This is an important question to ask, and I think the most obvious thing to say is that we need to use discernment. For example, the best time to challenge someone is probably not when they have just heard some devastating news, or when there are other people around, or when they are distracted by something else.
It’s important to consider the other person’s feelings and know what else they have going on in their life. Which by the way, is another point about having a good relationship with a person. It is much easier to challenge properly, and avoid causing unintentional harm, when we know the person and they know us.
Because then, if something does come out wrong or come across as being a bit harsh, your pre-existing relationship will counteract that. When you know someone well, you trust that they wouldn’t intentionally want to hurt you, embarrass you, or cause offence. That is so important, particularly when tough conversations are happening. Coming from a place of genuine love and concern for another person makes all the difference.
Relationships Are Key
The best place for a conversation like this to take place is in an accountability relationship or one-to-one. This will mean it is a private and confidential chat. It is also natural that during these times of meeting, challenge will take place.
Sometimes I think that we get all worked up about having a tough conversation. We make it into some big showdown. In reality, most of the time it will probably be just a little five-minute conversation about something.
I would also say that if you are regularly having those conversations and bringing little challenges, the likelihood of you having to have a ‘massive showdown’ is reduced. The trouble comes when we let lots of little things slide and then that turns into a massive issue that requires a long, tough conversation.
We need to nip things in the bud rather than letting things grow into something else. The difficulty comes when we dismiss stuff as just being something small and not really requiring any challenge. But as I have already said, all sin is serious and needs to be challenged and repented of. In God’s eyes, there is no such thing as a small, insignificant sin. Therefore, challenge should be happening regularly.
Now, before you start rubbing your hands together and getting excited . . . that doesn’t mean that our one-to-one’s should turn into a battering session. You don’t want to spend the entire time with someone pulling them up on everything they are saying. Which is why I started by saying we need to exercise discernment.
As people grow in their faith, they will be more aware of sinful attitudes, behaviours and, Lord willing, the Holy Spirit will have brought about conviction. So, He will have done the foundational work for you. In that instance, your job is to remind them that Christ has forgiven them and that they can pray and ask the Holy Spirit to give them the strength to resist that particular temptation when it comes again. Remind them that they have the same power that raised Christ from the dead living in them (Rom. 8:11)!