Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Want vs. Need

When people see a church, they often think that it is there to meet a need that they have; churches are for helping people. And to a certain extent this is true. But this is not the only truth, or even the primary truth. Churches are there first and foremost to lead people to God and to help them become disciples of Christ.
This was actually an ongoing issue with Jesus while He was here on the earth. People would come to Jesus with a perceived need (to be healed) and Jesus wouldn't offer them healing at first. For example, in the Bible, in the New Testament, in the book of Matthew, chapter 9, some people brought a paralyzed man to Jesus. What was Jesus' initial response? Let's read it in verse 2: "When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, 'Take heart, son, your sins are forgiven.'" Jesus forgives the man of his sins.
In this passage we have the issue of want verses need. The man wanted to not be paralyzed any more. The man wanted to walk. The man wanted Jesus to heal him. But Jesus knew that his greater need was to be saved from his sin, so Jesus forgave the man of his sins. This doesn't go over too well with the people, and Jesus realizes that they don't understand, so to help them get to a place where they were open to having their need met, Jesus took care of the want and healed the man. With this, verse 8 tells us: "When the crowds saw it, they were filled with awe, and they glorified God..." In the end, God is glorified, and faith is strengthened.
In an article entitled "How Responding to People's Needs Hurts the Church," by Elizabeth I. Steele, she says: "This trivializes the church, its mission, and its outreach. It eviscerates the heart of the church’s message and cuts the church off from its identity as the people of Christ." When the church seeks to always meet the needs (which are usually wants) of people, it creates people who only think about taking, instead of developing disciples who want to give. Christ came to "serve and give His life as a ransom for many." As Christ's followers, the church should be about helping its people learn how to give of themselves. When this happens, the needs will be met all the more.
The church is called to create disciples, not sponges. What do you think?