Peter Pan Syndrome

By Paul Anderson-Walsh

I have a sense of urgency in my spirit.  I’m disturbed by the fact that too many Christians do not seem to grow-up.   It’s something that has troubled me for a long time and one of the main things that forced me to get out of the church-planting business.   Christians don’t grow up in church, they grow old, they grow cynical, they grow more demanding, they grow religious, but they don’t grow-up.
I want to suggest that the reason for this is that so many of us who have been in the church suffer from Peter Pan Syndrome.
There are some who have argued [with some persuasiveness] that if one is to grow in Christ, it is necessary to leave the church. Adam Jameson’s book “The Churchless Faith” is a very provocative and challenging piece of research, and his findings compelling… I think that when we speak in terms of church as we currently know it and do it then that is exactly right… but my view is that a “churchless faith” is a regrettable and altogether understandable response to the core problem: a faithless church. Therein lies the key to all things – rediscovering the Christian faith, which is not faith in our faith in Christ but the faith of Christ in the Christian.
Peter Pan was a boy with magical powers who refused to grow up and so spent his never-ending childhood adventuring on the small island of Neverland as the leader of his gang the Lost Boys.
Peter’ refusal to grow up was born out of a deep-seated feeling that he would not be accepted by the adult world and as a defense he rejected what he perceived to be rejecting him – Sound familiar?
Adults represented for Peter the ongoing threat of the emotional pain of rejection. Peter was fearful and insecure with feelings of inadequacy.  That fear of failure manifested itself whenever he interacted with others that he perceived to be more capable and in control than he was.
Peter Pan syndrome is an overwhelming fear of failure interacting with those perceived to be more adequate.
So many beautiful believers are just like Peter, racked with fear and riddled with a sense of inadequacy.  They (we) fear that we’ll never be good enough, never measure up.
So rather than move out and move on into the adventure of faith we cut ourselves off from the outside world and live in the First Church of Neverland doing mortal combat with the mythical Captain Hook of the Law.
However, the moment that we apprehend the child truths of our faith, that there is no condemnation etc, etc we ought to be free but we’re not because whilst we know that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ we have no concept of what it means to be in Christ.
As long as we suffer from sin-and-self-consciousness we will continue to view God as someone separate from us.
So long as we perceive Him as someone who lives up there (in heaven) rather than the indwelling Christ who lives inside of each and every one of us we’ll suffer from Peter Pan syndrome.
So long as we see him as separate we’ll forever be susceptible to Peter Pan syndrome.  How but the moment we’re rid of it we’ll discover that Captain Hook was far from the truth when he told Peter that “Death is the only adventure you have left.”  On the contrary, to die before you die is the key to really living.

3 Responses to Peter Pan Syndrome

  1. Caro says:

    My parent’s names are Peter and Wendy and this describes them perfectly. I left the church in highschool because I felt like something was wrong, but was always tempted to go back. This article hit pretty close to home and helped me get over a few scars. Thanks so much! God bless.

  2. Ana says:

    I recently found out about the Peter Pan Syndrome… I could swear that my mother has it too but I can’t put my finger on it…. I know one thing for sure… the world as we know it is going crazy so we’d better grab a hold (?) of our sanity and not succumb.

    I’ve been to churches that pretty much resembled your description…

    Thing is… I don’t think there will ever be a church that has bonded… one mentality… there will always be people that just mechanically follow… but I think that if you search long enough… you’ll find a church you’ll feel “at home” no matter how the people are there… I think I have found mine…the people that go there are the same as everywhere but the father of the church is a one of a kind person…I think that’s the most important thing… if the person that leads the church inspires you… then that’s enough.

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