Criticism of 'Warrior' Terminology

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Posted by greg

Heart_of_a_Warrior_Coat_of_Arms_-_Copy.jpgFrom time to time I receive criticisms for using ‘warrior’ terminology in Heart of a Warrior Ministries.  I recently felt compelled to respond to a person’s concerns over my use of such terms.  I thought it might be helpful to present my rationale.

The New Testament is full of metaphors and allegories associated with military and warfare symbolism.  The Lord is referred to as a "warrior" by Moses in Exodus 15:1-3.  Jeremiah also suggests the same in Jeremiah 20:11.

"I will sing to the Lord, for he is highly exalted.  The horse and its rider he has hurled into the sea.  The Lord is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.  He is my God, and I will praise him, my father's God, and I will exalt him. The Lord is a warrior; the Lord is his name."  NIV

Revelation 19:11-16 and Isaiah 42:13 certainly implies similar symbolism...

I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. "He will rule them with an iron scepter." He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS. Revelation 19:11-16

The LORD will march out like a mighty man, like a warrior he will stir up his zeal; with a shout he will raise the battle cry and will triumph over his enemies. Isaiah 42:13

The New Testament speaks about spiritual warfare, that we must put on the 'armor' of God (Ephesians 6:10-18).  Preliminary to the verses on putting on the armor of God is the admonition to be strong in the Lord...put on the full armor of God so we can make a stand...that we are in a struggle.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. NIV

Paul himself says he has 'fought the good fight (2 Timothy 4:7).'  Several places in the NT we are encouraged to 'fight the good fight (1 Timothy 1:18; 6:12).'

I am not advocating that men strap on a sword and press headlong into physical combat.  Instead, I use the metaphor of a "warrior' to call men to the battle for the sake of their loved ones, the unloved, the marginalized, the defenseless, the downtrodden.  I call men to take their assignment to be the spiritual leaders of their home.  I use the 'sword' as a symbol for engagement because too many men have abdicated their responsibilities to their families, friends, associates, and those who don't know Christ. 

I have often used the phrase, "a warrior after God's heart."  I have clearly defined what I mean by being a warrior after God's heart...

1.            A warrior after God’s heart is loyal to his Commander.

2.            A warrior after God’s heart is a citizen of God’s kingdom.

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Leadership & Formation #10 – Boundary Events

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Posted by greg

Slide3.JPGBoundary events are transitional periods in our life that move us from one phase of growth or development to the next.  Most leaders move from establishing foundations beginning in childhood TO preparation where the leader pursues formal training TO contribution where the leader exercises what they have learned in the laboratory we call work TO a place of multiplication where their experiences have matured and can be leveraged for greater effectiveness within their sphere of influence.


Boundary events are precipitated and initiated by a circumstance, situation, or occasion – not all of which are positive.  These events can be instigated by a crisis or transition such as a new opportunity, being fired, a health crisis, being laid off, completion of one’s education, mid-life crisis, promotion, spiritual experience, an epiphany, an awakening, an accumulation of related circumstances, gradual discontent, failure, success, a challenge, significant change, new life stage, or a major change of perspective.

Research has shown that boundary events can last anywhere from 2 or 3 months to as long as 6 years.  Regardless of the length of time or how they are brought into play boundary events consist of essentially three stages; entry, evaluation, and exit.

The ENTRY stage is a period of time where a leader reflects on what just happened to him or her.  They try to reconcile the events that led up to it in an attempt to understand and connect the dots.  This stage looks to the past and is often accompanied by grieving over the loss.  The leader may experience anger, disappointment, despair, and discouragement if the precipitating circumstances were unexpected or negative in nature.  It is important to remember that this self-analysis will rarely if at all yield all the answers.  Eventually, the leader comes to terms with the circumstances even though many questions about the particulars remain unclear.  The leader finally comes to a point where they realize, “It is what it is.”  If the circumstances leading to the boundary event are perceived as positive (i.e., a promotion, new opportunity, the completion of a journey, etc.) then the reflection of the past is simply a period of encouragement, appreciation, sense of accomplishment or achievement.

The EVALUATION stage actually consists of two periods of activity.  The focus of this stage is the present where they take an inward look and may even look upward for spiritual guidance. The first period involves self-evaluation.  The leader takes stock of what they have to offer.  They assess their capabilities and capacity for the next phase of their journey.  They may even seek further assessment through non-formal means such as a coach, taking various instruments, preparing a personal historical timeline, gathering observations of others, attending self-help and self-management workshops or seminars, and/or seeking professional guidance.  The objective is to gain clarity of their personal toolkit of gifts, talents, natural abilities, acquired competencies and skills, and lessons learned from their experiences.

