Submission is Subject to the Mission
AUGUST 13, 2014
It’s an old illustration—the tourist walking by a construction site asks one of the workers what he is doing. The worker, not rude, but a little impatient, says, “I’m laying bricks”—with the unspoken “dummy” on the end of the sentence. The tourist wanders around to the other side of the large construction site and asks another worker the same question. This worker replies, “I’m laying the foundation for what will be a beautiful cathedral in which people will worship God.”
The implication is, of course, that understanding the contribution to the overall can elevate even the most basic task—and elevate the worker as well. The first worker might feel like he was, perhaps reluctantly, submitting to the construction firm’s authority in order to get a paycheck; while the second worker is more likely to be committed, even enthusiastically so, to making his efforts “subject to the mission.”
Perhaps another implication—do you suppose those two workers had the same lead supervisor? Likely not. In fact it’s likely that the second worker gained that insight because the lead supervisor for his crew had given every member of the crew insight into how their tasks contributed to the overall. Crew members (followers) knew the overall mission, and were proud and committed to being subject to that mission. I would argue that the recognizing and communicating of how the specific relates to the overall should be part of pretty much any use of the term “lead.”
Leading is purposeful—it is about pursuing a mission; it’s going somewhere—hopefully somewhere important. And if people are following without knowing where they are going, it might be more of a fan club than followers in pursuit of a mission. This should be among the primary roles of a leader—to not only regularly remind followers of the mission, but also to recognize and reinforce how the followers’ specific roles contribute to the overall—how the bricks they are laying contribute to the overall building, and even better, contribute to fulfillment of the building’s purpose. I believe that where I’ve fallen short most often in leadership roles may have been at this very point—losing sight of the overall mission and/or not reinforcing the relationship of the specific followers’ tasks to that overall mission.
Or perhaps being subject to the mission—like say, following Jesus in building God’s Kingdom—could elevate the task of something more difficult—like say, making relationships work in the tough times—as a contribution to an overall mission. “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Eph. 5:21). Nothing demeaning about that submission—in fact, it may be one of the more elevating of callings—especially when one relates it to the big picture, i.e. when one’s submission is seen as being “subject to a mission” with eternal significance. (Could even suggest a different perspective on how elevating the calling is, when the task is “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord” in Eph. 5:22.)
And one more point. Most would agree on the value of providing a model in communicating a principle. If that’s true, and understanding how one’s role should fit into the overall mission is important in elevating one’s contribution, then the leader should be the most submissive person in the group—that is, the most subject to the mission. It’s not about effort or status—“The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,’ nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you’” (1 Cor. 12:21). It’s about focus—focus on the mission, following a leader who is subject to the mission—and knowing how one’s role supports the mission. If the mission is big enough, even eternal in significance, having a role that is subject to that mission is itself significant—and elevating.