 'I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without me, you can do nothing' [NKJV]. We are to die to self and live through Christ with a focus on abiding in Jesus for the purpose of reaching unreached peoples," Dick says. "Live Dead starts with extravagant abiding with Jesus. From there we get his passion for the world, his strength, his vision of the world and our marching orders."
Dick continues: "In my ongoing desire to learn to abide in Jesus and live from that place of rest and strength among unreached peoples, AGTS has been invaluable to my personal missiological breakthrough. The whole Ph.D. process has contributed to the journey: incredible classes, erudite professors, challenging reading, experienced colleagues, all in the atmosphere of the Spirit—knowledge on fire. It has directly impacted my daily living and mission and has truly been worship. There have been many times when reading, writing or interviewing when I have stopped, cried, worshiped and thanked the Lord. From this doctoral journey—facilitated by AGTS—much fruit has already come, impacting things like the Live Dead Journal, Live Dead growth and disciple making, team raising and church planting."
"Sheikh Abdullah got in my boys' go cart and rode around with his turban flapping and a big grin," said Dick. "It was hilarious. He also followed me from house to house when I would visit the people and threaten the neighbors from listening to me. He was a paradox—helped me hook up water to my house and also sat in my small garden one night and told me that if any Muslims in the area converted to Christianity, they would kill them."
The Live Dead Journal, developed in tandem with Dick's AGTS doctoral research, is a journal and prayer guide designed to lead Christians in 30 days of personal challenge and prayer for unreached people. Each chapter is written by a missionary or missions-hearted person committed to live dead—to die to self and live for Christ regardless of the cost. Each day's journal includes information on one unreached people group; reflection on what it means to live dead; and space to respond, answer questions and write a prayer. Each day also presents a challenge—a practical way people can live dead.
The book's launch as an e-book in October has created quite a stir. Released initially as a free e-book, the Live Dead Journal rose as high as the number two spot in the Religion and Spirituality category in Apple's iBooks, while it ranked as high as sixth in paid downloads in the Christian category on Kindle. But its real success will be measured in the lives it changes and the people God moves to live dead.
"Live Dead has the general application of dying to self—which is for all Christians—and the specific application of doing so in difficult contexts: dangerous places where people are resistant to the gospel," Dick underscores.
Just how can we do this when the task seems so large? Recognize that it is large but that the God we serve is large enough for the task. "Missions aims at—is brought about and fueled by—the worship of Jesus" Dick again quotes Mathis. "Do you really think you can change the world in your own strength? Do you really think that your thinness, your unholy tendencies, your flesh can bring hope? We only export our weaknesses unless we are dead to them, unless we are alive to Christ, unless we live dead."
Dick with his sons, Luke (left) and Zack
Another key to completing the task is teamwork. Live Dead seeks to assemble multinational, multigenerational teams with unique strengths and gifts. Dick emphasizes that we cannot have the hubris to think that the task of reaching the world can be accomplished in the American way alone. "The gifts of God are spread among all his people," Dick says. "We bring different strengths to the table. And only as we mutually submit to one another in the context of mission will we have the power and gravitas and attraction and winsomeness to bring all these disparate people into the body of Christ."
This concept of team extends beyond the makeup of the team on the field to include people who have been called to radical obedience for the glory of Christ right where they are. "When is the last time you lost anything because you follow Christ," Dick challenges believers. "Do you understand that the God of the nations expects you to participate? Jesus wants his church not only to pray, not only to give, not only to send, not only to turn the other cheek but to lay down our lives for precious unreached people. He wants us to take our turn in a long line of others who have laid down their life that others might find Christ…to follow him to the cross, to sacrificial death."
Dick, who was born in Kenya to missionary parents, has "treasured Jesus among Muslims" in East Africa since 1992 and has now turned his focus toward the Arab world and the tumultuous world of the "Arab Spring." Today's news headlines are full of (or should be) accounts of new difficulties faced by those bearing Christ's name in these nations: Christian Copts being raped, tortured, kidnapped or even crucified in Egypt; Assyrian Christians massacred in Iraq. Newsmax reports: "The situation threatens to worsen as the Arab Spring removes dictators who, paradoxically, shielded Christian communities. The parties that are gaining power in Libya, Egypt, Tunisia and other countries tend to be offshoots of the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood."
But Dick Brogden and his Live Dead teams are undeterred. "We consider the Arab world to be the heart of Islam," Dick writes. "As Jesus is enthroned in the Arab world, we will be that much closer to every tribe, tongue and people in worship; that much closer to Jesus' coming back to take us all home. Whatever that costs us, Jesus is worth it."
Let Dick's challenge to believers in a recent sermon challenge you as well: "Christ is unknown among many indigenous peoples who are hostile to Christian missions. The Lord still says, 'I am sending you as sheep in the midst of wolves. You will be hated by all for my sake.' Are you sure God wants you to keep doing what you're doing? For most of you, he probably does. Your calling is radical obedience for the glory of Christ right where you are. But for many, God wants to loosen your roots and plant you in another place.
"'Rise up, O men of God!'" Ron cites a hymn by William Merrill. "'Have done with lesser things. Give heart and mind and soul and strength to serve the King of kings.… Rise up, O men of God! The church for you doth wait, her strength unequal to her task; rise up and make her great! Lift high the cross of Christ! Tread where his feet have trod. As brothers of the Son of man, rise up, O men of God!' We will follow Jesus. We will live dead. We will shed our blood. We will witness in red. We will yield our wills. We will send our best, not because we are noble, not because we are courageous, not because we are cavalier, not because we are morbid but because Jesus is worth it. Jesus is worth all things."
Wednesday, February 20, 2013 11:30 AM