For the last year+ the leaders of TNL Church have been learning discipleship from the folks over at 3DM. To quote their webpage, “3DM trains churches and Christian leaders to do discipleship and mission in an increasingly post-Christian world.”
Through 3DM some of what we have been learning is to develop a lens through which to see and understand how God relates to humanity. In the 3DM vernacular this is spoken of as “Invitation” and “Challenge.”
It is easy to look through these twin lenses to see God engaging with people as individuals and whole communities. Exodus 3 is a good example. Here is God’s invitation and challenge to Moses:
- Invitation: Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God. Exodus 3:6 Here God is telling Moses, “Hey, you may not know it, but we have a long history together. The relationship I am inviting you into goes back generations.”
- Challenge: So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.” Exodus 3:10 Now, God is giving Moses something to do. He is tasking Moses with something he will be accountable for.
Jesus does this too. Look at John 4 to see Jesus’ invitation and challenge to the women at the well:
- Invitation: When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” John 4:7 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” John 4:10 Here Jesus is initiating a conversation with the women when culturally he should not have. He is breaking the standard pattern and giving the women permission to enter into a discussion, and ultimately a relationship with him.
- Challenge: He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.” John 4:16 Oops, the gig is up. Jesus has confronted the women with the truth of her past and current realities. Yet, she rises to the challenge and tells him the truth.
Invitation and Challenge are the modus operandi, the mode of operation, used by God to interact with people. But they are not just tools in his hands, they are his nature! Jesus is specifically said to be Invitation and Challenge. As a matter of fact he is full of it.
John tells us at the start of his Gospel that Jesus came from the Father “full of truth and grace.” (John 1:14) 100% full of both truth and grace. Just like he was 100% full of humanity and divinity. (I’ll let someone else work out the math.) Truth and grace are part of Jesus’ very being. Its not that Jesus just interacted with people through the methodology of truth and grace, but through his nature as being truth and grace. It is who he is. I learned a long time ago Jesus’ approach to people was “Law to the proud and Gospel to the humble.” He did this not just in function, but in form as well. Check out Luke 7:36-50 to see this in action.
Here is how this all plays out and links to together:
So, when engaging people, either in a discipleship context or not, Invitation and Challenge is not a technique. It is a display of the very nature of God for others to see and interact with. For us to be like Jesus is more than participating in the practices of Jesus. It requires we understand the revealed nature of Jesus and join in that nature. So much so, that it shapes and reorients our being and behaviors. This is discipleship at its core.