Monday, September 29, 2008

Expedition Behavior

Expedition Behavior
• Serve the mission and goals of the group.
• Be as concerned for others as you are for yourself.
• Treat everyone with dignity and respect.
• Support leadership and growth in everyone.
• Respect the cultures you come into contact with.
• Be kind and open-hearted.
• Do your share and stay organized.
• Help others, but don’t routinely do their work.
• Model integrity by being honest and accountable.
• Admit and correct your mistakes.
• Be proud of your successes and build on these.
• Say yes and deliver, or say no clearly if you cannot do something.
• Find a healthy balance: work hard, play, reflect and rest.
• Resolve conflict in a productive manner (Leach).

In an expedition, it is important to consider safety, gear, clothing, camping technique, and outdoor living and survival skills. Equally important to these skills and equipment is our need to be able to relate well and get along with our fellow travelers. “There are lots of words and terms to describe the human interactions on an outdoor expedition: process skills, soft skills, people skills, etc. Paul Petzoldt coined the term “Expedition Behavior” to describe these skills (Harvey).” These terms describe rules for living and relating responsibly, and respectfully, with your teammates on an expedition. This is important because our lives can be a challenging expedition, much like a wilderness expedition.

Mark Harvey, in the Wilderness Guide from the National Outdoor Leadership School, says this about Expedition Behavior: “Human relations play an equally important role (in relation to all the important factors in safe expedition, such as equipment, skills, etc.). To be blunt, how well you get along with your travel mates can mean the difference between enjoying the wilds or detesting every second of it; between summiting a peak or getting hopelessly lost in the process. That you need to get along and communicate effectively with your travel companions probably seems obvious (Harvey).” This need to get along with our travel mates does seem obvious, does it not? Though it may seem obvious, our failures to love well only illustrate our need for constant reminders to have good Expedition Behavior in our daily lives and interactions.

Concerning following Christ, or discipleship, in our relationships with God and others, Paul hits on this concept of Expedition Behavior in his letter to the Colossians 3:18-4:1:

“Wives, understand and support your husbands by submitting to them in ways that honor the Master. Husbands, go all out in love for your wives. Don’t take advantage of them. Children, do what your parents tell you. This delights the Master no end. Parents, don’t come down too hard on your children or you’ll crush their spirits. Servants, do what you’re told by your earthly masters. And don’t just do the minimum that will get you by. Do your best. Work from the heart for your real Master, for God, confident that you’ll get paid in full when you come into your inheritance. Keep in mind always that the ultimate Master you’re serving is Christ. The sullen servant who does shoddy work will be held responsible. Being a follower of Jesus doesn’t cover up bad work. And masters, treat your servants considerately. Be fair with them. Don’t forget for a minute that you, too, serve a Master—God in heaven (Peterson). ”

Like an intense wilderness expedition, with survival needs, off-trail wilderness hikes, valleys, and mountain summits, our following Christ and obeying Him in our relationships with others can be challenging. Christ demands, as stated above in Colossians, great love from us toward others. In other words, God’s desire for His followers is solid expedition behavior that reflects His love for us.

Just as outdoor trips place us in close proximity to one another for long periods, so does Christian community and the Christian life with fellow believers and the church. We can never escape our call to follow and love Jesus and to love our neighbors as ourselves. The command to us is love in this wilderness life; we cannot escape it. “Jesus said, “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’ This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ These two commands are pegs; everything in God’s Law and the Prophets hangs from them (Peterson) (Matt. 22:37-40).”

Harvey emphasized a similar point about the importance of community and expedition behavior in “The Wilderness Guide”:

“On a backpacking or a mountaineering trip, you cannot just go home at the end of the day and relax in the confines of your own house. At the end of the a day on an outdoor expedition, you still have to work as a team setting up camp, making dinner, and keeping the tent in good shape. Nearly every aspect of camping is communal, from sharing food to the battle for room in a small tent. At its best, this shared living brings people together in a spirit of camaraderie seldom found in their normal lives [except for the Christian life, which is anything, but normal]. At its worst, the demands of outdoor living can bring people to blows (Harvey 166).”

Such is the church and Christian community. The Christian life is the same as an expedition. When we exhibit good expedition behavior, or when we live out our call to love God and others rightly, the Christian life brings us together and draws us closer to God Himself. When we live wrongly, when we are intent on living in our selfish sinfulness, we can be in serious conflict and separation in our relationships with God and others. We must live in obedience and we must live with good expedition behavior in this wilderness life.

For Harvey, expedition behavior is the key ingredient to a group’s accomplishments:

“After years of mountaineering experience, training soldiers and outdoor leaders, and completing major alpine expeditions, Paul Petzoldt concluded that good or bad expedition behavior often determined a group’s destiny even more than technical skills and physical strength. Expeditions with moderate talent but with good expedition behavior can achieve greater things than bilious (or difficult or disagreeable) expeditions with all the talent in the world (Harvey 166).”

This is very much like the church, Christian community, and the Kingdom of God. What could we accomplish?

Developing and growing in His expedition behavior, by His grace and power,


Harvey, Mark. Wilderness Guide, The National Outdoor Leadership School, Lander, WY. 1999

Peterson, Eugene H.: The Message : The Bible in Contemporary Language. Colorado Springs, Colo. : NavPress, 2002, S. Col 3:18-4:1

Leach, John Gookin and Shari. The Nols Leadership Educator Notebook: A Toolbox for Leadership Educators. Lander, WY: The National Outdoor Leadership School, 2004.

1 comment:

  1. Funny how we have different expectations of those with whom we attend church. We believe as Christians that we are different and that our behavior is better than those in the secular world. Yet we forget, we are all sinners, we are all where we are because we know we are not perfect--yet still we expect that in others. So when our feelings are hurt--intentionlly or not--we often hae that knee-jerk reaction to get even or to pout about it...thus ruining the fellowship God has given us. In 1 Corn. 12:12 we are told that we are part of a body with many parts. And in that body are people on different phases of their walk and people whose problems we are not even aware of. How much easier, how much better to be a slave to Christ (Romans 1) and to be a leader who shows compassion and forgivness. For one day we may need that same forgiveness. Being a leader, for me, means demonstrating that right spirit and praying that others will see Jesus in me and change their attitude. A team functions so much better when the leader is willing to humble himself, admit his own faults, and accept imperfection in other team members. Might be harder in the wilderness to wait out a temper fit or a poor attitude, but those acts of kindness might just change things.
    Thanks for the thoughts...