Stick to What We Know

May 1st, 2010
This article is featured in the Global Health (May/June/July 2010) issue of Circuit Rider

“Stick to what you know," I've been told. When people say that, they usually mean that I and, by implication, also the Church should stick to telling people about Jesus and forget about eradicating malaria and addressing HIV/AIDS, health care reform, pandemics, the environment, and the causes and concerns around what I would call the “clergy health pandemic” in which systemic issues have converged over the last decades to cause a rapid decline in the physical and mental health of clergy.

Jesus not only healed people but said to his disciples, “Heal the sick!” Sounds like a commandment to me. Healing and health were also fundamental to the ministry of the early Church. During the Plague of Galen (165-180), Christians cared for the sick and dying, and as a result their witness evangelized the Roman Empire. John Wesley himself seemed to think that healing and health were important ways to reach out to others in love and service, prompting him to open a health clinic, and to provide a manual for good health. He advocated for health care for all people, especially the poor; it's Wesleyan to care about health care for all. And Wesley certainly has plenty of advice to help clergy be healthy leaders!

If my baby had malaria, and someone from the Church came with a malaria net and medication, I would want Jesus in my life. If I were a child and lost my parents to HIV/ AIDS and the Church provided a home and education for me, I would think Jesus was my best friend! Young people— and some older ones too —seem to like Jesus but not the Church because we as the Church don't seem concerned about God's creation.

Offering the Great Physician to others is to offer a path to physical as well as spiritual life and health. Will the Church have an evangelistic heart by offering a sense of calm and preparedness in the midst of future pandemics as we have in the past? We need to stick to what we know and have done throughout the ages as Christians and in the United Methodist Way: heal the sick!

About the Author

Sally Dyck

Sally Dyck is bishop of the Northern Illinois Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. She encourages people read more…
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