What constitutes a mature disciple? What are some of the fruits that can be easily observed by others in the church from someone who is maturing in Christ? How can we better help an individual identify areas where growth is still needed?

These seven characteristics, drawn largely from principles outlined in 1 Thessalonians 1:4-10, serve as the bullseye for our discipleship efforts. They act as a baseline by which we measure the effectiveness of the various components to the discipleship pathway.

Take The Spiritual Health Snapshot

Spiritual maturity is an impossible thing to measure. Only God knows what’s really in our hearts. But we also know that certain characteristics are produced when someone is growing in relationship with Christ. The spiritual health snapshot is designed to give you a look at your own attitudes, habits, and tendencies alongside the New Testament’s descriptions of spiritual maturity. It helps you better discern your current discipleship needs. You can pick up a snapshot in the lobby next time you’re at the church, or you can download a copy now and take it.

Grounded in the Gospel

A mature disciple is grounded in a deep understanding of the gospel.

A mature disciple is firmly rooted in their identity as a child of God, solely on the basis of God’s sovereign grace and not owing to any merit of their own (1 Thess. 1:4-5; Deut. 7:7-8). A deep understanding of the gospel means that a disciple knows that they are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone (Eph. 2:8-9), and that true saving faith is never without works (Eph. 2:10). Works are a fruit of, and not a means of salvation. A deep understanding of the gospel of grace is fuel for radical discipleship and mission; when we remember who we were when God saved us, it changes the way we approach those who are blinded by unbelief (1 Tim. 1:12-17).

Need to grow in this?

  • Make a list of things that hinder your spiritual growth and prayerfully ask God to help remove those hindrances.
  • Memorize Ephesians 2:8-10 and repeat it to yourself in moments when you feel overwhelmed with guilt, shame, or doubt.
  • When doubt or guilt arises, confess that to others you trust. Remove the stigma or shame that comes from those feelings.
  • If you’re dealing with ongoing sin, guilt, or past hurt, join Freedom Groups where you can get to the heart of the issue.

Communing with Jesus

A mature disciple is communing regularly with Jesus in prayer and time in the Word.

A mature disciple is one who understands their need for communion with God and that apart from him, they can do nothing (John 15:1-11). A mature disciple expresses their dependence on God through consistent prayer, following Jesus’ example of breaking away to commune with his Father (Luke 6:12). A mature disciple understands their need for the word to guide them, as the prophetic word illuminates the dark places of our hearts (2 Pet. 1:16-21; Matthew 4:4). They are dependent on the power of the word of God and submit themselves to its work in them (1 Thess. 2:13; 2 Tim. 3:15-17).  

Need to grow in this?

  • Ask God to increase your desire for his presence in your life.
  • Choose a book of the Bible and commit to reading it from start to finish 15-20 times in the next month.
  • Browse Bible reading plans on the YouVersion app and begin one of them.
  • Pick up Valley of Vision and read through one of the prayers each morning and/or evening.
  • Join an upcoming Huddle where you’ll get to grow through Bible intake and prayer with others.

Studying the Scriptures

A mature disciple is a student and practitioner of the Word and sound doctrine.

A mature disciple rightly handles the Word of truth (2 Tim. 2:15). They keep a close watch on their own lives, along with the teaching of God’s Word and have an ability to detect and protect from false teaching (1 Tim. 4:6-16); the powers of discernment in their lives have been trained by constant practice (Heb. 5:13-14). A mature disciple seeks to apply Scripture to their life and also to the lives of others. They have a growing understanding of how all the Bible fits together and points to Jesus, and of their own part in God’s plan of reconciliation (Luke 24:27, 44-49). 

Need to grow in this? 

  • Choose a time in your day, preferably in the morning or evening, that will serve as your daily quiet time. Mark it on your calendar so that the time is protected.
  • Read How To Eat Your Bible for context on how to read the Bible for personal devotion.
  • Take notes during Sunday’s sermon and re-read them at least once during the week, praying over ways you can be a doer and not just a hearer.
  • Browse Bible reading plans on the YouVersion app and begin one of them.
  • Join an upcoming Huddle where you’ll get to grow through Bible intake and prayer with others.
  • Check out the discussion questions posted each week ahead of our Sunday gatherings based on the sermon.
  • Consider maintaining a daily journal where you can write down what you read each day and how you can apply it to your life.
  • Take your family through the Family Devotional updated each week in the Providence Mobile App.

