Jesus' encounter with the Samaritan woman (John 4) teaches four important needs that are met during the disciple making process.*
First, she needed SUSTENANCE. She came to the well seeking water. A person's felt-needs are a powerful attracting force. The Samaritan woman went to where the water was. Hungry people come to food pantries. Other felt-needs are social, educational, health, status, etc. A church can attract people by meeting some of these needs or, like Jesus, place themselves where these needs are being met; or both.
Second, she a needed SUPPORT. She needed a friend. She came to the well at noon to draw water, avoiding the judgmental stares of the town women. Imagine sitting alone in the school cafeteria at lunch or hiding in the bathroom to avoid the other children. Social isolation is a cruel burden.
Jesus reached out to the Samaritan woman across barriers of class, religion and ethnicity. We can build relationships with the people whose needs are being met by social ministry programs. They need kindness and friendship. Jesus identified closely with people in need. He said when we minister to them we minister to him.
Third, she needed SALVATION. Jesus turned the conversation to spiritual things by speaking about living water. We need to verbally tell people about Jesus. That is the most important part of the disciple making process. We all have physical and social needs but our need for salvation is paramount. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
Fourth, she needed SIGNIFICANCE. Having found her Savior, she left her jar of water behind and returned to the town to tell others about Jesus. She had a new purpose. She started out seeking to meet a physical need and left having had a greater need fulfilled.
Nothing can bring more significance to our lives than serving our Lord. We are called to bring relief to the suffering, relationships to the lonely, redemption to the lost and inviting to them to join in the work of the gospel.
*Based on a sermon by Craig Christina, Associate Executive Director of the Baptist General Convention of Texas (BGCT)