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5 Signs of Spiritual Maturity…That Actually Show You Lack It

The issue of spiritual maturity seems to provoke one of the super strange conversations in the North American and Western church today.

Here’s the bizarre part: some Christians end up criticizing other Christians for not being ‘deep’ enough or committed enough to be ‘real’ Christians. (The fact that this may not sound bizarre to you is, in itself, evidence of how bizarre this has gotten.)

There is apparently a certain subset of Christian who have maturity figured out, and the rest of us, well, not so much.

And yet often, what we call spiritual maturity…isn’t.

In fact, at least five of the common claims we make about having spiritual maturity actually show you lack it.

This is What The Conversation Sounds Like

So, to be clear, how exactly does this issue surface in conversation?

In leadership circles, the dialogue often starts with a question such as “what are you doing to disciple your people?” (emphasis on disciple, often said with a deeper voice than normal) or a dismissive statement like “so you’re attracting people, but then what?”

And it’s almost always said condescendingly, as though some people own the maturity franchise and enjoy watching other fellow-Christ followers squirm while they try to come up with answers that will only show how immature they really are.

I’ve been on the receiving end of that conversation many many times, because, well, our church reaches a lot of people who ordinarily don’t show up at church.

5 Signs of Spiritual Maturity…That Actually Show You Lack It

Before I outline the list, please know I’m not claiming to be ‘mature’. I’m not even claiming I understand the issue entirely.

I’m just saying there’s something broken in our dialogue and in our characterization of spiritual maturity.

As for me personally, I would hope I’m maturing, but have I arrived? Not a chance.

Discipleship is an organic, life-long process. It has something to do with what the ancients called “sanctification”. The process of becoming more and more holy, a term, which stripped from it’s strangeness, simply means to be ‘set apart’. Basically, it means you’re different than you were. And that process continues until you die. I’ve outlined a few of the markers of more authentic spiritual maturity in this post, and again here.

In the meantime, if you want to keep growing, here are 5 signs that pass for spiritual maturity in our culture that probably show you lack it.

1. Pride in How Much Bible You Know

Since when was it a good thing to be proud of how much bible you know, and to look down on people who didn’t know?

As Paul points out, knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. Clearly he knew what he was talking about.

Some Christians strut their biblical knowledge like it was an accomplishment. That’s so wrong. 

I won my share of sword drills (remember those?) when I was a kid, and I take time to read and study the scriptures pretty much every day, but as far as I can tell I’m supposed to use that knowledge to function as a bridge to people, not as a barricade showing everyone else how righteous I am. Because, incidentally, last time I checked I wasn’t that righteous.

Use the bible as a bridge to the culture, not as a barricade against it.

To do otherwise puts us on the same ground as another religious group Jesus had strong views against. (Here’s a list of the Top 10 Things Pharisees say today.)

And it was never about what you know or don’t know, but about what God knows and who God loves.

2. Truth without Grace

In a similar vein, being all about truth is a problem as well.

I love how John phrases the arrival of Jesus: that Jesus came filled with truth and grace.

One of the things I love most about Jesus is that truth is never separated from grace, and grace is never separated from truth.

He was always grace-filled as he spoke what is true…in that the truth is always designed to lead toward grace.

Yet someone ‘mature’ people feel it’s okay to land on one side of the equation.

I’m a truth person, we tell people.

No…maybe you’re just a jerk. (And I say this as a guy who leans on the truth side of the equation.)

Whenever I am tempted to speak truth, I always have to come before God to ensure it is equally motivated by grace.

Could you imagine if we all did?

3. Grace Without Truth

The opposite of course is also true. In the same way truth isn’t truth without grace, grace isn’t grace when separated from truth.

Some ‘mature’ people on the other side of the theological spectrum avoid the truth side of the equation as though love floats with no backbone.

No, grace has a backbone. We nailed it to the cross.

You cannot separate grace from truth anymore than you can separate truth from grace.

It is an incredibly difficult line to find, but we must find it.

Grace without truth isn’t maturity any more than truth without grace is truth.

Clearly, we need a Saviour on this issue. And it’s a good thing for us He embodies both.

4. Harshness Toward Outsiders While Cutting Insiders Slack

Many people who consider themselves spiritually mature love to talk about how awful the world is.

And it is pretty terrible. Pick a headline almost any day. It’s awful.

God identified that as early as Genesis 6 (and if you take our theology seriously, he always knew it would be this way, which is a little mind-bending if you think about it). The passage from Genesis is worth quoting:

The Lord observed the extent of human wickedness on the earth, and he saw that everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil.  So the Lord  was sorry he had ever made them and put them on the earth. It broke his heart.

So what did God do? He started again. What followed was an ark and a rainbow.

And ultimately God’s decision on his heartbreak was addressed in Jesus who came, as our favourite but often totally-missed-the-point verse tells us, God so loves the world and gave himself up for it not to condemn it but to save it.

So why do so many Christians behave like God hated the world?

Because the world is corrupt and sins, is the answer we hear back.

But the truth of the matter, Christian, is that you are corrupt and you sin.

But instead, we rail against the world’s sins as though it shouldn’t be sinning while cutting ourselves tons of slack on our moral failures.

What would happen if we started talking about church sins like gossip, gluttony, division and faction with the same conviction we use to talk about sexual sin?

I wrote about that in more detail here. (Perry Noble also wrote an great blog about why we turn a blind eye to a church sin like obesity but rail on about homosexuality.)

So…what if the church started to take its own sin more seriously than we take the world’s sin? I think that’s what we’re supposed to do.

Finally, if you’re still not convinced, study Jesus. You will discover he extended invitations to notorious sinners and outsiders, and reserved his harshest words for the religious people of his day.

We simply have it backwards.

If God so loved the world, who decided we shouldn’t?

And if you were trying to win people to open their lives to a loving God, why do you think leading with judgment is a great strategy?

Very few people get judged into life change. Many get loved into it.

5. Telling people you’re mature

This one mystifies me.

