Jesus showed us the connection—how He led souls from health to Him. Four men brought a helpless paralytic on a bed to Jesus to see what He would do. When Jesus saw his deep soul need, He said, “Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you.” This created indignation among the religious authorities. Rather than argue, Jesus responded: “‘Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, “Your sins are forgiven you,” or to say, “Arise and walk”? But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins’—then He said to the paralytic, ‘Arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.’ ”1
This is just one of many examples of how the Lord used the ministry of healing to validate the deeper truths He taught and to reveal the salvation He offered to all. The health message has been called the “right arm,” because it’s not only the helping hand extended to relieve suffering; it also aids God’s workers in their gospel commission. Christ’s commission is ours; His methods we must use if we are to be effective health evangelists. It is restated for us in our day as a message of hope, restoration, and ministry to the total person: “The world needs today what it needed nineteen hundred years ago—a revelation of Christ. A great work of reform is demanded, and it is only through the grace of Christ that the work of restoration, physical, mental, and spiritual, can be accomplished.”2
But that restoration goes beyond the good fruit of producing temporal well-being and making new friends in the community: “When people become interested in [health], the way is often prepared for the entrance of other truths. If they see that we are intelligent with regard to health, they will be more ready to believe that we are sound in Bible doctrines.”3 Our call is to carefulness, precision, prayer, and discretion as we meet the public with health and end-time Bible teachings.
With this in mind, successful health evangelism will be:
Scriptural and Scientific. “True science and Inspiration are in perfect harmony.”4 Many biblical teachings on lifestyle, including mental, physical, moral, and family health, are being validated by science daily. Utilizing good science in our programs provides an opportunity to reveal the goodness of our Creator and the power of Bible teachings. A well-known scientist, Robert Russell, put it this way: “Religion is incapable of making its moral claims persuasive or its spiritual comfort effective unless its cognitive claims are credible.”5 When people see that the science behind what we say is sound, they will be more likely to understand that our scriptural teachings also make sense.
Sensible and Balanced. We are wise to build on basic laws of health and present them as principles rather than “rules.” For example, a good principle of health is to have regular meals and avoid snacking. But presenting this principle as a “rule” can have unintended health consequences for the diabetic in a blood sugar crisis or the hiker in the heat of a climb. We should avoid oversimplifying health information or making sweeping claims and generalizations. These extremes can lead to unexpected problems by diminishing our influence or causing harm to program participants.
“Health reform, wisely treated, will prove an entering wedge where the truth may follow with marked success. But to present health reform unwisely . . . has served to create prejudice with unbelievers and to bar the way to the truth, leaving the impression that we are extremists. . . . We must not give occasion for us to be regarded extremists.”6
Personal. Each individual is a total person on a journey. Look beyond habits or lab test results to their total history, including health, genetic, emotional, family, environmental, ethnic, cultural, work, educational, and religious. Help them wisely navigate the total context in which they live. For long-term success, lifestyle interventions will help each participant individualize, identify, and prioritize their goals and use simple, balanced lifestyle systems as a basis for forming a sustainable plan. The plan is to make a lasting difference in individuals, families, and communities with wise interventions.
Practical. Being practical means showing people what to do, helping them to know how to do it, and helping them to be motivated to want to do it! When program participants understand the “big picture” of dietary and lifestyle advice and learn how to make positive choices in an atmosphere of social support, it builds trust and lays a foundation for interest in areas of deeper spiritual truth.
1 Matthew 9:2-6, NKJV. Texts credited to NKJV are from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
2 Ellen G. White, The Ministry of Healing, p. 143.
3 Ellen G. White, Christian Temperance and Bible Hygiene, p. 121. (Italics supplied.)
4 Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 4, p. 584.
5 John Ashton, ed., In Six Days: Why 50 Scientists Choose to Believe in Creation (Green Forest, Ariz.: Master Books, 2000), p. 272.
6 Ellen G. White, Selected Messages, book 3, p. 285.
Vicki Griffin, M.S. in Clin. Nutr., M.P.A., M.A.C.N., is director of the Michigan Conference Health Ministries Department. Evelyn Kissinger, M.S., R.D., is a lifestyle consultant, registered dietitian, and a former president of the Seventh-day Adventist Dietetic Association. This article was published November 10, 2011.