Sunday, November 14, 2010

Essential Foundations for Making Disciples

Secular attempts have been made to describe “the abundant life.” One of the most popular is Abraham Maslow’s “hierarchy of needs.” Maslow began with basic physiological needs—the things needed to sustain life. Even these basic needs have varying degrees of urgency, though current expressions of Maslow’s ideas (through a triangular chart) do not always reflect that. All animal life, for example, needs oxygen more urgently than water or food. (“Breathing,” shown on many current charts, is not the need—oxygen is. “Sex” gets thrown into this physiological level because reproduction is a characteristic of all living organism. Not all reproduction involves sex, however; and the urgency of reproduction is more the need of the species than the physiological need of the individual organism.) Maslow’s second level, the need for “safety,” is a reflection that life thrives most readily when the basic physiological needs are able to be met on an ongoing basis. Different individuals and different cultures will define “safety” is different ways, and modern culture has tended to create “needs” that are social/psychological rather than physiological in nature. These “higher” needs are so important that they often influence our behavior with an urgency that exceeds their relative importance. In reality, unfulfilled needs at whatever level drive what we deem to be important or urgent. While these levels of concern may seem to have little to do with making disciples, we must at least acknowledge that the prospects of fulfilling higher needs that result in an abundant life are crippled if some sense of safety is not achieved for the individual in the community. A balanced and comprehensive attempt to make disciples will address whatever need hinders or impedes the achievement of the abundant life. In some settings that will involve engagement at the physiological level in feeding the poor. In some settings it will involve engagement at the safety level in assistance with employment or housing. To many people, these may not seem to have anything to do with making disciples; but they are foundational issues that will impede our efforts if they are neglected or ignored.

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