Looking for Gospel Connections
Maslov’s Hierarchy of Needs
Sometimes someone comes along who does work that changes everything. Most often these are inventors. People such as:
George Westinghouse – modern day alternative-based electrical system
- Alexander Graham Bell – telephone
- Thomas Edison – light bulb
- Karl Benz– internal combustion automobile
- James Watt – first modern steam engine
Today these people – Westinghouse, Bell, Edison, Benz and Watt - are household names of individuals who changed the way we think and do things.
It isn’t just the inventors who, with their work, change the course of human history. It’s not always the tinkerers, but sometimes also the deep thinkers who change the way we look at life.
One of those thinkers was a man by the name of Albert Maslov who as a child along with his Jewish family fled Czarist Russia for the US only to face incredible poverty and discrimination.
Out of his own experience he began to speculate on the quest by humanity toward what he called self-actualization, which in his mind was the deep desire of all people to reach their full potential as human beings.
Self-actualization is what he believed humanity’s greatest need was.
In later years he would identify one state beyond reaching your potential, which he called transcendence.
In his mind, transcendence was finding the ultimate meaning by giving your life to a higher cause or power. This is what we understand as giving your life to God and using your potential for God’s glory.
To reach that state of self-actualization (reaching your potential) and transcendence (living for the glory of God) he points to obstacles that need to be overcome.
In his mind, lesser more basic needs needed to be satisfied first before attention can be given to the need[JR1] s on this scale.
For him, it was like a pyramid whereby human needs will only be satisfied one level at a time and that by ascending up the stairs you would eventually reach the ability for self actualization and, even more importantly, for transcendence.
So in his work of ‘deep thinking’ he saw six basic needs that need to be met with each one building on the previous one, toward the ultimate goal of a life lived for the glory of God and the service of others.
These six needs are as follows:
At the bottom of the hierarchy are the basic or physiological needs including life, food, water, clothing, sleep and procreation.
Next are safety needs consisting of physical safety, access to resources, personal health, earning a living and having shelter.
These two steps are important to the physical survival of the person. Once individuals have basic nutrition, shelter and safety in place, they can then attempt to accomplish more.
This then brings you to the need for belonging, and to be loved within families, circles of friends and communities. The need to love and be loved can only happen after the physical needs are taken care of.
With this in place, then people can focus on esteem needs such as the need to be competent and recognized as such.
This, in turn, then leads to self-actualization or reaching full potential as seen in creativity, morality, inclusivity and productivity.
“This level of need refers to what a person's full potential is and the realization of that potential. Maslow describes this level as the desire to accomplish everything that one can, to become the most that one can be. Individuals may perceive or focus on this need very specifically. For example, one individual may have the strong desire to become an ideal parent. In another, the desire may be expressed athletically. For others, it may be expressed in paintings, pictures, or inventions.” Wikipedia
And, of course, later in life Maslov came to realize that all of this doesn’t end with self-actualization or us achieving our peak but with self-transcendence. This means to give ourselves to a higher power than ourselves, which we of course know to be God!
As the Westminster Catechism states: “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.”
The Intersection of Life & Gospel
I know that by now many of you are wondering what on earth is Jurgen talking about this morning, and what does any of this have to do with gospel fluency?
I thought we were going to talk about how to share the Gospel with our neighbors and friends. What does Maslov have anything to do with that?
However, the fact of the matter is that the Gospel always meets people at whatever level they happen to be at and positions Jesus as the answer to their greatest need at any given time.
Unless you know where someone is at in life how will you ever be able to connect the Gospel to that person?
It makes no sense, for example, to tell someone that Jesus loves them, when they are fearing for their lives or lack the basic necessities of survival.
It would be absurd for us to go to a starving child in Africa or India and simply wish them God’s blessings without first meeting their most pressing needs.
“Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?” James 2:15, 16
So, key to our desire in taking the Gospel to people, is taking the gospel core into the various situations of life of where people find themselves.
