The Medical Ministry

Every Preacher a Practitioner of Preventive Medicine

R. L. KLINGBEIL  Pastor and Public Health Educator

AT THE beginning of this third article  (see November, 1967, and February, 1968, issues) on the urgent need to install gospel ministers as practitioners of pre­ventive medicine, we can do no better than to listen to the counsel of the Lord.

The human family is suffering because of trans­gression of the laws of God. The Lord desires that men shall be led to understand the cause of their suffering and the only way to find relief. He desires them to see that their well-being—physical, mental, and moral—depends upon their obedience to His law. . . .

In the preparation of a people for the Lord's second corning a great work is to be accomplished through the promulgation of health principles. The people are to be instructed in regard to the needs of the physical organism and the value of healthful living as taught in the Scriptures, that the bodies which God has created may be presented to Him a living sacrifice, fitted to render Him acceptable service. There is a great work to be done for suffer­ing humanity in . .. teaching them how to prevent sickness?

We have known these words for many years, but the passing of time, far from having made their content obsolete, has on the contrary filled them with supercharged power only waiting to be released.

The world around us is again forging ahead of us, even though for reasons, shall we say, less urgent than ours. We all recog­nize that because of the pressure of the tide of human degeneracy, the amazing increase in chronic illness, prevention is becoming an absolute necessity. This is why the world forges ahead. The church has an additional reason. It is clearly stated in the above quotation. Where can we find a more powerful incentive to practice pre­ventive medicine on a scale hitherto un­known among us than in the knowledge of Jesus' imminent return?

Although it is not our intention to mul­tiply quotations, the following is so irresist­ibly to the point that it might well be pondered very carefully.

A nation's first line of defense in building a healthy people lies in the maintenance and promo­tion of health. Any society that concentrates its health dollars and its health services on care of the sick will never be a healthy society. There is critical need for a concept of "community health services" to transcend the all-too-common concept of "sick services." Leadership by persons oriented and edu­cated to a concept of health is sorely lacking. When maintenance and promotion of health fall short, a wide range of resources are needed (of which hos­pitals are one) to properly provide the therapeutic and rehabilitative services in many settings through various health disciplines. This is not to suggest that care of the sick is unimportant. Rather, the sick reflect our failure in promoting and maintaining health?

These timely words take on even greater urgency when applied to God's "dedicated nation" (1 Peter 2:9, N.E.B.).*

The first line of defense of a people claimed by God as His own is good health.

We can be ever so zealous in preaching or disseminating our characteristic doctrines through Bible lessons that expound the truth for today, be successful in gaining assent, and baptize many to swell our ranks. But unless the principles of physical and mental health are built into the framework of doctrinal knowledge our work will be largely wasted. If Israel had not refused to lend an attentive and will­ing ear to God's health instructions their descendants would have possessed both physical and mental strength. They would have had a clear perception of truth and duty. Because they did not obey physical laws, they did not reach the high standard that God desired them to attain. We are in no different situation. The same cause and effect applies to the church. It remains for us, and especially for ministers, to decide whether or not we shall be a "would have been" people.


Although we are God's people, we are still predominantly cure-oriented. We hear about cure wherever we go. We operate hospitals to cure the sick. Heart-warming stories (and they really are) enlarge upon amazing instances of healing. Graduation speeches laud the "healing arts" to the almost-total neglect of the preventive skills. Of course, it stands to reason that a certain emphasis will always have to be placed on the work of curing. What we need, however, is a totally different kind of relationship between the two. Preven­tion must come into its own. It is too costly, too time consuming, to exert our efforts largely in the area of healing. In the words of our quotation, if we concen­trate our precious Adventist dollars in centers for curing the ill, we will never be a healthy people either.

We, too, have a critical need for a con­cept of church "health services" to trans­cend the all-too-common concept of "sick services." By "health services" we do not mean merely the laudable efforts put forth by a thousand Dorcas societies. The ex­pression includes the entire spectrum of activities that would promote the health of our members whether rich or poor, con­tinual training and guidance in matters of hygiene for all periods of life, the study of physiology by all age groups in all churches. The responsibility for doing this rests primarily with the gospel minister.

He is to stand as the foremost practitioner of preventive medicine everywhere. Let our doctors and nurses fill their time with efforts at curing people and, of course, with preventive activities as well. But the largest share of the task of teaching and encouraging prevention belongs, accord­ing to the blueprint, to the gospel minister. He is to be the practitioner of preventive medicine par excellence. In previous ar­ticles we have given quotations from the Lord's servant to substantiate this. We will, therefore, not repeat them here.

Superiority in Some Areas

In writing these words we are not una­ware of the already-existing superiority of the health status of God's people, especially in some areas. This superiority is not due as much to the healing arts as to preven­tive medicine. Good Adventist hygiene has given us an advantage over other people. But how tragic it would be if we should be satisfied with what after all is but a very moderate superiority. There are many areas of healthful living in which as yet we have no reason for satisfaction whatever. God's wonderful desire for us is that we shall be made "holy in every part," and that we be kept "sound in spirit, soul, and body, without fault when our Lord Jesus Christ comes." 3There is only one way in which this can be accomplished; namely, through consistent and continuous teach­ing by the minister of all the principles of preventive medicine and by precept and ex­ample.

Minister's Responsibility

Of late I have been newly impressed with the wonders of the human body. In common with my fellow ministers I have often quoted the declaration that man is "fearfully and wonderfully" made. But as leaders of the flock, do we really know how wonderful? How much time have we really spent in discovering the body and its won­ders? To do this is not the task of medical students only; nor of nurses and others engaged in the work of healing. Of all people, ministers should be conversant in matters of physiology and hygiene. This knowledge would not only deepen their ef­fectiveness as preachers of the gospel be­cause of their enthusiasm for God's handi­work but it would also qualify them to teach those placed in their charge methods of holy living on the physical plane. Permit us to say once more that a few hasty talks appended to or inserted here and there in a series of evangelistic meetings by a nurse, doctor, or even the evangelist hardly begin to meet the requirements of Adventist preaching and pastoring. A study of health integrated into the framework of spiritual truth should go on continually in classes, but preferably study groups. To do less than this is to hastily salute something we respect but to which we have as yet not done justice.

Before proceeding with our study, let us look again admiringly at the work and character of our Saviour. What tireless de­votion Re displayed while serving men both physically and spiritually! Never did He divorce healing of the soul from restora­tion of the body. Indeed, why should He, if man was designed and made a complete whole? Only subsequent infection by pa­gan thought led men to dichotomize a hu­man being. It is the purpose of the final gospel entrusted to the church to restore man's wholeness not only in the sense of making him well but of reaffirming the true concept of the unity of the entire person. This unity renuires that we teach all be­lievers the vital relationship between physi

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R. L. KLINGBEIL  Pastor and Public Health Educator

November 1968

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