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Last year at Catalyst Conference, I attended a breakout with 3DM, a ministry which helps pastors and churches think about the importance and future of discipleship. I had participated in a pilot coaching program Catalyst was conducting and this breakout talked about some of that experience.

The one thing which impacted me most was a slide that was shown. I don’t have a copy of it. I captured one with my phone, but it’s quality is not good enough to share here and I can’t seem to find another, so I recreated the concept in the picture here. (I know what you’re thinking…I’m an artist…right? πŸ™‚ ) Anyway, this one paradigm shaper has impacted my teaching and church leadership as much as anything in recent years.

You can see the diagram, but in case it isn’t clear, here are some explanations:

Invitation – This refers to the atmosphere and degree of welcoming a church or an individual message provides. Do people enjoy being there? Do they want to come back? Is it inviting? Is a message fun to listen to? Is it encouraging and helpful?

Challenge – This refers to the degree others are encouraged to grow in their walk with Christ. Are they challenged? Are they held accountable? Are personal disciplines encouraged? Are sins exposed? Are expectations strong?

The theory is that churches tend to fall into one of these four quadrants:

  • Low Invitation / High Challenge – Produces a discouraged/burnout culture.
  • Low Invitation / Low Challenge – Produces a bored culture.
  • High Invitation / Low Challenge – Produces a cozy/chaplaincy culture.
  • High Invitation / High Challenge – Produces a discipling culture.

I wouldn’t attempt to put churches in one of these categories, but I could. I know some of each of these. Chances are you do too.

If you put Jesus, the master disciple-maker in this diagram, we find He was both high invitation…people loved to be around Him…they were attracted to Him…yet He continually challenged them. He confronted them where their life needed to change.

That’s the kind of church I want to be. Those are the kind of messages I want to deliver each time I speak. To be a discipling church, we must find ways to be high invitation and high challenge.

Have you seen each of these type churches?

In my NEXT POST, I’ll share one way this has altered my Sunday teaching and the way I evaluate a message.

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Ron Edmondson

Author Ron Edmondson

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Join the discussion 28 Comments

  • israel tarlit says:

    i'm a pastor in the Philippines and i appreciate this a lot. it's a great help for me. do you have anything specific things that we can do for this to happen. God bless!

  • A. Amos Love says:


    Was wondering…

    Have you been reading the Gospels to see the blueprint Jesus left for making “Disciples of Christ?”

    I see you spend time training leaders, creating teams, and planting churches…
    But – In the Bible – Did Jesus ask anyone to train leaders? Create teams? Or plant churches?
    If He did ask; I can’t find it in the Bible. But – I might have missed it.

    What He did ask “His Disciples” was to go and make “Disciples.” And He told them how to do it.

    **teaching them to “observe” all things that I have commanded you**

    I’d like to present you with “A Challenge.” πŸ˜‰ Humor me…

    Spend some time reading through the Gospels – asking Jesus – to show you His pattern that
    He showed to “His Disciples.” Make a list… Really… make a list…
    Then you go and do the same things Jesus did and taught “His Disciples.”
    Then you can be an example for others. And teach others…

    If you can’t find the time, you’re probably very busy, present your team with ““A Challenge.”

    Challenge them to go through the Gospels – asking Jesus – to show them “His Pattern.”

    It could be a neat “Team Exercise.” All working on the same project.
    Each one can be responsible for only “ONE” of the Gospels – then ALL can review their findings.

    Hmmm? What did Jesus do, teach and command “His Disciples?”

    Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you:
    as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.
    John 20:21

  • A. Amos Love says:

    Ron – Was that an invitation to visit Clarksville, TN…? πŸ˜‰
    We do eat the fruit of our mouths. And hanging out? You never know. Sounds good to me…
    I love talking about the one who loves me… And you…

    You ask…
    “What does that believer look like? James would say one of action as well as one of faith. I believe teaching people to be that kind of believer takes high invitation and high challenge.”

