Invitation & Challenge Study – Week 2, The Quadrant

As we learned in Week 1, Jesus’ pattern, He was a master at inviting people as well as challenging them, from His disciples to the Pharisees.  He recognized where people were, and knew what they needed to effectively engage them.  As you’ll learn, or maybe already know, different people are in different situations, emotionally, physically, socially, etc.  Each person’s context requires not only understanding, but perhaps different approaches in both your inviation and challenge.  This week, we’ll discuss what we call, The Quadrant, to help you identify where people are and what they may need to effectively engage them.

So let’s Encounter, Engage, and Experience The Quadrant to better understand how to invite and challenge people where they are.


We have come to see how scripture is loaded with verses through which the Spirit brings both invitation and challenge into our lives. As his disciples, Jesus desires us to draw nearer to him while simultaneously responding to the voice of the Spirit as he molds and shapes us.

There’s a reason Jesus was so relationally effective. He knew when to invite and he knew when to challenge. Even more importantly, he knew how to balance both invitation and challenge in a way that created an environment in which his disciples felt equipped and empowered. Let’s discuss Jesus’ method of using invitation and challenge to draw people in all walks of life closer to him and show them opportunities to grow and flourish.

We’d like to introduce you to a tool, The Quadrant,  that will help us recognize the kind of environment created by different levels of invitation and challenge and as a result, inform us as we seek to gauge the appropriate balance of invitation and challenge in our own relationships.

Take a listen…


As we have discovered, Jesus was very intentional when he interacted with those around him. He was constantly gauging the level of invitation and challenge that each relationship and interaction required. And he was a master at it! His ability to balance invitation and challenge drew some people nearer to him, caused others to wrestle with their unbelief, and grew and empowered the disciples (people like us!) to be everyday missionaries.

In the video, we explored four cultures that are created (whether intentionally or unintentionally) with varying levels of invitation and challenge. To help you get your bearings, we’ve included a completed copy of the matrix for you below.

Let’s take a moment to review and discuss those cultures in a bit more detail.

Click the first tab “Cozy” in the tabbed box underneath The Quadrant below to begin!


A cozy culture results from receiving a high level of invitation and little or no challenge. This culture feels like a mug of hot cocoa on a blustery winter day or your favorite sweatshirt on a cool fall morning. It’s an easy place to belong. It’s nice to feel wanted and know nothing is required of you. In a cozy culture, there is a sense that you are loved no matter what.

Relationships in this culture are filled with easy flowing conversation, lots of laughter and good times, and a willingness to commiserate when life gets hard. And these are all good things! But if we get too cozy, we miss opportunities for growth.

Without the challenge of learning a new skill at work, the potential for promotion may never
present itself. Without the challenge of parenting a child through a difficult season, we miss the opportunity to see them learn resilience. Without the challenge of trying to mend a broken relationship (learning to own our part of the mess), we miss the chance to see God’s redemption at work in our everyday lives.

You see, a culture that is high invitation and low challenge is a nice place to belong, but not a healthy place to grow into the people God created us to be.


A stressed culture results from receiving a high level of challenge and little or no invitation. This culture feels like climbing Mount Everest in a day or being asked to run a marathon without any training. It’s an uphill climb, you’re always out of breath, and there is that lingering feeling that it’s only a matter of time before the other shoe drops. In a stressful culture, it seems no matter what you do, it won’t be enough.

Relationships in this culture are tenuous. It feels like all you do is give while the other person takes. They may only have time for you when it’s convenient for them and the conversation is often filled with negativity. When your help is requested, a lot may be asked of you without instruction but with the expectation that you’ll get it right. These relationships leave you feeling like you are walking on eggshells.

When our relationships and context are so filled with stress, we either begin to shut down or get revved up to fight back. Neither is healthy. While it’s good to be challenged to grow into who God created us to be, it is vitally important to feel valued and loved for who we are.


A bored culture results from both a low level of invitation and a low level of challenge. There isn’t much happening here. Nothing fun and nothing that requires us to apply ourselves. It’s rare that people choose to stay in a context or relationship that is categorized this way.

Relationships in this culture are surface level. People don’t know much about you and don’t care to take the time to inquire and learn more. In group settings, it doesn’t matter whether you choose to show up or not… chances are either no one will miss you or the planned activity will fall short of your expectations.

No one flourishes in a context or relationship where it feels like nobody loves you and nobody cares if you grow or not.


An empowered culture, or discipling culture, results from introducing an environment of both high invitation and high challenge. In this culture, we recognize that we are a work in progress, that God isn’t finished shaping and molding us – discipling us. Here, we are not only loved, but loved too much to be left as we are. In an empowered culture, we find not only a place of belonging, but a place to grow – to try something new, to fail, and to try again. We are challenged to think more deeply and act upon our convictions.

Relationships in this culture are deep and rich. There is easy conversation, lots of laughter, divided sorrows, a commitment to walk alongside one another, and a desire to help each other grow into who God created us to be. Those moments when life gets hard? A friend who seeks to empower you won’t simply commiserate, but will ask the hard questions that help you see past what is and move toward what could be with a new perspective.

This is the type of culture Jesus created. As Jesus’ disciples, we want to grow to be more like him.

Digging Deeper

Understanding the art of calibrating invitation and challenge in our relationships is a great place to start.

You see, Jesus had mastered the art of invitation. He walked with strangers, he dined with sinners, and he had compassion on the crowds. I imagine Jesus greeted those around him with kindness in his eyes and a smile on his face and was known to laugh easily. People simply wanted to be around Jesus.

Pause for a moment and look up the scriptures below. Underline the words and phrases that illustrate Jesus inviting people into a closer relationship with him…

Luke 24:13-35
Luke 19:1-10
Matthew 9:35-36

Jesus also knew how to level challenge appropriately. He recognized when someone needed a little (or big!) nudge in order to take a step forward in their faith walk. It can be easy to say, “I’ll think or pray about it.” It’s different to be challenged and held accountable to listening for God’s answers and responding in faith.

Look up the scriptures below and circle the words and phrases that illustrate Jesus challenging people to think differently or step into a new way of living…

Mark 10:17-27
John 3:1-21
Luke 20:20-26

But wait! Let’s look at these six passages again. It is important to observe that Jesus still maintains a balance. In the first three passages, Jesus doesn’t only invite, he also gently challenges their thinking and/or way of life. Circle these words and phrases of challenge in your Bible. In the last three passages, Jesus doesn’t only challenge, he also invites the individuals closer to himself. Underline these words and phrases of invitation in your Bible.

Jesus has not only mastered the art of invitation and the ability to level challenge appropriately, he knows how to introduce both aspects into the same relationship. He is always inviting and always challenging. In this way, he expresses to
his people that he not only loves them, but he loves them too much to
leave them as they are.

As his disciples, we, too, want to be a people who foster relationships where people know they are loved no matter what – no matter the sin, lifestyle, socioeconomic level, or past – but are loved too much to leave them as they are.

woman and girl on log over a stream


We identified four different cultures that result from varying levels of invitation and challenge: cozy, stressed, bored and empowered. Recognizing where we have experienced these cultures in our lives and relationships, past and present, will equip us with greater insight and sensitivity to the kind of culture we long for others to experience when they engage with us. It’s time to explore the balance of invitation and challenge in your own life.

Identify times in your life (past or present) when you have experienced the four cultures. Reflect upon those times and write down both the positive and negative feelings that coincided with each culture.


In the examples you listed above, how might your experiences have been more fulfilling or positive if you had felt more invited or perhaps more challenged?

Do you receive invitation or challenge more naturally? Why?

Do you express invitation or challenge more naturally? Why?