Thoughts to Ponder are my musings regarding community, things of the Spirit, and living as a Christ-follower. I don't offer the words of a professional or an expert; just a fellow traveler and explorer. Please don't take my musings more serious than I do. I've discovered a long time ago that I do not hold the keys of knowledge or wisdom. If I did, I misplaced them somewhere...typical.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Meeting Needs?

"Jesus doesn't meet our needs; he rearranges them. He cares very little about most things that I assume are my needs, and he gives me needs that I would've never had if I hadn't met Jesus.

"I used to ask seminarians, 'Why are you are you in seminary?' They'd say, 'I like meeting people's needs.' And I'd say, 'Whoa. Really? If you try that with the people I know, they'll eat you alive.'

"Now, if you're a pastor in Honduras, it might be okay to define your ministry as meeting needs, because more people in Honduras have interesting biblical needs--food, clothing, housing. But most people in the churches I know get those needs met without prayer. So they've moved on to 'needs' like orgasm, a satisfying career, an enjoyable love life, a positive outlook on life, and stuff the Bible has absolutely no interest in.

"...I think of a sermon I heard recently. The preacher had identified a felt need, I think it was for meaning or happiness or something like that. Then he said, 'Let's go to the Scriptures and find the biblical means of meeting this need.' He urged the congregation to consider how the good advice in the Scriptures could meet these needs. he concluded, 'I guarantee your life will be better if you follow these biblical principals.'

"That sermon made a number of interesting assumptions. One assumption is that the gospel has anything to do with 'my needs.' As I read the Gospels, Jesus seems oblivious to most of my needs. Was Jesus about fulfilling people's desires? What a curious image of Jesus.

"Another assumption is that I have needs worth having. A consumer culture is not about the fulfillment of real need; it's about the creation of need that I wouldn't have without the advertising. So when I say 'I need this,' I shouldn't be trusted.

"My point: I have tremendous respect for the power of the market to own everything, including preachers. If my sermon becomes another product that makes you feel a little less miserable this week, then that, it seems to me, is a little less than the gospel."

-Dr. William Willimon in an interview, "Preaching Past TiVo", Leadership, Summer 2006

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