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Essential Elements of Effective Health Ministry

Fred Hardinge


Fred Hardinge

Associate Director of Health Ministries, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists



  • December 6, 2014
    9:30 AM


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As I was listening to the devotional this morning which I appreciated very much it was a wonderful reminder. I thought did occur to me and that is that in the context in which I often work we often say that we can accomplish almost nothing from the General Conference. And yet we have our temptations in the same line. The work of the church happens at the local level. And that's a wonderful organizational structure and if you don't you don't go to the General Conference to accomplish a whole lot at the local level. And I have learned that over the years having worked in local churches and conferences divisions and now at the General Conference we may be able to plant a few ideas and do some encouraging and some supporting. And that's our major role. But at the same time we still have our temptations to become selfish and proud and uplift and lift it up. And so we are all the same in our need to daily fall before the fall. If the cross and give our lives to our savior there is we're all the same in that regard that's a great equalizer. And that also at the same time brings us together in ministry and here regardless of what our profession is what our skill levels are what we do the best as we humbly team together in doing a comprehensive health ministry we can. He effective for Jesus Christ and so I look forward to even more inspiration as we meet this this weekend. Normally I look out at the Pacific Ocean and I'm looking westward. I grew up on the West Coast not on the ocean but we often visited I've done I've been at a few conferences on the coastline and we look west when we look at here we're looking east. And but it's a privilege to be here. We have had a wonderful almost two weeks now here in the S.P.D. and we spent last week last week and the weekend before in New Zealand. And it's always good to meet God's people and I must say that as I look at this audience even though I don't know very many of you you're my favorite people because you're interested in health ministry and in the Lord's work. One of the great blessings of being a part of God's work is that you get acquainted with people here and there and you rarely go somewhere but what you know some people. So it's been wonderful to reconnect with Rob we were just talking a breakfast this morning it was probably. Two thousand the year two thousand and nine voted him to come and be a speaker at the House speaker at our camp meeting in Walla Walla Washington. And he came and we had a wonderful time together. And of course as I walked in here Sabella was greeting us so warmly and my first meeting of Sabella And I think most of you know her. I think she's going to share a little bit this afternoon. Kevin Pryce introduced us at the health ministries Department as well. All the great health heroes for your division. And as I've gotten acquainted with her I certainly think that's a very fitting description. Paul Rankin of course is in Your Health Ministries department I met him when he was first health ministers director in New Zealand. Phil MILLS We've been friends for many many years and share our passion for health ministry and of course your director here at the health ministries Department Kevin price. He is in the estimation of of the health ministers Department of the General Conference one of the strongest leaders and you certainly have the largest health ministries department in the entire world field here in S.P.D. and you're accomplishing many wonderful things with God's blessing and it's been wonderful to be with Kevin and sue the past two weeks as they've showed us around and showed us some of the beauties of all of this great division. We've only seen just a little bit of it but we feel like we've been filled. And as Pastor Kevin said yesterday one of the highlights of this trip I know will be our visit to Sunnyside. On Thursday he mentioned that my wife's grand mother came from Sydney and core a long area and she was living of course as a little girl. During the time that Ellen White was there and he Several of you said you've got to tell the story so I will do that before I begin my message very quickly. He was about four years old when she first came to Corrigan. Ellen White was there. She was born with a diff. Or MD hand on her right side. She had a very small thumb missing one finger. Kids made a lot of fun of her. She wasn't fully accepted because of that. Ellen White had the habit apparently at that time of after church gathering the children while the parents were visiting and telling them a story and she looked out one day and saw that there was a new face there and it was Katie April's grand mother and she was kind of standing on the edge of the circle. She was new and though I called her and said Come and sit on my lap. Sometimes we think of Ellen White as being a very austere harsh. We see that in pictures sometimes but I think that's part of the year it took a long time to set up a picture in those days there was no digital cameras couldn't takes take sixteen shots when you press the shutter and I think it was also part of the custom to look really formal and we see that in lots of pictures but it conveys an attitude or reality that may not have been true. Anyway Ellen wine invited her up to sit in her lap and she asked her what her name