It's coming! Midlife crisis! I am among the older of the millennial generation and here we are. I also happen to be a pastor. So I am staring down the barrel of the looming midlife crisis along with the holy burden of caring for souls entrusted to my care. This could be a recipe for disaster.
What happens when a pastor has a midlife crisis? Well, I would suggest, there are obvious and less obvious results to consider. To name a few, torn ACL's, affairs, depression/burn out, and self-promotion.
I love seeing Tom Brady dominate the football field. It was awesome to see Tiger Woods win the Masters! Why? I am pulling for the guys that are around my age. As I watch sports, I am realizing I am growing older. There are only a few guys in the NBA older than I am. Crazy! A couple of weeks back, I ran 16 miles over 4 days and my left knee is still recovering because of it. I don't like the fact that my body is gaining new limitations. Most men struggle when they realize they are not as strong as they used to be. Some men, can't accept their own frailty. Grey hair and an aching body are for mortals! Forget that Proverbs says "Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life." So men and pastors push their limits. Pastor, your fitness program may truly be about Godly stewardship of your body, or it may be a sinful rejection of your mortality.
Why do so many middle-aged pastors have affairs? It seems like a new scandal comes out each month! Why are there so many late 30-year-old pastors who dress like hipsters? That midlife crisis is sneaky. There is something in a man that wants to be respected and honored. Home life for a middle-aged man can be quite hard. The kids are growing up and marriage seems to be more about who is taking the kids to practice than it is about the next date night. As home life gets more difficult, church life seems to be taking off. The 40-year-old pastor has really hit stride. He knows what he is doing and has finally landed with what he believes to be the best model of ministry. The people at church are taking notice of how well he is managing and leading the family of God. He has honor and respect in this family. But at home? It's hard! The writing is on the wall. Scandal is coming!
If you haven't heard yet, pastors are depressed. Just google "The Pastor and depression" and see how many articles come up. As men get older, testosterone levels begin to slowly drop. Physiological changes can through a man for a loop. Along, with unmet ministry desires (Not pastoring a mega-church) or unmet life goals, the midlife pastor gets depressed. This is an all too common reality! When depression lingers, burn out isn't far behind. This phenomenon called burn out has been around for a long time. Run, run, run, run, run, for 20 years and then crash. Millennial pastor, it's coming! Take note. Learn your lessons now before it's too late.
How about self-promotion? Self-promotion is a symptom of insecurity. Men want to be somebody! We want to help people and make a difference. The pastorate is a breeding ground for false humility. I can't tell you how much I want other people to recognize my humility. Please, folks would you honor me for my humility! See.... There is a fine line between being a producer of material and being a prostitute of material. The midlife crisis of a pastor often looks like excessive and aggressive self-promotion. When a man is not okay with the life God has given him, he often pursues more not for the glory of God and building of His kingdom, but for the glory of self and building of the self-kingdom. Public affirmation is an incognito drug called effective ministry.
I could go on, but you get the point. So what do we do? I think it comes down to one big idea that we have gotten all wrong. Vision. Hu? Yes, vision. I think we have drunk the extra-Biblical vision kool-aid and it has infected almost every area of life. To make it in the modern pastoral world today the pastor has to have a vision. You have to cast vision and get people to buy into the vision. You have to get a vision and go for it! We even have to get a vision for our own life. I think it's all a load of crap. We need to slay that "vision" dragon. I agree with Dietrich Bonhoeffer,
“God hates visionary dreaming; it makes the dreamer proud and pretentious. The man who fashions a visionary ideal of community demands that it be realized by God, by others, and by himself. He enters the community of Christians with his demands, sets up his own law, and judges the brethren and God Himself accordingly. He stands adamant, a living reproach to all others in the circle of brethren. When things do not go his way, he calls the effort a failure. When his ideal picture is destroyed, he sees the community going to smash. So he becomes, first an accuser of his brethren, then an accuser of God, and finally the despairing accuser of himself.”
Pastor, Jesus is our visionary. God has not left us to define our own lives. He has not asked us to have a vision for our life and the life of our church. He has given it to us! We have The Great Commission! We are called to deny ourselves, take up the cross, and follow Jesus! Death to our dreams! Death to our vision! Take up what God has for you today! Take up His vision! His word has not left us in the dark. Our ecclesiology and missiology must be subject to the Vision of the New Testament, not the vision of your own imagination.
My prayer is that through midlife crisis age I would be able to joyfully say with Paul, "Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need." Brothers, we don't have to go through the crisis. It can be avoided! Rest in the finished work of Christ! Enjoy the good gifts God has given you. Deny yourself! Be ready for your late 30's and 40's! Jesus is enough!