Find the balance
By Dr. Chinedu Oranye
Family is central to Africans, who we are and how we exist. Remove family, and we are not a people. Our nuclear and extended families are interconnected, and this web often determines many decisions we make. Family in Africa exists to support individual units and build a communal identity. We are not African if we don’t identify as African, and we cannot be African outside the family support structure. So, how does this affect our stand in missions and as missionaries?
Firstly, Jesus sets the stage by requiring absolute loyalty from all who will follow Him and serve Him, Africans included. In Matthew 10:37, He says, “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.” Jesus was unequivocal about the standard for followership, and the missionary call begins and ends with following Jesus. As Africans, we must wrestle with this reality. We cannot let our commitments to family deprive us of the privilege and opportunity of serving Jesus, especially when Africa has become a major sending force in global missions. We will fail in our mandate if we let our cherished family traditions override Jesus’ clear orders to “go and make disciples.” Following Jesus will impact family, and sometimes as Africans, it may require making painful decisions that seem to tear us from our roots. But, obedience to Christ is our first priority.
While our loyalty to Jesus remains unquestionable, our expression of that loyalty must not burn the bridges to our family networks.
On the other hand, Jesus says to the Pharisees in Matthew 15:5-6, “…you say, ‘Whoever says to his father or mother, “Whatever profit you might have received from me is a gift to God”— then he need not honour his father or mother.’… you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition.” Here, Jesus affirms the importance of honouring family. He frowned at the false assumption that spirituality contradicted commitment to family life. Jesus made it clear that failing to honour family was actually disobeying God’s commandment. Modern missions have, unfortunately, taught us that forgoing family was a prerequisite for serving God; thus, many young Africans have recklessly abandoned their family responsibilities in the pursuit of saving nations. This individualistic and selfish response has left many African families feeling antagonistic towards Jesus and His calling.
So, how do we reconcile these two positions? As Africans, we must find the balance between following Jesus, serving in missions, and honouring family. Though called to lay down our lives to follow Jesus, we should remain intentionally committed to our families. We must never abandon our responsibility to walk with and support them. While our loyalty to Jesus remains unquestionable, our expression of that loyalty must not burn the bridges to our family networks.
In this edition of AfriGO, follow Reagan’s journey of his family’s opposition to his missionary call to their eventual acceptance and support. The Perspective article presents an African solution to the missionary-family dilemma. The story of the Support Mothers in Nigeria demonstrates how those back home can stand in the gap for missionaries who are serving in the field. May this edition of AfriGO help missionaries and their families to understand and support each other, and inspire the Body of Christ to stand with missionaries and their families in very practical ways.
Dr. Chinedu Oranye is a Nigerian Bible teacher, author, leadership mentor, and pastor. His ministry has taken him to over 30 countries, sharing and communicating Christ’s Gospel of love, redemption, and faith to the lost and the Church. He serves with Calvary Ministries (CAPRO) and Haggai International. He is married to Taiwo and they have three children. Chinedu.firstname.lastname@example.org.