Once the self-evaluation is complete and the leader has an accurate grasp of what they have to offer they may determine that there are some holes in their portfolio.  They may seek further education, undergo coaching to learn a new competency or skill, seek professional career guidance, or acquire a mentor who can help them fill out their unrealized potential in anticipation of their next big step.  This period might also include a personal audit where they determine their life purpose, committed passion, non-negotiables going forward, unique methodologies (their toolbox), and ultimate contribution or legacy they hope to leave.  This personal life mandate will serve as a filter through which they will process new opportunities to ensure that they are operating from their ‘sweet spot.’

The EXIT stage of the boundary event looks to the future.  The leader is ready to move on and embrace something new and different.  They are ready to put past circumstances behind them and engage a new aspect of their journey.  They come out of their hunkered down existence ready to tackle the world but with a new commitment, a new focus, a new perspective, a new attitude, a new sense of hope, a new beginning, a new future.  They will initiate action to find a new position, start a new business, or embrace a new vocation altogether.  They will actively pursue new opportunities in alignment with their wiring and new trajectory. In many cases the transition from evaluation to exit is not dramatic but incremental instead.  It may also be true that the leader does not know they have transitioned from the evaluation to the exit stage until after it has already happened.  Once they have exited and started afresh the boundary event is concluded.

Some leaders will experience multiple boundary events in their life – a movement to calling, a movement to beingness versus doingness, a movement to legacy or ultimate contribution.  Knowing what and how boundary events operate will help the leader deal with the range of emotions they will experience while going through it.  Such understanding will mediate confusion and help the leader understand what to expect and how to endure it. Boundary events serve to bring closure to recent experiences, deepen ones beliefs, values and convictions, expand one’s perspectives to see new things, and to make decisions which will launch one into a new phase of their life.

To be continued…


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Leadership & Formation #9: Hills to Die On

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Posted by greg

flag_at_summit_400_clr_4930.pngWestern culture has redefined tolerance as unconditional acceptance and affirmation.  Anything shy of total, unqualified acceptance and affirmation of the opinion, ideology, personal perspective, or lifestyle choices of another is labeled as intolerance. 

The true definition of tolerance, however, is withholding whatever power you have against what you find objectionable. This means that we withhold whatever influence we can bring to bear on an issue for a more prudent engagement, a higher priority, or an assessment that opposing the issue will cause more damage than good.  The power we are withholding may be the authority we have, the resources at our disposal, the network of influential contacts we can employ, the status we hold, the reputation we enjoy, or the knowledge we possess.

Every conflict, difference of opinion, or assault on our beliefs and values requires wisdom to determine whether or not to engage with whatever power we have available.  The ancient scriptures give us guidance when they remind us to be wise, to evaluate the circumstances, and to assess the possible outcomes of engagement.  We can choose not to make an issue of the matter for the sake of peace, grace or forbearance.

If we choose to engage we must always “clothe ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.”  For those of us in the faith we must “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.”

Every effective leader of character has determined, in advance, what hills to die on, what hills to bleed on, and what hills are not worth climbing.  Doing so provides a framework of knowing when to engage regardless of the circumstances, when to engage in consideration of the circumstances, and when to withhold engagement in spite of the circumstances.

Hills to Die On…

You cannot die on every hill.  Dying may not require your life but it may require something just as permanent or painful. Choosing to die on a hill may mean that you are willing to embrace the consequences even if it means you will lose the goodwill of others, marginalize your advancement prospects, or even lose your position, ranking, or job.  The hill I choose to die on may not require my life but it may require sacrificing popularity, acclaim, prestige, acceptance, or affirmation. It may require that I set aside my dreams and aspirations for a higher value. It may mean I may be marginalized or even ostracized.

What hills are worth dying on?  First, they should be few in number.  Second, they should ensure laws will not be violated.  Third, they should honor our faith.  Fourth, they should uphold our central beliefs and values.  In other words the matter is too important to ignore because it would mean that your character (or faith) is compromised.  Finally, they should protect the defenseless, unloved, and marginalized. 

These hills are not always a matter of public engagement.  They may be a private or personal commitment such as a commitment to live out certain beliefs and values having decided which ones are non-negotiable.  They may include putting the welfare and wellbeing of our family as our highest priority in that we will never compromise this commitment for any reason.  They may include a commitment to submit to some cause, people group, or belief system that will stand in authority over our lives informing and conditioning what we do.

What hills are you prepared to "die on?"