Connected in Community

A mature disciple is connected in community, fighting sin and enduring suffering together.

A mature disciple lives their life in authentic, transparent community where they are known by and know others. They walk in the light, confessing their sins to one another and enjoying the fellowship of those who have been cleansed by the blood of Jesus (1 John 1:7-9). As they receive the Word in affliction, they become an example to other believers (1 Thess. 1:6-7) and they comfort others with the comfort they receive (2 Cor. 1:3-7). A mature disciple is committed to practicing the one anothers of Scripture, exhorting and encouraging fellow believers (Heb. 3:13). 

Need to grow in this?

  • Join a Community Group.
  • Find someone you trust who can become an accountability partner as you fight sin together and support one another.
  • Share your snapshot results and your next steps with another believer, asking them to pray for you and follow up with you at a specific time and with specific questions.
  • Begin to take daily notes of prayer requests, conversations, and needs of others in a journal. Put it on your to-do list to periodically check in with them and pray for them.
  • Watch the Transforming Mutual Care video series in the Providence Mobile App to learn more about what it means to be in spiritual community with others.
  • Not a member at Providence? Learn more about membership and get the process started here.

Leveraging Gifts

A mature disciple is identifying and employing their gifts for the building up of the body.

A mature disciple is an active participant using their gifts to help the church grow, rather than functioning as a consumer. Knowing that the church is a body, they seek the building up and the unity of the body as they do the work of ministry (Eph. 4:7-8, 11-16). They are good stewards of God’s varied grace, using their gifts to serve one another in the strength that God supplies and for His glory (1 Pet. 4:10-11). 

Need to grow in this?

  • Ask another believer what gifts they see in you and if/how they see you currently using those gifts.
  • Browse current volunteer needs and service opportunities in the church here.
  • Passionate about a certain ministry or activity in the church? Stop by the Connection Center to talk to a staff member or elder about it.
  • If you are worried about the time commitment involved with serving regularly, create a time map of your week to see where you can cut certain activities.
  • Make it a family activity by signing up with your spouse and/or kids.

Ambassador of Christ

A mature disciple is an ambassador for Christ through incarnational evangelism.

A mature disciple embraces the call of an ambassador (2 Cor. 5:17-21), actively sharing their faith in the community (1 Thess. 1:8). A disciple is by nature a disciple-maker, following Christ as he makes them “fishers of men” (Matt. 4:19). A mature disciple recognizes that God has assigned them a mission field in the spaces where they work, play, and live, and they are meant to enter those spaces intentionally to represent Jesus and his Gospel. Just as Jesus put on flesh to enter our world (John 1:14), we “incarnate” the gospel to the world around us through the witness of both our words and our lives. In obedience to the great commission (Matt. 28:19-20) and in the power of the Spirit (Acts 1:8), a mature disciple eagerly goes to make disciples of neighbors and nations.

Need to grow in this?

Focused on Eternity

A mature disciple is living for what lasts with an eternal perspective.

A mature disciple understands that time is short and lives with a sense of urgency, waiting for and hastening the day of the Lord (2 Pet. 3:8-13). They have turned from idols and now live for what lasts; an eternal perspective shapes their decisions and pursuits (1 Thess. 1:9-10). As “children of light, children of the day” (1 Thess. 5:5-6), a mature disciple doesn’t detach or isolate from the realities of life in the present, but walks wisely, “making the best use of the time” (Eph. 5:8-21). A mature disciple leverages their time, talents, and treasures for kingdom purposes and kingdom advancement, seeking to be found faithful as a steward (1 Cor. 4:1-2; Luke 12:35-48). An eternal perspective is the mature disciple’s frame of reference for all of life. They are steadfast and abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in him their labor is not in vain (1 Cor. 15:58).

Need to grow this?

  • Share the screen time reports on your phone with another believer and make a plan to replace a portion of the time spent on your phone with prayer, Bible intake or memorization, or another spiritual discipline.
  • Read The Common Rule and consider what liturgical practices could be added to your life that will force you to slow down and put more focus on Christ.
  • Create a time map of your typical week to get a clearer picture of how you spend your time.
  • Assess your personal spending habits and consider ways to give more sacrificially and consistently.
  • Join a Gospel Outreach (GO) Team.
  • Take your family through the Family Devotional updated each week in the Providence Mobile App.