Friday, August 29, 2008

Maslow and the church

In the 1950s renown psychologist Abraham Maslow boiled down volumes of research into a list of needs and desires that people try to fulfill:

Transendence: help others realize their potential.
Self actualization: realize our own potential, self-fulfillment, peak experience.
Aesthetic: symmetry, order, beauty, balance
Learning: know, understand, and mentally connect
Esteem: achieve, be competent, gain approval, independence, status
Belonging: love, family, friends, affection
Security: protection, safety, stability
Physical: hunger, thirst, bodily comfort

These were first shown as a hierocracy with filling each need in an order, starting with physical and as we have each need met we move until we fulfill our transendence need. Subsequent research has shown that it isn’t so much a hierocracy but rather having these needs met simultaneously.

Let’s say that Maslow was right in diagnosing the basic human needs and that these 8 cover the majority of our worries and fears. Let’s say that no matter what the culture is we humans have the same core needs. It may look different in context but basically we are all the same with our plight as humans.

I was reminded of Maslow recently in reading through made to stick by Chip and Dan Heath and started thinking of how this would apply to Christianity and the church.

I have read many books on outreach and evangelism in the church, in thinking back over these readings I have read many on the church filling one of the specific aspects. Such as the need to belong or for meeting the physical need. Is it possible for a church to be cognizant of fulfilling each of these aspects? There are individual churches that may be real good at one or two of these while neglecting others. Maybe churches should only focus on or two of these.

Are we happy and content with the types of people who come or are involved with our churches? I have talked to many pastors who are trying to reach a different age group or niche group. The most common age group of people they are trying to reach is the 20/30 something family. The question is, is the church even coming close to meeting the felt need of this age group? Being in this age group I would say the number one need is someone to watch and protect my children. We went to a church that there two rooms of children church one for anyone under two and the other for ages 3-6th grade. My kids were frightened and didn’t want to go back because they were with much older kids.
Or churches that don’t have a strong musical base, is it because they don’t embrace the aesthetics’?

The question is, was Maslow right with his evaluation about people? If we were to look at the life of Jesus and the way he recruited people he used many of these needs to draw them in. The interesting part of American Christianity is that we have thought the draw for so long to Christianity has been the fear of hell. Yes, there are some people who want the thought of eternal security. This may be why the churches are filled with same types of people, those who want safety. What about the rest of us, what about those who want to have their adventure quota filled? What about those who want to invest in others? There was a place in Jesus life for those who had these other needs and I believe there is a place in the church for them also, but we need to challenge and present Christianity in away that is more appealing than join so you can escape hell.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Is the American church relevant?

Yes the word relevant has been overused and this topic may have been dissected from every which way of late but I hope to add to the conversation with this peace.
It is always exciting being part of an organization that is being talked about and respected in circles that are outside the inner circle. It was exciting to me to see Rick Warren do the talk with both Obama and McCain a couple weeks ago on national television. Warren having the ability to pull off the first joint meeting was amazing. That a pastor would have the influence to do this is great. Yes we may not want Rick Warren as the spokesman for the American church but if the general American people see him as someone credible than there can be hope for us.
When was the last time other than someone in our circle of Christian friends and church members cared what went on in our churches? When was the last time someone other than the Christians in the community came to church because of our clever church signs or read the religious pages of the newspapers? I am sure it occasionally happens but does this get the attention of the community as a whole.
Yes the churches have begun to do a lot more with national and worldwide crises. There has been some great press with hurricane Katrina, and other tragedies. Does the community care when we have Bible School, if we have a guest speaker, or having a church wide picnic? All of these are done in the name of evangelism. I feel I can speak as somewhat of an expert on this topic because I have been to hundreds of these events. The vast majority of these do not attract anyone other Christians. Why? Is it because we are doing events that we enjoy not what the community as a whole cares about? Do we even know what would be relevant to people who are not like us?
I have heard many ministries and churches who want to reach Valpo University. I always ask what are you going to do? Start a Bible study, offer to pick up college kids in vans, put up fliers in the union, or have a Christian radio show at the station. Nothing wrong with any of these ideas, it will attract the Christians. In order to reach anyone who is either a dechurched or unchurched student these ideas are probably not going to work. What if the plan was to deliver pizza to every dorm room with a person from the church delivering it saying “hey we are from such and such church and we wanted you to know we cared about you, here is is our email address and if you have anything you need please contact us.” Would this cost money? Yes, would it be worth it, yes if we are trying to reach the unchurched or dechurched.
Going back to my neighbors who I have enjoyed spending time with, what do they do on Sunday mornings? Mow their lawns. Why do they do this on Sunday mornings? Is it because this is the only time they can do it because they work 6 days a week to support their families? If they are like us their schedules are just as crazy as the rest of us and they have their times maxed out. If I expect them to come to church how can I lighten their load? Can I volunteer to watch their kids, or mow their lawns?
I believe we are in the middle of relevance we have huge potential of being relevant but it is going to work and sacrifice on our part. Spirituality doesn’t always mean sitting in our houses and churches praying and reading our Bible.

