Paul’s Picture of Spiritual Maturity for Leaders in the Body of Christ

Updated: Jan 31


Today we are talking about our third picture of spiritual maturity. To catch up on this series, read the first and second pictures. The third picture of spiritual maturity can be found in 1 Timothy 3:2-12 and Titus 1:5-9. In both of these passages, God, through the apostle Paul, spells out the qualifications for leaders in Christ’s Church. Paul specifically refers to men who would be selected as elders, overseers, and deacons in the communities of believers established throughout the Roman world of his day. They are just as appropriate for leaders in our local congregations today.

Here are the passages:


An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money. He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?), and not a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil. And he must have a good reputation with those outside the church so that he will not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.


Deacons likewise must be men of dignity, not double-tongued, or addicted to much wine or fond of sordid gain, but holding to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. These men must also first be tested; then let them serve as deacons if they are beyond reproach. ... Deacons must be husbands of only one wife, and good managers of their children and their own households. 1 Timothy 3:2-13


Appoint elders in every city as I directed you, namely, if any man is above reproach, the husband of one wife, having children who believe, not accused of dissipation or rebellion. For the overseer must be above reproach as God's steward, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not addicted to wine, not pugnacious, not fond of sordid gain, but hospitable, loving what is good, sensible, just, devout, self-controlled, holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict. Titus 1:5-9


Before looking at these passages in detail, let me make a few observations.


First of all, the qualifications in these passages are even more specific and practical than those in the r12 picture of the previous picture. Thus they are a second level of unpacking what it means to be spiritually mature, particularly for men. (There are other passages that give some specific characteristics of spiritually mature women, but that is beyond my focus here.)


Secondly, one might think that these passages only pertain to men who are being considered for positions of official leadership in a local congregation. However, I would argue that they are invaluable for helping to describe the desired product of any disciplemaking process for men, namely, a mature disciple. I say this for three reasons.


1. Where will truly qualified elders and deacons come from if they are not produced by an intentional process of disciplemaking? And who knows at the front end of such a process which men God will lead to become elders and/or deacons in His Church? Therefore, the disciplemaking process should aim at growing every man to a level of maturity that he is qualified to be a leader in his local church. This is exactly what God shows us through Paul in this passage from Colossians 1:28-29:


We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ. For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me.


Whether or not any particular man becomes such a leader in his local church will depend on the man’s responsiveness to God in the discipling process and to God’s leading him and his congregation to such a decision.


Sadly, these passages are too often used as a basis for disqualifying men from leadership rather than as a template for developing mature disciples who could be leaders. It’s as though we expect God to mysteriously and spontaneously give us men who are qualified to lead our congregations and our only job is to weed out the ones who aren’t qualified. This is completely backward from what Jesus intends when He gives us the Great Commission! We should seek to qualify every born-again man and then prayerfully identify those who God is specifically calling to these roles in a local church, while affirming and engaging all the other mature men in their respective areas of gifting and calling, first and foremost of which is as disciplemakers!


2. Why shouldn’t every man aspire to be a leader in God’s Kingdom? After all, in the verse leading into the 1 Timothy 3 passage quoted above, God says:


It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do. Timothy 3:1


So why shouldn’t these qualities of a leader be the very qualities the local church builds into all of its men through disciplemaking?


3. Finally, and most importantly, every man is in fact intended by God to be a leader. Social and spiritual leadership is part of the essence, or existential DNA so to speak, which God created in man in the beginning and which He desires to bring forth again through Jesus Christ indwelling born-again, discipled men today. A man may not become an elder or deacon, but every man is to be a spiritual leader in whatever positions God gives him at home, in his workplace, and in his community. Consequently, every man should seek to gain the qualities of spiritual maturity described in these passages.


Men of these qualities should be the norm, not the exception, in the Body of Christ! Shepherding men to become such through intentional, personal disciplemaking should be Job #1 for elders and deacons in every local congregation. Think how that would change the present-day situation we saw in the data of Chapter 2!


We see then that the passages in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 give us valuable details for a very good template of a mature disciple. And in fact, this is precisely the template Lonnie Berger uses in designing his Every Man A Warrior process and resources for building men.

Lonnie “bookends” the process with two of the three GCs from the first picture of spiritual maturity we considered at the beginning of this chapter. He equips men to walk with God and to multiply by giving them skills to fulfill:

  • The Great Commandment, i.e. to love the Lord their God with all their heart, soul, and mind, and

  • The Great Commission, i.e. to make disciples who observe everything that Jesus commands.

In between these bookends, Every Man A Warrior addresses the same subjects or issues of life covered by these passages in 1 Timothy and Titus. These life issues and the relevant portions of 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 are shown in the table below.


LIFE ISSUE

Phrases from 1 Timothy 3:2-12

Phrases from Titus 1:5-9

Marriage and

Raising Children


  • the husband of one wife

  • hospitable, able to teach

  • one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?)

  • husbands of only one wife, and good managers of their children and their own households.

  • the husband of one wife, having children who believe, not accused of dissipation or rebellion

  • hospitable

Money and Work

  • free from the love of money

  • not fond of sordid gain

  • good managers of their own households

  • not fond of sordid gain

  • above reproach as God's steward

Sex and Moral Purity

  • above reproach, the husband of one wife

  • prudent, respectable

  • have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he will not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil

  • men of dignity

  • beyond reproach

  • husbands of only one wife

  • above reproach, the husband of one wife

  • loving what is good, sensible, just, devout, self-controlled

Character Qualities (often developed and definitely strengthened by Going through Hard Times)

  • above reproach

  • temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money.

  • not conceited

  • have a good reputation with those outside the church

  • men of dignity, not double-tongued, or addicted to much wine or fond of sordid gain, but holding to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience

  • must first be tested

  • beyond reproach

  • above reproach

  • above reproach as God's steward, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not addicted to wine, not pugnacious, not fond of sordid gain, but hospitable, loving what is good, sensible, just, devout, self-controlled, holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict



These two passages point us to the most critical areas of men’s lives which must be transformed through disciplemaking if men are to see and live life from God’s point of view. Yes, there are other life areas that also need to be addressed and transformed, as we’ll see in the next section. But the ones Lonnie Berger identifies from these passages definitely involve a very large proportion of the battles we men face in our daily lives.


If we men are not discipled to some adequate level of maturity in these areas of our lives, there is virtually no chance we will succeed in the other areas of our lives. Furthermore, we will never become freed up enough from Satan’s and the world’s pulls to ever bear fruit by making disciplemakers. Like the third type of soil in the Parable of the Soils, we will be “choked with worries and riches and pleasures of this life and bring no fruit to maturity” (Luke 8:14). We will be kept “useless and unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:8).


In our next blog, we will discuss my picture of spiritual maturity: the 16 Foundation Bins of Life Transformation.



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