LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT SEMINAR
FOR PASTORS, MINISTERS, AND CHURCH LEADERS
June 7 – 9, 2005
Theme: SPIRITUAL MATURITY
International Evangelist, Marriage and Family Counselor, Bible Teacher, Author, Prayer Minister
Professor of Biology, Hampton, Virginia, USA
Founder and President, Fruitful Ministries International Inc. (FM Int.)
(Evangelistic & Teaching Ministry)
6 Red Robin Turn, Hampton, VA 23669, USA
A) Definition of maturity:
Webster’s Dictionary defines maturity as:
1) Having attained full growth or development.
2) Having reached a desired stage, especially after processing.
3) Having the characteristics associated with an adult.
4) Carefully thought out (e.g. a mature decision).
5) Due and payable (e.g. a mature bond).
Other words associated with maturity are: adult, big, developed, full-blown, full-fledged, full-grown, grown, grown-up, ripe, ripened.
All these definitions and synonymous words that are used for physical things do apply to spiritual matters as well.
True leaders are chosen with a level of maturity, and are expected to grow into higher and deeper levels of maturity with time.
A) Eleven basic characteristics of the spiritually mature person
1) Relationship with God is the most important priority for the spiritually mature person.
2) Relationship with people is the mature person’s next priority.
3) The mature person focuses on God instead of men. New, immature Christians usually focus too much on themselves in order to please people and the flesh, and are therefore tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine and opinions of men (Ephesians 4: 14).
No matter how close you are to the Lord, you have to make a conscious effort each moment to focus on God.
Even Peter who was very close to the Lord Jesus could yield to the temptation of the devil “not to be mindful of the things of God but the things of men” (Mark 8: 33).
4) Spiritually mature individuals are wise, in their dealings, thoughts, words, and actions, and they exercise insight before they accept things that come their way. Immature people are always fretful, easily agitated, foolishly aggressive, and very impulsive.
5) Spiritually mature individuals are patient, good listeners, understanding, gentle, and careful. Immature individuals are like children who are always anxious, careless, and difficult to reason with.
6) Truly spiritual and mature Christians are humble, because they have submitted to the Lord and have allowed God to break and molded them into useful vessels of honor for the Master’s use, and for God’s utmost purposes (2 Timothy 2: 20-22). Their humility causes God to pour abundant grace into their lives, marriages, home, families, work, and ministry (1 Peter 5: 5, 6; James 4: 6).
7) Truly spiritual and mature Believers have love for God and love for people, and are compassionate. They are loving, selfless, and sacrificial individuals who look out for the welfare and progress of others. Immature, unspiritual Christians and ministers are often very selfish, hard, unloving, and uncaring. Love and compassion are two basic factors of the heart that should drive any spiritually mature minister for authentic ministry, just like Jesus (Mark 6: 34).
8) A truly spiritual and mature Christian has a strong desire for God’s word, and lives in obedience to God’s will. Such a Believer loves to study, meditate on, and apply God’s word to every situation that he or she encounters.
A real spiritual pastor, minister, or leader with authentic ministry is like Apollos who was “mighty in the scriptures” (Acts 18: 24).
9) Spiritually mature Christians are effective and victorious in spiritual warfare. They have full knowledge of their spiritual weapons, and know how to use them to fight and win their battles effectively (2 Corinthians 10: 3, 4; 1 John 2: 13, 14; Ephesians 6: 10-18).
Spiritually mature persons have the mind of Christ (i.e. they know what God is doing --- 1 Corinthians 2: 16; Philippians 2: 5) and know how to activate such a gifted mind from the Lord with daily meditation on God’s word. They are simultaneously not ignorant of the devices of Satan (i.e. they know what the devil is also scheming and doing --- 2 Corinthians 2: 11). They know to fight and win the battle of the mind, and conquer the stronghold of the human mind, which is the primary area of attack and playground of the devil (2 Corinthians 10: 5; Hosea 4: 6).