Monday, August 25, 2008

What does it mean to be different?

After my last post I had many comments and opinions. They run the spectrum of agreement and disagreement. I am sure this is a much more important topic to us in the American church than anywhere else.
Let me preface anything I say from here on by saying because of my current position I am refraining from alcohol.
Alcohol is just a small tip of the ice berg of the relationship Christians have with the cultural and those around us who are not of the same belief as us.
Last night I spent time with my neighbors and one of the neighbors hasn’t spent to much time around me much. He goes to church but I have no idea what his commitment is to his faith. As the other neighbors were drinking and shooting the breeze, this new neighbor was different than the rest. He still drank, smoked, and cussed but every once a while he would throw a religious phrase into the conversation. He was trying to impress me in some way but it was very disingenuous and strange. I was trying to figure out why he found the need to act this way? Is this what we have taught in church? Have we really never reached into the core of the problems but rather just tried to give people ways of covering up deeper problems by giving them clever phrases?
Is smoking, drinking, or cussing any of my neighbors biggest problems? Absolutely not, every single one of them have kids, wives, and families they worry about. Last night we talked at length about how we “deal” with wives. How we are embarrassed if our kids act up at restraints or get in trouble at school.
I think our biggest problems as Christians we can never get to core issues with non-Christians because we can never get over small surface issues. We can never get to the core problems of sexuality because we are so hung up in the acts of it. Last week I ran into one of my former youth group members and she introduced me to her girlfriend.
Immediately the people I was with started snickering and criticizing as soon as she left. My heart hurt for this girl, no I don’t agree with her life choices, but what is really going on in her life? Is the biggest issue that she chooses to be with a girl rather than a boy? Probably not, her biggest issue maybe the hurt that led her to this decision. Homosexuality in my mind is a surface issue rather than the root problem.
If I want to be different I am going to work hard at having the fruit of the spirit evident in my life and try patiently with dealing with others. Anybody can criticize, complain, boycott, or picket. It is a whole lot harder if we decide to get involved and be the light.Remember alcohol, smoking or whatever is just a coping mechanism to deal with the stress of the world. Biting my fingernails is one coping mechanism and it might not be looked down on as much but it still isn’t extremely healthy.

Friday, August 22, 2008

To drink or not to drink?