I’ve had more than a few people pull me aside over the years and ask “So what do you do for spiritually mature people like me?”

Stand back while people like you part the Red Sea I guess.

Telling people you’re mature is like telling people you’re wise…it’s kind of proof you’re not.

The most mature people, in my view, also tend to be the most humble.

If you’re strutting your maturity, it’s pretty clear you’ve got some growing to do.

How Do You Grow Spiritually?

My new book Didn’t See It Coming: Overcoming the 7 Greatest Challenges That Nobody Expects and Everyone Experiences isn’t supposed to be a spiritual growth book, but in the end, I think it ends up functioning as one.

Of all the journeys a leader takes, the internal journey is the most arduous. And leaders who are willing to look in the mirror, confess their shortcomings, and radically cling to the Gospel are the leaders who last longest, make the biggest impact (even if it’s at home) and who end up growing spiritually.

So maybe I did write a spiritual growth book after all.

Didn’t See It Coming tackles the seven core issues that take people out: cynicism, compromise, disconnectedness, irrelevance, pride, burnout, and the emptiness of success and provides strategies on how to combat each.

Why did I write it? Well, no idealistic 18 year old sets out to be cynical, jaded and disconnected by age 35, yet it happens all the time. The good news is, it doesn’t have to be that way. The Gospel is so much bigger than that.

I would love nothing more than to see you thrive in life, leadership and in your walk with Christ. That’s what Didn’t See It Coming is all about.

Here’s what top leaders are saying about Didn’t See It Coming:

“Seriously, this may be the most important book you read this year.” Jud Wilhite, Lead Pastor, Central Church

“Powerful, personal, and highly readable. ” Brian Houston, Global Senior Pastor, Hillsong

“Whatever challenge you’re facing, whatever obstacle you’re hoping to overcome, whatever future you dream or imagine, there is something powerful for you here.” Andy Stanley, Founder, North Point Ministries

“Uncommonly perceptive and generous…You have to read this book.” Ann Voskamp, NYT bestselling author

“Masterful.” Reggie Joiner, CEO Orange

“Deep biblical insight, straightforward truth, and practical wisdom to help you grow.” Craig Groeschel, Pastor and NYT bestselling author

“This book is sure to help you.” Daniel H. Pink, NYT bestselling author

Over the years, one of the things I’ve enjoyed most about being a public speaker is having opportunities to hang out with Carey…It’s not a matter of if you’ll run into these challenges; it’s a matter of when. Be prepared by spending a little time with a leader who has already been there.” Jon Acuff, NYT best-selling author

“Nieuwhof’s book provides expert guidance…with an accuracy that pierces the heart.” Nancy Duarte, CEO Duarte Inc.

“A refreshingly transparent guide for all leaders in a wide variety of industries.” Bryan Miles, Co-Founder and CEO, BELAY

You can learn more and get your copy of Didn’t See It Coming here.

What Do You Think?

I hope you can hear that this is borne not just out of frustration, but also out of love for God, for the church and for the world.

I’d love to see the conversation about spiritual maturity become more healthy.  As I’ve shared here, I think the church today is getting discipleship wrong. I’ve also argued we need a different kind of maturity in the church.

What have you seen?

What are some false markers of maturity?

I’d love to hear from you in the comments. And let’s shoot for grace and truth in the discussion, okay?

5 Signs of Spiritual Maturity…That Actually Show You Lack It

59 Comments

  1. K on July 11, 2020 at 1:46 pm

    Spirituality isn’t real

  2. It's Tough Following Christ on February 3, 2020 at 12:52 pm

    Thank you so much for this blog entry.

    My church got a new senior minister. He’s Biblically sound, but shallow. He preached a sermon on Mark 12:30-35 on Christian Love. The sermon was solid as far as it went. However, he mentioned sin perhaps twice in his sermon. He didn’t even mention how to lovingly talk to a fellow brother or sister in Christ who is sinning–or about to sin. We are all sinners in the eyes of God. Like good soldiers, we rely on those around us. We are much stronger together than apart. When he failed to mention this, I decided to review his other sermons. I knew something was wrong, but I couldn’t articulate what was wrong. I realized that this pastor was a Grace Without Truth sort of teacher. I’ve gone to churches with this sort of milquetoast sort of pastor and it’s always ended badly. I have never seen a Grace Without Truth pastor stand-up to a bully, a troublemaker. I have never seen a Grace Without Truth pastor show courage.

    As I have matured, I want to strive to be a Grace With Truth sort of person. For example, I am grateful to a sister in Christ. We hold each other accountable. My mother is in her 90s and wants to move to my area, ‘to be near the kids (really me).’ My mother has been diagnosed with malignant narcissistic personality disorder–from a Christian perspective, she is a Biblically wicked person. I can understand that she wants me to take care of her, but I can’t. My doctors have made it clear that it’s not safe for me to do so. She wants to live in an independent living facility, and as her usual pattern, she wants to live in the scammiest place she can find… a place specializing in ripping-off seniors. I had drafted an angry letter to my mother, but didn’t send it. Instead, I called my sister in Christ. She said, “Your mother is a real piece of work. I’ve witnessed her treating you unspeakably badly. You are angry at your mother for imposing on you. Let’s step back… what’s important?” I said, “My mother staying put, not moving here.” She said, “You’re right. She knows no one where you are. She’ll loose all her friends, her support network, her doctors. She’ll be completely alone in this world. If you write an angry letter–and I know this is about the fourth or fifth time you’ve had to write a letter like this–she won’t listen to you AT ALL. That’s not what you want. A kinder approach is to write a very simple letter, clearly and unemotionally stating the facts.” That’s what I’m going to do this afternoon. I have vowed that I will write a Grace With Truth letter. After all, I vowed to treat my mother better than she treated me. What my sister in Christ did, by pointing out the errors in my ways and suggesting a way out that was more in line with what I believe, was an example of Christian Love.

