Have you heard the phrase “the church is a hospital?” Generally, it means the church is a place of healing from physical, mental, spiritual, and social brokenness. But there is more to be gleaned from the analogy. Consider how success in a hospital largely depends on the interconnectedness of each staff member.
The physician tirelessly performs their role on the team. But the goal of helping the patient cannot be accomplished without the nurses doing their part. Communication must be clear and precise. Each one must trust in the expertise and experience of the other. Likewise, social workers, pharmacists, residents, dietitians, technicians, reception staff, chaplains, housekeeping, volunteers, and all else must do their part in order to give the patient the best possible chance of healing.
It’s an incredibly intricate system. Effective work depends on the skills, abilities, health, and faithfulness of each individual. But success is a team effort.
This reminds me of the story in 2 Kings 5:1-19. An Israelite girl is a slave in a foreign land. Her master is a victorious captain, loved by his king and country, but afflicted with leprosy. Through a series of conversations and events, he finds himself at a turning point in his life.
The young girl is a member of God’s “church” at that time. She had heard the stories of healing done through Elisha’s hand. And she shared those stories without doubt or hesitation. When the captain’s wife is told, hope stirs in her heart and she urges Naaman to visit this healer.
Naaman’s king provides him with financial resources and an entourage for the journey to Elisha. In today’s setting, we could parallel the king with governmental agencies or health insurers that finance health programs. The soldiers who accompany Naaman, as friends and colleagues, do their part by encouraging him to follow through with Elisha’s treatment protocol. And Elisha, the professional who combines skill and faith for the service of those in need, performs his role.
The story reminds me of the intricate workings of a hospital. Many were involved in the recovery process. All were necessary contributors towards the patient’s healing.
This is a remarkable parallel to the work that could be done by our Adventist entities. Think of our churches, schools, hospitals, media ministries, community service and lay-member driven organizations, among numerous others. Are we working in a consistently coordinated way with each other? Or, though doing an excellent job individually, are we fragmented? Are we utilizing resources from the community? Do we engage the family and friends of individuals who come to us, recognizing how influential their built social environment is? Do we strive to compassionately minister to all their needs — spiritual, emotional, and physical?
After being healed, Naaman returns to Elisha to offer thanks. The servant of God refuses to accept credit but rather turns Naaman’s devotion to God. The secret to success was unlocked, and the captain’s heart is conquered by God.
Ellen G. White writes that “The secret of our success in the work of God will be found in the harmonious working of our people. There must be concentrated action. Every member of the body of Christ must act his part in the cause of God, according to the ability that God has given him. We must press together against obstructions and difficulties, shoulder to shoulder, heart to heart” (Review and Herald, Dec. 2, 1890).
I have seen a number of our church entities strive to operate according to this counsel. Yet, we could do more. We have not yet seen the fullness of God’s power in our work. But it is so close, just within our grasp! I believe we will see it when we “press together.” And I pray that we will see it soon.
— Angeline B. David, DrPH, MHS, RDN, is Health Ministries director for the North American Division.