One question hangs in the balance after this impromptu introduction: Is this Peter from Galilee or Peter Pan from Never-Never Land? It is my observation that in the church far too often for many Christian men, the answer of who they are in their spiritual growth and service is the latter rather than the former. What I mean is that many church bodies are overrun by full grown men who are not spiritual infants, but are instead determined to stay stuck in spiritual adolescence for the rest of their life. They have grown enough to bear fruit and thus display the salvation of their soul but will never reap a full harvest that leads to the same in others. This is why many needs both spiritual and material in the church can go largely unmet (If you're one of my JESUS fearing sisters in the LORD, don't check out! This may very well be eye opening to you as well). So without further delay sound the horns, release the doves (sorry PETA) and let us begin with a brief comparison...
Peter - Fisherman called to be a disciple by JESUS himself somewhere in his adolescence or early adulthood. He witnessed miracles and CHRIST's atoning death on the cross. He would later become a pillar of the Christian Church and be referred to as " the rock" on which JESUS would build that church. Walked on water (for a second or two, still cool though) Peter was subsequently martyred for his tenacity in the faith and was rewarded in the glory of Heaven by the one true GOD whom his life had magnified.
Peter Pan - As an adolescent went to Never-Never Land fought some pirates, made friends with Wendy, hung out with the Lost Boys and a fairy. He crowed like a rooster a lot. Peter Pan never grew up.
Peter - Rambunctious, impetuous, and ostentatious.
Peter Pan - Rambunctious, impetuous, and ostentatious.
Peter - Husband and Father (Yes its an informed assumption, calm down legalists) who proactively spread the Gospel to the world, grew and led the early church through a tumultuous and dangerous time. Discipled many who in turn discipled others. Was bold and courageous in the pursuit of his GODly goals and aspirations. Exemplified sacrifice in the giving of his life for the Gospel's sake.
Peter Pan - Enjoyed having influence over those around him but never took an active leadership role to grow and challenge both he and his followers. Only impacted his friends/acquaintances, did not reach beyond that. Let the love of his life leave because he didn't want to grow up. Was strictly reactionary in his service to others. Avoided situations in which he was not guaranteed success. Known for saying "think happy thoughts."
Reaction in the midst of failure:
Peter - Shortly after the greatest fail of his entire career (denial of CHRIST) he took on a position he was not ready for and rapidly grew into it by necessity.
Peter Pan - Let the love of his life leave because he didn't want to grow up and never went after her and instead settled for what came easy.
*(And no, bad Disney sequels and Robin Williams do not count, Dustin Hoffman makes a great Cpt. Hook though. And not to mention, Ru...fi...OOOO!)
Peter - Though his flaws and failures are well documented, he is still revered and respected as a pillar of the early church. He still meaningfully impacts lives 2000 yrs after his death.
Peter Pan - Known for losing his shadow, wearing tights and being reenacted in plays by girls with short hair.
Which one are we more like?
Peter or Peter Pan?
To answer this question, all we have to do is ask ourselves... 'am I still growing in my faith'?
If our answer is 'no', we are more like Peter Pan than we may want to admit. The next obvious question is 'when and why did I stop growing'?
So how do spiritually maturing Christians become immature Peter Pans? I believe they fall into this because of fear. Either they have tried and failed in a certain ministry or service and are afraid to fail again. Or much like the character Peter Pan they were so afraid of the unknown future they never even made an attempt to step into it spiritually speaking. They grew to a point but were so worried about what letting GOD take the wheel from there on would cost them that they instead opted to anchor their entire Christian life in Never-Never Land. The problem is, unlike the mythical land in this story, time does carry on. The passing tick-tocks of that alligator's clock means lost opportunity. The Lost Boys grow into lost men and there is no legacy to pass on because the initial investment of the faith was never made in them to begin with. The GODly aspirations represented by Wendy move on to be joined with another more faithful one who does not fear growing up. The Gospel stays stagnant in the heart it was planted in all because of Peter Pan's insecurity and need to feel in control. His story becomes a tragedy, a tale of waste, neglect, and regret. It is told to warn rather than inspire. His life is essentially standing still, waiting for eternity to come.
Which would we rather be?
Two teenage boys one fictional, one factual. One stayed forever an adolescent, the other became forever a mighty man of faith! One only handled as much as he thought he could take, the other took on more than he thought he could ever handle. The church grew, sinners were saved and most importantly his life glorified GOD! What more can a man (or woman) of faith ask for? What could be more fulfilling? Far too many of us see both our spiritual and physical adolescence as the apex of our life story, but why? We were meant to be more than that, we were meant to be heirs to an eternal kingdom continually growing in both faith and impact in the world. Our growth, sacrifice and service is an act of worship that truly communicates our gratitude for the gift of grace we've received. The needs and challenges we see around us are an opportunity for glory, not a burden to be avoided. In these we declare that our GOD is faithful and powerful enough to work through broken vessels such as ourselves.
This is a call to all the Peter Pans in the church for the sake of the Gospel to step out of the comfort of Never-Never Land and become like Peter to make an impact in the real world surrounding us. Together let us welcome the pain and failure associated with growth to ready us for the battles ahead. Rather than horde our spiritual gifts and talents, willingly limiting ourselves, we should step out and share what GOD has given us with everyone who is within our reach and beyond. Lets be the men (and women) we were meant to be. Let us hear Moses' battle cry to Joshua as he sent him to lead others into the uncharted promise land: "Be strong! Be courageous!" Let us run into the dark unknown future with the absolute assurance of our salvation and confidence in our GOD's sovereign plan. When things get hard let us cling ever more tightly to our FATHER in Heaven and push down evermore forcefully the obstacles in our path. Lets leave a spiritual inheritance for our sons and daughters that is rich, full of exemplary service, boldness and dedication. We can become our own hometown's Peter even though we (like he) are flawed, because the same SPIRIT of GOD that worked through him also works through us.
Practical steps for growth:
-Begin practicing spiritual disciplines to prepare for the challenges ahead.
-Identify a need in your community or church, figure out realistically in what way you're capable of addressing that need and do whatever you determine is one step further than that.
-Seek out a more mature Christian to meet with to gain encouragement, accountability, and guidance.
-Seek out a less mature Christian to give the same to them
by Chris Murray