Medical Office Evangelism: A Threefold Ministry

Since our work is to be largely accomplished by visiting people in their homes, I suggest that the medical office can be used as an effective base for this kind of ministry. . .

-a physician and surgeon in South Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada at the time this article was written

VERY consecrated graduate of Loma Linda University realizes that God has called him to do a specific work. "The Redeemer expects our physicians to make the saving of souls their first work."— Medical Ministry, p. 37.

What, then, is the most effective way to tell others of the love of God at this late hour? The Spirit of Prophecy is replete with information relating to the difficulties encountered in this work. We have, however, been given instructions on how "the great work of the third angel's message" is to be done. "It must be largely accomplished by persevering, individual effort, by visiting the people in their homes."— Welfare Ministry, p. 97.

This is nothing new; house-to-house work is already being done. But is it being done most effectively? If they shut the door in your face, what then?

Since our work is to be largely accomplished by visiting people in their homes, I suggest that the medical office can be used as an effective base for this kind of ministry.

Medical Ministry

Too often the term "medical evangelism" suggests a health talk, the work of our hospitals, occasional treatments and visitations by church members, or the conducting of the Five-Day Plan to Stop Smoking. Certainly the Lord has blessed every effort put forth in these channels, but what about the impact of the hundreds of consecrated Christian physicians who make thousands upon thousands of contacts in their offices, in homes, and in non-Adventist hospitals?

Why shouldn't some of our Adventist pastors be trained to work full time in conjunction with our consecrated physicians wherever possible as office chaplains?

Every individual coming to a Christian medical office has a need, and he or she comes for help. Every such patient should be considered as sent of God and as such is a potential candidate for heaven. Using the very methods of the Master, the patient's physical needs are to be met first.

Seldom is a patient initially ready for Bible studies. Preceding these, a close interworking of chaplain and physician would be a great help. Those patients desirous of spiritual counseling or who, in the physician's opinion, would benefit by such, could very tactfully be introduced to the office chaplain.

We should remember that "as Christ has pitied and helped us in our weakness and sinfulness, so should we pity and help others. Many are perplexed with doubt, burdened with infirmities, weak in faith, and unable to grasp the unseen; but a friend whom they can see, coming to them in Christ's stead, can be as a connecting link to fasten their trembling faith upon God."— Testimonies, vol. 5, p. 246.

In this way, medical missionary work can truly become the strong right arm "used to open doors through which the body may find entrance." Its major reason for existence "is to largely prepare the way for the reception of the truth for this time."—Medical Ministry, p. 238.

Gospel Ministry

In 1969 Loma Linda University offered for the first time a chaplain residency program. This was sanctioned and encouraged by the General Conference. It seems to be generally understood that this training is to prepare workers to serve as hospital chaplains.

Because most of our Seventh-day Adventist physicians are not located near a denominationally operated hospital, but instead are utilizing the facilities of non-Adventist hospitals, would it not be reasonable to suggest that some of our chaplains unite with our own physicians in their medical offices? In this way those "in dissoluble ties" that are to bind together our medical evangelists and gospel ministers (Testimonies, vol. 8, p. 46) would be maintained. A chaplain thus united full time with consecrated medical personnel could open many avenues. The following are examples:

1. The chaplain would have his own office in a medical clinic and would see patients by appointment—at the patient's request or by referral from the clinic physicians.

2. His conducting of a short devotional service for the clinic staff would increase the spiritual impact of the clinic service.

3. He would make daily hospital rounds to local hospitals— denominational and nondenominational— to visit every inpatient admitted by the clinic, regardless of church affiliation. The physicians would inform these patients ahead of time that the clinic chaplain would visit them and help them in any way. Special help would be available to the seriously ill and to their families. (I have personally known of a whole ward in a non-Seventh-day Adventist hospital requesting prayer after hearing one of our ministers pray for a patient the night before surgery.)

4. Past experience in my own practice with this physician-minister association demonstrated that in a very short time patients by the score were telephoning for appointments to see the chaplain. They sought marital advice, spiritual counseling, and Bible studies. They requested prayer for them selves or loved ones. On two occasions, patients requested the chaplain (in preference to their own minister) to conduct funeral services. In every instance, how ever, I as the physician determined which patients required psychiatric consultation rather than the services of the minister. This careful differentiation and evaluation by the physician is absolutely essential.

5. In addition to the chaplain's office, there would be a lecture room where health lectures, cooking schools, Five-Day Plans, Bible studies, and other programs would be held by the united efforts of the medical and spiritual ministry.

6. The chaplain would work closely with local pastors to integrate all interests developed through the medical offices.

A chaplain would thus be kept fully occupied, especially if he were working in conjunction with several medical offices.

Literature Ministry

Another method of witnessing in a physician's office is through the use of Christian literature. When only Adventist literature is present in the office, many spiritual discussions arise. Spiritual interests would be directed to the chaplain or literature evangelist, and sub sequent Bible studies could be conducted. Just think—no doorknocking necessary!

Patients frequently ask for periodicals to take home. This would invite follow-up by telephone or a house call by the chaplain.

1. The literature evangelist would maintain constant contact with the chaplain.

2. He would keep a fresh supply of literature not only in the waiting room but also in each examining room. (If Adventist literature only is available, no patient is embarrassed to read it.)

3. Office personnel would convey special interests and literature requests to the chaplain or colporteur.

4. Patients frequently send Christmas cards or cards of appreciation. What an ideal opportunity to respond with a gift of our literature. Ellen White has this excellent advice: "If you do not succeed by personal visits, try sending them the silent messenger of truth. There is so much pride of opinion in the human heart that our publications often gain admittance where the living messenger can not."— Welfare Ministry, p. 95.

Could it be that we must give greater recognition to and make more adequate provision for this new method of evangelism? Could it be that there must be much greater understanding and much more intercommunication between ministers, colporteur evangelists, and physicians? And perhaps more mutual love in sharing the task?

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-a physician and surgeon in South Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada at the time this article was written

May 1974

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