How to Identify Mature Disciples of Jesus Christ in the Local Church
By certified Church Consultant, Dr. Michael Rackley
I love mango season in South Florida. The leaves on the tree begin changing colors and the weather changes from hot to hotter. Spring is in the air and summer is quickly approaching, and then after a while there is mango season. This is the season when I quickly begin plucking mangoes from my tree when it’s visibly ripe, and before the squirrels have their annual midday snack.
In my opinion, mangoes are the tastiest when ripe or mature. If eaten when green or hard, it’s quite bitter and leaves an unpleasant aftertaste. However, when mangos are eaten when they have several colors and when their texture is not quite hard or soft, it’s quite tasty.
It is here I think about what Elders in the church called “season saints, mature disciples, mature believers, or mature fruit.” These believers have been tried, tested, ripe, seasoned, and ready to be used and disciple others. In 2 Corinthians 2:15a, the Apostle Paul says, “We are a sweet smell of Christ that reaches up to God.” NLV
So, if a mature disciple were to walk through the doors of the church you attend what would he/she look like? When it comes to identifying mature disciples of Christ who are producing the “fruit of the spirit” in the local church, understand that they bring glory to God and edify the church by being ready to serve and lead.
Let’s look at three examples when identifying a mature disciple in the local church, beginning with the healthy Early Church in the book of Acts 2:41-47, John’s Gospel biblical teaching 8:31, love 13:34, fruit-bearing 15:8 and the “Fruit of the Spirit” Galatians 5:22-23.
The Church Health Assessment concerns itself with the health of a specific local church. An example of a healthy church begins with the Apostle Peter’s first sermon in Acts 2:14-41, the Church grew instantly in Acts 2:41 to 3,000 people. In Acts 2:47 the Bible says, “and the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” The early church was a mega-church (Church of Jerusalem). Although most churches probably won’t grow three thousand people overnight, the core values of a healthy growing church are revealed in Acts 2:41-47. Many of these practices found below were used as a model for a healthy church. Furthermore, they are used as functions of the early church in the Church Health Survey given to churches to evaluate their health.
- Worship – Acts 2:42-43, 46-47
- Fellowship – Acts 2:42, 44-46
- Evangelism – Acts 2:41, 47
- Ministry – Acts 2:44-45, Eph. 4:11-13, 2 Corinthians
- Prayer – Acts 2:42, Daniel 9:18, 1 John 5:14, Psalm 34:15
- Discipleship – Acts 2:42, 46, Matt. 28:19-20
As we look at John’s Gospel biblical teaching 8:31, love 13:34, and fruit-bearing 15:8. As it relates to biblical teaching, mature disciples remain, abide, stay, dwell in the word of God, they don’t waver, or drift into uncharted waters of false doctrine.
The word “love” used in John 13:34 is the Greek verb agapao which is a present active tense verb, meaning a continuous/ongoing action in the present. This present tense verb indicates that our Lord expects believers to continue loving each other even today, which is a mark of a mature disciple.
Fruit-bearing disciples in John 15:8 are mature disciples, that produce and disciple others.
As we look at “Fruit of the Spirit,” Galatians 5:22-23, he says,
“But the fruit that comes from having the Holy Spirit in our lives is:
- not giving up
- being kind
- being good
- having faith
- being gentle
- and being the boss over our desires.”
Keep in mind, the fruit is visible and reflects character.
In conclusion, as we look at “bearing fruit,” the “fruit of the spirit,” and the many practices or functions of the Early Church in Acts 2, we understand that they are used as a model for a healthy church and identifying mature disciples in the church today.