Avoiding the Charismatic Peter Pan Syndrome

Charismatics should have an important advantage when it comes to spiritual maturity, but unfortunately, being charismatic doesn’t always result in maturity.  Why should they have an advantage?  Charismatics believe in the full manifestations of Holy Spirit.  They are typically hungry for more of Holy Spirit’s life, power, and experience in their lives.  This should help them mature because as Paul said, “by the Spirit, we put to death the deeds of the flesh” (Rom 8:13-14).  This is the essence of maturity, less flesh and more of God motivating our lives.  Sadly, this isn’t always the case with charismatics.

Why do we see charismatics exhibiting less maturity than their non-charismatic counterparts?  One of the biggest reasons is that they pursue manifestations of the Spirit but don’t always pursue the daily life with Holy Spirit that leads to maturity.  This means embracing His activity in maturing us through relationships and daily life experiences.  It is what the Bible calls the “fruit of the Spirit.”  Fruit doesn’t spring forth in momentary steps of intensity (altar calls, corporate meetings, prophetic words, extraordinary manifestations of God’s presence).  Fruit grows in the day in, day out life as we consistently follow Holy Spirit and embrace His dealings. 

A good expression of charismatics who don’t mature is what I call the Charismatic Peter Pan Syndrome.  Peter Pan was a boy who never wanted to grow up.  He loved living in Neverland with other “lost boys” who were also immature. He loved the anointing of Tinker Bell’s pixie dust that enabled him and others to do supernatural things.  It was fun to fly around under the anointing.  It was a life of adventure without the responsibility of adulthood.  Fighting crocodiles, Captain Hook, and flying around with Tinker Bell’s anointing was more exciting than the responsibilities of growing up.

If you remember the story, Peter Pan tried to keep the Darling children in his immature world (Wendy, John, and Michael).  After all the adventure, in the end, Mrs. Darling offered to take all the lost boys back into her family (where they would be cared for and grow up) but Peter refused citing the prophetic reality of the Charismatic Peter Pan Syndrome, “you will catch me and try to make me a man (grow up).”  It sounds like the old Toys R US  theme song, “I don’t want to grow up, I’m a Toys R US kid.”  

 Biblical examples of Charismatic Peter Pans 

Saul was an example of the Charismatic Peter Pan Syndrome. He was anointed as king and quickly came into Spiritual atmospheres and manifestations. Outside of those times, he displayed little maturity from an ongoing walk with God.  This lead to his downfall that negatively affected both his family and the whole nation.

Right after his anointing as king, he encountered a group of musicians and prophets and “the Spirit of the Lord came upon him mightily and he was changed in that atmosphere and began prophesying with them” (1 Sam 10:1-12).  This happened more than once and It was such a pronounced thing that it caused a  proverb to be written about him, “Is Saul also among the prophets?”  He liked the effect of that atmosphere so much he would call for people to come and play music for him so he could experience the same corporate effect (1 Sam 16:22-23, 19:24). The problem was he never matured, and sin lead to his downfall.

Moments of Spiritual intensity do not make up for a consistent walk with Holy Spirit that leads to maturity

Balaam was another one who experienced tremendous Spiritual manifestations as he rode upon his donkey to move in supernatural power.  He was hired to curse God’s people but ended up moving in the Spirit giving prophetic blessings to God’s people (Num 22-24). The anointing of the Spirit even came on the donkey he was riding who saw into the realm of the Spirit and eventually talked to Balaam (Num 22:28-31).  In our day and age, this would have been a great foundation to launch a charismatic ministry.   Animal noises, talking donkeys, and prophesying would make for some great meetings, and Balaam’s ministry could really become famous.  In spite of those Spiritual manifestations, Balaam didn’t make progress in maturity and ended up leading God’s people astray.

The New Testament mentions Balaam three times, all negatively.  He is described as the personification of greed in using religion for personal gain as well as inducing others to sin, specifically in idolatry and sexual immorality.  Sounds like some charismatic ministry scandals we unfortunately read about.

