Much evangelism today is based on meeting needs. I understand why we do this, but I think there are some inherent dangers to this approach.
Meeting Needs Creates Self-Centeredness
One problem with meeting needs then is that it focuses on the needs, rather than on the people. Such an approach trains causes the ministries and the ministry target group to become self-centered. The ministry leaders want to find a “big need” so they can “make a splash” and “go big” in the community, in the hopes that the newspapers and news stations will notice, and give the church or ministry some free publicity. In this way, meeting a need of the community becomes about meeting our own need for recognition, honor, and glory. We must therefore be wary about doing our good deeds before men to be praised by them (cf. Matt 6:1-2).
But being “needs oriented” also causes people who have needs to become more self-centered. Learning about big needs in the community usually includes some sort of “Needs Survey.” And when we go around asking people what their needs are, it trains them to think of God as someone who is just there to meet their needs. “Needs Surveys” train people to think only about themselves and ask, “How are you going to meet my needs?”
Ironically, if we were actually living among and with the people of the community, Needs surveys would be completely unnecessary. If we truly lived with and among the people we were trying to serve, we would already know what the needs are. Maybe we would be suffering and struggling with many of the same needs ourselves!
Meeting Needs, but Missing the People
Worst yet, when we focus on meeting needs rather than just on loving people and living life with one another, while we may meet many needs in the community, we rarely get to know the actual people of the community. I remember building houses with Habitat for Humanity (a great community project!), but never actually meeting or learning the names of the people who we were building the house for! I remember having food drives and clothing drives in the churches I pastored, and when we delivered the food and clothes to needy family, we spent less than five minutes with each family because we had so many deliveries to make. We met needs, but never got to know any people.
Meeting needs is great, but loving people is better. Developing relationships one by one, and spending time talking with people takes more time and has small beginnings, but this is the way of the Kingdom of Heaven (Matt 13:31-32).