10) Spiritually mature Christians possess stability. The mature man or woman possesses stable, unwavering faith in the Lord, and firmly believes in his or her spiritual convictions, and what he or she has the capability to do.
A spiritually mature pastor, minister, or church leader always works towards unity and stability, and has a stable marriage, home, family, and church.
11) Spiritually mature Believers are persistent with their dreams just like Joseph in the Bible.
Maturity is one of the basic characters of God our Father. God therefore commanded all of his children, through Christ, to become perfect: “Therefore you shall be perfect (mature), just as your Father in heaven is perfect (mature)” (Mathew 5: 48).
God uses suffering, trials, difficulties, and discipline as important components of his tools for training us to be broken, humble, patient, steadfast, purified, mature, and complete in Him (James 1: 2-4).
We as God’s servants and ministers of the Gospel have been commissioned by God to “preach Christ, warn every man and teach every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect (mature) in Christ Jesus” (Colossians 1: 28).
This must be a primary goal of our pastoral work, programs, and all the ministries in the church.
1) The word “grow” (or growth) is the key word for all matters pertaining to maturity. If Christians as defined and described as “born again” individuals at conversion, then they are “babies” who have to “grow” into maturity (1 Peter 2: 2).
2) God’s original divine plan and purpose is for all His children to grow to the full measure of the stature of Christ, and no longer be wavering children but rather become mature men and women in the Lord (Ephesians 4: 13, 14).
3) We are commanded, and required to grow as believers in Jesus Christ. It is NOT an option to grow as a Christian; it is an obligation (Colossians 2: 6, 7).
4) We are to “grow up in all things into Him who is the head –Christ” (Ephesians 4: 15).
“In ALL things” implies that no area of our lives should be considered as unimportant to God, and should not be allowed to become stagnant or stunted in growth.
This is where a leader or minister can be very good and strong in one area, but become so poor and weak in another area that the immature, weak part of him or her taints and erodes all the great achievements that have accumulated from efforts of his or her areas of strength.
5) Our growth must be vertical (in our relationship towards God), and simultaneously horizontal (in our relationship towards men).
6) Our growth must be supplied with the proper nutrients, directed and controlled purposely, and managed wisely for the expansion of God’s kingdom. We are therefore required to “grow into Christ” (Eph. 4: 15), in order to draw our nutrients from Him, become anchored in Him, and stand up tall in Him in glory and honor. If not, then our growth can become cancerous growth that aimlessly multiplies in all directions uncontrollably, pushing its way around and doing damage to its neighbors, and not producing the expected results.
7) Each of us is a member of the Body of Christ. Proper, coordinated growth of each individual therefore means each part of the body is contributing its expected portion of bodily growth for the ultimate growth and maturity of the entire body in the Lord. This is the only way for the body and all its components to function effectively (Ephesians 4: 16).
Special growth ingredients are outlined in Ephesians chapter 4 for the church as a Body of Christ:
1) Recognition and understanding of your calling as a holy calling of God (vs.1).
2) Humility to learn, patiently endure trials and temptations, and fellowship in peace with the brethren (vs.2, 3).
3) Sacrificial efforts to promote and maintain unity with all other Believers within the body of Christ (vs. 3-6).
4) Commitment to Christ for God’s grace to flow through God’s gifts, and for the 5-fold ministry of God to operate within the church (apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers) (vs. 7-11).
5) Equipment of the saints for the work of ministry to operate in full, and for the church to be edified (built up) (vs.12).
6) Faith in God that is possessed and expressed equally by all (vs.13).
7) Knowledge of Christ that is sought equally by all with the same intensity (vs.13).
8) Truth that is spoken in love (vs. 15).
9) Love that is possessed and practiced in relationship with God and with one another (vs.15).
10) Deliberate effort to be Christ-like by getting rid of unrighteous deeds (vs. 17-22, 25-31.
11) Renewal of our minds (vs.23).
