I've heard the "extended family" discussed in missiology classes in a detached way as though it were unrelated to us in the "first world," but the extended family of the Bible concerns every one of us. God's eternal plan and purpose is the EXTENDED FAMILY.
My thoughts are taken from Mark 10 where a young man allowed his self-serving pursuit of riches to turn him away from discipleship. When the young man had left, Peter reminded the Lord that he and the other disciples had left all to follow Him. Jesus replied, "There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake and the gospel's but he will receive a hundred-fold now, in this time, houses and brethren, and sisters, and mothers and children, and lands, with persecutions, and in the world to come, eternal life." A hundred-fold now, in this time ... what a promise!
I want every candidate and every veteran missionary to experience the joy of God's EXTENDED FAMILY now ... in this time! Yours is a privilege that those who remain at home cannot have. Yours is a joy that those who live for themselves never experience.
I cannot tell you how many homes I have, but I can assure you they are a hundredfold more than I would have had had I never left home and relatives to go to the mission field. And, what a variety of homes they are! Some are mud huts. Some are palatial. Some are air-conditioned. Some have thatched roofs. But, in every one of them, there is love, and of the hundreds and thousands of brothers and sisters God has given me. I know of none who would not kill the last chicken they have to feed me. I've received a hundred-fold now ... in this time ... with some persecutions, I'll admit... but wonderfully worth it, considering the joy of Africa's EXTENDED FAMILY. Add to this the eternal life that is mine in the life to come, and I've got the best of both worlds!
Let those live for themselves who want to. Let them twist God's promises to satiate selfish appetites. Let them prosper and be in health in their magnificent mansions ... but we have something they'll never have, and I challenge every one of you to opt for the EXTENDED FAMILY ... because it's pure joy and it pays ... a hundred-fold! Hallelujah!
The EXTENDED FAMILY was God's idea in the first place. Ephesians 1:9 says it succinctly, "Having made known unto us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He hath purposed in Himself..." And what is His will? What is His good pleasure? What does He purpose in himself? AN EXTENDED FAMILY! "That in the dispensation of the fullness of time He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth ... even in Him ... that we, His extended family, should be to the praise of His glory ..." And we read about the fullness of time ... the consummation of God's grand purpose and plan in Revelation 7:9 and 21:3. "After this, I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes and palms in their hands, and cried with a loud voice saying, 'Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne and unto the Lamb'." "And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, 'Behold the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them and be their God'." Hallelujah ... the fulfillment and fruition of the mystery of His will ... THE EXTENDED FAMILY COMPLETE!
The EXTENDED FAMILY, as conceived in the mind of God, was a costly venture.
Make no mistake about that! It didn't happen without self-denial, suffering, and submission. Pain was part of that original package. Jesus is the Lamb who was slain "from the foundation of the world." The cross was no accident... no miscarriage of the divine purpose. The EXTENDED FAMILY was impossible without the cup of suffering, and the point I want to make is that it is unattainable today without a cross.
A self-serving world seeks to avoid the cross. But Jesus was not self-seeking. He knew full well the cost of the EXTENDED FAMILY. Yet for the joy that was set before Him ... He endured the cross! Thank God He did not listen to Peter who suggested that He bypass the cross. Thank God He said to the Father, "Not what I will, but what Thou wilt." And what was the result of His self-denial? What was the result of His suffering? What was the result of His submission? AN EXTENDED FAMILY! That was the joy that was set before Jesus.
Every believer has an option. He can play it safe and build his life around his blood-relatives and "His kind of people." But this is essentially a self-serving attitude. It is the attitude of the "name it and claim it" cult of today who would use God's promises to satisfy and serve self. But all things are possible "with God." When you think "with God," you think "Great Commission." "With God" thinking is EXTENDED FAMILY thinking. "With God" thinkers deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow Jesus ... for the joy of the EXTENDED FAMILY that is set before them!
A trip to Angola this past month triggered my thinking about the EXTENDED FAMILY.
I'm convinced it is fundamental to missions. Let me tell you about it.
We had only been in Angola four days. It was our first visit... our first time to know Jose and Elzida Eduardo. But it was as though we had known them all our lives. Their home was a whirl of activity. They have their own three boys, but there were never less than ten or twelve in the house. You hardly knew who "belonged" and who didn't.
But come to think about it, we all "belonged." To Jose and Elzida, all believers are brothers and sisters.
This openness ... this sharing ... this intimacy ... is not often found in our American culture. We are such private people. Our bubble is small. We guard jealously the right to be alone ... the right to keep the other fellow at a distance. I'm not saying we should all be like the Eduardos. But what I am saying is that, if we are to be successful missionaries, we must be sold on, and advocates of, God's EXTENDED FAMILY.
Exciting things happen when you opt for the EXTENDED FAMILY. It opens doors for you. The Assemblies of God in Angola, for instance, has asked that we send missionaries to open a Bible school. Our 200,000 brothers and sisters there are wanting trained leadership ... and they are asking the American church to provide teachers.