    What I’m going to do about my church is this: I’m going to review more of the new senior minister’s sermons. I have listened to 8 hours of them already, and that doesn’t include yesterday’s sermon. If he is a milquetoast, Grace Without Truth sort of pastor, someone who is non-confrontational, someone who is nice-nice, someone whose teachings are shallow, then the best thing I can do, both for me and for this church, is to leave. The church has 1,000 + members, so it’s unlikely I can change it from within. I have already reviewed 8 hours of his sermons and I haven’t seen any sign of courage, of strength, a willingness to challenge the congregation to really grow.

  3. Michelle Hansen on September 17, 2019 at 2:52 am

    Thank you for this post. I’ve been wrestling with this concept myself and did a quick Google search to get out of my own head and see what other thoughts on the issue were.

    You’ve clearly thought this through and articulated much of what I’ve been thinking. Especially about us turning a blind eye to some things like greed and gluttony. I’ve had a weight problem since I was about 10 years old. No one ever addressed the subject of over eating and making healthy choices in order to honor God with my body. I was 30 by the time I figured that out… And it was due to the whole self-love movement, not Christians. But I definitely got several lectures about how I wasn’t treating my body as a temple when I got my first tattoo, which I’ve used countless times as a ice breaker to share about Jesus.

    I’m so saddened by this. My heart breaks when I hear how Christians have made people feel about Jesus.

    I’d be really interested in your view on homosexuality based on Truth with Grace. This is an issue I find particularly challenging.

  4. Donna on September 9, 2019 at 8:21 pm

    Praise The Lord Jesus Christ for this new day and gift of precious life🙏🙏🙏

    Welcome to all brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus🤗
    I consider myself as a baby in Christ I’m only 2 years old. I’ve come across this article because,
    The title I typed in is
    “Too spiritual and not biblical”
    This article popped out.
    I understand my topic is way off what I’m searching for. But As i continued to read this article it got me. And I wasn’t going to comment but I prayed and I’m lead to share this.

    In the two years so far many claim to be spiritually mature.
    But what I’ve witnessed is all different.
    See I stand with what Jesus said that you will know them by their fruits. “Their actions”
    It was a huge struggle in the first few months of my journey. But I stand strong with praying and submission only to the lord and not to man. Go to God first.
    Jesus said come to me all whom a weary and carry heavy burdens. And he will give you rest.

    A brother shared also that if we:
    •Humble ourselves God will hear us.
    •Humble ourselves God will help us.
    •Humble ourselves God will heal us.

    Too many confessing Christians especially those that claim to be
    “Spiritually Mature”
    Their actions speak differently.
    They don’t even want to hear anyone. They take their title and only stand with that. And they believe because they are mature in the faith they are mature spiritually.

    We need to take it back to how it was with our lord and saviour Jesus Christ. The son of God. He was the most spiritually mature human that ever lived. We need to take our standards from him and only him.

    We must continue to pray brethren for each other. So much is going on and we need to all understand if we walk in the spirit then we will produce the fruits of the Holy Spirit so then one can claim we are “mature spiritually.”

    May you all have a fruitful and blessed day. Grace and peace be upon you all brothers and sisters
    ✝️❤️🙏

  5. C. on July 23, 2019 at 9:24 am

    I want to read your book!! I didn’t read all the posts, but I don’t understand why Christians waste time judging other Christians so much, instead of spending valuable time trying to bring others to a relationship with Christ. Non Christians are watching us and saying, “Why do I want to be a Christian? Look at how they treat each other!” On the other hand, we as Christians can’t hide behind the premise of peace and love by not taking a stand for Christianity, cowering down or being too tolerant to something which goes against the Bible and its teachings. Sometimes it’s telling someone the truth with tough love and being a true friend because you care about them so much. Jesus got angry at times when he took a stand, like overturning the tables in the temple. It’s a balance of love, grace, humility, courage which I haven’t mastered and never will! Only Christ is the master whom we strive to be like, but never attain.

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  7. Don on August 30, 2018 at 11:27 am

    In my experience “spiritually mature” people have simply been tantamount to Pharisees. It’s like a blindness, and personally I have stopped engaging with them. There’s too much to be done to expand the kingdom of God and preach the Gospel to be weighed down with 60 minute coffee meetings about the volume of the music or the shallowness of the messages or the lack of a cross at the front of the auditorium, etc. It is just a complete waste of time God has given us. We are simply saved by grace, and can only hope that as we get closer to Jesus through prayer, time in the word, and serving, we will “mature” in ways that please God, not people.

  8. Scott on August 26, 2018 at 9:12 pm

    Good one, Carey. I’m too scared to read the comments on this one. 😀

    • Don on August 30, 2018 at 11:23 am

      Agreed, Scott.

  9. Kiyomi on August 26, 2018 at 5:04 pm

    This excerpt from Scott Brown’s comment: “…rather, being changed daily to become more like Christ (measuring myself against His standard, not others) …” means loads to me. To me, “to become more like Christ” points to THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT, which is the RECIPE OF INGREDIENTS and the stories and parables of the New Testament, the instruction to use the ingredients.

    When One thinks of the FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT in this light, it is sad that it is not more emphasized in the teachings at both seminaries and church to their “disciples”. It is a rare follower of Christ who has the 9 characters of the fruit chiseled into their memory; it is difficult to reach goals without having set established goals emblazoned in our minds. If becoming like Christ is our goal, should it not be the goals for ourselves when we interact with every “neighbor”? When fully developed, ie, not just kind over unkindness, but what is KINDER, and what is the KINDEST way that we can show His love to others….

    People say that they don’t need to know it by memory….they are living it anyways. But, just like following a complicated cooking recipe, we need to have a checklist in our minds to CHOOSE the best action to take.

    Many leave church (the building) because of the “hypocrites” they fall victim to, not because they are disillusioned by His teachings. And most of us “hypocrites” are not bad people. We are just ignorant.

    If all of us were on our path to become the most loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle, and self-controlled disciples (just like Jesus) wouldn’t that make Him smile and be proud of us as his good servants?

