I am in a clergy study group. This month, a colleague was leading devotions and he asked, “What does a mature disciple of Jesus look like?”
This is a great question. If you are a leader in the church it is essential. If the church is about making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world, then we need to know what that looks like. As Stephen Covey said, begin with the end in mind. Here is what I came up with.
A mature disciple loves God and neighbor.
That’s a broad statement, so let me unpack it. I’ve had the privilege of meeting people that Bill Easum calls Spiritual Redwoods. They are so spiritually mature that you know they have a deep relationship with God. Here are some of their characteristics.
They worship God, to worship God. Not to be “fed” spiritually or to be inspired, but to give their hearts to God. They may have a worship preference, but they don’t hold that out as the only way, because it’s ultimately not about style. It’s about giving themselves over to God.
They are non-judgmental. This is the loving neighbor part. Mature disciples know that they have been made whole by the grace of God. They know they don’t deserve it, but God’s unconditional love is just that, unconditional. They know they are not judged, so they don’t judge others.
They are constantly seeking God’s will. The lay leader in the last church I served was the late Bud McKee. I used to call Bud the Anti-BS. When people used to start to act up and get out of sorts, Bud used to say, “What do you think God would want us to do?” Bud was a spiritual redwood. When he would say this, people would settle down and focus on God.
It’s not about them. It’s about God and neighbor. This is something that is pretty easy to see in people. You can tell who is about themselves and who is about God and others. For the latter, mature disciples, this translates into a spiritual presence that is attractive and powerful.
They are intentional about connecting with the least among us. People are called to different ministries, but mature disciples are doing something that brings them face to face with Jesus in the least of these (MT 25:31-46). It might be the homeless, poor, sick, imprisoned, hurting or disenfranchised, but they get in the trenches in some way to connect with someone who is in great need.
They are generous with their time, talent and treasure. Mature disciples always seem to have time for others. They use what they do well for the sake of others. And they give of their resources to help others.
They push the church to be outward looking. In all of these characteristics, mature disciples remind the church that it is organized for the benefit of its non-members. They are concerned about the visitor and the newer attenders, wanting to ensure that they not only feel welcome, but that the programs of the church are meaningful and accessible. They favor making the building available for use by the community. They are willing to challenge church members who are only thinking of themselves or about what’s good for the congregation.
What would your church look like if it were full of people like this?
What am I missing?
The next post will answer my colleague’s follow-up question: “How do we nurture mature disciples?”