Doctor-Minister Team in Hartford, Michigan

IT IS possible to have a real sense of teamwork between the medical profession and the ministry," asserts Pastor Paul Cannon, assistant professor of religion at Andrews University and one of the directors of a two-week evangelistic series held in 1971 in Hartford, Michigan, which featured dual emphasis on physical and spiritual healing. . .

-News Services Editor, Andrews University, at the time this article was written

IT IS possible to have a real sense of teamwork between the medical profession and the ministry," asserts Pastor Paul Cannon, assistant professor of religion at Andrews University and one of the directors of a two-week evangelistic series held in 1971 in Hartford, Michigan, which featured dual emphasis on physical and spiritual healing.

"Too often," he continues, "the minister can feel discouraged and frustrated because it seems that he is there slugging it out all by himself trying to save the country. But if our experience was typical, many doctors would be happy to join pastors in their evangelistic, work.

"This kind of cooperation between the physician and the pastor is logical, for merely by virtue of their respective professions, it is the physician who generally has a wider contact with the non-Adventist community."

The idea of encouraging such cooperation is not new. Among Ellen G. White's numerous comments on the subject are the following:

No line is to be drawn between genuine medical missionary work and the gospel ministry. These two must blend. They are not to stand apart as separate lines of work. They are to be joined in an inseparable union. --Medical Ministry, p. 250.

The Christian physician should regard his work as exalted as that of the ministry. . . . The physician and the minister should realize that they are engaged in the same work. They should labor in perfect harmony. They should counsel together. By their unity they will bear witness that God has sent His only-begotten Son into the world to save all who will believe in Him as their personal Saviour. --Testimonies, vol. 7, p. 111.

If ever the Lord has spoken by me, He speaks when I say that the workers engaged in educational lines, in ministerial lines, and in medical missionary lines must stand as a unit, all laboring under the supervision of God, one helping the other, each blessing each. --Ibid., vol. 9, pp. 169, 170.

Doctors Should Be Ministers

Pastor Cannon believes that doctors ought to be considered church workers to a greater extent than they are at present. "We often consider the doctor in the local church as just another layman," he says. "We need to realize that he too is a minister of healing just as the pastor is a minister of healing."

During the Hartford series a variety of formats lectures, dialogs, and panels was used. When Pastor Cannon and one of the physicians dialogued both talked about all aspects of the particular topic; when lectures were presented they were distinctly separate, yet coordinated. On the topic of rest, for example, the medical talk was on physical rest and the spiritual talk was devoted to the Sabbath.

The crusade directors believe that the ideal method is dialoguing, provided it is done well, because that method was accepted best by their audiences.

Pastor Cannon notes especially that neither the medical nor the spiritual aspect should overshadow. "We didn't think we could achieve a dual emphasis on physical and spiritual health by adding a short medical talk as an appendage to the usual type of evangelistic meeting," he says. "If the physical aspect is going to be featured in a series, then it needs to share the time with the spiritual aspect.

"And, of course," he adds, "appealing to the more or less universal desire for better health shouldn't be a gimmick or trick to get people to attend what is basically a religious crusade."

"The Abundant Life"

Describing well the theme of the series was the title "The Abundant Life," which came from the text of John 10:10: "I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly."

The meetings were held in the wood-paneled, air-conditioned auditorium of Galati's Restaurant near Hartford, which, generally speaking, has a good reputation in the area.

Codirector of the meetings was Herald Habenicht, M.D., associate director of the Andrews University Medical Center. The other participants included Hartford physicians Adelbert L. Stagg, M.D., and C. Lee Stagg, M.D.; a dentist from nearby Bangor, Gunter Koch, D.D.S.; director of Andrews University Medical Center, K. Robert Lang, M.D.; and local district pastors Don Gettys and Peter Fritz. Fifteen college and Seminary students from Andrews received school credit by working with them.

Major kinds of advance publicity for the programs were personal contacts, letters from the doctors involved, bill boards, and brochures. The latter two can be rather impersonal ways of advertising at best, and in the case of evangelism, it probably is easier to say too much than not enough.

