Spiritual Maturity

In 30+ years of ministry I have never, never, not even once heard a pastor say something like this: “My people are so spiritually mature that we are going to work on growth, missions, and building.”

Not only have I not heard this, but I do not expect to. Spiritual maturity among believers is the elusive goal that many pastors face each day as they lead churches. It is not that individuals cannot be or are not spiritually mature but rather that congregations never quite reach maturity. The reasons for this are obvious, and they include:

The constant influx of new believers means that the maturity level of a church is always in process of development and never complete. This is as it should be, and there is nothing at all wrong with this. In fact, it is what we all want to experience in our churches. A constant blend of Christians, new Christians, and unbelievers we are seeking to reach means that our churches are healthy.

The Christian life is a journey and not a destination. We do not arrive as believers at some point in our journey never to change again. We are constantly growing and changing as the Lord transforms us into the very image of Christ. Sanctification takes place throughout life so individuals and congregations are never all they can be or will become. Congregations can grow spiritually, and they can display signs of wisdom and maturity, but there is always another part to the journey.

There are always crises in the life of the congregations which threaten their health and maturity. Immorality among members, tragedies such a death and divorce, financial reversals, and other such things as this can arrest the spiritual development and individual believers and congregations.

So what is the point of these obvious facts? The point, well taken, is that every church must be good in discipling its members if it is to achieve spiritual health, balance, and growth. Discipleship is the bridge between our experience of salvation and the spiritual maturity required for us to serve the Lord in ministry. Without discipleship there is little possibility that believers will ever minister effectively. I must hasten to add that discipleship is much more than imparting knowledge to believers. It is training them with the truth in order to minister in the kingdom of God.

Discipleship is a fundamental function (purpose) of the church because it moves people to kingdom ministries that fulfill the Great Commission. Preaching alone will not do it. Worship will not do it. Fellowship will not do it. Discipleship is the process of transformation in a believer’s life into Christlikeness in such a manner that the believer manifests love, trust, and obedience to the Lord in all things.

Discipleship is the most needed and neglected function in most churches today. We often lament that lack of spiritual maturity, commitment, and skills of our people for ministry, but that lament is matched by an equal lack of teaching, training, mentoring, and leadership. We simply cannot do the ministry Christ has given to us without discipling our people to minister.