12) Conscious effort to become fully committed to God and practice righteousness (vs.24).
There are four primary areas of growth, exemplified by the Lord Jesus in Luke 2: 52. We are told that Jesus:
1) Grew in wisdom --- mental development and maturity.
2) Grew in stature --- physical development.
3) Grew in favor with God --- spiritual development.
4) Grew in favor with man --- social development.
Mental growth and development is the foundation of all growth, training, parenting, and discipleship. All of our ministry must aim at developing the minds of people first, before they can understand things of God, understand us, receive our teaching, catch our vision, and become true followers of the Lord.
That is why God took time to give us the mind of Christ after conversion.
When we say that a child is becoming mature, we really refer to his or her ability to make wise choices and decisions, make desirable or profitable statements, and put up good behavior, all dictated by the mind.
Choices and decisions go far beyond getting what we want. They are designed by God to enable us to exercise our gift of free will in agreement with His Spirit’s direction, and therefore grow in our character and become spiritually mature children of God who use our choices and decisions to bear fruit that glorifies God.
Every mature plant, animal, or human is always stronger than when it was a baby or juvenile. Strength results from growth. Strength could be:
1) Physical --- strength of your body.
2) Spiritual --- inner strength and courage of your heart and spirit.
3) Mental --- wise, upright thinking that is consistent and strong, especially in making choices.
4) Moral --- strength of character to overcome temptations and sin, and stick to righteousness.
5) Emotional --- controlled feelings and tamed emotions
God is the source of all strength, and when He speaks of strength, He implies strength in all these five and associated areas of human life.
God knows that our strength would fail frequently. In fact, we need to come to Him in prayer and meditation on His word daily in order to even have enough spiritual strength to live godly, fruitful lives each day.
When we truly make Jesus our Lord (absolute Master), He promises to give us strength, and continue to grant us constant supply of strength, as we wait upon Him to renew our strength in all aspects of our lives (Isaiah 40:30, 31).
In accordance with Isaiah 40: 30-31, we need to obtain strength in order to be able to:
1) Fly by mounting up with wings that rely on the current of air like eagles (dependence on the Holy Spirit) and “make air strikes against the enemy”, fly over traps set by the enemy, see the big picture of things that we are dealing with, have a retreat away from our normal earthly activities and reflect on things, exercise our muscles, and take charge of our possessions.
2) Run our race of life without being weary and giving up, running fast to deal with urgent issue we discovered and obtained wisdom to handle when we were in the air, and continue to move steadfastly towards our goal.
3) Walk briskly and purposely without fainting along the way, tirelessly walking and working together with God, carefully doing the ground war in order to finish fighting and gain complete victory.
The production of fruit is a primary sign indicating that an organism that is alive is indeed growing, and has reached the stage of full maturity. The same is true of God’s children and ministers as well. Ministers and leaders are chosen to learn, teach, and guide others to bear fruit for God, and for their disciples to become a blessing to society in the same way that they, the leaders, have learned to grow into maturity and become fruitful. God chooses us (Christians) to become His children in order to go out into the world, show them the character of God by our holy and righteous lives of love, and thereby produce fruit that glorifies God (St. John 15: 16).
The following factors must be considered for fruit production:
1) God commands us to “go and bear fruit” (St. John 15: 16). If we do not bear fruit, we live in disobedience and incur God’s displeasure.
2) We are usually referred to as trees, because the following are true of trees:
a) Growth into maturity
e) Very useful
f) Always producing the same fruit that is predictable
g) Do not hinder the divine plans for them by self-will
h) Patiently remain where they are originally placed without complaining
i) Have hidden roots (similar to our hidden hearts) that make use of the resources available
j) Very cooperative
k) Do not waste resources
l) Always ready to be sacrificed
m) Faithful and reliable for long periods of time
3) Good fruit is the result of good and healthy growth.
