Should I Stay or Should I Go?

My Post (7)

I’ve recently connected with a long-time hero of mine, author, entrepreneur and Jesus follower Greg Livingstone. Greg has famously said, “No country is closed to missionaries if you’re not worried about getting out.” Today I want to share a snip of a related conversation we’re having about civil disobedience.

Greg: Is this the time for those called to peoples who have no access to biblical witnessing believers, to practice civil disobedience if ordered to stop and leave the country?

Me: Well, I. . .uh. . .

Greg: Here’s what I’m thinking: If a long term worker fails to have their visa renewed, should they continue staying and sharing? Would that build courage in new local believers? Would that follow the teaching of Jesus and the example of many, including Gandhi and MLK?

Me: I can see that, if the person is a single, older man. I’m unlikely to advise a husband and father of three to risk imprisonment and the resulting implications for his family. Does that mean I’m shaped more by Focus on the Family than the New Testament?

Greg: Well, Jesus did say hard things like, “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” and “I send you forth as lambs among wolves.”

Me: Right, but he does go on to say, “. . .be smart as snakes and innocent as doves.” I wonder if snake smart sometimes means, in the immortal words of Top Gun, “It’s better to retire your aircraft and live to fight another day, than to push a bad position and lose.”

Greg: Could be, but here’s my point: If God has called you to teach the way of Jesus to a people who’ve not heard, maybe you should not too readily empower their government to say if you can obey or not.

Please weigh in with your thoughts, agreement, pushback, “Wait, what about’s?” and additional issues that matter in this ongoing conversation. Thank you.


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13 Responses to Should I Stay or Should I Go?

  1. James K Ditzenberger

    God asks us to give up things all the time. I don’t think we should place Isaac on the alter unless he specifically tells us to do so, however. Our responsibility is to cultivate an attitude and posture of holding onto all things very loosely, so that if he does ask us to sacrifice something on the alter, we are at least somewhat prepared to do so. These are good things to be thinking about and the conversation is a worthwhile challenge to me, personally, thank you!

  2. Dan Barbour

    Wow! What a tough conversation. Matthew 10:28 (and surrounding verses) comes to mind. Putting that into practice is very difficult though. If we truly are putting our love for the Father first, and following to the best of our abilities His plan for our lives, then I believe the eternal work for The Kingdom comes first. A friend of mine said “They can only behead me once.”

  3. Tasha

    My husband and I just saw The Voice of the Martyrs Movie “Tortured for Christ” earlier this week on March 5th. It’s a portrayal of Richard Wurmbrand’s story and him standing in the face of Communism declaring it is not compatible with Christianity. He knows he will likely lose his family for speaking out against the Communists. This trailer gives a glimpse of this: The movie is very well done. After reading this conversation between you and Greg, I think back to the film and remember moments when Richard and his wife, Sabina, were as smart as snakes and as innocent as a doves, yet they were also willing to lose their family for the sake of Christ and to proclaim Him to the Russians. The short answer seems to be that in each case we find ourselves where the government does not want us to stay, we must rely on the Holy Spirit to know what to do, stay or go (Eph. 3:16)…And if questioned by authorities, we must rely on Him to know if we should speak up or stay quiet..and if we speak, what to say (Luke 12:12 When on trial or before persecutors “The Holy Spirit will give you the words to say at the moment when you need them.”).

  4. I don’t have any deep thoughts to add, but the book “Shrewd” by Rick Lawrence and the book of 1 Peter by, ahem, Peter, have made me lean towards Greg’s perspective. When researching this subject last fall, I ran across this 1981 paper by good ole Pipe and his finale paragraphs seem right on to me:

  5. Fred Baker

    As a layman I wouldn’t presume to inject missional policy into anyone’s calling to preach. But, since you asked:
    Upon following Greg’s and Shane’s discussion Mark 6 came to my mind. And, the wisdom in Jesus sending his disciples to go on the mission trip totally unencumbered (no money – scrip or purse – and no food nor extra clothes), makes sense in that they only stayed to preach where they were received, and presumably completely supported by the locals willing to host them. The present day difficulty in many Muslim situations is that not only is the government against the missionary and Jesus message but so is the local community also largely closed to receiving the message. So, staying where unwelcome isn’t supported according to Mark 6:11. And, outsiders overstaying where a few receive the Gospel and if left alone could carry on the message themselves in the hostile environment makes little more sense than a missionary not going in the first place.
    On the other hand, in a community where one is welcomed, supported and the Gospel is heard, then, in the odd event that the government is hostile, but the local community is willing to support and hear the message, then Greg’s point that hardship shouldn’t dissuade the missionary makes sense because civil disobedience trumps civil resistance to the Gospel. Each situation is as unique as the particular missionary’s unique ability to deliver the Gospel without creating turmoil – or not.

  6. Whoa – that’s deep. I’m glad you went there, and hoping there is some conversation around it. I would lean more to Greg’s side. And I say that as a mom who left young children to work in war zones and Ebola. Did get a lot of pushback though…

  7. Great discussion so far. I don’t think there is one right answer to this. Following the leading of the Spirit is foremost but we can sometimes deceive ourselves based on our own desires. Asking trusted friends to pray and hearing their input seems wise. Additionally, if you are married I believe God will always lead you to agreement on this type of decision.

  8. Gregory Fritz

    Greg is the one who urged us to purchase one way tickets to Libya in 1980. He did not want to waste the second half of round-trip tickets if we did not make it out. The majority opinion seemed to be that we were on a suicide mission.

  9. Terry Parks

    Hopefully, the country where one is ministering to the unreached has a tourist visa allowance. Every 90 days or so it must be renewed. Usually, renewal requires leaving the country for a short period of time and then returning. Now, your passport is good for another 90+ days. It can be also a good time to recharge and meet with other people. This way, the government’s legal requirement is met and one can continue to work among the UPG they were called to share the love of Christ.

  10. Jim Vollmer

    My wife and I were in a situation in Israel where we did consider staying beyond our visas. Were I a single guy it might have been easier, but I also consider that I have a wife to cover. Question: Has Greg ever done exactly that?

    • Jim, not sure I see your statement “I have a wife to cover” biblical? Is this really biblical or more what man and tradition says? As I see it, we each have to answer to Christ. We are a team, and Jesus tells us to serve and obey Him first not another. Just curious. I think the question we have to answer is “what is Jesus calling me and us to do?

  11. I have some friends who recently faced something like this. Their visas required them to periodically exit the country. When they tried to return, the dad was detained by immigration. They had no prior warning that this might be coming. The mom and four little kids had to leave dad behind in the airport with nothing but a backpack, while they were allowed to return to their house. For weeks, the wife had to act as a single mom as her husband awaited an immigration hearing. Should she, by Greg’s logic, have remained in country, carrying on the ministry as well as she could for as long as she could while her husband was stuck in a different foreign country with nothing but a backpack? That seems highly impractical. The needs of her kids alone would preclude her from being much use in country. Plus, her husband needed her help. Every situation is going to be unique. I think workers need to use their God-given wisdom and direction about what to do.

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