This is the fifth part in a series of blog posts that outlines my philosophy and practice of discipleship, a distillation and condensation of the stuff I’ve learned over the past few years from 3DM and others, a (somewhat) coherent “manifesto” on discipleship, if you will. Here are links to the first four posts in the series.
- Part 1: Discipleship is Character and Competency
- Part 2: Discipleship is Relational and Directive
- Part 3: Discipleship – Who to Invite
- Part 4: Discipleship is Structured and Spontaneous
In this post I discuss the second BOTH/AND lens I use to create the environment of discipleship: calibrating both invitation and challenge.
We know that discipleship is the process of becoming like Jesus in both character and competency, and that this occurs in a relational and directive context, where the discipler offers his or her life as a embodied example to imitate. We’ve discussed who to invite into this kind of relationship, but how do you actually do it? I use two BOTH/AND lenses to help me create an environment of discipleship. The first is a structured and spontaneous relationship. The second is an environment that is both highly invitational and highly challenging.
Invitation and Challenge
Invitation refers to an attitude that says, “I’m glad you are here, I’m committed to you and will welcome you no matter what.” Challenge refers to an attitude that says, “I want you to grow, I’m committed to holding you accountable to change for the better.”
People are used to experiencing cultures that are either highly invitational or highly challenging, but typically they don’t ever experience them together. Left to our own devices as leaders, we tend to either create cultures that are “high invitation/low challenge” (cozy, consumer) or “high challenge/low invitation” (stressed/discouraged), or perhaps we swing between the two, unsure of how to actually bring both at the same time.
The matrix below helps to illustrate the different cultures that we can create by calibrating invitation and challenge.
Just like the structured/spontaneous reality, all of us have a tendency toward invitation or challenge. Either we are more comfortable offering an invitation to covenant relationship, or we are more comfortable bringing a challenge to kingdom fruitfulness. If you want to make disciples, you’ll have to learn to do intentionally that which you’re not good at naturally.
Those who are natural “inviters” need to learn to bring challenge. They’ll need to learn to push harder than they’re comfortable with. They’ll need to learn to hold others accountable for taking action in the kingdom.
Those who are natural “challengers” need to learn to be inviting and warm. They’ll need to learn to have meetings with no clear agenda, just enjoying the company of others. They’ll need to learn to affirm and encourage those they’re discipling.
In both cases there’s axiom that seems to hold true: when you feel like you are leaning into that which you’re not comfortable with way too much, you’re probably almost there. “Challengers” will feel like they are being overly-mushy and sentimental when they’re actually calibrating an almost-appropriate amount of invitation. “Inviters” will feel like they are being harsh task-masters when they’re actually calibrating an almost-appropriate amount of challenge.