What is a mature disciple?

At a recent church planters meeting, we were asked “What characteristics should a mature disciple display?”  The point the discussion leader was making was that:

  1. We are always doing disciple making activities whether we realise it or not.  The question is what type of disciples those activities are creating.
  2. We should keep our focus as churches on disciple making activities that produce what we believe mature disciples should be like.

They made a couple of other suggestions about thinking this through

  1. It is helpful for church leaders to go through the exercise and try to list the qualities and characteristics looked for
  2. Whilst there are transcultural Biblical principles you also want to be aware that the detail of how this applies may vary culturally.[1]
  3. There will be an element of being and an element of doing
  4. There should be a repeatability to discipleship making that will see it handed on to the next few generations.

Here are a few quick thoughts I had

  1. It might be helpful to think in terms of three loves
  2. Do they love God? – Is this seen in devotion to worship, a healthy prayer life, prioritising knowing and understanding God’s Word?
  3. Do they love God’s people? – If we love Christ then we will love his bride the church. This will be seen in how we talk to and talk about each other. It will be seen in our willingness to serve.[2]
  4. Do they love their neighbours?  – Is there a radical pursuit of the lost so that personal involvement in evangelism and support for mission is evident?  Do they have a concern for the needs of others? Are they good citizens? Are they responsible stewards of what God has entrusted to them?
  5. I think mature believers will display both a healthy contentment in God’s provision and current calling to them. They will be learning to redeem the time and to enjoy and make good use of the work/vocational context they find themselves in.  At the same time there will be a sense of urgency and a lack of complacency both in terms of their own spiritual growth and the need to share the Gospel.
  6. I often am reminded of Mike Ovey’s point that we know that God is speaking to us because he disagrees with us. That’s what real people do.  If my god just confirms my own preferences and prejudices then it is just reflecting my thoughts back and is likely to be a product of my imagination.  So, when was the last time that I experienced this? When was it that I was really challenged to change my thoughts, emotions or behaviours?  We tend to assume that it will be young believers who will be challenged and need to change as they learn but giving we are not perfect yet all of us should be experiencing this as the Holy Spirit is at work in our lives.  I worry that too often we (including I) judge preachers, sermons and books by the extent to which they confirm what we already know and believe.  Am I ready for God to challenge me?

I think those four points should give a good starting point for thinking about the specifics.

Would you add anything?

How would the specifics be applied in your context?

[1] I think there is something to be said for this. A few years back we got the Youth and children;s team at Bearwood Chapel to think about what maturity looked like for 11 year old and 18 year old disciples.

[2] Watch out for some further related thoughts coming up on this.