The handbills for the Hartford series featured the title "The Abundant Life" superimposed in modern letters on an abstract design in four colors orange, purple, lavender, and green; a map giving the location of Galati's; a photograph of the leaders; and only three words of written copy--- "Enhancing, Refreshing, Healthful."

Billboards were even less specific. Set along several highways and in front of the auditorium itself, they featured the abstract motif and title, plus a strip at the bottom: "Coming September 10-- Galati's Restaurant, Hartford."

Visitors Kept Coming

"We wanted people to respond in a positive way to this initial advertising," says Jerry Johns, the Seminary student who was in charge of that aspect of the crusade. "We didn't want a lot of folks to become immediately uninterested when they learned it was 'just another religious series.' Later advertising would supply some details, and the meetings themselves were expected to attract visitors back on succeeding nights."

Visitors came and kept coming. Attendance ranged from 110 to 300, and averaged 200. On the second night, there were 100 non-Adventists present, and every night there were close to a dozen people who hadn't previously attended and who were unknown to the pastors. Even at the end, new people were coming.

"One of the problems," admits Cannon, "was that this approach doesn't work best on a six-night-a-week basis. It would be much better to spread it over ten weeks or so and meet only on week ends. Weekend attendance is much higher; a lot of people simply cannot attend during the week."

Results of the series were about twenty-five decisions; of these, a dozen were baptized within a few months and others took further studies. Besides the immediate decisions, comments Cannon, this sort of crusade can be of tremendous value in building rapport with the community. "For example," he says, "there was one woman who didn't make a decision right away but who began jogging with the pastor's wife every morning.

"This approach holds real value for the church members, too," he adds. "Any evangelistic series may be inspiring to the members, but because meetings like these deal with topics that are new to them, they can experience growth, as well as inspiration. Such a series can help them become more conscientious in their total living."

Outlines Available

A number of pastors have requested mimeographed outlines ($2.00 per set) of the topics presented at the Hartford series, which was the first in the Mid west to use a totally integrated medicalspiritual approach to living.

"However," notes Dr. Habenicht, "we are indebted to several Adventist doctors and evangelists, including Dr. J. Wayne McFarland, Dr. Mervyn Hardinge, Pastor Robert Spangler, and Pastor Bruce Johnston."

Reflecting on the series, both Dr. Habenicht and Pastor Cannon believe that the dual approach was successful and should be more widely used. They quickly add that there is still room for a lot of exploration and development. "At times," says Cannon, "we felt that we were getting a mongrel hybrid, for we were trying to marry the old evangelistic format to this new approach. This combination doesn't work; if a new method is going to be used, it should be used, not mixed with the old."

He notes that the regular evangelistictype song service could better be replaced by a couple of special musical numbers. "Also," he adds, "the longer evangelistic calls seem a betrayal to an audience accustomed to your informal personal dialoguing."

The dual approach takes much preparation. About six months before a series, the minister and doctor need to get together to begin planning and correlating topics. It simply cannot be done at the last minute. The minister who desires a doctor working with him should also be willing to locate materials or sources of materials for the doctor because of the latter's already full schedule, says Cannon.

"And, by all means, get the subjects that are interesting to the public not just subjects that are interesting to you," he declares. "Don't answer questions the public isn't asking."

He encourages a practical rather than a theoretical approach, with emphasis on the how to and the why. As an example, he cites the topic of the Sabbath. "Rather than spending all the time on proving that the seventh day is the Sabbath, try to show the people why God gave it."

The wholistic approach to living eliminates the really rough transition between such touchy subjects as diet, smoking, and Spirit of Prophecy, for the doctor can talk about these topics discussing health. With the correlation between Mrs. White's writings and the medical profession's recent findings, some people today will readily accept Mrs. White even though not joining the church.

"Together," concludes Cannon, "a physician and a pastor can form a very effective team for presenting the third angel's message. It's a practical approach each can question, especially in the dialog format, what the other seems to be saying; the audience will be doing that mentally anyway, and the immediate 'live' questioning can aid in clarification. At the same time, each can testify to the soundness of the other's presentation. When these two professions cooperate and support each other, there can be a real impact on their community."

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-News Services Editor, Andrews University, at the time this article was written

October 1972

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