Hills to Bleed On…

You cannot bleed on every hill.  If you bleed on too many hills you will "die" prematurely.  I have known people who make an issue of every issue.  It isn't long before what they say is automatically discounted regardless of its importance.  If you make an issue of every issue no one will take seriously any issue you have made an issue.  "For there is a proper time and procedure for every matter, though a man's misery weighs heavily upon him."

Hills to bleed on is a metaphor for issues and concerns for which we are willing to take a stand given the circumstances.  They are situational in nature and change in terms of how we will respond.  Environmental factors condition whether we choose to say something or do something.  Given the alignment and significance of the contributing factors we may choose to engage but not willing to “die” for the issue.  These issues are selected based on their importance, their affect and/or effect, and whether not engaging will give tacit approval to the outcome of the event or circumstance.

One day you may choose to engage the issue while at other times you may choose not to engage.  This does not mean you are hypocritical or a ‘weather vane’ moving in a direction of prevailing sentiment or political correctness. It simply means that you have measured the circumstance or event and have chosen that it is not a hill to bleed on.  At other times, the circumstance or event may be a hill to bleed on; that is, to risk your reputation, to negatively impact your relationships, or to lose respect or esteem. 

What hills will you bleed on if the circumstances warrant?

Hills Not Worth Climbing…

There are many hills not worth climbing.  They may be important but are they urgent?  I would suggest that there are far more hills not worth climbing than you may know.  This does not mean that the matter before you is not important or worth consideration.  It simply mean that you are not the one called to address it.  The circumstance is someone else’s hill to die on or bleed on.

The intrinsic ‘worth’ of the issue may be significant but you are not the one to deal with it.  You may hold certain convictions about it, may disagree or agree with it, may have something to contribute regarding it but have decided it is a hill you will not climb.  Reasons for this conclusion may be decisions you made regarding the hills to die on or bleed on beforehand.  This is not one of them.  Or the criteria for engagement, which you have decided beforehand, is not met.  Or engagement will do more damage than constructive help. 

If a situation arises where you are trying to decide what to do the following criteria might be considered.

  1. Is it a hill I have already decided to “die on?”
  2. Is it a hill I am prepared to “bleed on?”
  3. Is it a hill someone else should “die on” or “bleed on?”
  4. Is it a hill I have already decided not to climb?
  5. Is it majoring in minors?
  6. Will it sacrifice my integrity?

What hills are not worth climbing?

Each man and woman must decide for themselves what hills they will die on, what hills they will bleed on, and what hills are not worth climbing.  Over the course of your life they will change.

As for me I have decided what hills I will die on.

  • My Faith - The Gospel (Titus 2:11-14)
  • My Family - Responsibility (1 Timothy 5:8)
  • My Focus - Purpose (Ephesians 2:8-10)
  • My Fidelity - The Bible (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

The hills I will bleed on will be the hills God calls me to bleed on.  My hills will be different than your hills.  The hills I will bleed on will be His hills and not my hills.

The hills not worth climbing are everything else.  I have learned over time-I am in my 60's now-that I was dying on too many hills, the hills I was bleeding on were my hills and not His hills, and the hills not worth climbing were far more than I originally thought.

What hills will you die on?

What hills will you bleed on?

What hills are not worth climbing?

To be continued…

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Leadership & Formation #8 – Concern vs Influence

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Posted by greg

influence_2.jpgHow much time is wasted over matters out of our control?  How much time is spent agonizing over issues that we cannot change?  How much time is spent mulling over concerns outside our area of responsibility?  Extended worry over matters we cannot resolve leads down a path to unhealthy fear, misplaced anxiety, and paralyzing paranoia.  There is plenty of circumstances for which to be concerned.  The key question we need to ask ourselves is what can we do about them that will make a difference other than keep us up at night?

We operate essentially within two circles—the Circle of Concern and the Circle of Influence.

Within the Circle of Concern are issues we are ‘concerned’ about but have little to no control over the issues that fall within this sphere.  For instance, we might be concerned about political or economic issues in Washington, a judge’s ruling on an issue that touches us, a decision being made by someone regarding our circumstances, world poverty, global warming or any host of matters that cause us concern.  We may have a limited influence on these matters but for all practical purposes they are out of our reach to do anything about them.  In these cases, we have essentially one option—prayer.  Once we have prayed about these matters we must release them to the Lord and move on to those issues we can control.

Within the Circle of Influence are issues we have some degree of control over.  Our direct input or interaction will determine the outcome of these issues.  People, events, and circumstances can be changed by our direct involvement.  Our influence may be of a direct nature or indirect nature.  Our direct influence will address the specific issue directly.  Our indirect influence may be to interact with factors that may influence the situation indirectly (i.e., a note to a friend or authority may cause that friend or authority to respond to a set of circumstances over which they have some influence).