  10. Scott Brown on August 26, 2018 at 3:22 pm

    Carey, maybe I misunderstood, but I thought this article was challenging us to assess our own spiritual maturity, not to bludgeon others for their apparent lack. I often find myself revisiting Romans 12:1-3 to be reminded of my need to surrender myself daily, not conforming to a worldly mindset, rather, being changed daily to become more like Christ (measuring myself against His standard, not others) and further cautioned to not think more highly of myself than I ought. It is difficult to see myself as better than I am if I measure against Christ. I am not yet who I want to be, yet I recognize the progress God is making in me by the power of His Spirit working in me and I press on, knowing if I walk with God and pursue His will above my own, my will becomes more aligned with His will, my mind renewed, my life transformed, Christ glorified. This is my prayer. I appreciate your work and pray God continue to bless your ministry as you glorify His Name

  11. Steve on August 26, 2018 at 8:36 am

    Outstanding Carey. Letter to Ephesus seems to indict them for extreme truth but no grace. I use Facebook a lot and wow some of the comments blast me for bringing up the lady caught in adultery and Jesus said, Neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more. Also they don’t like it when I point out how Jesus spent time with that “wicked” Samaritan woman at the well. I’m gonna steal your line about truth building a bridge instead of a barrier. Thanks

  12. PSTownsend on July 14, 2018 at 4:52 pm

    I was invited to a Spiritual Leadership meeting where we were all given a list of questions. The first question was: Are you producing all the fruits of the Holy Spirit on a regular basis? My thought was, “Yes” for the most part, I do. I’ve been a Christian for almost 50 years– a serious one. I had a feeling that answer would cause raised eyebrows so when it came to group sharing, I let others speak. Sure enough my group was agreed that they all did not produce fruit, hardly ever and they fell pretty pitiful with their fruit output. They all said basically that they were all fruit impaired. They quizzed me for my response. I said I that I thought that I was aware of feeling like spiritual things were happening in my life and I believed that often spiritual things happened and I might not even notice. I felt I was producing fruit but I didn’t really think of it quite so much as a quantitative thing or easily managed. I asked them if they had ever had someone tell them that they had said or done something and it had been a revelation a ‘God thing’ for them. They all said yes. My hope was to demonstrate that the spirit of God that is alive in us, is going to bear fruit if we are seeking to serve an follow him.
    What is going on? Are these people all being modest? Is it possible that dedicated life long believers think that Christ in them is bearing no fruit? Do we all look at the things we do and don’t do and judge according to some spiritual performance standard?

  13. Berenger2 on June 25, 2018 at 6:59 am

    Thank you, you expressed a lot of my thoughts, only with much more grace than the clatter in my head.

    My biggest sin issue as a new Christian – born again nearly two years ago – has been judging other Christians. It has been a real struggle – I am not pleased with myself. I could write a whole list of sins peculiarly rampant and seemingly acceptable in today’s church, but I won’t because that was someone elses job and I’m doing my best to walk His way.

    My none Christian friends sin just as much, but in ways I am used to so it doesn’t phase me. I guess that’s how it rolls in the church community as well. The church is the world. None of us are wholely sanctified. Only Jesus could say that.

  14. RUFUS on June 13, 2018 at 2:26 am

    maturity is just like an endless a race,that can continue only by God’s grace,so the best thing to do is to continually seek God’s abundant grace.

  15. Faith on May 24, 2018 at 2:10 pm

    A House divided can not stand. Where is the unity in all of this.

    • Dee on June 9, 2018 at 10:36 am

      I do not consider myself to be extremely spiritual, I am a Christian, raised Catholic- but have since found a lot of issues with the teachings of the Catholic Church. I have not been able to find a church that feels like home to me since moving from Michigan to SC in February of 2010. I have grown in my relationship with God since moving here as I have had to put all of my faith in him, moving so far away from all those that I loved, all that I knew and was comfortable with and start over with nothing. I had a rough childhood full of emotional and physical abuse from family, sexual abuse as a teen and a long list of horrifying experiences that I had blocked out of my memory until my early 30’s. I was saved in 1995 after the birth of my daughter and began my journey to healing. I was convinced that I was mentally ill after many attempts (between the ages of 12-17) to take my own life. I felt trapped by my abuser with no way out and that was the problem- I was isolated from the rest of the world or anyone that could actually help me. I broke the cycle of abuse, simply by acknowledging it, asking for God’s help and learning about generational curses. I gave it to God. I live where my abusers live… crazy as that sounds, but I forgave them. They are still abusers, mentally, but I do not react to their abuse- that is how I know that I have grown. They claim to be “Spiritually Mature” always quoting the scriptures and acting as if they are sort of spiritual advisors of sorts- but knowing the word and living by the word are two different things. They had convinced me to move down here telling me that things were going to get really bad and that the end times were near. They created such an urgency while telling me how much they loved me and my family (my 4 kids and husband) and that we would all stick together, take care of each other through the hard times. Things have changed with them since we have moved here though. My sister has become dependent on her daily dose of wine because she says she cannot sleep. She doesn’t have deep conversations about the Bible, truth and meaning anymore- instead she calls to complain or argue, sometimes she’s freaking out about the things going on in the world. My mom is here and remarried, she only talks to me when she has to or needs something. My sister and her do everything together and though it bothers me that I am never included- I am not like them, I do not agree with them (their values, their judgements and lack of compassion or lack of emotion). I feel I must have come to SC for a reason, I am happy here in general because I feel it has brought me to a greater understanding of where I need to be in my faith and relationship with God, but it is hard without having support from the people around me/my family.
      I realize that all I can do is pray not just for my Family and myself to find the love and support that we need from people around us, but also for the “Spiritually Mature” Family members who brought us here, that their hearts might be changed in the process.

      • Gary Whittaker on September 4, 2018 at 6:36 am

        Are you anywhere near Myrtle Beach? I would love to help you to.d a healthy church.