You might remember from last time how we said that the gospel core consists of the four basic questions of: who is Jesus, what he does for us, what must we do in response and what happens to us when we do.
We need to bring this gospel core message to people who are all over the map, in terms of their needs and where they are in life.
Just like Peter shaped the Gospel to fit into Cornelius’ biggest concern of personal peace in light of the fact that he had blood on his hands as a soldier, so also we need to know where those who come our way are at so as to let the Gospel speak into where they are in life.
The amazing thing is that the Gospel has come to us with no specific language nor culture, or even way of life attached to it.
It is not a Jewish gospel that speaks into the questions of observant Jews of the first century any more than it is a Gentile gospel that speaks into the questions and fears of Italian militiamen such as Cornelius.
The Gospel is all things to all people and always positions Jesus Christ as the ultimate answer to wherever someone is in life.
So if you are an observant Jew in the first century then the Gospel is for you as it positions Jesus as the Messiah of Israel who comes to forgive your sins, which is what Peter pointed out at their Festival of Tabernacles.
If you are an Italian soldier with blood on your hands, then the Gospel is for you for it positions Jesus as the one who gives you an inner peace and absolves you of that blood when he forgives your sins, which is what Peter pointed out to Cornelius
The Gospel is all things to all people and always positions Jesus as the ultimate answer to wherever someone is in life.
This means you need to figure out where people are in life, and you also need to figure out how Jesus is their answer.
Thanks to people like Albert Maslov we have these tools such as Maslov’s Hierarchy that allows us to figure out where someone is at, so as to let the Gospel speak into someone’s life.
The good news is that the Gospel of who Jesus is, what’s He’s done for us, what we must do in response and what happens to those who do, speaks into every aspect of life regardless of where people are at.
I love the fact that God is all over Maslov’s Hierarchy, which is the point that blogger named Gravatar made in a blog:
“Where would we place God on this pyramid? I can see Him all over it. If we were to dissect the Lords Prayer we’d see elements of the hierarchy woven through it. Give us today our daily bread – physiological needs. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil – safety and security. Forgive us our sins as we forgive our sinners – love and belongings. The Praise and Worship that begins and ends the prayer meets the needs of our self-esteem and the top of the pyramid where I believe worship takes place where God meets us.” (http://gravatar.com/amazzicolors)
Six Gospel Conversations
Our friends from MB Mission who will be leading the Awake Niagara workshop on Gospel Fluency on April 25 talk about the obvious connections of where Gospel meets human needs.
“While the Core of the Gospel is a critical understanding, there are many Gospel Conversations that speak of the relevance of God’s Good News in our lives today.” Phil Serez
So, once you know the gospel core, you can go on and have “gospel conversations” as you look for natural connections between the Gospel and the underlying needs people experience.
He points out how these gospel conversations help us give gospel answers to the heart questions people are experiencing.
Serez says that, “The typical Canadian will likely be experiencing one or more of these needs - each one connects to the Gospel story; each is a longing implanted by God into each human being”
While Phil Serez doesn’t use Maslov’s Hierarchy of Needs as his template, he does outline six major areas of needs where most Canadians will find themselves at one point or another.
So he talks about salvation, adoption, peace, restoration, victory and meaning. Most people will be somewhere in these places:
1) Salvation: Desire to be saved, forgiven from sin and to have the heavy burden lifted.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matt. 11:28 2) Adoption: Yearning to be a part of a community and family and relieved of isolation and loneliness; having a sense of belonging.
“In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will. Eph. 1:5
3) Peace: Seeking peace, reconciliation, relational healing with God and people.
“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Phil 4:7
4) Restoration: The need for personal repair, healing.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” 2 Cor. 5:17
5) Victory: Longing to overcome evil, release from bondage, experiencing justice and deliverance.
“Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”
Jn 8:34, 36
6) Meaning: Aching to find purpose in life. Longing for direction and significance.