    I agree with you, and like, how you explain “high invitation and high challenge” for believers.

    My challenge becomes – We all can use the scriptures to validate our life style…
    And Jesus asked us to “make Disciples” NOT make believers.

    Making believers today seems a whole lot easier then making disciples. Yes? Here are two examples of tough qualifications for a “Disciple of Christ” found in the scriptures. Oy Vey!!!

    Matthew 16:24-25
    Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me,
    let him **deny himself,** and take up his cross, and follow me.
    For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever
    will lose his life for my sake shall find it.

    Luke 14:33
    So likewise, whosoever he be of you *that forsaketh NOT ALL that he hath,**
    he can NOT be my disciple.

    These few verses alone convicts me that I can’t make a “Disciple of Christ.” πŸ™‚

    Never figured out – How do you get someone to “Deny themself?” πŸ™
    Never figured out – How do you get someone to “Forsake All?” πŸ™

    Now – If someone, a mere human, is still thinking they can actually make a “Disciple of Christ”
    Jesus gives us the instructions on how to accomplish that – In the Bible – In just two verses.

    Mat 28:19:20 NKJV
    Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations,
    baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit
    **teaching them to “observe” all things that I have commanded you**

    Don’t need NO seminaries, NO books, and NO conferrences – on discipleship. Just Jesus…
    IMO – Jesus wants to be the “ONE” who disciples us, trains us, teaches us, and conforms us
    into His image. Rom 8:29.

    Makes an interesting study – reading the red – reading what Jesus said and taught “His Disciples.”
    Just read the red – make a list – compare to what most are doing and teaching wannabee disciples.
    Compare the books, the conferences, and see if it sounds like Jesus, sounds like the Bible. πŸ˜‰
    If NOT throw the books and conferences away… They are leading you astray…

    Makes an interesting example – If we’re a “Disciple of Christ?” – letting others watch and
    “observe” what “we do” that looks like what Jesus did and taught “His Disciples” in the Bible.
    And looks like what “His Disciples” did and taught others in the Bible.

    2 Cor 11:3
    But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty,
    so your minds should be corrupted from *the simplicity that is in Christ.*

    Jesus made it simple – Two Verses…
    **teaching them to “observe” all things that I have commanded you**

    How many today focus on Jesus and what He taught “His Disciples?” NOT many. Yes?

  • A. Amos Love says:


    There sure are lot’s of books and creative info today about “Discipleship.” πŸ˜‰
    Didn’t you ever wonder why this topic is NOT taught or talked about – in the Bible?

    Don’t know if you ever checked or not but…
    “Discipleship,” “Discipleship Training,” “Discipleship Coulture,” “Discipleing,”“Being Discipled,”
    are words and sayings NOT found in the Bible.

    And, in the NT the word “Disciple” and “Disciples” are only found in the 4 Gospels and Act’s.

    NONE of the Epistle’s mention “Disciple,” “Discipleship,” or “Discipleship Training.”
    Paul, with all the instruction he writes about for the ekklesia, nevers mentions
    “Disciple,” “Discipleship,” or “Discipleship Training.”

    And as hard as I tried – I finnaly accepted the fact – I had never made a “Disciple of Christ.” πŸ™

    Oh, I did make a few *disciples of Amos* and what Amos believed. πŸ™
    And, made a few *disciples of my denomination* and what my denomination believed.
    Or, *disciples* of whatever the movement I now belonged to believed.

    I did get a few to pray “The Prayer,” but… I never made a “Disciple of Christ.” πŸ™

    Acts 20:30
    Of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.

    I mean, have you checked out the qualifications for being a “Disciple of Christ?” And…
    If we don’t even know the tough qualifications, the blueprint, how can we, us mere humans,
    “Make a Disciple of Christ?”

    IMO – Trying to develop a “Discipleship Coulture” and “Discipleship” is NOT found in the Bible.
    And is actually “anti-christ,” an instead of, a diversion from hearing from Jesus and obeying Him.

