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God wants all of us to grow.  Maturity is one of God’s purposes for our lives.  Hebrews 6:1 tells us, “Let us press on to maturity” (NASB). God intends for us to continually pursue spiritual growth so that we may “be conformed to the image of his Son” (Romans 8:29 NKJV).  

One of God’s purposes for your ministry or Christian business is to help your people grow toward spiritual maturity.  Yet, there is much confusion about what Christian maturity looks like.  As you’re making disciples, you must make it clear what it is to grow in the Lord.

Maturity isn’t about how old you are.  You can be a Christian for many years and still not be mature. The Lord doesn’t want us to grow old in Christ but to grow up in Christ.

Maturity isn’t about what you look like.  Some people may look like they are spiritually mature, but they aren’t.  You aren’t holy just because you look dignified. 

Maturity isn’t about accomplishments.  You can achieve much without being mature in your faith. 

Maturity isn’t about scholarship and knowledge.  A Bible college or seminary degree doesn’t make you spiritually mature. 

You don’t get to be mature by comparing yourself to anyone else.  You become mature by comparing yourself to the Word of God.  The book of James is a manual on how to be mature.

It gives us five marks of spiritual maturity.


  1. A mature leader is positive under difficulty. “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.  So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing” (James 1:2-4 NLT).
    Just because you trusted Christ as your Savior and then chose to follow Him doesn’t mean you won’t face troubles.  The question isn’t whether you’ll experience problems but how you respond and react to them.  Do you get nervous, uptight, or negative?  Do you grumble?
    You can be full of Bible knowledge and still grumpy under challenges.  A mature Christian can be under stress and still be joyful.
  1. A mature leader is sensitive to people.If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you do well;” (James 2:8 NKJV).
    When children are immature, they are entirely self-focused. But mature people don’t just want their needs to be met; they want the needs of others to be met.
    In Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus states we’ll be judged for how we treat others—not how many Bible verses we know or how often we attend church. 
  1. A mature leader has mastered his mouth. For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body.” (James 3:2 NKJV). 
    When you go for a checkup, doctors often say, “Stick out your tongue.” The doctor looks at your tongue to begin to determine the condition of your health.  In a similar way, the Lord does that spiritually, too.
    James 3 gives us several illustrations regarding the tongue.  The chapter calls it a bridle to a horse (3:3), an udder to a ship (3:4), and a spark to a fire (3:5-6).  James 3:8 says, But no man can tame the tongue.  It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.”  (NKJV)
    Earlier in the book, James writes: “If anyone among you thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless. (James 1:26 NKJV).  Gossip, spreading rumors, and constant negative talk are signs you’re immature in the faith.
  1. A mature leader is a peacemaker, not a troublemaker. “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?” (James 4:1 NIV). 
    Don’t we all know Christians who seem to make more trouble than they make peace?  Conflict isn’t a Christian virtue.  It’s a true sign of immaturity.
    James states that being selfish and judgmental are the two most significant sources of conflict.  Both prevent us from having the Christ-like maturity Jesus asks us to pursue.  Pride keeps us from admitting we’re wrong.  It is not our place to be judgmental; only the Lord has that right. 
    Christian maturity means learning to stop being selfish and judgmental because it regularly causes conflict.
  1. A mature leader is patient and prayerful. …be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain.  You also be patient.  Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.(James 5:7-8 NIV).
    Patience and prayerfulness go together.  They both identify an attitude of dependence upon the Lord that demonstrates the marks of a spiritually mature leader.  As James 5 notes, it’s the demeanor farmers understand.  Farmers must do a lot of waiting.  No crops mature overnight.  Just like patient farmers, we must wait for God to work in our lives.  If you can’t wait, you can’t be patient.  Patience is a key element of maturity.

As you’re trying to help people grow spiritually, don’t fall victim to the trap of thinking the people in your ministry or business who know the most Scripture are necessarily the most mature.  Instead, look at how God is transforming their character into His likeness.  Ask yourself:


  • How does this person handle difficulties?
  • Is this person sensitive to the needs and personalities of other people?
  • Does this person manage the way they speak to others?
  • Is this person a peacemaker or troublemaker?
  • Does this person pray without quitting?

That’s the kind of person who is mature and growing into Christlikeness.  And those are the marks of a spiritually mature leader.


Written by Stan Ponz
Dr. Stan Ponz is founder and president of Make It Clear Ministries (a national ministry that began in 1973 to help people take the Gospel and the Word of God into every person's world!). Stan also serves as President of Clarity Christian College. and is married to his high school sweetheart Carol, who led him to the Lord in 1966.