The local church should be the focal point for health-evangelism activities in any community. Regardless of the institutional setting in which one's interest in health and spiritual matters is awakened, it is finally the local congregation that provides the spiritual home which our neighbors find fellowship. It is the quality of the experience and labor of church members that will sustain or extinguish the process of total restoration, which for many begins in a program of health evangelism.
For optimum success, any program of health evangelism, whether based in a hospital, urban living center, or rural conditioning center, should be tied very closely to a local church and its members. Ideally, most healthevangelism programs should be conducted for the most part by the trained membership of the local church. I believe the following steps are essential in developing a successful soul-winning program of health-evangelism in a church and the sequence in which the steps are taken is critical.
1. Get dose to God. Health-evangelism programs can be cleverly designed, widely advertised, well attended, and favorably received by the community without being successful in God's estimation. Only working with God will bring the kind of success He promises (see The Desire of Ages, p. 362).
2. Get close to the members of the team. If the health professionals in the church, elders, and the pastor are not completely united in conducting health programs, division will arise in the church. I want to tell you that when the gospel ministers and medical missionary workers are not united, there is placed on our churches the worst evil that can be placed there." -Medical Ministry, p. 241. Whenever discord and misapprehension arise there is loss of souls.
3. Get close to church members and train them. As leaders, learn the needs, fears, and the quality of the Christian experience of the church members. Study ways of reaching out to friends, relatives, and neighbors in the community. Pray together. Practice doing the simple things that are so often neglected. Share your successes and failures. Give your church members sufficient technical and scientific information to help them thoroughly understand the health material that will be presented in the public program. This will motivate them to practice right principles themselves and prepare them to explain poorly understood points to participants in the program.
Remember that the value of a church member's assistance in a health-evangelism program is best measured by the depth of friendship offered to those attending, the genuine concern exhibited, and availability in time of need. Church members are trained in this loving service by coming close to Christ, carefully studying His methods, and longing and praying for a measure of His Spirit. Only members who practice this type of fellowship will be effective health evangelists.
4. Get close to the community. Every health-evangelism program should be conducted in such a way as to bring close involvement between church members and those who are seeking help. Programs conducted from the front by professionals are limited to communicating information. Programs that are also designed to bring about involvement between church members and the community provide, along with the health information given, a model of healthful living to follow. Hopefully the church member will be available twentyfour hours a day with support and encouragement. Health education is most effective in changing behavior when a personal supportive relationship is developed with one who is a model of the sought-forbehavior. Church members can be used as buddies, group leaders, and counselors. This fellowship is a foretaste of the fellowship a community member will enjoy when he joins our church fellowship.
Elvin E. Adams, M.D., is a physician in private practice in North Carolina, specializing in internal medicine.