Jesus in His ministry on earth was an outstanding teacher, so recognized by such men as Nicodemus, who addressed to Him the words, "Rabbi, we know that Thou art a teacher come from God : for no man can do these miracles that Thou doest, except God be with him." Yet Jesus carried no credentials from accrediting associations or State departments of education; nor was He a graduate upon whom had been conferred a university literary degree. He was a layman teacher.
Jesus was also a minister, yet without authority from the Sanhedrin. He was neither scribe, Pharisee, nor priest. He did not even come of the tribe designated as spiritual leaders of the Jewish people. But His ministry took Him everywhere, into the homes of the poor and the wealthy, into courts and citadels of learning, by virtue of the power that lay within, and by virtue of His life connection with divinity. There was no gainsaying His word, for He spoke with authority that at times made men and devils tremble; at other times, with such simplicity that the common people heard Him gladly and children lingered to hear. He was a lay minister.
A third phase of His life was that of a physician. He ministered to the sick and afflicted. He healed all their diseases. He carried their sorrows. He restored to sanity minds that had been unbalanced by disease, or sin, or the devil. Yet He had no credentials for the practice of medicine; He was the graduate of no medical school, a member of no medical fraternity. "How knoweth this man letters, having never learned ?" asked some of those who judged ability and right to work with the sick by license to practice medicine. Jesus was a layman, ministering to the physical needs of the human race. Pre-eminently He was a medical missionary. All that He did, He has bidden us do, as laymen.
Paul, the great disciple of Jesus, followed closely in the footsteps of the Master, doing for the early Christian church the same kind of work that Jesus did before him. Next to Jesus, Paul is the greatest example the world has of a lay medical missionary. He, like Jesus, took pains not to run counter to the practices of the law—either the Roman law in such matters as teaching and preaching and ministering to the sick, or the law of the Old Testament. You find Jesus saying to the healed leper, "Go thy way, show thyself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them." Matt. 8:4. He was always careful to live within the laws of the land, and yet He carried His work far beyond the possibilities of the professional classes. In all our work He is to be our example.
Caution Where Caution Is Necessary
In savage and half-civilized countries, the medicine man has great authority and influence over the people to whom he ministers. Modern medicine is a long step from the art of the medicine man, but the influence of a physican over the people whom he has helped back to health is little short of that of the tribal medicine man. Moreover, there are today many who exercise authority over the sick, who take advantage of blind devotion and hero worship to extract money, and otherwise impose upon the gullible, making it necessary to have laws protecting the public against the practice of the charlatan, the quack, and the faddist.
The qualified physician is licensed by the State after he has completed a prescribed course of instruction and practical experience. He occupies a field that the layman cannot enter, has privileges that the layman cannot have and should not presume to take. One's safety as a lay medical migsionary lies in a recognition of one's field of activity and close adherence to one's prescribed boundaries. This, every lay worker should know and must respect. But within his legitimate field of activity, the layman has a world of opportunity to work for his fellow men as a medical missionary. The term "medical missionary" has a very broad application. The activities are numerous, and the field is sufficiently extensive to afford work for every Christian layman.
One day while in the synagogue in His home town of Nazareth, where He was well known as a Man among men, Jesus read from the prophet Isaiah of His work as a medical missionary. What more comprehensive definition can be found than the one He gave ? "The Spirit of the Lord . . . bath anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor ; He hath sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord." Luke 4:18, 19.
There followed the healing of the leper, the restoration to health of Peter's mother-in-law, a day-after-day ministry to the afflicted in whatever way they had need. He went about doing good. The hungry were fed, the sick at heart were comforted, the suffering and afflicted were relieved. He taught the word of God and demonstrated the good tidings with His acts of mercy. That is the life of a medical missionary. He did it all without money and without price. That is the method of the self-supporting medical missionary.
Often today as Christians we are not able to translate into our own lives the works and the methods of the great Medical Missionary. Our eyes are dimmed because of the Meagerness of our knowledge, and our hearts are dull for lack of the indwelling Spirit. Even so, we have no excuse for inactivity, for we have instruction through the Spirit of prophecy that magnifies such endeavor, making so plain the work of the medical missionary layman that he who runs may read.
"Christ's method alone will give true success in reaching the people. The Saviour mingled with men as one who desired their good. He showed His sympathy for them, ministered to their needs, and won their confidence. Then He bade them, 'Follow Me.'
"There is need of coming close to the people by personal effort. If less time were given to sermonizing, and more time were spent in personal ministry, greater results would be seen. The poor are to be relieved, the sick cared for, the sorrowing and bereaved comforted, the ignorant instructed, the inexperienced counseled. We are to weep with those that weep, and rejoice with those that rejoice. Accompanied by the power of persuasion, the power of prayer, the power of the love of God, this work will not, cannot, be without fruit. . . .
"God often reaches hearts through our efforts to relieve physical suffering. Medical missionary work is the pioneer work of the gospel. In the ministry of the Word and in the medical missionary work the gospel is to be preached and practiced."—"Ministry of Healing," pp. 143, 144.
How Laymen Are Working
Translating this instruction into practice, laymen farmers make their land and all its products the channel through which they minister to their neighbors. At first they may be learners from their neighbors as a means of introduction. Then they can be teachers in the field of agriculture, in food preparation as well as food production, in canning, bettering the stock, improving roads, as leaders in health and sanitation for the community, and in the movement to help city people to homes on the land.
The Christian farmer with the spirit of the Master Medical Missionary has a broad road in which to walk as he ministers to the needs of his neighbors. His activities legitimately may range all the way from the handling of the soil to spiritual ministry. Who can do this work better ?
For the teacher, the nurse, the cook, the seamstress, the musician, there is no limit to the possibilities. Medical missionary work offers a place for every man and woman, for every talent and ability. Jesus Himself was a medical missionary, while as a layman He plied the carpenter's trade. He set the example for every man who handles tools and machinery.
The world is full of men who are hungry for the truth, but who are skeptical of doctrines. You may win them if you share a meal with them. They gain confidence in you when they sit at your fireside, attend your cooking class, or are treated by your nurse.
The man and woman owning a farm in the community, sharing community burdens, attending the church meetings, contributing to every worth-while cause for community uplift, supporting themselves by their daily toil, become leaders. Their opinion has weight, their literature will be read, their song services will attract young and old. Presently a school will be in order, and then there may develop a small medical institution. Others will join the original group of pioneers, each contributing from his own resources to build up a self-supporting missionary center.
I am describing briefly the growth of fifty or more rural community centers as they have developed in the Southland in response to instruction and to the example of Madison College and Madison Sanitarium and Hospital. World conditions make greater demands than ever upon lay members of the church to give of their time, means, and talents to gospel ministry. The peril of the cities is daily becoming more evident. Thousands need help from those who know the art of agriculture and how to produce a living from the soil.
Disease and distress are increasing, and every lay member of the church should be able to teach the laws of physical health, and able to minister to the sick. He who catches the inspiration will find a way. The timeliness of the following words is most evident :
"A very impressive scene passed before me. I saw an immense ball of fire pall among some beautiful mansions, causing their instant destruction. I heard someone say, 'We knew that the judgments of God were coming upon the earth, but we did not know that they would come so soon.'
"Others, with agonized voices, said, 'You knew ! Why then did you not tell us? We did not know.' On every side I heard similar words of reproach spoken."---"Testimonies," Vol. IX, p. 28. Laymen today have no time to lose.