There are several things we think about when sending a group from our church out on mission for a week or even a weekend. We expect those going on a mission trip to be people of integrity, faithful in their local church, bold in sharing their faith, and prepared for the work they’re going to do.
I’ve seen many requirements for going on a mission trip, but I don’t recall ever seeing “submissive” on the list. Our culture views submissive as a weakness so most don’t want to submit to anyone. So, should submission be a requirement for going on a mission trip?
What does submission mean? Google’s dictionary defines submission as “the action or fact of accepting or yielding to a superior force or to the will or authority of another person.”
Submitting means putting others before yourself; it means not always doing what you want to do. It means putting God’s desires above your desires.
Missionaries on the field with whom short-term mission teams work have prayed and sought the Lord’s direction concerning the people they’re trying to reach, strategies they use and ministry methods. Well-intentioned short-term volunteer teams generally arrive on the field, filled with excitement and zeal about the mission work they’re planning to do. They too, have prayed and prepared themselves for this experience.
However, sometimes teams believe they know better than the missionary how the work should be done and question, or even push against the methods or ministry plans. This creates tension and has the potential to minimize the effectiveness of the mission.
If there is a difference of opinions, an unwillingness by volunteer teams to submit to the missionary in authority shows spiritual immaturity. And, if the short-term team is unwilling to submit, it is the missionary who remains behind to correct things long after the volunteers leave.
The Bible has much to say about submission: to God (James 4:6-7), to political authorities (Romans 13:1-7), to church leadership (Heb 13:17), within marriage (Col 3:18), and even a general submissiveness of all Christians to one another (Eph 5:21).
We all have a lot we can learn about submission. Submission can be a very hard thing. When Jesus prayed for an alternative to the cross (Luke 22:39- 44), he wanted another way so badly that he sweat drops of blood. However, He chose to follow the Father’s plan even when it was hard. All of us should be extremely grateful that He did.
There may be times as a volunteer team member that you believe you know better than the missionary what is best and that what you’re being asked to do doesn’t even make sense to you. Like Jesus, you may find it hard to follow the plan, but exercise submission to the missionary in authority and trust our Father for the results.