The Role of the Church in Healthcare
The Skimmer Version—Just the highlights—for those who won’t take the time to read the full article
- Leading question: “Should the Church be involved in healthcare?”
If God is the source of Life, Health and Healing (see Medical Part One) and
If all illness is the result of sin (see Medical Part Two) and
If humans are body and spirit, rather than just animated bodies (see Medical Part Two)
Then the Church is the only group properly equipped to deal with all aspects of human health
- Historically the Church has been deeply involved in health care by training doctors, nurses and medical missionaries. We have also been responsible for building and running hospitals and medical clinics throughout the world. It is only recently that the Church has withdrawn from medicine.
The Church providing healthcare must supplement our overall goal of making disciples rather than detract from it.
The Church must provide health care for the whole person physically and spiritually. We must not provide secular healthcare with a Christian name attached.
The Full Article
Should Churches be involved in health care?
The answer is quite simply—YES. If God is the source of Life, Health and Healing (Medical Part One), and All illness is the Result of Sin (Medical Part Two), and humans are both body and spirit, then it follows that the Church should be at the center of health care. Not only should the Church be involved; we must be involved. No one else in all the world is equipped to deal with the whole person, body soul and spirit. No one else is equipped to deal with sin and extend forgiveness. No one else is a proper channel for the power of God’s healing. No one else is equipped to train people to be disciples of Christ and to live lives which honor Him, avoid sin and its consequences.
Not only should the Church be involved in health care, we have been, up until recently. Healing has been a part of what God does from way back. We can trace it back at least to the time that Moses fashioned a brazen serpent and placed it on a pole in the wilderness so the Children of Israel could look at it and be healed from poisonous snake bites. Later Jesus referred to that as a symbol of His death on the cross. Now it has become the symbol of the American Medical Association. Throughout the Old Testament prophets of God healed people. Men like Elijah and Elisha. In the New Testament Jesus healed the people before He preached the Gospel. He also showed the need to heal the whole man by calling people to repentance, forgiving their sin and healing their diseases.
Nursing traces back to Florence Nightingale.
The missionary movement of the 1800s often brought medical care and healing, hand in hand with the Gospel; and that trend continues all the way up to the present.
In my area of the San Gabriel Valley in Southern California there are a large number of hospitals. There is the Presbyterian Hospital in Glendora, the Methodist Hospital in Arcadia, Queen of the Valley Hospital, founded by the Catholics, in West Covina. In fact if you look into the founding of the hospitals in the area you will find that nearly all of them were founded by Christian denominations or small groups of Christian Doctors.
It was understood that healing was part of the work of Christ and that the Church should continue to caring on that work. We understood that heath care is a Christian ministry to the community.
There were a number of things that reversed this trend. One is the deterioration of denominations. This happened in two ways. Many, not all, of the large denomination wandered from the truth and became much more liberal in their theology. This led them to deny the power of Christ and turn to secular means to solve community problems. The distinction between Christian medicine and secular medicine was lost. A second way that denominations deteriorated it that key churches cut their ties with the denominations. The denomination was viewed as dragging down the larger churches. The churches would contribute money to the denomination but they saw little benefit. Denominations began to break-up and the hospital and medical clinics went too. Without large amounts of money pooled together through the denomination the hospitals could not function. They were sold off.
Of course there were a number of other factors, businesses moving in to medicine, Doctors looking for new ways to make money, health insurance coming in and driving up the cost of medical services, lawyers deciding that they can make money by targeting doctors and hospitals with malpractice law suits, the development of expensive diagnostic equipment, and pharmaceutical companies developing new high price drug treatments. Everyone recognized the medicine was a growing field, full of new opportunities. The business of greed took over. The Church unknowingly surrendered to business.
Healthcare is primarily a ministry, not a business. Business cannot do something that only the Church is equipped to do. Healthcare will only continue to deteriorate unless the Church provides clear direction and leadership to fix the problem.
A Word of Warning
The Church has only one mandate; “To go into all the world and make disciples”. We are not called to create hospitals or to run medical clinics. That is not the goal of the Church. It is true that the Church being involved in healthcare could lead us away from our primary objective and that must be guarded against. Another danger is that we would provide healthcare according to the popular naturalistic secular model, instead of following a Biblical approach to healthcare. We have been away from the Biblical approach for so long that we need to learn it all over again.
We are called to make disciples. All too often that statement is simplified down to mean “make converts”. A disciple is much more than a convert. A disciple is a fully devoted follower of Christ. A disciple wants to emulate Christ in all he does. He studies God’s word and knows how to apply it to all of life’s issues. If the Church is making true disciples wouldn’t we see it in how Christian doctors do medicine? Wouldn’t we see it in how Christian hospital administrators do their work? Wouldn’t we seek to minister to the whole person rather than just their body? Wouldn’t we deal with the problem of sin? Wouldn’t we demonstrate to the world God’s plan for life, health, and healing?
We, the Church, have become very small in our thinking. God has the answers to all of life’s issues. It is time we learn the answers and apply them to everything we touch. Those areas that we have surrendered we need to retake. Medicine is one of those areas.