Why is alcohal such a big deal in the American church? Actually I know and came from a dry house. We never had alcohal in the house and I remember looking down on other people from our church who did drink. It is frowned on in many evangelical circles, and I have never really drank because of working with teens and being an example. I have been re evaluating my stance and my attitude toward this subject. In my reasoning previous it was always with the thought of avoiding the appearance of evil. Is alcohal evil? Of course the abuse of alcohal is evil, but so is the abuse of money, over eating, and many other issues that us American Christian's are good at.
I was having a conversation recently with a pastor friend of mine and we were talking about reaching our neighbors and into our neighborhoods. The question of alcohal came up, my neighbors stand in our neighborhoods on a nightly basis and drink beer. I have turned them down everytime they asked. Of course in my self righteous stance I am doing the right thing. The quesion is am I doing the right thing? As my conversation with this pastor progressed he told how he had done the same thing with his neighbors in a previous neighborhood, after the third time someone had asked if he wanted a beer, before he could answer one of his other neighbors said"no he is too good for our beer."
I have been thinking a lot about this since this conversation. If my neighbor brought me some food that they had slaved over and wanted me to eat it would I stick up my nose and say that smells funny or I am too good to eat your food? I am not going to just use this as a justification to drink? No but I am thinking that the general attitude of turning down beer from our neighbors may be a way of us giving the attidue and the air that we are better than them. The problem is we may actually think we are.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Observations from a people watcher.

I was able to do one of my favorite activities last night, I went to a baseball game. In trying to count the games I have been to in the last five years it has been over 20. The reason I enjoy baseball games so much is not for the game itself but rather the people I meet and observe. In New York last month when I went to Yankee stadium a twenty something introduced himself as "steriod man" and he was a fellow Red Sox fan and said that if anyone messed with me he would take care of me.
I have shared in earlier blogs about the type of people I meet in stadiums and the type of conversations that happen. Last year in Cleveland I was invited to a strip club (which I turned down) and as a way of insulting us red sox fans chest hair was thrown at us. Is this normal behaivor or an excuse for too much alcohal? Last night the question was brought back up in my mind. Does alcohal just bring to light who we really are or does it impare our judgements?
I was sitting next to my brother in law and this twenty something blonde sat next to us in the isle we were sitting in. She was a red sox fan and tried making small talk with my brother in law and me. She was a little annoying and not someone that I wanted to spend the whole night having a conversation with so I partially ignored her. There were four guys in front of us who were from Boston on business who were in the their late twenties early thirties. I had overheard one mention something about being married early in the game, but that didn't seem to matter as the night went on and their interest in the blonde became more evident. As the beer kept coming the conversations got stronger I was wondering where this would go. It went to phone numbers being exchanged and plans to meet up at a bar. Why?
Observing human behaivor is very interesting. Do we all desire theforbidden aspects of life? Do any of us have the possibility of doing something life damaging on a regular basis?
As Christians I have this fear that many deny that these possibilities even exsist. I am going to be honest and say I know that I have the possibility of doing something that may ruin my life. Is this something that I ever want to happen? Absolutely not and I am going to do everything in my power not to. Unfortunately I have heard and seen to many stories of people who thought they were invincible and who ended up broken. This is so sad and I dont ever want to see anyone else go through this.
How is this story going to end for the married man? It is sad to think of all the people he may hurt beause of his decisions.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Patience and Perseverence

I want immediate success, if not time is wasting and off to the next venture. In recent weeks I have been reminded and been working on the art of perseverence. In reading a book on Cal Ripken and some of the keys to his longevity in the game of baseball he shares his keys to life. His first key is perseverence, and fighting through all the time he wanted to give up. One of the aspects that really hit me was that he would practice longer than anyone else. He would always be the last one to leave the field. It has been said about many great athletes that they were excellent in the area of perseverence. I am not so good being someone who perseveres.
This morning Seth Godin's blog( talks about perseverence and patience. The easy part is coming up with an idea and even spending a week on an idea. The hard part is seeing ideas through to success. In watching the olympics this week I think it would be great to be an olympian. Then the reality of the sacrifice and commitment comes in. Do I want to spent the next four years perfecting my badmitton skills? Do I want to run every day and only focus on badmitton?
One of my problems and always has been is the desire to do many things and have new adventures. I am working on the whole focusing aspect of life and trying to persevere at a few things than trying and starting many things.
This is what I am trying to work on today, tomorrow, and the rest of my life.