Each of us has a finite amount of energy at our disposal (emotional, spiritual, and physical).  The extent of that energy will differ for each person.  Our circle of influence can expand as we grow emotionally, spiritually, and intellectually—it can also diminish through bad decisions and/or sin in our life.

If we expend our limited energy on matters over which we have little influence or control, the energy remaining will be reduced.  When we turn our attention to issues within our sphere of influence we will find that the circle of influence has shrunk while our circle of concern has grown.  Spending our finite energy in this sphere will only increase our anxiety and stress because we can do little to change the outcome.

Focusing our finite energy primarily on issues within our circle of influence and praying about issues within our circle of concern (and releasing these issues to the Lord) will reduce the circle of concern to a more manageable size and therefore cause less anxiety and stress in our lives.  This is a far more constructive activity—focusing on what we can change and leaving to God those issues we cannot change to any significant degree.

There are three domains of influence; direct, indirect, and organizational (Leadership Emergence Theory, J. Robert Clinton, 1989).  The reach and impact you wield in these domains is defined by your character, experience, authority, responsibility, position, status, and the power base (positional or personal) you use to exert influence.

Direct Influence. This domain indicates a measure of people being influenced by the real presence of the leader, usually occurring in focused and structured situations where feedback between follower and leader is possible and necessary, and carries a high level of accountability to God for influence. This type of influence extends to those immediately under the authority and responsibility of the leader and is generally restricted to those ‘in front of’ or ‘face-to-face with’ or in close proximity to the leader.

Indirect Influence. This domain indicates a measure of people being influenced by non-time-bound miscellaneous influences a leader exerts through others, through media, or through writing, and for which feedback between the leader and those being influenced is difficult, if not impossible, and where accountability is primarily for the content of influential ideas.

When a leader matures and the intensity, passion, and focus of the leader crystallizes (moves from shot gun to laser beam) their direct influence grows linearly while their indirect influence grows exponentially. In other words, their extensiveness (quantity of people influenced), comprehensiveness (scope of areas of influence), and intensiveness (depth of influence) grows linearly in the direct domain while these same measures grow exponentially in the indirect domain. When a leader penetrates the life and heart of a follower more extensively, comprehensively and intensively, that follower and those with whom they interact are affected accordingly.  Exponential influence is attained.

Organizational Influence. This domain indicates a measure of people of people being influenced by a person in organizational leadership via direct, indirect, and organizational power.

Spheres of Influence…

Direct                                     Indirect                                  Organizational

Individuals                             Committee                            Supervisor

Small Groups                         Advisory Board                     Program Director

Project Team                        Executive Board                   Department Head

Ministries                              Writing                                   Organizational Head

Seminars                                Radio                                      Policy Formulator

Conferences                         Networking                           Board Member

Mentoring                             Supporting                            Sponsoring

Encouragement                    Blogging                                 Resourcing

Biblical Support: Parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30); giftedness and capacity (Romans 12:3-7); accountability for influence (Hebrews 13:17, Acts 20:13-38; 2 Corinthians 5:10); rewards for leadership (1 Peter 1:1-5).

Take a personal audit of the time you spend worrying about concerns you can do little to resolve.  Commit to redeeming that time to invest in matters you can positively influence.  Focus on your circle of influence and pray about your circle of concern. 

What concerns keep you up at night?

What can you do to influence these concerns?

What are your spheres of influence (direct, indirect, organizationally)?

How are you leveraging your organizational influence for great impact?

What issues can you directly impact that falls within your sphere of influence?

How much of your time is spent in the circles of concern and influence?

What matters will benefit from an investment of your time?

To be continued…

Leadership & Formation #7: Budding Leaders

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Posted by greg

leaders_3.jpgI repeatedly hear the refrain, “We don’t have enough leaders?”  Emerging, budding leaders aren’t obvious to others who do not have the eyes to see them.  In fact, the characteristics of leaders “in the rough” are most often experienced as annoying aggravations rather than counter-intuitive indicators.  If the prevailing leaders within an organization do not calibrate their perceptions they may never see the emerging leaders right in front of them.

If your identification ‘antenna’ is not properly calibrated you could miss the many leaders in your midst.  Characteristics of emerging leaders often drive experienced leaders nuts leading to premature dismissal of these nascent young leaders in the process of becoming yet not having arrived.  My experience suggests, however, that young leaders in the making possess observable behaviors indicating they are potential leaders.  They may need cultivation, training, mentoring, support, and sponsorship to develop into effective leaders.  Your investment in them will be well worth the effort.

Five Characteristics of Buddy Leaders 

 INSISTENT – They never give up.

