What is Spiritual Maturity?
Spiritual maturity is the ability of a follower of Christ to read God’s Word and be
convicted by the truth it contains and by the Holy Spirit. Turn to God, confess sin, and
seek repentance. Apply the truth of God’s Word by changing thoughts, behaviors, and
attitudes. If we don’t apply God’s Word, then we are like the man who built his house on
This is the process of transformation.
Spiritual maturity requires a soft heart, open to God’s instruction and discipline so we
can respond in humility, ready to trust God’s offer to forgive.
The opposite of spiritual maturity is for us to identify as Christ-followers but never read
his Word or seek his forgiveness. To run and hide from his challenges to us and to think
of others’ actions as sins more than we consider our own actions.
For me, the end goal of youth ministry is to have my students reach spiritual maturity.
So how do we help them reach spiritual maturity?
First, I need my students to understand confession and the power it has to transform
their lives. The act of confession requires me to see the holiness of God and to realize
that my actions have broken his heart. I can’t fully adore God unless I admit to him
where I have fallen short because adoration is telling God who he is, and he is not on
an equal footing with me (Isaiah 55:6–9).
Coming to God with my confession also allows me to fall in love with God’s goodness
and mercy. I love God more deeply when I see that I can do nothing to impress him or
earn his love. It’s a free gift given to me because he first loved me even though all I
have ever done is reject his commands. “Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been
forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little”
(Luke 7:47, NIV).
The second step I want my students to pursue is repentance. Repentance is the
action of moving away from our sin by stopping doing it. Many of us and our students
suffer from ongoing sin and the inability to turn from it. Repentance moves past
confession by not just stating the sin but by stopping the action of our sin. Repentance
is so much harder than confession. It requires us to live in the power of the Holy Spirit
and to trust him to guide our actions.
The third skill I need my students to learn is the application of God’s Word to their lives.
I call this a skill because it demands action more than a mindset. I must be willing to
change my actions, behaviors, and thoughts if I am to apply God’s Word. So I may need
to change my friends, how I use technology, where I go, and what I say. Every application
must have a who, what, where, and when so that the application can be measurable.
If it’s not measurable, you will never know if it was completed.
The application of “I want to love my brother more” is wonderful but not measurable.
How do you know if you love your brother more? By just saying the words? No, but by
doing something for your brother at a sacrificial cost to you.
This skill of application is bathed in trust. You must trust that God is going to meet you
in your application and strengthen you, give you grace, and show you his greater
purpose for your life. It is in application that we draw near to God and he draws near to
us (James 4:8).
This is deep stuff and hard to imagine we would do this in youth group. But why not?
Have we become so shallow that we don’t even think this is possible? Would God not
want us to do this? Let us challenge ourselves first to spiritual maturity and then allow
the power of the Holy Spirit to work through us.
About the Author
Doug Franklin is the president of LeaderTreks, an innovative leadership development organization focusing on students and youth workers. Doug and his wife, Angie, live in West Chicago, Illinois. They don’t have any kids, but they have 2 dogs that think they are children. Diesel and Penelope are Weimaraners who never leave their side. Doug grew up in… Read More