Moments and steps of Spiritual intensity do not make up for a consistent walk with Holy Spirit which leads to maturity.  Think about deciding to turn over a new leaf and enrolling at a fitness club.  You can have an intense workout or two, then check your progress (lift your shirt for a view of all the fat that disappeared during the workout) and realize not much happened.  The fat didn’t fall off after the first workout. Even as you felt the rush of dopamine in your brain it didn’t translate to miraculous fat reduction.  You may try another day or week of intensity, but if you see little immediate progress you may give up.  Or you may try another workout facility with better programs. 

There are no substitutes for consistent steps of intensity in working out to eventually see the fruit.  Bearing the fruit of the Spirit in maturity works the same way.  It takes a walk not just an occasional step of intensity.

Biblical Traits of Maturity:  Biblical love (1 Cor 13:1-13), the mind of Christ (1 Cor 13:1-13), and the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-24).  “Patience, kindness, joy, peace, humility, doesn’t brag, isn’t arrogant, is not self-seeking or swept up in self-interest,  is not easily provoked, bears with people, endures things,  full of hope, doesn’t take into account wrongs, serves, has self-control.”

Two essentials that Holy Spirit uses to develop maturity in our lives

Walking in the face of God (presence of the Lord).  In both the Old Testament and the New the word translated for God’s presence means, “in front of, or His face.” God’s presence isn’t a thing; it is a Person. Coming into His presence should result in coming face to face with Him.  It is your eyes meeting His which is the beginning point of all change leading to maturity.  Paul identifies this as a central feature of the “New Covenant of the Spirit” (2 Cor 3:1-18).  As we come before His face, we consistently grow up.

  • 2 Corinthians 3:18  But we all, with our face having been unveiled, having beheld the glory of the Lord as in a mirror, are being changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Lord Spirit.

Just like a good parent will bring their children in front of them and look into their eyes to express love and affection, as well as challenge and correction, God wants to do that with His children.  If we look into the face of God on a regular basis things change. 

Walking in the family of God.  Family is God’s organizing principle of life.  Children, both natural and spiritual, were designed to grow up in a family where there is love, care, and training.  When we become a responsible family member in God’s house we will mature. The Bible refers to it as being “Planted in the House of the Lord.”  The result is that we grow.  It is very simple.  People who never become responsible family members in God’s house rarely mature.

  • Psa 92:12-13 The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree; he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon.  (13)  Those that are planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God. They will still yield fruit in old age; they shall be full of sap and very green.

Relationships are both the measurement and means of maturity. We can all seem pretty mature when we are by ourselves.  We rarely have to exercise patience, kindness, gentleness, thinking of others more than ourselves, etc. when we are all alone.  Walking in real relationships busts any bubble of deception in the maturity department.  You cannot love God and your neighbor as yourself when you are only by yourself.  The fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-24), the mind of Christ (Phil 2:1-11), and the Biblical manifestation of love (1 Cor 13:13) can only be experienced and expressed in relationships.

Many times God’s great story of the Bible is reduced to a message about “me and Jesus.”  It becomes about individually “getting saved” so you can individually be blessed, and go to heaven when you die.  While salvation is personal, it isn’t private.  God’s plan is a family plan.

4 aspects of family relationships in God’s house that promote maturity

  • Love, affirmation, and encouragement (1 Thes 3:12, 4:9, 5:11-14, Tit 2:4, Heb 3:13, Gal 5:13, Eph 4:2 etc.).
  • Instruction and example (Titus 2, Phil 3:17, 1 Thes 1:7, 2 Thes 3:7, 9, 1 Tim 4:12, etc.).  
  • Responsibilities to serve. Growing up means learning to take more responsibility.  You begin to take responsibility to care for others and not just yourself. 
  • Challenge (Prov 27:6, Eph 4:15-16 etc). When we are missing the mark and not sensitive to obeying God, faithful friends are there to gently challenge us to come out of our deception (Jas 1:22). 

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