“We’ve got it all”, or at least that’s what McDonalds would like us to believe. How do you sell pizzas or, for that matter, hamburgers to McDonalds? Haven’t they got it all? When we think about evangelism, we often feel that not only is it easier to evangelize some groups because of their great need, but it is also somehow more appropriate because they are the ‘have nots’.
What, then, is our approach to a group of people who exhibit the following characteristics: something like 70 per cent renege on their faith in the first three years of their working life; they have one of the highest suicide rates in our community; they have one of the highest marital breakdown rates in our community; and they work very long hours and are under great stress during this time. No, I am not describing the average clergyman; I am actually describing doctors. Yes, they have it all, but they have all these problems as well.
Like so many other groups in our society, doctors need to know, more than anything else, the saving love and mercy of Jesus. In general, though, it is quite difficult to get them to see a need for change, as they are very intelligent, highly motivated achievers. They have also been quite thoroughly conditioned against the thought of a benevolent God. Nevertheless, very few, if any, have thought this through in any sort of rational way, and so react to evangelism or ‘God talk’ with derision or aggression. This reveals a deep insecurity about their beliefs.
One problem that is particularly acute with medicos is time. When you work an average of 60 (or more) hours a week, and you are at the beck and call of the paging system, time to attend groups or church, or even to have your own quiet times, is very hard to come by. Many Christians seem tied to the small group model of ministry, and to thinking that a solid hour of time is needed to make ministry worthwhile. This has no basis, and in a hospital, is simply impossible. The real essence of ministry is the word of God applied through personal relationship, whether in a large or small group, or on a one-to-one basis. It can happen over years, or it can be a word over a cup of coffee. This is the sort of flexibility we need to minister to difficult and pressured groups like doctors.
Many problems that face medical people are quite unique. Often coupled with this is a sort of intellectual pretentiousness that says, “You don’t really understand unless you are a doctor!” While, at one level, there is no temptation that is “not common to man”, we are also encouraged to become “all things to all men, so that … [we] might save some” (1 Cor 10:13, 9:22). In many ways, the best person to evangelize and encourage doctors is another doctor.
How do you find someone to do this ministry? Who will give money to support a ministry to doctors? The simple answer is get doctors to pay for it themselves. Through the gifts and ongoing financial support of doctors, we have been able to establish the Fellowship of Medical Evangelism (FME). FME has employed me as their first staffworker to begin the work of evangelism and encouragement among med students and graduates.
Some groups in our society are isolated by virtue of their geography; others, by their poverty; and still others, by choice of career. We need to break down whatever barriers there are by meeting them halfway—or more than halfway—so that they can hear the good news of Jesus Christ where they are, not where they cannot be.