Should Medical Evangelism Be Emphasized in Our Ministerial Training?

Should Medical Evangelism Be Emphasized in Our Ministerial Training?

What is the approach the school should take in providing this type of training within the ministerial curriculum? Is a rad­ical change implied?

WILBUR K. NELSON, Bible Department, Taiwan Training Institute

Without question the ministerial training program now available in our colleges and university emphasizing the "preaching of the Word" is meeting the world's greatest need—men of character, intelligence, sympathy, and piety. How­ever, in view of the following facts it is sug­gested that a new emphasis on medical evangelism in the curriculum of students preparing for the gospel ministry be con­sidered by those responsible for ministerial training.

In Christ's commission to the seventy, who may well be called the first century counterparts of today's ministerial students, the command was, "Heal the sick . . . and say unto them, The kingdom of God is come nigh unto you." t

The plan of evangelism is unescapably clear: minister to the needs of mankind, that man's "whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." 2 The twelve re­ceived the same commission as the seventy,' therefore, it is logical to believe that those who have been called to preach the gospel today are expected to carry out the com­mission given to the first evangelists, and this means not only preaching but reliev­ing physical suffering whenever and wher­ever it is necessary. John's prayer, "Be­loved, I wish above all things that thou may­est prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth"4 should be that of the evangelist for everyone he meets.

Christ's blending of physical and spir­itual ministration is illustrated in His heal­ing of the paralytic. He healed the man's soul when He said, "Thy sins be forgiven thee," and his body when He commanded, "Arise, and take up thy bed, and walk." '

Statements from the Spirit of Prophecy regarding medical missionary work and the gospel ministry carry a note of intensive urgency:

I wish to tell you that soon there will be no work done in ministerial lines but medical missionary work. The work of a minister is to minister.'

The Lord, in His great goodness and matchless love, has been urging upon His human instrumen­talities that missionaries are not really complete in their education unless they have a knowledge of how to treat the sick and suffering.7

The educator and students endeavoring to fulfil this clear instruction face perplex­ities. Critics inquire: "Do you expect min­isters to diagnose and treat disease? Would not that prove dangerous and illegal?" And the prospective minister reading that a competent physician is "qualified to do ten­fold more good as a missionary for God than if . . . [he] were to go forth merely as a preacher of the word" 5 inquires: "Should I not then study medicine rather than the­ology?" To this question we must answer: "Not if God has called you to the ministryl" But we repeat that his education is incom­plete if he is not prepared to work as a team with physicians and nurses and if he is not intelligent on the cause of disease and what he can do to relieve suffering by simple means, and prevent disease by health education.

The suffering world compels us to awaken more fully to ministerial respon­sibility in this respect. The United States today has a ratio of about 11/3 doctors to each 1,000 of its citizens. In China the ratio may be as small as one doctor for each 25,­000 of the population; in India one doctor for each 10,000 persons.' The medical pro­fession alone cannot meet current health problems or those resulting from the perils of a war-filled era. The medical profes­sion welcomes those who are qualified to cooperate in caring for the sick, as is evi­denced by this recent report of a distin­guished committee of medical educators:

In the face of constantly increasing demands for medical services, should not consideration be given to an increasing employment of health personnel trained at levels somewhat less than those of the physician? Considerable progress has been made already in this area. Nurses, social service workers, physical therapists, clinical laboratory technicians and many other groups provide invaluable ancillary services. Should not efforts be made to determine other areas, not presently employed, where medi­cal functions might be provided by personnel trained less extensively and less expensively than is the case with physicians?'

The minister should be inspired to pre­pare for such service by the fact that the medical missionary approach is outstand­ingly effective in opening doors to the gospel. Should foreign service be contem­plated, the need to be competent in caring for the sick is especially essential. The mis­sionary may find, as did the writer, that long before he can communicate in the lan­guage of the people he will be called upon to minister to their physical suffering. The very fact that he is an educated foreigner implies, in the minds of many nationals for whom he labors, that he knows how to treat diseases. Should he disappoint them?

What is the approach the school should take in providing this type of training within the ministerial curriculum? Is a rad­ical change implied?

It is suggested that within the present college curriculum an excellent founda­tion may be gained by the ministerial stu­dent who carefully selects a minor in the field of biology, including subjects perti­nent to the minister's work in health edu­cation. Anatomy and physiology, parasitol­ogy, and related courses, including those teaching practical health principles, would not only provide the ministerial student with a knowledge of the human body and its functions but would also provide a wealth of illustrative material on God's masterpiece of creation. Summer work as a hospital orderly would give invaluable ex­perience, and for some theological gradu­ates, study at CME in the School of Physi­cal Therapy or related medical missionary courses would undoubtedly prove more beneficial than advanced theological courses, especially where overseas mission service is anticipated.

A gospel minister will be twice as successful in his work if he understands how to treat disease. . . . A minister of the gospel, who is also a medical mis­sionary, who can cure physical ailments, is a much more efficient worker than one who cannot do this. His work as a minister of the gospel is much more complete.'

Notes:

1 Luke 10:9.

2 1 Thess. 5:23.

Matt. 10:7,8.

4 John 1, 2.

5 Mark 2:9.

6 Counsels on Health, p. 533.

7Ibid., p. 536.

8 Ibid., p. 504.

9 Global Epidemiology (Philadelphia, 1944, J. B. Lippin­cott Company) pp. 49, 116.

10 The Journal of the American Medical Association, May 3, 1958, p. 56.

11 Medical Ministry, p. 245.

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WILBUR K. NELSON, Bible Department, Taiwan Training Institute

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