“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
Every single person whom the Holy Spirit will ever bring across our path will be somewhere on this list.
For some, it will be about salvation and to have their guilt lifted while for others it will be about adoption and that sense of belonging to God and his family.
For some, it will be about peace with God and people while for others it will be about restoration and the need to be healed and restored.
Then there are those whose deepest need is victory and liberty over bondage and addiction while yet for others it’s all about meaning and purpose in life.
Everyone that you will ever come across will be somewhere on this spectrum. You will need to listen close enough and read people well enough to get a sense of where someone is at.
And you will need to know the Scriptures well enough to articulate the God-answers to the questions of life.
The Great Advocate
In fact, you need to do more than that. You will also need to listen to the Holy Spirit who will guide you to understanding where someone is at and what his or her greatest need is and how the Gospel provides the answer.
Jesus made it very clear that “the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” John 14:26
Don’t underestimate the work of the Holy Spirit in all this.
Not only will he provide you with insight and discernment into where someone is at, but He will also remind you what to say and do to open up someone’s heart to the Gospel.
Remember it’s not your work to convict, convince nor convert but only to bear witness.
The heavy work of seeing someone come to faith in Christ is the work of the Holy Spirit applying what Jesus has done on the cross into the hearts of seekers.
You may lead them, you may bring them to a point where they open their hearts to what Jesus can do for them, and you may even pray with them the sinners prayer but at the end of the day the heavy hitting of convicting, convincing and converting is the work of the Holy Spirit.
It is what Jesus referenced in John 16 as the work of the Advocate who will stir the hearts and minds of unbelievers regarding sin, righteousness and judgment.
“Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment.” John 16:7-8
His work has to do with creating a deep dissatisfaction with life (“to be in the wrong about sin”), a hunger for a better way of living (about righteousness) and an urgency that this needs to happen sooner rather than later (and judgment).
That’s what it means to reproof the world of sin, righteousness and judgment.
He is the great advocate and master planner behind this idea that God wants none to perish but all to come to repentance.
I want you to see how the Holy Spirit is all over this! He is the great advocate. He is the master planner. He wants everyone to taste a new way of living.
Toward that end He will empower you, equip you, open the doors for you and will have prepared the hearts of those long before you ever get there.
Nothing In, Nothing Out!
Now that doesn’t absolve us of our part nor does it mean we can be lazy or sloppy in this.
When it comes to understanding and articulating the gospel core of who Jesus is, what he came to do, how people need to respond and what happens to people when they do respond; we better make sure that we own the material enough that it flows fluently off our tongue.
We need to know intuitively the needs of people and how they fit into the categories of human need that people like Maslov or Phil Serez have articulated and, more importantly, we need to know what the Bible says about these.
Just like Peter not only knew where his audience was at in his day, but also knew how to shape and position the gospel core as the only answer to where someone was, so we must do the same.
Relying on the Holy Spirit is not an excuse of intellectual laziness.
While Jesus said that the Holy Spirit “will remind you of everything I have said to you”, it implies that we have absorbed the things that Jesus has said to us.
You see, nothing in, nothing out; as simple as that!
If you have not disciplined yourself to own the Scriptures, how will the Holy Spirit ever bring to remembrance what you haven’t put to memory? Nothing in, nothing out!
Spirit Led Preparation
But at the end of the day, it really is a two-step.
There is our part in all this. We are the ones who look for gospel connections. We are the ones who own the material well enough to allow it to flow off our tongues. We also read people well enough to get a sense of where they are at in life.
Yet in none of this do we rely on ourselves. We rely on the Holy Spirit to bring people across our path or point people out to us.
He will give insight into where people are at. He will remind us of what to say and how to speak God’s truth into people’s lives
At the end of the day the Holy Spirit will convince, convict and convert.
All we need to do is open our hearts and be his instruments.
Here you can find several messages. Feel free to write your thoughts or questions in the comment section.