A couple weeks ago, a pastor and I were sitting down over lunch discussing church growth. The conversation centered around meeting people’s needs. This was one of those spirited, fun conversations where each of us played devil’s advocate. I made the observation that if we are not meeting people’s needs then we are not following Jesus’ example. His reply was that it’s not our responsibility to meet people’s needs. The trouble is, we are both right. The bigger issue is the lack of understanding of what real, spiritual needs of people are. Many people leave churches and organizations because their “needs” are not met. But when you sit down and talk to them, they define “needs” as items that are really personal preferences: like music styles, sermon delivery, service length, order of service, time of service, schedule and so on. The real definition of “needs” is something you can’t live without. Can you really and truly survive without it? An interesting phenomenon in churches is that growth happens in the first 3-4 years and then plateaus. The reason for this is that when people start a church it’s because they are led to do so by the Spirit. When we follow the Spirit we meet people’s spiritual needs. We also have a vision, one that is shared by the entire group. One example of a need is best described by a man who wrote a letter to his church simply asking why no one ever invites him fishing. It would be easy for us to dismiss this as someone who’s just pouting, and some people do that. But if we jump to conclusions on our own what are we putting our focus on? Are we allowing the Spirit to show us this person’s real need, or what we think the problem is. I think the simplest definition of our real needs is summed up in faith, hope and love. This man doesn’t really need to go fishing, he needs someone to love him, give him hope and share their faith. When you understand what real needs are and you have the tools, vision and motivation to meet those needs, and are following the leading of the Holy Spirit, people’s lives are changed and churches grow. So, if you are a church who is wondering why you are not growing, are you meeting people’s real needs? Do you have the vision, tools and motivation that the Holy Spirit provides? If not, now is the time to start.
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