was and she noticed that she was hiding this deformed hand in her skirt and she took that hand in her hand in front of all the children and she said this and this bothers you doesn't it. And Katie was nearly in tears as any four year old would be. And she held out her hand and she said Katie God has a special purpose for that hand. Ellen White became her friend and she would never want to miss. When Ellen White was leaving to go back to America after she had told a story she called Katie who is now about seven years old too. I asked her to see her after work the story and she personally had a word with Katie. She said I want you to promise that when we get to heaven. And she took her hand. After we see Jesus I want you to tell me how God used this hand in a special way. Katie grew went on to grow up. She took MID with Sydney sanitarium and became a midwife she became a missionary after marrying April's grandfather who was an American. They went to the Celebes in Indonesia and opened up the work there. And in her work as a midwife in those primitive countries or areas she was able to deliver hundreds and hundreds of babies with that little hand. And it was a great blessing that the Lord used to encourage his work. So that's the story and this is my wife's first time here in Australia and we were really blessed and inspired by our visit to Sunnyside And to that area. So it has been a blessing for us to be here. I love your title from bended knee to the bedside. And as I read that several weeks ago in the growth in materials that was sent I was reminded of this statement to Semple. It's prayer that is put up in faith is acceptable to heaven. The humblest soul that looks up to Christ in faith is connected with the God of the universe and all of us have the privilege of seeing that happen in our sphere of work. Rob did not mention to you some of you may have seen the book the missionary book health and healing edited by Peter landless and Mark Finley. If you look in the back you'll see that I was one of the contributors and I'm listed as a physician and I need to clarify that I'm not. That was a printer's error. We've asked that that be correct and it probably means that you got one of the early printings but I'm not sure because they're being printed by the millions around the world. I don't have the same privileges that you who are physicians have in interfacing in the same way with patients. But at the same time I have had and continue to have the privilege and opportunity of ministering to people as all of you do in your various capacities and the same principles apply. And we need to recognize that it's not our work but it is God's working through us that brings about the accomplishment of God's mission here on this earth as we begin talking about some effective principles of health ministry I would like to ask the question What is health ministry. The word rolls off of our tongues. It has and for many of us for decades. But what does it really mean. What do we mean when we say health ministry. Well I would like to suggest this morning that it is more than a set of scientifically established health practices. It is more important than all of its individual component parts. The whole message carries greater weight than the individual pieces and it does far more than modern science can demonstrate. We're thrilled with what we see taking place in the world of science today. We see the confirmation of principles and practices that we have that we have espoused and taught for decades and we're thrilled by that. But it's more the whole health message is more than what science can demonstrate. And the eternal health benefits come only from Jesus Christ our Savior. And so the Seventh Day Adventists health message when rightly applied can bring the dead to life. I'll talk more about that in a moment. But I. As Dr Mills so adequately eloquently demonstrated and shared last night our work no matter what it is or what come in what capacity is is really dependent upon the unction of the Holy Spirit. You surgeons can do marvelous procedures and they will help people for a time but to truly help people understand the eternal value requires. If the Holy Spirit the influence of the Holy Spirit is needed that the work may be properly balanced and that it may move forward solidly in every line. This is not new science this is not new principles. We've known this for years. God uses the gospel ministry medical missionary work and the publications containing present truth to impress hearts all are made effectual by means of faith as the truth is heard or read the Holy Spirit sends it home to those who hear and read with an earnest desire to know what is right. Our work is almost meaningless without the Holy Spirit bringing what we are sharing in our sometimes less than effective ways home to the hearts of those who are seeking help. I was a newly minted health educator. I've been a pastor then felt a calling to take training to become more expert or to have more knowledge an area of health. I believe fervently and Health Ministry. I believe that it was the right arm of the gospel not the work but the right arm of the work the work that would prepare hearts and minds to receive the gospel message in its fullness at this time in earth's history and in my immature way I was really very passionate about my move to get this kind of training and now the opportunity to begin to put it into practice in a local community. Lord called us to a large metaphor. All in city church a church where the conference President said we haven't had any baptisms for a few