They keep butting their head against the same wall or problem. You know the old saying, "What is the definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over again and expecting different results." To someone observing an emerging leader it sure looks like they are backtracking over the same problem again and again. Closer observation may show that they are actually hitting the wall at a slightly different angle each time, learning from each obstacle and adjusting their approach. The key is they don't give up and they learn with each failure. There is a difference between this type of emerging leader and a lesser one. The lesser one always approaches the obstacle the exact same way and has not learned any lessons. They are more apt to give up after a few tries.  So, budding leaders are tenacious; they don’t give up easily.  View this characteristic in a positive light.  Before jumping in observe their behavior to determine their approach to solving seemingly intractable problems.  You might just have a great leader in the making.

 INQUISITIVE – They are full of questions.

They never do exactly what you tell them to do. They keep asking more questions or even worse, suggesting ways it could be done better. They have more questions than you have answers. Man, that's irritating. Don't you just hate that? This is our typical response. Part of the role of leader, as leadership developer/mentor is to suggest a direction and then work with the emerging leader on the approaches. Yes, it’s irritating and time consuming but helps grow a leader. Often the mistake of the mature leader is to interpret the attitudes and questions as disrespect and a critical spirit, rather than using these opportunities to learn themselves about other ways to approach a problem.  You might find that their ideas are superior to your own.  Budding leaders are inquisitive.  Their questions may not be polished leading you to conclude they are being disrespectful or that they are challenging you.  Don’t look at it this way.  See their questions as exhibiting a desire to learn.

 IMPATIENT – They seek more responsibility before they may be ready.

They always want more responsibility before they are ready for it. As the mature leader you are always queasy about this. You want the person to advance as a leader but you also have some doubts because you are not sure they are ready. If they exhibit the potential to lead and have been faithful in smaller projects in the past then give them an opportunity to stretch.  If they fail, observe how they handle the failure. What have they learned from it?  Their development might require a guide by the side and not a sage on the stage.  Part of the development process is placing people in situations that are a true stretch. As leadership developers/mentors we don't want to put people in places where they will fail. But if failure is not an option, they will not learn as fast as they can.  Failure should be handled as a developmental iteration on the process to becoming a better leader. Seeking more responsibility even if they are not ready for it is a sure sign of a budding leader.  Don’t be impatient with their impatience.

 INCOGNITO – They are leaders by default.

People defer to them, even if they haven't been designated as the leader. They have been placed in a group or team to carry out a task. Someone else has been designated as leader, but as the project progresses, the group looks to this emerging leader for their opinion. This can be very hard on the designated leader, but the group doesn't seem to mind unless there is a strong clash between the two. These budding leaders aren’t always obvious in group settings.  They are often on the peripheral lurking just out of sight.  They are exposed when others in the group look to them for approval or response.  They may be reluctant leaders or not see themselves as leaders at all.  They may be mavericks or contrarians.  They may be quiet and reserved.  They are however seen by their peers clearly as leaders.  Investigate how a budding leader is perceived by their peers and friends.  Observe how they are engaged by others or deferred to by others.  Observe how their influence is exercised.  They may be rough and even difficult.  Yet, conscious development can make them effective leaders.

INNOVATIVE – They often go beyond what is asked of them.

Emerging leaders often do more than they are asked to do--sometimes to the point of overdoing it. Although this can be a sign to senior leader that time and energy was being wasted, it is also a sign that the emerging leader is ready for more responsibility. The emerging leader is looking not to impress, but rather to do the task or responsibility to their high standards. Sometimes those standards are higher than what we have in our minds if we were doing the project.  Observe how they adjust their leadership style to fit the situation.  Remember, their unique wiring may result in unique solutions.  Give them room to operate.  How do they adjust to a problem?  What techniques do they employ in solving a problem?  How do they engage others in resolving the situation?  Innovation is taking what is and making it better.  It is leveraging existing circumstances to produce a better outcome.  Race horse must be trained to run within the rails and not damage themselves in the process.  Gentle guidance of innovators can ensure they excel within legitimate boundaries.

Careful observation of potential budding leaders can yield a bumper crop of future effective leaders if you have the patience and understanding of the characteristics they exhibit.  You may have to provide a ‘safe place’ for their development and act as a buffer between them and others who may not appreciate their potential.  One of the greatest attributes of a senior experienced leader is their ability to develop talent.  Hopefully, the characteristics of budding leaders just described will help you to be that kind of leader.

Within your sphere of influence who exhibits these characteristics?

Who is insistent, inquisitive, impatient, innovative or incognito?

Who have others written off because they could not see the potential within that budding leader?

Who have you written off that deserves reconsideration?

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