I’ll never forget the moment that Bill came to sit with me in the penalty box. I was rather embarrassed.
It was a Bible college intramural hockey game. I had been a little chippy with my stick. I had been a little lippy with my mouth. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the first time that game. The referee didn’t appreciate my antics, and off to the box I went. As I settled in for my two minutes of reflection in solitude, my teammate Bill climbed in too. “Um, Bill,” the referee queried, “what are you doing? We didn’t give you a penalty.”
“I know. I just need a little chat with this young man for a moment,” Bill replied.
“Ryan,” he said quietly. Play resumed as we sat in the penalty box side by side. “I’m not sure what the problem is tonight, but the way you’re playing does not display the man of God I know you to be. I expected better from you.” And that was all he said.
We sat in silence the remainder of the penalty. My ears burned red. I knew he was right. I also knew that my classmates both on the ice and in the stands were aware I’d been confronted. The words of challenge had been heard and received.
This experience stands out as a significant moment of my discipleship. It played a pivotal role in maturing my on-ice conduct towards the glory of God. You see, Bill was my 60-year-old residence director. He served as a pastor and mentor to a whole host of college students.
In my life, he was the epitome of the discipleship approach labelled “Invitation and Challenge” by Mike Breen of 3DM Movements. In Building a Discipling Culture, Breen writes, “A gifted discipler is someone who invites people into a covenantal relationship with him or her, but challenges the person to live into his or her true identity in very direct, yet graceful ways.”
Bill had lived a life of invitation, playing hockey alongside us, eating meals in the cafeteria, asking over and over how he could pray for us. We knew that Bill loved us and would be with us each step of the way on our journey as students. Bill had invited us into a friendship of commitment and trust.
Following his explicit challenge, that invitation continued in the dressing room. With tears in his eyes, Bill looked at me and said, “Ryan, I really admire the way you played the rest of the game.” That was all he said. Truth be told, I didn’t do anything extraordinary. I shut up, put my head down and, still embarrassed, simply played out the rest of the game. But apparently Bill saw more than that. He saw God at work in this process of discipleship. Having challenged me, Bill extended yet another invitation.
This is the life of disciples of Jesus. Invitation and challenge. Through faith in his life, death and resurrection, we are in Christ. And now we are called to become like Christ. It is no easy journey. My heart and mind are not inclined towards holiness. It’s a daily struggle. This is why we need disciplers, those who extend invitation and challenge.
Who is discipling you in this way? Who might the Holy Spirit be calling you to disciple through invitation and challenge?
Following five years with the Kingsfield-Clinton church plant in southwestern Ontario, Ryan Jantzi now pastors the nearby Kingsfield-Zurich Mennonite Church, where he’s fascinated with exploring the interplay between traditional church and new expressions of mission.