Abraham Maslow was a well known Psychologist and professor of Brooklyn College, who hypothesized that within every human being, there exist a hierarchy of five needs. In this hierarchy lower order or basic needs include the physiological needs to sustain human life. Food and water, for example, are basic needs, without which little else matters. In ascending order other needs include safety needs, love and belonging, and then comes higher order needs, such as esteem, and self actualization. Maslow theorized that a person will be focused on a dominant need until that need is satisfied, then the focus will move up to the next stage in the hierarchy.
It is interesting to note that Jesus spent much of his ministry in doing miracles that met the basic physiological needs of the larger crowd, and reserved the discipleship training for a smaller group of chosen disciples. It might also be said that a man that is starving or extremely hungry in a church service will give little attention to a sermon on the Doctrine of Justification. He might give more attention to a sermon on Jesus Feeding the Five Thousand. He will respond even more significantly to the church if the church has a food pantry program. Since different dominant needs are in play with individuals who attend a church, different opportunities are created for ministry. For example, since level three needs are innate in every person, a church or a preacher that knows how to show love will have a chance for meeting that need. The lesson is that we do not have to create the need – it is already there. All the church or preacher has to do is to fulfill the need. The opportunity to fulfill needs exist in all five stages outlined in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.