biological ones in the past fourteen years. And so now we're ready to try Health Ministry. And I thought wonderful God must be working. And he was but not always in the way that I thought he was. And we embarked upon launching a church based health education program in that city. We were in a largely Jewish neighborhood. We had a very very secular people that came. One of my first challenges was the House Education Committee that had been established by the local church and I was introduced to them when I arrived and it was chaired by one of the local physicians and he said to me as we were talking about our plans my plans what my vision was. When he learned I want to I was planning to use the local fellow in the fellowship hall downstairs for our programs he said to me now no no nobody will come into this church from the neighborhood. He said you're going to have to rent a hall down the street at a hotel on quite a quite a distance down the street. And this was in the context of an unlimited budget that had been promised before I came and never believe those kinds of promises. There's not no such thing. When I arrived they had already overspent the unlimited budget that the Treasurer had set up to buy a piece of equipment that they thought I needed without consulting me. So we had our challenges and I said where are we going to get the money to rent this hall and he said well I don't know hadn't thought of that. Right but then he said How are you going to get the money to run the programs you want to do. And I said well I'm not sure but I said I'm sure the Lord will provide it because this is the Lord's work. And he said well you're going to have to charge for your programs. And I said do you charge for evangelistic meetings. And he said No I said this is health eventually Islam and we had an interesting discussion. He said I'll give you six months to do it your way. Those were his words over the years we became very close friends. He was an enormous benefit and help but God helped us through each of those hurdles. But the biggest hurdle that I faced with and it became a disappointment was that while I made some references to The Creator and to this beautiful body that that that we were trying to take care of and help them learn how to make changes to would benefit them and so forth that that is the audiences that came and people came to believe it or not they came through our doors and over a period of seven years we had several thousand people from the local neighborhood who came for at least four nights and many of them many many more nights to hear and learn about health. But I was frustrated because it wasn't working quite like I thought it was. I believed I needed to go and visit some of these people who were coming and I tell them about it and they'd say sure and I knock on their door and they'd invite me in and they were very warm and friendly and they would say by the way you know I've been thinking about what you were presenting and how do I apply this and they'd ask me questions about nutrition and they'd ask me questions about about all manner of health things how they. Most should exercise they could exercise better or some of their struggles. But when I tried to bring the conversation around to spiritual things they said by the way is it going to snow tomorrow or who's going to win the ball game this weekend and I knew what they were telling me they weren't comfortable talking about those things. I was living in fear of offending people because of any overt spiritual approach and an old family friend and I have to laugh now because he had just retired and he was probably roughly about my age at that time and I thought he was one leg in the grave. But then he called me and said he was going to be in town could he come and stay with us for a few days and he came with me to programs and he came with me on visitation. He was a retired pastor and I didn't know really that he had a lot of interest or certainly not much knowledge certainly not formal knowledge or training about health but he had been a family friend and so I well we welcomed him into our home and he spent three or four days with us and on the last day. He said to me and I as we were driving around the visits and other activities I had shared with him my frustration and he just listened. But on the last day he said to me words that I will never forget and that have changed my ministry. He said Fred if you want to be seen as a spiritual person you must identify yourself as such. And I said but what do you mean. And he said for people who come to your programs they see you as a health expert but they don't see you as a person that has a religious sort. A spiritual experience and so when you go to their home and you bring up the subject it's foreign to them I said but how do I do that and he said well he said there are many ways you can do that but he said you don't have to give a Bible study in your health classes. He said you don't have to talk about the Sabbath you don't have to talk about the twenty three other days. He said Just talk to people about what the Bible has to say about health. Make it related to what you're talking about that evening and then he left and I wrestle and wrestle fearful that as soon as I begin doing that whatever that meant the people would turn and run out the door. And I'll never forget when finally God's spirit laid a burden on my heart that I needed to really put this into practice and we were in the middle of a cooking class and we were going to talk about desserts that night at that next class and I I just knew I had to start and