  16. Ron Prusia on March 30, 2018 at 7:03 am

    This is hard. Christ and Paul were fairly clear that when we love we fullfil the law and more. Love is about relationships, not about following a set of rules. So mature people teach what it means to love, which is truely a life long endeavor. The imature need boundaries to help them move into maturity. When these people get into leadership positions, they start of force their boundaries on others. If you break their rules and you are still a Christian, it invalidates their belief system. So they will struggle against you. This is why Paul says that he will fit into each belief system, so that he can teach. However, everyone has have an ear to hear or be teachable.

  17. Dennis Gannon on March 7, 2018 at 2:30 pm

    No one answered your question, if God so loved the “world”, who decided we shouldn’t? Answer, God did, see 1st John 1:15, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” Christians are to love their enemies, neighbors, and especially their brothers in Christ.

  18. Scott on February 23, 2018 at 11:30 pm

    Definitely some good stuff in here. This can be a tricky topic. No one is going to be perfectly mature on this side of heaven. If anything is true, we all are absolutely in need of growth in this area. Whether one has been walking with Jesus for 1 year or 60 years. I definitely think it’s easy to become prideful as we mature in the faith and it’s easy to look down on others. Humility is definitely needed alongside growing in maturity.

  19. Rick on August 3, 2017 at 11:04 am

    I think you are on to something with our lack of understanding about sanctification. We most often think of it in terms of things. I am being set apart from culture to piety. This never seems to lead us to look deep enough into ourselves where the real work of redemption needs to happen. I am learning that sanctification means I am being set apart first and foremost from myself (flesh) to a truer union with Him. What an amazing lifelong process that is!

    • Lulu Moraka on August 7, 2017 at 5:45 am

      My view is that, some other false markers of maturity in church are the processes to ascendance and subsequent positions that earn people without demonstrable grace and truth in them, the power to wield against those who are seen to be lower in rank…

  20. Joe Ritchie on July 6, 2016 at 9:40 am

    Well I’m about a year and 7 months late to this conversation but if I may…

    It’s
    an important and delicate balance to be sensitive toward people and
    their different levels of “maturity” in Christ and yet not be bottle
    feeding for years and years… we are called to “Mature” in Christ… I’ll just leave this here…

    1 Corinthians 3:1-3a
    3But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as
    people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. 2 I fed you with milk, not
    solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet
    ready, 3 for you are still of the flesh.

    Hebrews 5:11-14
    11About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you
    have become dull of hearing. 12 For though by this time you ought to be
    teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of
    the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, 13 for everyone who
    lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a
    child. 14 But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their
    powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good
    from evil.

  21. Pastorjf on June 1, 2016 at 2:11 pm

    What do I think? I think we’re on the same page! The truth and grace dichotomy worked in either inversion is well described here and we all need reminding. Thx!

  22. Martin Xiong on October 22, 2015 at 5:55 pm

    Ugh…
    LATE. Apologies.
    But woah…
    This article speaks to all the flailing, squirming, and unsure insecurities within myself. Like, “Am I the only one?” Or, “Am I crazy?”
    A little history–
    Years before I touched on the subject of ‘becoming’ (being Found actually *wink*) a Chrisitian, I was an introverted rebel, constantly acting out physically to the trueness of my inner-man that was confusingly counter to my outter timidity. It sure confused people. I was termed as troublesome and scarey. It served for many laughs in those days.
    But anyhow, Christians would all come up to me to instruct me upon the wrongness of my actions and that I needed fixing. It felt like condemnation, righteously so that bit of truth, but it lacked the Grace that then those few years–let’s just say many MANY actually, ago that I now personally get to experience and display (of God’s alone of course, of course) today. It lacked Grace. But moreso, I see all of what was intentional in how God works. Ya know, MYSTERY…
    In seeing so, and with lots and lots of stumbling around, it was one of those things hidden in plain sight that one runs into smack dab’n’all. It hurt. A lot. And years passing on until further maturing (and too many of those years with childish tantrums, tears, and best of all–His mercies) brought me to the realization that I was doing as similar a ‘Christian’ thing as those who’d done to me years ago–confessing another persons wrongs, decrying them with fake and gentled pleas that represented some swelling inner-man of ‘all-knowing-holiness’.
    It was pathetic, and thank God that he smack-turned me around after all these years. I thought I knew what maturity was and is, but God brought humility upon me in a good hard trial of sin, sin again, and again and again, but for God’s sacrifice I would not be where I am today, nor who he wanted me to be in all Truth.
    Thus now today! I realize God does yearn for us. But also a ‘mature’ us. Not in us ourselves, cuz if that was that in any case, this conversation–NAY, Jesus. Christ The Savior would just be another man in the streets yelling propoganda. Nobody’s perfect. Thank God for that. But anyhow, I also believe I’m not going crazy.
    Though there are many a follower in Christ, Jesus did make clear mention of wolves. Many in sheep’s clothing at that as well. There are CLEAR definitions of the lost and the found, I know, but there are also the subtle and intellectual wolves hidden in plain sheep’s clothing who insert trivial notions of acceptability and accountability.
    I like this article. Though some churches are beautifully sturdy from within to without spiritually, some ‘big’ and very ‘public’ mega-churches preach gargle and dross gilded with promises of bounty and immediate replenishment.
    Even though some, nah, A LOT of people will read this article for a collection of righteous evidence that addressing the church’s inner infalability is “SIN!,” I believe it serves a most proper service of self-reflection not of our own selves, but through Christ and what he would want from us: someone who confesses their righteousness and almighty-ness and can preach the whole bible back-to-front without a blink, or a humble servant who knows wrong’n’right but can also tell his/her tale of the How and Why Jesus Christ is their only Savior in real time.
    Controversy and struggle, trial and perseverance are great for wheedling away falsity from Truth and Grace. It’s something wonderfully trying to have to address the inner-man. It introduces a couldn’t do it! He (Jesus Christ n God Our Father) had too it themselves! Think about addressing a whole crowd about their inner-hearts and all the evil they deny they ‘do’ and ‘do not do’. I’m thankful Jesus did what He did, and why He is who He is.
    This article was the bomb! Thanks man! And God bless your way onward!

