Surface Needs or Deeper Needs
Marva Dawn in her helpful work A Royal “Waste” of Time writes
Many of the bad decisions that are made about worship touch only the surface needs of our society and not the hidden influences or powerful forces that make true worship both difficult and essential.
If we understand the genuine needs of our neighbors, we will see that the best gift we could offer them is our faithfulness in royally wasting our time in worship.
Today, we simply assume that the best and most effective way to reach the world is to see what they want, and then give it to them. This is essentially the “seeker-sensitive” methodology. We seek to find what the people want. What can the church provide to people to help them live more productive lives in this world? Then we as a church simply provide these things.
However a few problems are here. First, we simply assume that the church is meant to be a social service agency. Certainly we are to provide services when in line with our mission, but we don’t take our assignment from the world neither from the felt needs of the world, but from God. Our ecclesiology is deficient when we only judge our effectiveness by the number of people sitting in the building consuming our religious entertainment.
But more than this, the larger question is does our pandering to the “felt needs” of the world really expand the Kingdom of God? I would agree with Dawn. We get so caught up with what we think the needs of others are that we end up providing for the “surface needs” of people. To look past this, we must gain an appreciation of the genuine needs of the community. And I would argue the purpose and role of the church. We cannot do what we need to do unless we know who we are and what God has called us to do. And Finally, we work in line with those things to provide what is truly needed and not just provide a religious diversion.