I prayed and I wrestled and I had no idea and finally I went to the Book of Proverbs and I found two passages on sweetener and honey and that evening at that class I opened my Bible. I welcome them how open my Bible and I said you know this is an Old Testament say for Jews passage. And so I read them these two passages about not using sweetener excessively and I was probably scared to death they probably all knew I was I was nervous I can still feel it and then I said let's buy our heads and ask God to be here this evening. And when I open my eyes from the prayer I expect to see half the group just leaving. But you know they all sat there and they stayed the whole evening. That week I knocked on one of their doors. Several of their doors and they welcomed me and as they always have but we've hardly sat down they said by the way I had no idea the Bible had anything to say about health and they opened the door wide to discussions about spiritual things all kinds of discussions and it totally changed what I was doing. I think sometimes and I hear all these I hear people say to me oh we can't talk about spiritual things because we'll offend people. Now there may have been a few that were offended and just never came back I don't know. There was only one that I know I made a mistake one evening probably wasn't a mistake but at that time I thought maybe it was when I prayed at the beginning of a class of first class and it was a Weight Control class. And I prayed in Christ's name which I usually did. And this red headed lady headed out the door stomping her feet. And I knew I had offended her and we had some staff at the door and she muttered about this prayer in Christ's name and a few weeks later I phoned her up and I said to her you know you came I'm the guy that was up at the front. You may not remember that. Well she said I do and I said I I must have offended you all she said you prayed in Christ's name. And I. I'm a Jew and I said I'm really sorry to offend you. And then she softened and she said you know I should have known that because I came to a Christian church. And I asked her if we could come visit her and she said sure. She never came back to another program but I had the privilege of talking with her and for about fifteen years she sent my wife and I a Christmas card every day every year. She was a lawyer. She didn't really get to benefit from what we had to share. But we did bridge that gap and at least be friended her in a little way in a small way. Too often we I think misunderstand Ellen White statements about disinterested benevolence. You no disinterested benevolence is not hiding our light under a bushel. This interest of benevolence is not having it is not having a conflict of interest and it's not a conflict of interest to carry out the mission that God has given to each of us. That's why we are placed here on this earth and it we don't need to preach that the cardinal doctrines. But people need to see Jesus as the effective agent of change. They need to see Jesus as the one who will help them accomplish the goals that they have come to the programs for. They come because they have needs. They usually come to us as a last resort they've tried everything else and now they come to a church for help. What if they don't find the help. They help they really need. And so I'm not suggesting that our health programs begin teaching evangelistic principles. We need to be sharing Jesus and His love and His power with those who come to our programs. The advice that I received nearly forty years ago has changed my approach for ever. Yes I was afraid that I'd lose my audience that they'd be offended. My first steps in that direction were very tentative for sure. A God had to work with me just as he desires to work in the lives of those that we have the privilege of touching. And so we need to make sure if we're going to have effective health ministry we need to share Jesus as the only effective agent of change. You know sometimes that message just goes in one ear and out the other. The people who are sitting in our programs and then they come and say I'm having trouble with such and such and we have the privilege of saying to them maybe can I prayed with you and that simple prayer to one who was looking for help brings the the help of all of heaven into their lives. And it it's those little baby steps one at a time that eventually by God's grace leads to conversion. Medical missionary work is in no case to be divorced from the gospel ministry we have strong counsel in that direction. The largest specify that the two should be as closely connected with the army is with the body. Without this union neither part of the work is complete. The medical missionary work is the gospel in illustration the gospel of Health has to be firmly linked with the Ministry of the word. It is the Lord's desire design that the restoring influence of health reform shall be a part of the last great effort to proclaim the gospel message and that's the day and age in which we are living today and he's speaking to us in that light. I'm really troubled sometimes that there are lots and lots of godless programs out there in the church in the world there are all kinds of godless programs and they try to teach people how to pull themselves up by their own boots. And most of your health educators have done health education. You know how successful how. Well maybe I should say how hard it is to get people to make changes permanently. It's really the toughest thing they were asked to do you are physicians you see them in their offices. You need to eat less of this