8 Reasons Churches Allow Immature Believers to Serve in Leadership

Have you ever thought about the difference between a “baby believer” and a “believer who’s a baby” in a local church? I’ve previously written about the differences, and I’m concerned that too many “believers who are babies” are leaders in churches.

In this post, though, I’m writing about a “middle-ground” believer in a leadership role: one who’s been a believer for some time and doesn’t carry on like a baby, but who also doesn’t show maturity and depth. I don’t think anyone intentionally and deliberately thinks, “He hasn’t grown, but let’s appoint him anyway,” but it happens. Here are some reasons why:

  1. Churches often don’t expect anyone to show maturity. That’s because they’ve stopped their work at evangelism and have failed to complete the other side of the Great Commission—teaching believers to obey everything Jesus commanded (Matt 28:20).
  2. We often give lip service to biblical leadership qualifications, with no accompanying commitment to test the lives of potential leaders. We might talk about qualifications at an ordination service, but seldom otherwise. At best, we view qualifications only as goals and don’t expect anyone to live up to them.
  3. We tend to grant positions on the basis of faithful attendance more than spiritual maturity. Both can go hand-in-hand, of course, but they don’t always. As long as someone’s faithfully at church, we consider that brother or sister qualified for a leadership role.
  4. We assume that giving a believer a leadership position is one way to lead him to be faithful. Indeed, we ask baby believers to step into mature believer roles in hopes that their responsibility will grow them. There is much wrong with this idea, but it happens repeatedly.
  5. Many churches have no strategy to help members grow in the first place. Consequently, we’d be requiring believers to live up to a standard for which we haven’t equipped them if they must be spiritually mature to lead.
  6. Once we have workers in place, we just assume their spiritual maturity. Unless they make a blatant, public choice to sin, we assume that they’re still qualified simply because we gave them a leadership role in the past. Meanwhile, our choice only affirms immaturity and stagnation.
  7. In some churches, immature believers and their families run the show. They’re already the power brokers, so nobody confronts them about their lack of spiritual growth. After all, it wouldn’t change anything anyway.
  8. We view ability and talent as the most important qualifications to lead. For example, never mind that the baby believer is still struggling with sin and wrestling with his faith—he can sing well, so let’s let him lead worship. We could multiply this scenario in far too many churches.

What thoughts would you add? 




  • Robin G Jordan says:

    Christians do not agree on what spiritual maturity is. Ask twelve different Christians and you’ll get twelve different answers. Often our definition of spiritual maturity is idiosyncratic and subjective rather than biblical and objective. Spiritual maturity is also not easy easy to gauge.In addition we tend to equate spiritual maturity with age or the length of time an individual has attended a particular church. I have sat through too many sermons in which the preacher assumed that the members of the congregation were far more spiritually mature than they actually were. It may tickled the ears of those to whom he was preaching to be addressed as if they were spiritually mature but it did not help them to grow as the followers of Jesus Christ.

  • mark says:

    If you had a “spiritually mature” candidate for leadership, people would be scared the person would take over and he might not be a “yes man”. Besides, the term is difficult to define and the manifestation is often difficult to identify.

  • Larry Ecton says:

    Money. Too often it appears that the “big givers” are given positions of authority, leadership, and respect, with total disregard to their maturity, or even their salvation. Many pastors are blinded by people “we can’t lose” because of their large donations, without truly caring for their spiritual health. In my experience, this one is close to the top of the list, to our shame.

  • Robin G Jordan says:

    An article series on the marks of spirituality maturity and how to recognize them would be helpful – one that identified the marks of spirituality and then examined each mark in turn. Spin off articles might include how church leaders can foster the spiritual growth of the members of their congregation.

  • Charles Kile says:

    Churches need to organize more social events in their community where new leaders can organize and be observed by leadership. I have a six month observation period before a leader can be on their own.

  • Danny Green says:

    Isn’t the fruit of the Spirit the attributes of maturity? I have experienced immature Christians competing with others for leadership positions. I do not see in scripture were the children of God are to compete with each other but I do see in scripture that we are to be led of the Spirit and to submit to one another in love.

  • Joy says:

    Just wanted to say that every single comment made here is an excellent point. Another thing I would add is in our churches, a lot is ‘assumed’ as it relates to the area of spiritual maturity. The biggest and potentially most damaging assumption is that the leader him/herself is spiritually mature. Unfortunately this is not always the case, and as a result, most everything that follows is a disaster.

  • aas says:

    Good short article for discussion. I have been a believer and church attendee for most of my adult life. Where I live in the US, churches try to be welcoming and warm and relational. The music is entertaining and the lyrics are shallow. The best way to do that is not placing mature believers at the core of Sunday service because they may be too serious, but instead the relational outgoing people run the church. Sure, the pastor has control, but he allows lots of self centered and self serving behavior among the community (not spiritual) leaders. They are often wealthier than average because they know how to run a business. I can tell people are hurting and keeping up appearances.

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