The very nature of missions is that we have to be willing to take up our cross and die for Christ. Most of the great missions biographies show us people living very difficult lives and even being martyred. Our brothers and sister in many countries are being martyred right now.
From a spiritual perspective, people should be encouraged to consider the real nature of taking up a cross and being willing to die. Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” Or as Amy Carmichael said, “Missionary life is simply a chance to die.”
The missionary dedication service you describe is a great way to acknowledge that reality of spiritual commitment for both the missionary and the sending church. The missionary training programs should have a similar preparation of reflecting on these things.
I’ve written before on this issue of how missions and missionaries need to acknowledge liability issues, in an article called The Blood of the Martyrs and Legal Liability. In addition to understanding how legal liability is formed, the article discusses informed consent and assumption of the risk. Generally, this means that if you are asking someone to do something dangerous, you should make sure that they really understand and consent to the risk (going into surgery is the classic example). And usually, they sign something to that effect. People going overseas can state that they understand the risks and waive liability against the mission.
But in my concept, this consent or waiver would not be written in legalese, but instead would be a real testimony to the person’s faith and state the spiritual reasons for being willing to take the risk. In the event that something happened to the missionary, this same document could be read as a testimony of why he or she was willing to suffer or die for Christ.
Missions can do some things to protect people. But as much as we would like it to be so, life isn’t safe, and some missions activities are less safe than a quiet life in the home country. (Of course, the death rate is 100% no matter where you are, and for a Christian, seeing the face of Jesus is glorious.) Since we can’t protect people, we need to make sure that people understand and fully accept the risks they are taking. The understanding should be based on a deep spiritual commitment, and so should the documents that discuss it.
Featured Image: "No Swimming" by Freerange Stock.
Disclaimer: not official legal or psychological advice or opinion