you need to eat more of this. You see them six weeks later. How many of them are following your counsel. Not very many. They come to our programs we say you need to exercise. How many people exercise on a regular basis when you tell them to do that even though you have a tremendous influence as a health professional in their lives they're looking for you to help them. Well when it comes I mean if you asked and if you write a script and they go to the pharmacy and they fill it they're going to come back and ask you for the refill right but if you say you know if you go out walk every morning for thirty minutes it'll do the same thing and you see them six weeks later how many. It's behavior change. It's the toughest thing. Look at your own lives. How many things do you know you need to be doing that you want to only I have to point my fingers at myself we all struggle with that. Very same issue. But the goal of our programs must be to introduce people to the only power that can allow them to make permanent change in their lives and that's the power of God So what is the real problem is it poor food choices that are people making. Well yes. Is it lack of exercise to say anxiety or depression could be too much television a week experience with God a high fructose corn syrup too much wheat G.M. foods you can just go on and on and on in making the lists. But what is the real problem. I would like to suggest to you and I would like to encourage you to turn in your Bibles are your phones or wherever you have your Bible to aviation's to your tablets. Ephesians two verses one to three. For those who don't have anything I have it on the screen and you he made alive who were dead in trespasses and sins in which you once walked according to the course of this world according to the prince of the power of the air the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the loss of our flesh fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind and were by nature children of wrath just as others. That's a description of all of us before we met Jesus and it describes those who come to us for help either to your practice or to your classes in the community or wherever you conduct them and you know we could say that we are all dead devilish disobedient and depraved and that's really good just the description of humankind as given here by the Bible writer so. This is Joe and Joe is dead but Joe has come to one of your classes. Should we set a good example for Joel. You know we can model good exercise we can eat right around him we can show him that you we don't smoke. We can avoid depressive speech and attitudes and the list goes on. Is that going to change. Joe is that going to bring him back to life. Well we all know that that won't. Should we educate Joe and educate him about portion control the importance of avoiding trans fats dangers of Che's stress management depression recovery and the list goes on. Will education bring Joe back to life. It won't. Should we give him encouragement. You know all the things you can do it don't give up no time to be discouraged it's going to get better when when the worst part is over with and we have a whole repertoire of those things. But that will not bring joy back to life. Should we provide him with better a better environment. Maybe send them to a lifestyle center. Remove him from the bad environment in which he's living. Put him with other successful people put him surround him with positive role models create an encouraging setting in which he can make those changes will that bring Joe back to life. You know the reality is that none of these things will bring Joel back to life but the answer is found in the next three verses of the fusions too. But God who is rich in mercy because of his great love for which he loved us even when we were dead in trespasses made us alive together with Christ by grace you have been saved and raised us up. Together and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. When we take the the god view of mankind the only way people change is in Christ Jesus. All other changes at best are very short term to arouse those spiritually dead to create new takes new motives requires as great an outlay of power as to raise one from the physical. Yes You know we often talk about Jesus and his healing ministry on this earth and we marvel at those he healed and those are inspiring stories without question that God is calling each one of you. Each one of us to become healers. Maybe not with a scalpel. Maybe not with the years of residential training specialty training but maybe on our knees praying for our patients bringing them back to life not just physical life but spiritual life that lasts for ever. It is indeed giving a life to the dead to convert the center from the earth his ways. So the health message is not to be separated from the Gospel message. The most skillful and perceptive scientist cannot bring that. It to life. Only the Gospel actually brings that life because Jesus is the health care for him and Jesus is the life giver. And that's a very high calling for all of us. But it can only be met by being on our knees and so our mission today is to proclaim the health message. In the context of the gospel message the health principles along mailed a few years of additional life. But our commission is to teach and demonstrate that the power to change comes from Jesus. If you were to practice in the United States you'd live in fear of malpractice. Phil can tell you all about it. Other countries may not be exactly the same words or the same magnitude but all of you health