4) A mature plant or animal produces an offspring (baby, fruit with a seed etc.) that will also grow, become mature, and produce future offspring. God expects us to multiply that way, for the expansion and establishment of the Kingdom of God, through our maturity.
5) You must know the kind of tree (or organism you are), and the type of fruit you are expected to bear
F) Other attributes of mature believers
Disciples are committed, disciplined followers of the Lord Jesus, who have calculated the cost of their discipleship (Luke 14: 25-33).
Converts are won but disciples are made.
Authentic ministry must be established in the life of anyone who is involved with the efforts of discipleship, in obedience to the commandment of Christ (Mathew 28: 19). Authentic ministry must be ordained and sanctioned by God (Romans 1; 1; Psalm 32: 8, 9; 2 Timothy 4: 5), because Jesus is still doing the teaching and discipleship through us (Acts 1: 1). We are only ministers who are channels of God’s grace to others
To produce spiritually mature disciples, the minister must have the following ingredients well mixed in his or her life:
1) A careful and diligent study of God’s word in order to obtain the truth that should be imparted (2 Timothy 2: 15; Ezra 7: 10).
2) Understanding of Biblical teaching as the primary answer to the problems of families, the church, and mankind in general. Teaching gives direction, purpose, meaning, provision, and productivity for life (Mark 6: 34; Ephesians 5: 25-26).
3) Obedience to the teaching received from the Lord.
Some of the benefits of obedience are:
i) Experience through practical application of good teaching.
ii) Blessings and anointing of God upon your life.
iii) Your affirmation and confirmation as a true minister and servant of the Lord.
iv) Ability and opportunities to do good things to others and be a blessing to them.
v) The knowledge (theoretical and experiential) and capability to teach to others what
you are personally convinced of as real and truthful from your own experience.
vi) The increase in appetite to obtain and impart more knowledge to others.
4) Solid biblical, unadulterated teaching of God’s word (Mathew 28: 18, 19; 2 Timothy 4: 2-4).
5) Teaching that has the full backing of God’s authority (just as Jesus taught with authority that the hearers recognized --- Mathew 7: 28, 29; Mark 1: 21, 22).
6) Patience, gentleness, and persistence in your teaching efforts.
An impatient person is someone with poor faith, because patience is the most important part of faith. Anyone who is NOT patient and loving CANNOT be a good teacher or effective discipleship maker (2 Timothy 2: 23-26; 1 Thessalonians 4: 14).
7) Teaching that has an aim and a goal to make the student or receiver observe (obey and live by) what is taught, as the Lord commanded us (Mathew 28: 20). This can be accomplished if the teaching is done in a spiritual, wise, prayerful, mature, and diligent manner.
8) Teaching and training by exemplary lifestyle of holiness and righteousness (1 Peter 5: 3).
9) Holding on tenaciously to the fundamental Biblical principles of godly teaching and maintaining infrastructure, although methods may change.
10) Completion of teaching and work that you begin (St. John 4: 34; St. John 19: 30; 2 Timothy 4: 5).
Learn to finish whatever you start! Fruit is obtained only at the end when you complete the task you begin.
Salts are compounds that dissolve in order to season, give taste, flavor, heal, fertilize crops, attract others, and become a delight (Mathew 5: 13).
We are salt of the earth that should have the ability and grace of God to influence every sector of our communities.
Every salt is made of more than one element. Any Believer who is not willing to unite with another Believer to work together and touch other lives of men and women, cannot become tasty for God to use. You remain alone and ineffective.
Salt should never lose its taste and flavor else it becomes a mere rock or pebble, useless, a nuisance, and a problem that is subjected to disrespect and rejection by men (Luke 14: 34, 35).
This is what happens to a Believer who loses his or her divine touch and fellowship with the Lord.
It is even worse for a pastor, minister, or leader who has deviated from his or her calling and leadership responsibilities, missed or lost the anointing and glory of the Lord expected to be upon his or her life, and consequently lost his or her taste as salt.
