Though I used to preach and teach it, I am not a big fan of the idea that “People’s greatest need is salvation.” Often, churches, pastors, and ministries which say this are just trying to justify their lack of involvement with loving and serving others. We seem to think that if we can fix their eternal problem, then no matter how bad life is, everything will be okay.
But I don’t think this is the true Gospel message.
Far too often, Christians put off until eternity what should be done today. We see people in pain, suffering, and oppression crying out for help, and our normal response is, “Believe in Jesus for eternal life. Then, when you die, everything will be okay. God will wipe away your tears, right the wrongs, and judge those who are hurting you. Won’t that be grand?”
And when they reject our gracious offer because we have nothing to offer them here and now for their suffering on earth, we consign them to eternal suffering in hell for their rejection of Jesus. When we refuse to help others with their physical needs because their greatest need is eternal life, the “Good News” message that many people hear is, “Your suffering in this life at the hands of wicked men will be followed by suffering in eternity at the hands of a loving God.”
Is it any wonder that people reject the “Good News” when there seems to be nothing good about it?