Have you ever wanted to change the atmosphere or the culture of a setting? Perhaps your kids are often bored at home. Or perhaps your workplace possesses a stressful atmosphere. Or perhaps your church is characterized by, and has a consumer culture feel to it. Is there a common formula we can use to bring about change? All of the above examples show a deficiency or an excess of either invitation or challenge. We could define ‘Invitation’ as extending acceptance, love, and the offer of relationship. We could define ‘Challenge’ as the call to responsibility and doing things out of that relationship of invitation. When those two are held in perfect tension one will see breakthrough and fruitfulness. Here is a matrix that wonderfully illustrates this concept for us:
As we continue to explore the themes of Covenant and Kingdom in Scripture we see them most fully coming together in the life of Christ. When it comes to making disciples, we know that Jesus was the best! He invested heavily into a small group of individuals, who he would later commission and trust to carry on His work here on earth. And as history shows, they changed the world! What tactics/methodology did Jesus use? One of the things we can observe in the ministry of Jesus is that he understood the dynamics and how to use the exchange of invitation and challenge.
We see that with the crowds Jesus is generally high on invitation and light on challenge. The same is true of his approach with the sinners. Those whose hearts are soft and fertile to respond to the Lord need invitation. For the self-righteous (Pharisees, teachers of the law, individuals who come to Jesus with an agenda), Jesus brings high challenge to break through the falsehood and deal with the root issues. However, generally speaking, the greater the intimacy of relationship people had with Jesus, he also increased the challenge. We see this is the case with his disciples. He brought a lot more challenge to his disciples than to the crowds.
I want to mention a particular interaction of Jesus with the disciples to illustrate this. In Matthew 16 Peter confesses that Jesus is the Christ (vs.13-20). Next we read that Jesus tells the disciples they need to start heading to Jerusalem where he will be killed. Then we have the famous episode where Peter rebukes the Lord for this crazy talk. In response Jesus reprimands Peter with a “Get behind me Satan!” We don’t really understand this, and so think it’s kind of harsh. However, when we look at invitation and challenge dynamics and their appropriate play in a relationship, this passage begins to make a little more sense. Jesus needed to shape Peter and correct the deep-rooted error he was working from. Peter did not understand the Kingdom of God, and so would hinder not help God’s purposes with his current paradigm.
Jesus clearly knew when to invite and when to challenge those closest to him. We have the benefit of hindsight and seeing the long-term impact of his disciple-making to be able to trust His process. Don’t be mistaken; each one of us is called to make disciples. As you consider who the LORD has placed in your life to influence (both formally and informally), be mindful of invitation and challenge. Try and plot which quadrant an individual seems to be in, and make the necessary adjustment to see them come into the empowered quadrant!