How a Minister and a Doctor Can Work Together

It behooves the minister to concern himself with ethical relations in all his associations with the doctor, so as not to bring embarrassment to him in any way.

CARL SUNDIN, Associate Secretary for Medical Extension, General Conference Medical Department

Fortunate is the min­ister who has as a team­mate a devoted Chris­tian physician, surgeon, or dentist to join him in his public evangelism and church or community program. The careful, well-trained Christian doctor has a unique influence on the lives of his patients and on the whole commu­nity. By means of this influence he sustains a place hardly held by any other member of the community, in that the people feel he belongs to them. Because of the nature of and close contact with so many, and his wide acquaintance with the people gener­ally, he is in a position to know more of the people's needs. Then he joins the min­ister in a soul-winning program he adds an element of great strength.

By the same token the doctor must be careful in his relations to such a program, lest it be thought he is taking advantage of his favored position for personal gain. Unless carefulness is observed in the part he takes in a public program, the charge may well be leveled that he is merely using this device as a means of advertising him­self professionally.

It behooves the minister to concern him­self with ethical relations in all his associa­tions with the doctor, so as not to bring embarrassment to him in any way. He must, because of his publicly exposed po­sition in the community, be protected from any contingency that would subject him to the criticism of his colleagues.

For his influence to be most effective, every part of the program must be carried on in a dignified manner. Bizarre adver­tising or gaudy and flamboyant methods are not in place under any circumstance.

When the doctor is asked to take part he should be given complete details as to what is expected of him. It should be discussed with him on a free and open basis, privately and on the evangelistic council. This will give opportunity for all to become acquainted with the problems and contingencies involved.

How the Christian Doctor Can Help the Minister

The doctor can serve to great advantage in the public evangelistic campaign by giving talks in the field of health education, especially if he has ability as a public speaker. These talks should be short, using simple language, so that the people can readily understand. Material assists for these talks may be obtained from the Medi­cal Department of the General Confer­ence, Washington, D.C. He may occasion­ally have a question-and-answer period, at which health questions are answered, or conduct a panel, when health problems are dealt with. Such programs have a strong appeal to the general public. In advertising this feature of the meetings the doctor should not be mentioned by name. His part may be referred to as being given by a local physician, surgeon, dentist, psy­chiatrist, et cetera. Even the news write-ups should be guarded in the use of his name. The medical profession is conserva­tive regarding advertising and allows only a business card in the columns of a news­paper. Any other advertising or use of names in connection with advertising would be severely censured by the medical society of which he is a member.

It is well for him to be made a member of the evangelistic team's planning group, to give him opportunity to discuss every aspect of his part in the program. This will help forestall any embarrassing inci­dent arising out of innocent oversight or unfortunate zeal. His training, his insight into human-relations problems, and his fresh viewpoint will often be a source of real help to the evangelistic team.

There are many other ways in which he may participate. He may be a good musician and can help provide good music. He may have a talent for business management and might be glad to assist in the management of the meetings. He might take delight in serving as usher or platform manager. In other words, he may serve in most capacities in which others serve, depending on circumstances and ability. However, it must always be kept in mind that he must be allowed to decide for himself what he will be able to do. This will be influenced by the type of program being planned and by the degree of con­fidence that has been engendered between him and the minister. Circumstances in the community and in professional circles will also have a bearing on what part he may be able to play.

Of the many examples of this relation­ship that could be cited, I refer to only one. Recently in a medium-sized city a group of physicians and dentists were ap­proached by one of our evangelists in re­gard to joining the evangelistic team. This group was well known and highly regarded. After carefully studying the details and modifying the program to correspond to good ethical practices, they accepted the challenge of the public lecture program. Several men were in the group, and each took part over a period of several months. Before each evangelistic sermon a ten-minute talk by a local physician, dentist, et cetera was announced. Never was there a question raised in the medical or dental society about this work, and it was one of the main attractions of the meetings. All the men testified that they were blessed personally by their part in the program. The popularity of these talks was undimin­ished to the very end of the meetings, which were a success by any measure.

In his church program the minister can be greatly helped by a Christian doctor. In addition to carrying leadership in the church, the physician or dentist can be a trusted counselor to whom the pastor may confidently turn. He might be of special help when human-relations problems arise. If the pastor will keep himself completely objective in such matters, and seek counsel in an impersonal manner, he can receive much help and insight from the doctor.

How the Minister Can Help the Doctor

On the other hand, if the pastor is suc­cessful in dealing with such problems, the doctor will in all probability turn to him for help with his patients who are having psychosomatic difficulties. If the pastor conducts his work for such needy indi­viduals in the right spirit and manner, this can be the source of large results in his soul-winning program. This is an area, however, into which a minister does well not to enter unadvisedly. While he may be dealing with psychological problems, he should never think of himself as a psy­chologist, or allow anyone else to think of him as such. Nor is he a physician. He is first, foremost, and always a minister.

A minister who understands his place in dealing with distressed people may be of inestimable value to a doctor or a group of doctors in their endeavor to be of as­sistance to their patients in these times of great stress. Men's hearts are literally fail­ing them for fear of things coming upon the face of the earth. This fear causes numerous problems to appear in the lives of people, which, if left unsolved, might bring disordered function and disease in their wake. The minister might be in an excellent position to bring relief in such cases, with consequent release from mala­dies otherwise difficult or impossible to treat. He might also strengthen his own soul-winning program by a propitious par­ticipation in such a program.

Let me tell you of a group of medical men who, in planning their clinic build­ing, made provision for a place where their pastor might come by appointment to counsel with distressed people and help them with their difficulties. This feature is but a part of a well-rounded program in which a Bible instructor—known also as a case worker—is assigned to follow up all spiritual interests of patients. She also en­deavors to give help of whatever nature is needed by those in distress. Needless to say, such service is quite out of the ordi­nary and is greatly appreciated, not only by the individuals and families who are recipients of it, but by the community as a whole. Consequently this group is inspired by the fact that in each baptism conducted, from one to five or six patients are bap­tized into fellowship with Christ's church. It is always an uplifting experience to stop by to visit this group of consecrated workers. What is more, people thus won to Christ and church fellowship often are more fully integrated into the church pro­gram because of the close ties they have with individual members of the church.


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CARL SUNDIN, Associate Secretary for Medical Extension, General Conference Medical Department

October 1955

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