Those intimate, joyful days in Jose's home did much to build the brotherhood and the confidence that triggered their request.
We've got "family" in places we've never been. I'm anxious to learn who they are and to know them. Spanish Equatorial Africa still beckons. We need to get in there now.
The door is open. How long it will remain open, I do not know.
I only know we've got to find missionaries ... quick. Our EXTENDED FAMILY there ... when we find them ... will, without doubt, be extremely poor. The country was left in shambles by the now deposed tyrant. The oppressors took everything with them when they were forced to leave. It's not going to be easy for the missionary who goes to Equatorial Guinea. But for the joy of an EXTENDED FAMILY, Jesus endured the cross. I wonder who will be willing to endure a cross in Equatorial Guinea for the joy of an EXTENDED FAMILY there?
In Africa we've got EXTENDED FAMILY fever ... and I warn you, it's contagious! Our family includes Sereras, Fulanis, Creoles, Mossis, Ashantis, Eves, Yorubas, Ibos, Hausas, Kikuyus, Swahilis, Achewas, Zulus, Gabon ... Central African Republic ... Chad ... Mali... Burundi... Swaziland ... in search of more. We've got EXTENDED FAMILY fever, and it bums within us like a fire. Experience tells us that there is only one cure for it, "Go ... into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature."
The birth rate in Africa's EXTENDED FAMILY is phenomenal. I meet new brothers and sisters each time I return to our established fields. Some national church families have quadrupled in the last eight to ten years ... and there are a lot of them. Ghana, Ivory Coast, Upper Volta, Nigeria, Togo, Zaire, Kenya, Tanzania ... to name a few. Getting statistics is easy when parents no longer bear children ... but these young EXTENDED FAMILIES are something else. Every time you turn around, new babies are born! One beautiful thing about Africa's EXTENDED FAMILY ... there is no birth control. We use the Genesis method ... "Be ye fruitful and multiply!"
Of course, the problem of educating growing families is one of the greatest challenges.
But here is where the Assemblies of God shines ... and, I hope, will continue to shine. We now have 36 Bible schools in Africa. I still wish some department of our American family of churches would take up Bible schools as their special area of interest. There is no activity or program more vital to the growth of the EXTENDED FAMILY than Bible schools. We've got them in every country where we work ... and Nigeria now has nine of them ... at last count, that is!
One of the things about our EXTENDED FAMILY in Africa is the glorious variety of cultures, races, nations, and value systems. If one allows himself to major on differences, it can quickly spoil relationships ... different color, different tribes, different food, different weather, different politics, and different social systems. We have a grand group of missionaries who are successful in understanding these differences and who allow the Holy Spirit and the love of Christ to see to it that the differences make no difference! Love, trust, and understanding are absolute necessities in our EXTENDED FAMILY in Africa.
I remember Pawentaore from Upper Volta. Some of you will recall his talk at the School of Missions last year. He appealed to us to know our brothers and sisters of other races and cultures. He told of a young first-term missionary who actually saved his ministry by identifying with him and listening to him. None of our brothers and sisters ask that we all live alike. But all of them want to be understood ... and loved. We can't do this unless we spend more time with them ... unless we know their wants ... unless we know their hurts. After all, they are FAMILY!
I met one of my brothers on a recent trip to Africa.
His name is Mugabe and he leads the EXTENDED FAMILY in Maputo. We arrived in Harare, Zimbabwe, at the same time, but from different directions ... I from fat America and he from starving Mozambique. He preached at the tent that night and we slept in the same room at David Newberry's house. It was only after he had left for Bulawayo the next day that we learned he hadn't eaten for ten days. Not a word of complaint! Africa's EXTENDED FAMILY has some marvelous people in it. I'm proud to be Mugabe's brother. We found out that Mugabe used to take a beating from the authorities after the missionaries visited him. "Why didn't you tell us?" the missionaries asked ... "Because we would have stayed away and spared you from suffering." Mugabe's answer was simple. "I'd rather take a beating than not have you come." Brothers like that are worth going to the ends of the earth for!
In closing, let me say that it is so easy to cater to our own personal families ... to take pride in our local and national church family ... to minister to our own ... to excuse ourselves with the argument, "charity begins at home." But by doing so, we begin to lose sight of the plan of God that includes all men of all nations. Jesus said. "Other sheep I have which are not of this fold... them also I must bring..."
Let us continue to care for the sheep in our own fold ... to help the hurting among us ... to strengthen one another. But let us never get so preoccupied with self-serving that we fail to remember that the "other sheep, not of this fold' can only be won if we are willing to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Jesus.
Listen again as the Lord speaks, "There is no man hath left house or brethren or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for my sake and the gospel's, but he will receive a hundred-fold now in this time, houses and brethren and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the world to come, eternal life."
Missionaries, we've got a lot of brothers and sisters out there. Let’s catch the EXTENDED FAMILY FEVER!