  23. Brandon Collins on September 14, 2015 at 2:13 pm

    Definitely late to the party here, and I have loved most of the stuff you’ve put out.

    But I think number 5 is just plain wrong. It would be ridiculous for someone who has known Jesus and been serving and growing for 20 years to pretend (whether in their own mind or whether out loud to someone else) that they weren’t more mature than someone who had just trusted Jesus a few days ago. That’s not humility. In fact, I think it is often FALSE humility.

    It’s one thing to grow in awareness of one’s own brokenness (the Apostle Paul set this example very clearly), but it’s another thing entirely to pretend like you don’t know how much you’ve grown over the years.

    • Pastorjf on June 1, 2016 at 2:13 pm

      Brandon I hear what you are saying and in some cases that would be true but in others I’ve found that people having a 1 year Christian experience 20 years in a row doesn’t lead to spiritual maturity but rather perpetual babyhood. Just a thought. 🙂

    • Berenger2 on July 15, 2017 at 8:26 am

      I came to the cross less than a year ago. There are people in my church who say they did it 50 years ago. But frankly, they struggle to feed themselves. Watch telly like it’s the bible, and do tend to strut about like they’ve made it. I see more humility amongst my atheist family and friends than in them. It’s been a serious shock to me in fact. Blessed are the poor is spirit appears to mean nothing to them… And it’s made church attendance quite unpleasant. But I pray for them, the peacocks.

      • Afua on November 15, 2018 at 8:20 am

        Wow; praise God you’re telling the difference already about what spiritual growth is and is not; and that gives me much hope that we are not being dissuaded by people but we look to Jesus the author and perfector of our faith.

  24. Curtis Bush on September 6, 2015 at 1:02 pm

    Hi, I found this article while searching for a ‘spiritual maturity model’, along the lines of a data management or supply chain maturity concept (5 stages). Or using another metaphor, crawl – walk – run – good runner – Olympic runner. I connect with your descriptions of what maturity is not, and are helpful principles as I think thru my life. It can be a touchy subject to offer or suggest a spiritual maturity model that can attempt to ‘assess’ someone’s maturity, but I’m curious if you or your readers have found ways to describe a model that is loving without being judgmental and still describes the reality of the ingredients in our lives that demonstrate a growing maturity… without overusing spiritualized words that require a certain context or denominational assumptions. Looking forward to exploring your other blog postings…

  25. Jamie Van Iersel on September 5, 2015 at 11:52 pm

    “While we were still sinners.” If Jesus didn’t wait for us to attain perfection before loving us, what gives us the right to presume others are required to be perfect before being loved by us? If I can be loved in my brokenness and sin then the least I can do is love someone in theirs.

  26. Darren Raley on July 29, 2015 at 11:32 pm

    Carey, I wanted to take a moment to thank you for your ability and willingness to shine the harsh light of truth on some of the darkest corners of Christendom. I have only been following you for a little over a week, but you have helped me to realize that I am not alone in feeling that there is something amiss – something that must be addressed if we are to be at all effective in reaching the lost. “Christians” have increasingly been giving Christ such a bad name, that the stereotype is becoming nearly impossible to overcome. Sorry. Didn’t mean to go on so long – just, well, thanks.

  27. Bart Wagner on March 14, 2015 at 9:30 am

    Awesome words. I love your straight-to-the-point, and often sarcastic style of writing. The Red Sea thing – hilarious! Anyway, I agree with how good we are at pointing out the world’s sin but ignoring our own within the church. I’m guilty. Great stuff.

  28. Charlotte Chung on February 5, 2015 at 8:27 pm

    Points 2-3 truly echoes lack of balance, like a little kid learning how to walk. Depending on the motive of every individual, I believe underneath the lack of maturity is a desire to be mature (that’s why they are projecting the image – “fake it ’til you make it”). This is, of course, one classic way our worldly views unconsciously becomes part of our Christian walk.

    More questions to ask are
    – Do we give enough space for new believers to admit their immaturity? Or do we expect them to be mature on Day 2 after they profess faith?
    – Do more mature believers demonstrate humility for areas that they feel they can be more mature?
    – Ultimately, is authenticity and transparency in our Christian walk, a lifestyle of our Churches?

    • Carey Nieuwhof on February 6, 2015 at 11:40 am

      Great questions Charlotte…really great questions!

  29. Link Dump (1/9/15) | The Hardin Crowder Blog on January 17, 2015 at 1:25 pm

    […] “5 Signs of Spiritual Maturity… That Actually Show You Lack It” – Spiritual maturity isn’t something you can really measure on a scale, but that doesn’t stop us from trying. Sometimes the things we mistake for signs of maturity are actually signs that there is still a lot of growing for us. […]

  30. Uber Genie on January 14, 2015 at 4:48 pm

    Challenging article. On the one hand it starts by poisoning the well to a conversation about discipleship. This statement may need some refinement. I don’t think the Disciples of Jesus said, “I wonder what Jesus meant by make disciples of all nations,” right after Jesus ascended. Similarly, Hebrews 5:12-14 says:

    In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. (‭Hebrews‬ ‭5‬:‭12-14‬ NIV)

    Here the author of Hebrews distinguishes between infant and mature and encourages us to pursue maturity which presumes that we would have both outward and inward markers of maturity. These markers would warrant the claim, ” I am mature.” So on this view perhaps it the only thing holding back a mature person from making this claim is that he or she recognizes that US culture in the year 2015 generally considers it to be arrogant to make claims about being spiritually mature and modesty requires that one doesn’t ever make such a claim. But to be sure what is driving the modesty is not the objective biblical evidence for maturity but rather the subjective opinion of culture. So it seems one could know they are immature which we all were at one point. We could also know we were no longer immature but instead are mature.
    These might include:
    being trustworthy with differing ministries for 10 or 15 years.
    Being transparent in personal and public life
    Spouses and children commending our self control, advise, stewardship, and demonstrative love.
    Gal.5:22 comes to mind (39 years working on that list and haven’t mastered it)

    I will grant that there is a continuum of spiritual maturity, but do we really want to say that the Apostle Paul or even the very impulsive Apostle Peter were not mature?

