Felt needs are essentially superficial, and meeting them will lead to being a superficial, needs-driven church with no authentic gospel.
Real needs are the ones God exposes, that without him we would not be aware of, and addressing those – and those alone – is the remit of the church.
50%, I think. On both.
Here’s Jesus on the matter:
And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest.” Matt 9:35-38
1. These people have real needs: they are harassed and helpless.
2. It breaks Jesus’ heart: he has compassion on them
3. The reason they have those needs is because they don’t have Jesus in their lives: they are sheep without a shepherd.
But notice how those three are connected.
Jesus doesn’t say, “I know you’re and harassed and helpless, but that’s a distraction – you need me.” He says, “I know you’re harassed and helpless – that’s because you don’t know me.” The felt needs are caused by the real need, which is for Jesus.
People round where I live are harassed by money worries, relationship worries, work worries, family worries – and all because they construct idols out of them. Put Jesus in the centre of a life, and those issues – real issues – are seen in their true perspective and can be addressed. This whole cycle was kicked off by Jesus teaching people, giving his true perspective.
Introduce people to Jesus and then he can start work on sorting out those genuine felt needs.
And that’s where we fit in: we all pray for workers, and some of us are workers. But we’ll do that only when we see people as Jesus sees them: sheep without a shepherd, and a field just waiting to be harvested. And as a result, we go out and teach about him. And. the link between the felt need and the need for Jesus will be the one we shall need to uncover.
So, see those helpless, harassed people, be moved by compassion, but don’t be distracted by meeting those needs superficially. The world does that. Introduce them to the shepherd in his teaching, and so let him calm and restore their souls, and he will meet those needs deeply through his love in the fellowship of the church. Meeting the real need will meet the felt needs.
See people as Jesus sees them.
Thanks for stopping by. Do pile in with your comments below!
Shameless plug: I wrote much more about this issue in Cutting to the Heart
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