A Spiritual Leadership Lesson from Wilderness First Responder Training

This is a guest post by my friend, Edy Sutherland.  You can visit her website and follow her on facebook.

Spiritual First Responder

Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. (Colossians 4:6)

All wilderness leaders need to have some training in first aid. Knowing how to assess and treat minor injuries and keep serious casualties stable can make a difference. Each emergency situation will be unique. The basic guidelines for practicing first aid help determine the priorities of treatment in each case.

An Initial Spiritual Exam

Similarly, because wilderness ministry leaders are concerned with spiritual formation of people, we must make an initial examination of the spiritual wellness of our participants. Innumerable emotional injuries and ailments possibly affect the potential for transformative growth in each person.

Assess if there are any immediate priorities to be stabilized. Take note of the symptoms. Then begin a basic treatment plan .

1. Consciousness: Determine if there is any response to the gospel?


  • “God is just a crutch.”
  • “The Bible is written by a bunch of men telling stories.”
  • “There are many ways to get to God.”

SYMPTOMS:  Unbelief & Rebellion


  • Provide a clear explanation of grace.
  • Allow grace, the gospel message, to be lived out.
  • Be prepared with answers to questions about the Bible, the Trinity, and so on.
  • Provide an invitation to receive Christ.

2. Pulse: Determine if there is a right understanding of the heavenly realm?


“There is no hell because God is a God of love.”
“There is no absolute right and wrong.”
“I am a good person, so I will be okay.”

SYMPTOMS: Unbelief & Rebellion


  • Explain the battle going on for souls.
  • Expose sin against God’s perfect nature.
  • Recognize the truth is veiled to those that are perishing.

3. Check Breathing: Is there anything obstructing the intake of the Word of God?


  • “I don’t need to go to church. I find God in the wilderness.”
  • “I know that Jesus is real but so is karma.”

SYMPTOMS: Ignorance, Confusion, Dependence


  • Provide individual attention.
  • Be gentle.
  • Teach and model Biblical truths.
  • Develop new habits that become daily rhythms.

4. Bleeding: Have they allowed legalism, hypocrisy, or suffering to harden their heart toward God?


  • “I didn’t know the Bible said that.”
  • “I’ve been hurt by Christians. I don’t need others to teach me.”
  • “Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people?”

SYMPTOMS: Ignorance, Confusion, Dependence


  • Stop the bleeding with compassion and loving kindness.
  • Explain a right understanding of Jesus’ love.
  • Pray for protection.
  • Feed nourishing amounts of God’s Word.

5. Shock: Is there evidence of fear, anxiety, or anger toward exploring the things of Christ?


  • “Religion is the cause of all wars.”
  • “Christians are mean to homosexuals.”
  • “Anyone can believe what they want.”

SYMPTOMS: Ignorance, Confusion, Dependence


  • Offer reassurance and a stable, safe place to be messy and ask questions.
  • Demonstrate being in relationship with a mature believer is safe.
  • Teach about how Jesus taught His disciples in relationship.
  • Establish habits of building a personal relationship with Jesus.

Action Steps

  • Write down these five steps along with their suggested “symptoms” and “treatment” on a note card to keep in your Bible for future reference.
  • Update and personalize your list and include Scripture you find helpful to address the “Obvious Signs”, i.e. the questions people have that need answers from Scripture.


Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

2 thoughts on “A Spiritual Leadership Lesson from Wilderness First Responder Training

  1. The sentence, “Each emergency situation will be unique.” is crucial to remember. People and emotions rarely fit nicely into little boxes, so it’s imperative that we remain calm and flexible; fully reliant on the Holy Spirit to guide each situation. BUT, preparation certainly does go a long way. This is why the initial assessment of the spiritual wellness of the participants is so vital. GREAT thoughts here. If we don’t have a tentative plan on how to help people move forward with Jesus, well you know the phrase “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”

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