THERE IS NOTHING MORE MISERABLE THAN A MAN OR WOMAN OF GOD WHO HAS LOST HIS OR HER ORIGINAL ANOINTING AND CUTTING EDGE THROUGH DISOBEDIENCE, BUT DOES NOT KNOW IT! THIS IS WHAT HAPPENED TO SAMSON (Judges 16: 20).
Christians are expected to become the light of the world that must be properly positioned to shine brightly for others to see and give glory to God (Mathew 5: 14-16).
The production of mature Believers and ministers in the church of Jesus Christ is synonymous with the production of disciples. In fact, the prayerfully chosen, carefully selected original ministers of the Lord Jesus Christ that He used to establish the present church that we have become members and ministers of were called “The 12 Disciples” by God.
Converts are won but disciples are made This is achieved through patient, painstaking, consistent efforts of teaching and service to God, and diligent ministry to the needs of other men and women.
Teaching, preaching, and healing, form one package for the ministry of Jesus Christ (Luke 6: 17, 18, 19).
We often summarize the entire process of discipleship into the phrase “God’s Work” or simply “Ministry”.
The number of true disciples you have made who possess a lifestyle of holiness, genuine worship, and loving service, is the proof that your ministry is authentic, spiritual, fruitful, successful, and God-approved.
The size of our ministry, the intensity and diligence of our initiatives, the enormousness of our efforts, the gigantic nature of our programs, the abundance of our resources, the masses that flock to our meetings, and the flamboyant accolades plus praises we receive from men, will NOT matter when God finally examines our work on the Judgment Day, if we DO NOT PRESENT THE LORD WITH TRUE MATURE, FRUITFUL DISCIPLES WE MADE WITH OUR CHRISTIAN LIVES AND MINISTRY.
We must take into account both the physical, spiritual, mental, emotional, and social needs of the person we are ministering to, in line with the areas of growth and maturity designed by God and expected for each human being created in the image of God.
We make disciples in order to:
1) Obey God’s command and commission to make disciples (Mathew 28: 18-20).
2) Learn to interact and fellowship with diversity of people as we make disciples of all nations.
3) Produce genuine, disciplined followers of the Lord Jesus.
4) Work together with God for the expansion of the Kingdom of God, in accordance with God’s primary goal of establishing permanent loving relationships with men and women (2 Corinthians 6: 1; St. John 3: 16; Romans 5: 6-11).
5) Produce mature, spiritual Believers for the building and establishing of the church of Jesus Christ.
6) Experience and enjoy deeper levels of fellowship with God as we work along with Him in obedience.
7) Grow more in the discipleship process and attain higher levels of maturity.
8) Receive the blessings that come along with obedience and ministry for the Lord.
9) Obtain the exclusive joy that results from seeing people won and established for God’s Kingdom.
10) Experience and witness the power, love, mercy, and grace of God operating in people’s lives.
11) Use our talents and gifts profitably and productively.
12) Bear fruit as God purposed and commanded for his children (St. John 15: 16).
13) Have a purpose and a goal for our Christianity, ministry, and relationship with God.
14) Wage war with God against the devil and defeat him by rescuing the souls of men from deception and destruction, and helping them to be strong enough to fight the enemy in turn.
15) Continue the work started and given to us by Jesus Christ, in order to perpetuate the Lord’s labor.
16) Maintain God’s Presence and His anointing with us, in accordance with the Lord’s promise to be with us always, so far as we are making disciples (Mathew 28: 18-20).
17) Get God glory and give God glory as well, through our ministry of discipleship.
Discipleship for maturity is vital work of the Lord that must be done from the heart (Colossians 3: 23-25).
Such a heart that teaches and trains people must be one that is:
1) Willing to know, do, and accomplish God’s will.
2) Genuine and sincere in service.
3) Humble to learn and teach others, and allow ministry to shape and mould godly character within the teacher.
4) Loving and sacrificial for the cause of Christ.