I suppose you are wondering what I’m on about this time! And who’s this Maslow fellow? Those are both understandable concerns. It wasn’t until earlier today that I discovered the connection between Maslow and most of today’s evangelicalism. And after all, I’m not William Tapley, the 3rd Eagle of the Apocalypse and co-prophet of the End-Times! I’m a it slow some times.
I made the connection while reading an article about something else entirely and coming across the term ‘self-actualization’. The term immediately brought Abraham Maslow to mind, since I first heard that term in a class discussion concerning human behavior. According to Maslow, self-actualization sits as the top of a pyramid that explains why people behave the way they do. Here’s that pyramid, with explanations of the main human ‘needs’ areas and what they each mean:
It seems to me that today’s evangelicalism, as expressed by today’s seeker friendly/purpose driven models, is more about and speaks more to individual psychological and self-fulfillment needs in the exact terms expressed above, than it does about behaving in all things first and foremost to the glory of God (1 Cor 10:31).
Instead of being told we are sinners deserving of the wrath of God (Eph 2), we are taught that what’s missing from our lives is a personal ‘relationship’ with Jesus, whose principal and often sole character trait is love, love, love. None of that sin judgment stuff, “All We Need is Love”!
We are told all about ‘community’ and relationships with other believers, and put into ‘Life Groups’ to help us feel a great sense of ‘belonging’ to something bigger than ourselves. When we are pumped up to buy into the ‘vision’ of our church’s Pastor, pitched as given to the Pastor directly and often audibly from God himself, the sense of ‘belonging’ seems even more intense.
In many of our churches, our self-esteem and how good we feel about ourselves seems to be of paramount importance. This isn’t a new phenomenon. Dr. Robert Schuler once stated that our lack of self-esteem is THE great sin and patterned his ministry around that assertion. Thanks to a couple of good students of his, we’ve seen the birth and growth of the seeker-friendly and purpose driven models for ‘doing’ church. If we use the Apostle Paul’s model and simply preach Christ crucified and resurrected because of OUR sins, we are out of touch.
That brings us to the ultimate goal of all human beings (according to Abraham Maslow and others), to find self-fulfillment /actualization. In today’s evangelical jargon, it’s called one’s ‘dream destiny’. That’s not a new concept either. It’s been the staple of motivational speakers for years (just Google ‘dream destiny & tony Robbins)! Now it’s also all over the evangelical landscape. People in pews and stadium seats from coast to coast are constantly being told how to find and accomplish their ‘dream destiny’, which has been especially designed by God for each and every person!
Today’s gospel is that ‘Jesus died for your dreams’, not ‘Christ died for our sins’. I actually heard that from an Army Chaplain one Sunday morning and relocated to a different Chapel for Sunday worship. If you don’t believe me about how widespread this new gospel is, try listening to Rick Warren and Joel Osteen for a bit, not to mention a growing number of formerly sound Biblical churches and Pastors.
And how great this new gospel sounds to the itching ears of fallen men, and how easily it deceives genuine believers who are not yet well informed by the truth of scripture that speaks of dying to self, not living for self!
Yes, Abraham Maslow had it right concerning what we ‘naturally’ want most out of life. What a great tragedy that so many churches have adopted, and are preaching a ‘gospel’ of self-actualization. I wonder if he foresaw the evangelical church capitalizing on his needs hierarchy in the name of faux church growth.
The most significant question for many of today’s evangelical churches might be “What are you teaching in your church – Abraham Maslow and self-actualization, or Jesus Christ and self-denial?”
As an individual believer, I can ask myself “What is my Christian life and walk about – Abraham Maslow and self-actualization, or Jesus Christ and self-denial?”
What about you and your church, dear reader? Abraham Maslow or Jesus Christ – what’s it gonna be?