At a recent meeting of the Christian Medical Council for Overseas Work, J. G. Vaughn, M. D., well propounded this question: "Can the church, without losing its soul, without losing step with the Master, abandon its service for the sick because the town or the state is willing to use tax funds to conduct the healing business ?" Practically, this question resolves itself into whether the Christian church feels any deep, basic, compelling responsibility in respect to the ministry of healing.
I believe the church as a whole and we as individual members of it should critically analyze and evaluate our thinking in respect to medical ministry. Do we render mere lip service to the general idea of medical missionary endeavor, agreeing that such activity is good and virtuous ? Do we, just because of urgent need in some neglected area, readily assent that hospitals and dispensaries should be established and that the services of doctors and nurses should be made available to those in such need? Or, in the Christian's philosophy, is the ministry of healing recognized as an effective means for developing virtues of character as well as being based upon the sacred commission to the followers of Christ, so that we as His disciples have a deep fundamental conviction that constrains us to seek such service? Are we thus so constrained that we are led to cry out with the apostle Paul, "Woe is unto me" if I engage not in such ministry?
We believe these mental queries can be beautifully and convincingly answered by turning to the record of the ministry of Christ while He was on earth. Jesus chose ministry to the physical ills of those of His day as a conspicuous and effective means of revealing the love and compassion of the Godhead. In view, therefore, of the example of Christ in exalting this type of service, and in view of His direct commission to all His disciples to do a similar work, should not the church and its members today be possessed of a compelling conviction that ministry to the physical ills of mankind offers one of the highest and most effective means of revealing the compassion of God, and that such service is not only a responsibility of the church but a privilege ? Verily such ministry brings vital blessing to the church and the individual so serving, as well as comfort, relief, and often salvation to those served.
In this concept, therefore, we do not establish mission medical units, nor do medical workers engage in personal work for the neglected, solely in response to the obvious physical need, but, also for the Christian graces, the inspiration and blessing which such Christlike ministry develops in, and brings to, the church and its individual members.
The need for the ministry of healing in a particular locality may be only transient. But the positive conviction that it is our high calling to engage everywhere in the ministry of healing must be based upon a permanent and abiding sense of responsibility, prompted by the constraining love of Christ who said, 'Freely ye have received, freely give." In what more effective way can love, both human and divine, be made manifest than in unselfish ministry of healing?
Counsels to the church clearly indicate that physicians and nurses are not the only ones who are to engage in medical ministry. "We have come to a time when every member of the church should take hold of medical missionary work."—"Testimonies," Vol. VII, p. 62.
What a vitalizing blessing would descend upon our churches if every member made it his business to gain first a personal knowledge of healthful living as pertaining to proper diet, rest, exercise, cleanliness, etc., and thus became fully prepared to render first aid and qualified in the simpler techniques of relieving human suffering. In this way church members would individually benefit by such knowledge and practice, and as a church we would be prepared to carry to the world the light which has been committed to us. In such plans we would be following our Lord's example in ministry, and be in harmony with the following counsel:
"Combine medical missionary work with the proclamation of the third angel's message. Make regular, organized efforts to lift the church members out of the dead level in which they have been for years. Send out into the churches workers who will live the principles of health reform, Let those be sent who can see the necessity of self-denial in appetite, or they will be a snare to the church. See if the breath of life will not then come into our churches. A new element needs to be brought into the work. God's people must realize their great need and peril, and take up the work that lies nearest them."—Id., Vol. VI, p. 267.
"The Lord will give you success in this work, for the gospel is the power of God unto salvation, when it is interwoven with the practical life, when it is lived and practiced. The union of Christlike work for the body, and Christlike work for the soul, is the true interpretation, of the gospel."—"An Appeal for the Medical Missionary College," pp. 14, I5.
H. M. W.