    I’ve come to believe – NO mere fallible human can make a “Disciple of Christ.”

    I’ve come to believe – Only Jesus can “make a disciple of Christ.”

    • ronedmondson says:

      Amos, I love your heart…I really do…Sounds like the heart of a disciple πŸ™‚

      Seriously, I bet we'd be good friends if we ever get to hang out.

      I understand what you are saying, but don't know that I agree completely. Lots of terms we use aren't in every book of the Bible. Maybe the term disciple is wrong…I'm okay with that…but let's use the term believer. What does that believer look like? James would say one of action as well as one of faith. I believe teaching people to be that kind of believer takes high invitation and high challenge.

      But, I also don't have a problem with the term disciple, even if it's been culturally applied. We talk about Sunday school…not a Biblical term, but highly practical today.

      Love your heart and your comments.

  • James Mac says:

    It's a neat concept, but you need to unpack the "invitation" side of the model better.

    The problem I see regularly is the church where the pastor preaches for conversion all the time – and does exactly nothing to take people forward. I rather suspect such a pastor would put himself/herself into the HIHC quadrant as a discipling church, but in reality the church is right over the other side.

    • ronedmondson says:

      Thanks James. You described the "invitation" side well. I talked about it more in my next post.

  • I think the idea of invitation is pretty clear, but more difficult to grasp is what is meant by challenge? What is meant by challenge? My guess is that means I a bit on the low challenge side.

    • ronedmondson says:

      I use the story in John 8 as an example. Jesus said "He who is without sin cast the first stone" and "Neither do I condemn you" That's high invitation. Who doesn't want to hear that? He also says, "go and sin no more". That's high challenge.

      • I do agree the John 8 story is helpful, but I often feel there is a great tension that almost leads to a lack of challenge or better yet adventure when we give people a sense that the best they have to hope for in the Christian journey is "sinless-ness". How can we help people step into the challenge of the Christ-life beyond "go and sin no more." Is there a positive we can focus on that is as tangible if not more than "sin less"? Certainly, the challenge of loving others is huge, but can we break that down further…. Sorry, I'm thinking "out loud" here.

        • ronedmondson says:

          I love the thinking out loud…Isn't the teaching them how to "sin less" part of discipleship? I don't know that we can do that with teaching…it requires mentoring, accountability, relationship building…etc. It's certainly more, in my opinion, than just what I can do on Sunday mornings.

          • Thanks for challenging me to go further! May our lives and efforts of discipleship birth in others a desire to love others more, and love ourselves less. In so doing, may we find the greatest adventures are in the challenges of following Christ.

  • Peter Banks says:

    Wrestling with the explanations versus the diagram…! Please tell me 'Produces a cozy/chaplaincy culture' should be High invitation /Low Challenge and 'Produces a discouraged/burnout culture' should be Low Invitation / High Challenge? PB

    • ronedmondson says:

      Thanks Peter. I actually had those mixed up in the description. It's corrected now.

  • 4himcamper says:

    I also have seen churches in some of those categories….You've given me information that I'm going to pass on to my senior pastor as he wants us in that discipling culture.

  • I agree with you Ron! It is difficult to find the church with the right balance. Either they will fall under "High Invitation / Low Challenge" or "Low Invitation / High Challenge". A chrch which strikes the balance stikes the gold. Even in our work, we need the right mix of motivation and edification for effective functioning.

  • Chris says:

    I think I see High Invitation/Low Challenge cultures a lot. So many times people can give the inspirational speeches and attract people in but they don't know what to do with them. I think that was me my first day of ministry. But leadership has to be a culture where people WANT to follow, a culture that creates and encourages growth by allowing people to use and grow their talents and gifts.

    I been in a lot of low invitation churches. both types you have listed here. low/low churches die. period. I grew up in a church like this. heart breaking.

    • ronedmondson says:

      Thanks Chris. Honestly, I think we've been High Invitation/Low Challenge at times as a church plant. I want to encourage us to be willing to offer challenges.