I just finished reading a fascinating article by Elizabeth Steele in the Alban Institute Magazine called, “How Responding to People’s needs hurts the Church.” Pretty bold title, but I believe that this is the difficult place the church finds herself in right now.
As a marketplace mentality has firmly rooted itself in the church culture–we create programs to respond to expressed and felt needs–we are seeing less people committed to the church as a means of being a witness, and more people pounding on the door asking to be fed (both physically, emotionally and spiritually).
For me, the question comes back to–does Jesus meet the needs of the people he encounters?
We can point to Christ healing the sick, comforting the widows, bringing the social o
outcasts into relationship and community. Here it does seem as though Christ’s main focus was on meeting and responding to the particular needs of individuals.
But, this article makes an interesting point: “What occurs when [congregants] do not get what they want? They believe the church is letting them down…”
Going back to Jesus’ example…what about the sick people whom Jesus did not heal, or the fact that he says “the poor will always be among you,” calling us to “deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow him.” Is he failing in his mission? Is he letting people down?
No and Yes. He is not failing in his mission because his mission is not to respond to people’s needs and wants. Yet he may have been letting people down in the process.
Therefore, the church needs to revaluate her mission: not in seminary, not in the ministerial offices, or in committee’s…but from the ground-up through a self-reflective question, “Why do I go to church?”