The most daunting and challenging responsibility for church leaders is not church growth; it’s leading people to greater spiritual maturity.
We’ve learned much in the last thirty years about how to grow a church. Growing an organization is “easy” compared to helping a person grow as a spiritual human being.
We understand stuff like small groups, how to follow up on a new guest, children’s ministry, etc. We do well with org charts, financial reviews, and we almost have the coffee right. But the transformation of a person from a spiritual infant to spiritual maturity – Whoa! That you can’t fit in a blog post, a conference talk and even a good book can’t cover it all.
Personal transformation requires the grace and power of God, along with the desire and deliberate effort of each individual. Then, there is a “real and present” enemy who wants to stop the process! Only the courageous keep leading here.
What I love about all this is that there’s nothing more rewarding and meaningful than to be right square in the middle of it all! I’m just never bored – are you?!
The process of spiritual maturation is often messy and unclear. There is no formula or entirely right way. But we need a target. We need a direction to head in.
We know where it starts. We understand the big picture. The Great Commission is found in Matthew 28:19-20. Make disciples of Jesus! That’s the true north of spiritual maturity.
Therefore go and make disciples in all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and then teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you; and be sure of this—that I am with you always, even to the end of the world.”
Seems pretty clear, right?
But . . .
- What does it mean to make a disciple?
- What does it mean to be a disciple?
- What does it mean to be a mature disciple?
We can use favorite scriptures to help us such as:
But how do you define spiritual maturity?
What is the target that you aim for? We know it’s not a black and white formula, but some direction is needed.
This weekend, Pastor Kevin Myers, founding pastor of 12Stone Church where I serve as XP, gave the best definition I’ve heard in a long time. He said spiritual maturity is:
- Spiritual Intimacy – your heart experience with God.
- Biblical Knowledge – the truth embraced in your mind from the Word of God.
- Holy Obedience – Your will, that is, what you do — surrendering to the will and ways of God.
It’s the combination of all three that make this so powerful.
Pastor Kevin continued to say:
The risk is when you emphasize one of the three without the other two.
- Spiritual Intimacy without biblical knowledge and holy obedience becomes emotionalism.
- Biblical Knowledge without spiritual intimacy and holy obedience becomes intellectualism.
- Holy Obedience without spiritual intimacy and biblical knowledge becomes legalism.
I’d love to know your definition of spiritual maturity. Leave a comment if you have a few minutes.
I believe God would grant us some freedom with our words that define and shape spiritual maturity. But to keep those we serve and lead headed in the right direction, I believe that “biblical guideposts” are helpful to all of us.
The following three essential guideposts will help us point toward the “true north” of the Great Commission.
This is for all of us. No one ever fully “arrives” in this process of spiritual maturity.
3 Essential Guideposts:
1) An Eternal Mindset
Let’s be honest; there are easier roads to take in life. Christian maturity is the road less taken, and unless you believe that Heaven is real, and so is Hell, life becomes shallow and spiritual maturity doesn’t make sense.
An eternal perspective guides how we think, make decisions and treat people. It shapes how we handle our resources, work at our jobs and handle conflict.
Eternal vs. temporal is a complete game changer.
2) A Creation Framework
Human nature resists submission. No one likes being told what to do. We prefer being in charge. However, God is in charge, and we are not.
A creation narrative assumes a creator and the created. If we are created, then we are created on purpose and with a purpose.
This framework contains a specific design for our lives that includes submission to a greater will. Jesus experienced this struggle at Gethsemane. (Matthew 26:36-39)
If Jesus did, even for a moment, it’s obvious that we will too.
A creation framework includes worship of the creator. The complexity is not in our joy practice of worshipping God, it’s found in letting go of worshipping the lesser gods. I’ve been a follower of Jesus for decades, and I’m still working on this!
Continual growing, learning and changing is part of a life committed to spiritual maturity.
3) A Redemptive Outlook
A redemptive perspective believes that relationships can be redeemed. That which is broken can be restored. This is excellent news for all of us.
I’ve often heard it said, that “people don’t change.” That’s not true. I’ve changed. I’ll bet you’ve changed. We’ve helped thousands of people change, through Christ, for the good.
People walk in a direction opposite of God, then they “turn around” and head in a new direction. They change! I love this part!
We sin, we fall, we get back up again. That’s part of the maturing process. The idea is we fall less often and get back up quicker.
Let me say that no matter how “impossible” the road to spiritual maturity may seem at times, it is, in fact, possible. Let’s stick together and keep going.