When I was a senior in high school, my pastor treated the Youth Group to subs and sandwiches one Sunday after worship. While we were eating and chatting, an older member came and spoke to the pastor to point out that there was a homeless man sleeping in one of the door ways of another building. As soon as the person stopped talking my pastor looked at me and handed me a sub and said, "Take this to the man and if he is still asleep just leave it with this things." So I went and delivered the food as I was told and when I came back, my pastor and the rest of youth were just eating their sandwiches. Then as I sat at the table and began to unwrap my sub my pastor said, "I need you to always remember that Church is not about us."
This is one of most simple and challenging messages I have ever had heard. "The Church is not about us." Now this doesn't mean that we shouldn't care for one another or that we should never take into account how the congregation feels about important things, but over all the mission isn't about us. The missions and ministries of the church are about something much bigger than those who gather together on Sunday mornings in Kempsville. We are primarily concerned with the people who are not among us, the people we have still yet to reach. The Church is about the needs of other.
Maslow and the Hierarchy of Needs
Every person has needs and those needs vary depending on their life circumstances. This is the basic principle that psychologist Abraham Maslow began to work through in 1943. Maslov organized these needs according to how people would need to survive. The base of the pyramid of the hierarchy of needs is composed of what people need to physiologically to survive (air, water, and food, clothing and shelter). Each respective level ascending adds other types of needs. A lot of the needs that Jesus spoke about are in the category of physiological needs.
Once one's physiological needs are relatively satisfied, then their safety needs take precedence, and dominate behavior. Safety and Security needs include: Personal security, Financial security, Health and well-being. The next level is Social belonging, which involves interpersonal feelings and feelings belonging. Deficiencies within this level of Maslow's hierarchy – due to prolonged hospitalization, neglect, or bullying, etc. – can adversely affect the individual's ability to form and maintain emotionally significant relationships (friendships, family, intimacy). Human beings need to feel a sense of belonging and acceptance among their social groups. The next level in this hierarchy is Esteem. All humans have a need to feel respected; this includes the need to have self-esteem and self-respect. Esteem presents the typical human desire to be accepted and valued by others. People often engage in a profession or hobby to gain recognition. These activities give the person a sense of contribution or value. Most people have a need for stable self-respect and self-esteem. Self-actualization or "What a man can be, he must be" is the final level in the hierarchy of needs. This level of need refers to what a person's full potential is and the realization of that potential. Maslow describes this level as the desire to accomplish everything that one can, to become the most that one can be. In his later years, Maslow described a self-transcendence The self only finds its actualization in giving itself to some higher goal outside oneself, in altruism and spirituality.
I Was Hungry and You Gave Me Food, I was Thirsty...
Faithfully caring for those in need is one way in which we are followers of Jesus and live out the Christian life. This is clearly seen in the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats in Matthew 25. The parable describes the end of his story, the Final Judgement, in metaphorical terms; however, their is a clear expectation to care for those in need.
'When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ (Matthew 25:31-40)
This past week at Youth Group our youth discussed the Parable of the Sheep and the Goat (partially listed above). We spoke about what this parable means and what Jesus is instructing us to do. Jesus is making the point that each person who is a part of God's kingdom has a role in caring for every other person in creation. It took a few minutes for ideas on how they could respond to those who are hungry, thirsty, estranged, naked, sick or imprisoned. Then you could see their minds working out not only who they needed to help, but also how they might be able to respond to the need of others. Some of them listed ways that are already existing ministries at Community, others listed new ways that we could respond to the needs of others.
But there was one youth, who will remain nameless, and that youth pointed out that he or she did not feel that the church would do follow through on these things. This is not just some kid, this is a kid who really knows this congregation well. He/She felt that the church was overly concerned with itself, its building and what it wanted. I want all to know that this description is prophetic, meaning an attempt to call the church to its true and better self, an opportunity for us to change and become more like who God has created us to be. Pastor Lee pointed out Sunday morning that there is a lot to do. Each and every one of us has a role in its future. I will repeat my former pastor's words again, "The Church is not about us."
So I ask you, how are you caring for others, both personally and through the ministry of the church? Will you help us feed hungry people, sustain the thirsty, clothe the naked, visit/care for the sick, visit the imprisoned, welcome the stranger? I know that you can and I hope that you will as we seek to make disciples for the transformation of the world.
Grace and Peace be with you,