    If I were going to a technical college be a computer programmer and asked the dean, “How is your program going to prepare me to be a programmer?” I would expect him to be able to have a 15 min discussion about his approach. Likewise it seems that to the individual who asks about a pastor’s approach to discipleship he should receive a 15-min discussion about systematic theology classes, small groups study, home groups, books studies, one on one discipleship programs, outreach and other ministries that give one experiences to enrich their knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values acquired through the various teaching interventions. Further most pastors should be able toll out a list of half a dozen book recommendations on spiritual formation. For many, counseling might also be required. For some intense prayer with two or three “mature” Christians for a period of months.

    Finally, I will grant your point that there are emotionally immature people that have a very rigid poorly informed view. These individuals seem to operate as if all individuals must hold their view not just on a few major points of theology, but on things as trivial as eschatology, or their favorite flavor of ice cream. However, there are mature Christians who are visiting churches that have had great experiences helping young Christians mature through some of the interventions I have mentioned above. These individuals want to find out if they are going to plug into a church that shares their experience and vision for growth.

    Unfortunately the data supports that most churches focus almost all their resources on the pastors teaching 45 mins per week. Further that there is no pre-reading or post preaching review of notes. Andragological studies (studies of how effective adult education interventions are) tell us that no learning takes place in such interventions. Only parishioner’s opinions of whether they agreed with the pastor on a particular subject or not is still remembered 1 week after the event. Sorry to burst people’s bubbles but this well-known limitation (to educators) is virtually unknown to pastors or their respective members.

    I advise on creating a plan that helps each member understand goals for Christian maturity. Followed by an assessment of where they are currently. Followed by a gap analysis that helps them align interventions to their respective gaps as well as prioritize those interventions. Lots of flexibility in this model.

    Hopefully, you no longer a need to say it is ridiculous for someone to ask, “what are you doing to disciple your people.” Instead of creating a straw man by extending their question to read they are “claiming to have arrived.” You can ask them something helpful like, “are you asking me to share our church’s approach to discipleship?” Followed by, ” do you have 15- minutes?”

    Isn’t that less condescending that than straw man arguments and assumption of their immaturity? Doesn’t the approach above avoid the pastoral false humility (how audacious that anyone assume they are mature)? Doesn’t the approach above also avoid the trite response to a serious and important question ( know that this sentence is going to get a lot of thumbs down from our tweeting, cotton candy gospel Christian pastors).

    Even if I grant your assumptions about the immaturity in the individual, won’t a well-thought-out answer, delivered with sincerity and respect, convey some data about what it is like to converse about important but controversial issues as a mature adult?

    • Carey Nieuwhof on February 6, 2015 at 11:45 am

      I’ll be honest. I find your comment disappointing. I don’t know whether it’s possible to have a discussion with you. “Cotton candy Gospel Christian Pastors”? Really? And truthfully, many people do remember what pastors say a week or a even years later. I sense a cynicism in what you’re saying. And you won’t even use your real name. If you’ve got this all figured out…great. More power to you. It seems you do.

      • Cheryl Murphy on December 20, 2015 at 2:58 am

        I agree, Carey. It has been my experience that the more I learn of and come to know God, the more He becomes beautifully expansive and I am awestruck. Simply, the great paradox. How humbling. To me, much more than that is “much ado about nothing”.

      • Navi'im on April 22, 2018 at 4:54 pm

        +Carey Nieuwhof Much of your article is based entirely on your assumptions and pre-supposed opinions, contrary to the actual Word of God and the theology that comes from it; thus, it becomes worthless as any reliable guide for your topic’s premise.

        Furthermore, I find it exquisitely ironic that when Uber Genie makes a compelling argument against your article, being more sound and rooted in Scripture than your article, you respond immaturely in anger, bitterness, ad hominem attacks and jealousy.

        Someone trying to make an article about the signs of a lack of Christian maturity, and yet is spiritually and physically immature themselves to the degree of childishness; this is truly amusing.

        What I find most alarming about your pile of trash “article”, is #2.

        “2. Truth Without Grace
        In a similar vein, being all about truth is a problem as well.

        I love how John phrases the arrival of Jesus: that Jesus came filled with truth and grace.”

        Being all about truth is a problem? That’s ironic, and also something a “cotton candy Gospel Christian pastor” would say. Someone who claims to be Christian yet has never truly known God or Jesus; I hear frauds like just that teach very similar things as you claimed in #2. Yet, such teachings are straight from the mouth of Satan himself.

        Being all about truth has never been a problem, and Jesus encouraged this all throughout His ministry, even if it comes at great personal cost to yourself. Jesus came filled with truth and grace, but I assume you haven’t actually read much of the gospel, since you seem to be forgetting that Jesus spoke much more on hell than he did on heaven, that His ministry was full of warnings about wrath and judgment, and He openly condemned and spoke harshly without grace against the Pharisees and self-righteous and hypocritical religious teachers and “leaders” of the day. Perhaps you have forgotten the part where He stormed the temple and whipped the money-changers and other religious frauds who had made His Father’s house a marketplace? And let us not forget the book of Revelation, where Jesus also spoke and His future actions can be observed.

        Yes, Uber Genie is cynical, and rightly so. Cynical of your heresy, cynical of your lukewarm teachings, cynical of your words which aren’t in line with the Gospel or the rest of Scripture. He does seem to have this all figured out, as I do; certainly more than you ever have, or likely ever will.

