June 9, 2008

How Responding to People's Needs Hurts the Church

Alban Institute, in their weekly emailing, includes a fascinating article by Elizabeth I. Steele titled How Responding to People's Needs Hurts the Church. You may read the article here.

She points out that while defining the church's ministry in terms of responding to people's needs is a common notion, it may trivialize the church's mission and outreach and results in the measurement of a congregation that becomes personal: "Is it meeting my needs?" There is, she points out confusion between needs and wants.

She later identifies scriptures related to Jesus' ministry in reminding us that Christian faith has always been about giving, not receiving.

Steele says that a shift in thinking is called for and this shirft must be reflected in our language. She identifies three important shifts that are needed:
1. A shift from understanding the center of a congregation's life as responding to needs to being a community faith.
2. Looking at spiritual gifts as a way to shift from a "needs" mentality to a focus on what people have to give.
3. Reclaiming the language of call as a way to shift from what people are "supposed to do" to celebrating their own call to participation in ministry.