This month I will celebrate my 51st birthday. The other night it struck me that I am now closer to my 100th birthday than to the day I was born. Apparently reflecting like this is an indicator that I am either in or headed towards a mid-life crisis. From what I can tell a mid-life crisis has something to do with change and not feeling good about it. It could be a feeling that the world has passed us by. I have seen people try to recapture their youth. The other day I went for a run with my youngest son. He is 20 and I am, well I already told you how old I am. After three miles he was just getting warmed up and I was clearly coming to the end of my run. For a moment it just didn’t seem fair. My son can run a marathon one day and be perfectly fine the next. I would need a week of serious recovery.
There has also been good change in my life. I find myself making less impulsive decisions. Experience can bring a measure of wisdom. I like that.
Change is not all that fun and can be downright scary. This is especially true in western culture where we seem to value stability and predictability above all else. We want jobs we can depend on and retirement accounts that will carry us through our “golden years.” When stable jobs and retirement accounts are thrown into chaos, panic is quick to follow. It is in moments like this when we discover the will to change. This can take the form of developing new jobs skills and changing patterns of saving money.
I am beginning to wonder if the North American church is entering a mid-life crisis. There is general agreement across the entire spectrum of the church that the religious world is changing. If the church is going to survive and remain an integral part of culture and life it is going to have to change.
Much could be and needs to be written about the need to rethink theological and social positions. Even more critical is the need to rethink the institution. Churches, denominations, and para-church organizations have spent decades building and reinforcing their particular institutional presence. What we are discovering is that change has happened. There is a growing suspicion of the institution, liberal or conservative, it doesn’t matter. Concurrently there is an emerging belief in people. This change is huge and I suspect it is permanent. The glory days of the faith-based institution are fading. A new reality is emerging. The questions for us mid-lifers is how will we respond?