        I have been a genuine prophet of God for more than 20 years, and though I have suffered much persecution and hardship, especially at the hands of fraud teachers like yourself who teach lies and unscriptural half-truths, I can honestly say you should delete this entire article. It does more harm than good, and though you may not think it or know it, the fact that your article contains blatant falsehoods results in you simply doing the devil’s work.

        Despite popular belief, most “pastors” who are often liars and hirelings who froth at the mouth for the unbiblical tithe “give me money because I say so, even though the Bible never did” offerings end up in hell after they die, not heaven.

        I would tread extremely carefully if I were you. You are not a Christian teacher by any means, nor have you been called to do so. Unfortunately, thanks to the internet, every idiot and his mother can create their own website, their own virtual pulpit, and spout heretical or lukewarm nonsense and gather a following who will praise them and acknowledge them, even as lies and falsehoods are being taught.

        Fortunately this will not be the case in the Millennium, nor in heaven. Those with genuine callings will serve in their calling, and those frauds who are not thrown into hell, will have a much-demoted position from the high places they served in among churches while alive on this present world.

        –A real prophet of Jesus, who doesn’t teach the lie of tithing and steal from other believers’ pockets, unlike certain other people here.

        • Lisa on January 22, 2019 at 4:55 pm

          Well said!

        • john on July 23, 2019 at 7:05 pm

          Reading this ran me off. I don’t want anything to do with you, or anyone for that matter who makes me feel like you just did with that reply to his article. That isn’t Godlike, nor a fruit of the spirit. Your words are ice.

  31. joshpezold on January 12, 2015 at 8:59 pm

    Great article. One I’d add as a false marker of spirtual maturity is the “angry prophet” mentality or the “righteously indignant” attitude. When “mature” believers display rage or anger toward believers and non-believers who sin (deliberately and unknowingly) it reveals a lack of maturity and overal disconnect with the heart of God. My understanding is that as we mature, sin shouldn’t anger our hearts as much as break our hearts. Our conversations with those trapped in sin shouldn’t be filled with yelling and judgement but with tears and hope. If leaders can’t talk about the sin that is destroying those they proclaim to love without tears in their eyes then something in our hearts in wrong.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on January 13, 2015 at 5:58 am

      Great addition to the list Josh. I agree completely. When you’re the only one who thinks you’re righteous, you’re probably not.

    • Navi'im on April 22, 2018 at 5:05 pm

      +Joshpezold

      “One I’d add as a false marker of spirtual maturity is the “angry prophet” mentality or the “righteously indignant” attitude. When “mature” believers display rage or anger toward believers and non-believers who sin (deliberately and unknowingly) it reveals a lack of maturity and overal disconnect with the heart of God. My understanding is that as we mature, sin shouldn’t anger our hearts as much as break our hearts.”

      You must know very little about the God of the Bible, and very little about the Bible in general. Every prophet in the Bible was “angry” about sin and evil and the godless state of the world; many were in despair and outrage about it, and rightly so. If you read the book of Revelation, you can see heaven and God’s opinions about the sinfulness of world in an acute fashion.

      You also seem to have no understanding of “righteous anger”, or the fact that God has expressed His “fierce anger” against the unrepentant, against blatant sinners, and against people just like you who live lukewarm lives and condemn others for being more close to God than you are. I wonder if you likewise believe in the rapture heresy…

      “When “mature” believers display rage or anger toward believers and non-believers who sin (deliberately and unknowingly) it reveals a lack of maturity and overal disconnect with the heart of God. My understanding is that as we mature, sin shouldn’t anger our hearts as much as break our hearts.”

      Quite the opposite, actually. Immature believers will have no anger for sin and wickedness, because they are blind to the atrocity of sin and wickedness. The closer you develop in God, the more you will take on God and heaven’s attitudes toward sin and wickedness, and you will utterly despise it. To be indifferent in anger against wickedness and sin shows a blatant disconnect from God and His perspectives, not the other way around. As we mature, sin should both anger our hearts and cause us despair, and if (that’s a big if) you reach heaven one day, God will reshape all of your flawed perspectives and you will come to the understanding described here, and you WILL condemn your earlier opinions, such as displayed here.

      –One of the prophets you mock and condemn.

  32. Reading List 01.12.15 | Adopted & Planted on January 12, 2015 at 10:17 am

    […] 5 Signs of Spiritual Maturity… That Actually Show You Lack It by Carey Nieuwhof Carey Nieuwhof’s blog is one of my favorites. He consistently pumps out great posts that challenge my thinking. And if you are more the audio type, he also recently started a podcast. Also great. In this post, he challenges a few incorrect definitions of spiritual maturity. A few of his statements got me pretty good… […]

  33. Brad Gouwens on January 10, 2015 at 10:09 pm

    I think we should apply the label of maturity like we do in biology. You can be mature unless you can reproduce. People who know a lot of bible or attend church for long periods of life aren’t nature of they aren’t reproducing themselves as disciples.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on January 11, 2015 at 8:16 pm

      That’s a great definition Brad. Love it!

  34. […] Read on at: https://careynieuwhof.com/2015/01/5-signs-spiritual-maturity-actually-show-lack/ […]

  35. […] “5 Signs of Spiritual Maturity… That Actually Show You Lack It” – Spiritual maturity isn’t something you can really measure on a scale, but that doesn’t stop us from trying. Sometimes the things we mistake for signs of maturity are actually signs that there is still a lot of growing for us. […]

  36. Robert Clark on January 9, 2015 at 9:42 pm

    I have one rule, if you have to tell it, it aint so. If you have spiritual maturity others will know it, after all there will be a massive revival going on around you.

  37. Brandon A. Cox on January 9, 2015 at 9:21 am

    Nailed it. You’re spot on. And I’m so glad I’ve matured beyond this kind of behavior…

    • Nash on January 9, 2015 at 12:04 pm

      I see what you did there Brandon…well played lol

    • Carey Nieuwhof on January 10, 2015 at 7:45 am

      Thanks so much Brandon. (Clever as well).

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