professionals know what malpractice is you have your boards that look look over and review practices and and so forth making sure that you are you are you are practicing the best for each of your patients. And it may be defined differently but I would like to suggest to you that there is also spiritual malpractice that you could be guilty of as a Christian health professional. I don't think you'll find any definition for it. I I wrote this one it could be modified but I would suggest that spiritual malpractice is negligence by act or omission by a Christian who fails to share the availability of God. Power to change and heal thereby causing continuing pain and injury and eventual eternal to our wee Kilty of spiritual malpractice. I often have heard this question been asked on panels. Should we be doing health education or should we be doing evangelism. It's an interesting question. We spent a lot of time talking about it. Dr Mills last night I thought he was going to put up my my little table here but it turned out to be slightly different but it goes in the same direction. You know if we just focus on health the benefits are temporary. Yes people can be better. They can feel better they can live longer and they can be more effective and productive in their lives and that's a contribution to them. But we all still die long as we live here on this earth. And evangelism the benefits are eternal and it really doesn't matter if you live or die. Many of you have had experiences similar to this. I ran a lot I was part of a lifestyle center for ten years in the United States we had a man who was in the last stages of prostate cancer metastasized to his bone he was in a great deal of pain he wanted to come that we told him that our lifestyle center wasn't going to be able to help him but he said I want to come. And while he was there we offered him a knowing TNG special prayer as the Book of James recommends. He said I would like to but I can't. Several times he refused with the same words and finally just did. For his session ended he said I our physician said to him but why can't you. And he'd been in tears poured out a story of how he had disappointed his daughter and son in law in the way he had given a car to a grandson and the parents and said please don't and he had gone ahead and done that and the there was a there was a big rift in the family and the doctor said do you think your daughter would talk to me and he said Oh it probably would. So we got a number and in his presence he dialed his daughter's home of the son in law answered and the doctor introduced himself and he said oh you know we know it's there he said How's he doing it was a very friendly voice and the doctor said Would you be willing to talk to your son in law or to your father in law and he said sure. And so the phone was handed over and the doctor left the room and the man apologized to his son in law for what he had done. When he hung up the phone the doctor came back in and he said the patient said I'm ready. Two days later he left our program and a week later that man's wife called and said we're just letting you know that he passed away but he found healing at your program. Now I didn't find an extension of life. But he was healed by God's grace for eternity. We can't separate health and evangelism God is not commissioned us to do that the world is filled with the godless programs we need. A Seventh Day Adventist health workers we must combine the health with the Evangelists the gospel is to be bound up with the principles of true health reform the Gospel in the medical missionary work or to advance together Christianity has to be brought into the practical life. You know we have to recognize it doesn't matter what we're doing what kind of program we're involved in. We must recognize that man cannot transform himself by the exercise of his own will he possesses no power by which to change the way in which this change can be effected. All the culture and education which the world can give will fail of making a degraded child of sin a child of heaven. And maybe that's why some of our programs fail because we have not included the most essential message the renewing energy must come from God. We should ever remember that the object of the medical missionary work is to points in sick men and women to the men of Calvary who takes away the sin of this world. Time you know. This afternoon we'll continue with a few more of the essentials. But it is my prayer. And as we look at the ministry that God has called each of us to do that we make sure that by His grace and in his strength we find ways of pointing people to Jesus as the truth. Healer and has the one the only one who can change lives and so we stand together. Our loving Father in heaven. You have given to us a wonderful calling each one you have commissioned us to share with others the love of Jesus and the power that comes only from him to make permanent changes in our lives and in the lives we seek to minister to. We asked Father that we might not miss those opportunities but that we might become students in your school that we may personally understand and experience that life changing power that we can share with others in a personal and eerie experience away is our prayer in Jesus' name. If this media was brought to you by Adil perhaps a website dedicated to spreading God's word through free sermon audio and much more if you would like to know more about audio verse or if you would like to listen to more service we visit W.W.W. audio Verse dot org. Really.


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