"Why did God do this to us?" the distraught mother of five blurted out. "Why would He take Charles away just when his family needed him the most?"
Charles, age 42, had suddenly dropped dead from a heart attack. His wife had considered him in good health, as Charles had never missed a day's work due to illness.
"Maybe it wasn't God's fault," I told her. "Maybe there were other underlying reasons for this tragedy." An appointment was made to call back in three weeks after the shock and the pressures of making funeral arrangements were off her shoulders.
In the meantime I visited the local Heart Association and picked up some brochures on the basic causes of heart attacks. My appointment with the widowed mother three weeks later revealed that Charles had been a heavy smoker (three packs daily), grossly overweight, consumed a high-fat diet, did not exercise, and his favorite hobby was watching television in the evening. Charles was apparently not under any stress. But still he had been committing suicide on the installment plan, with his wife's help.
This incident in Pocatello, Idaho, in 1965, completely changed my ministry. I began to think about health education, ordered a series of slides on the preventive life-style from the School of Health at Loma Linda University, and began educating my own church. As a result, I discovered a new outreach to the community and was invited to make health presentations in the local service clubs, schools, parent-teacher associations, and even at Idaho State University. In combining health education with my evangelism I discovered I could reach a class of people we hadn't even touched before.
Then I began to discover concepts in personal Bible study that I'd been over looking. For instance, Jesus practiced a threefold ministry of preaching, teaching, healing (Matt. 9:35). "During His ministry, Jesus devoted more time to healing the sick than to preaching."—The Ministry of Healing, p. 19. "Nothing will open doors for the truth like evangelistic medical missionary work." —Evangelism, p. 513. "The gospel of health is to be firmly linked with the ministry of the Word." —Ibid., p. 515. "Medical missionary work and the gospel ministry are to be bound together as the message is given to the world." —Ibid., p. 517. "You will never be ministers after the gospel order till you show a decided interest in medical missionary work." Ibid., p. 523. "Every gospel worker should feel that to teach the principles of healthful living is a part of his appointed work." Ibid., p. 526. As a minister, I couldn't avoid the implications of this straight testimony.
Should health education be a concern of the dedicated pastor? Absolutely! Not just as a public relations project for the church (although well-planned health education does enhance the image of the church immensely), not just as a gim mick to win souls, but health education should be part of the pastor's program because only through this means can he minister to the whole man—body, soul, and spirit—thus preparing both church members and nonmembers to be ready to meet their God. After all, this is what the ministry is all about, to prepare people for the soon return of the Master.