A medical challenge to local churches
By by Mark Blocher · Nov 17, 2023
In my two previous articles, I challenged the Church to join the “redeeming health care” movement by disrupting the medical status quo through the creation of a distinctively Christian, parallel health care system.
I argued that expanding access to primary care is foundational for such a system, especially when access to primary care is among the glaring deficiencies in U.S. health care. Local churches are essential strategic partners to lay the foundation for a Christian health care system.
In this third article, I provide a broad overview of the benefits of church-based primary care medical clinics. The “nuts and bolts” for creating those clinics will come in the next installment.
My prayer is that some courageous, entrepreneurial churches will accept the challenge.
Strategic advantages of a church-based medical clinic
Since its founding by Jesus, the Great Physician, the Church has been a prominent presence in health care. Christian medical ministry traces back to the early Church, which emulated Christ’s ministry of healing through loving their Jewish and Gentile neighbors by providing basic nursing care amid the frequent epidemics that plagued the Roman world.
Despite Rome’s antagonism and hostility toward Christians, believers lived out Jesus’ admonition to “love your enemies” by extending compassionate care unheard of in the Roman world. God used it to transform pagan Roman culture. Since then, Christian medical ministry has continued to affect the most remote parts of the world, often as the forerunner of other missionary endeavors.
We should employ this approach again, right in our own back yard. At a time when Americans are becoming less “religious” and question the relevance of the Church, medical ministry provides a high-impact platform for engagement with our non-Christian neighbors in the same setting where Christians gather to worship, learn, pray, and love one another.
When people are sick or hurt, they don’t need a sermon, they need someone to care.
In an exam room, there is a level of vulnerability and transparency that is hard to find anywhere else. The exchange of information within the first moments of the interaction between a doctor and her patient presents a ministry opportunity few pastors ever experience. In a doctor’s presence, patients often share sad, difficult, or even embarrassing details about themselves. They are generally inclined to trust the advice and counsel given by an almost-stranger. The intimacy of the doctor-patient encounter begins even as a medical assistant or nurse escorts them to an exam room. Conversation from the waiting room to the vitals station to the exam room often exposes life details that open the door for impactful ministry with that individual. Few outreach programs of the local church experience this level of intimacy and vulnerability.
Many Christian doctors, nurses, and medical assistants have been forced out of employed positions because of their religious objections to mandated vaccines, unwillingness to participate in procedures that violate their conscience, and concern over how modern medicine degrades the role of doctors. Some leave medicine because of unbearable workloads that disrupt marriage and family. Church-based clinics offer the opportunity to deploy gifted clinicians in a Christ-centered clinical setting who might otherwise be lost to early retirement or a career change. A church-based clinic gives mission-minded doctors who cannot travel overseas a platform for medical ministry closer to home.
Provides a life-affirming health care system guided by a Christian worldview.
American health care is increasingly distancing itself from the sanctity of a human life ethic. Christians must respond by providing life-affirming medical care, a value that is endangered within a health care system that largely rejects biblical values related to sex, marriage, and human identity. A church-based clinic gives the Church both a prophetic voice and practical presence to promote and defend a biblical view of human life.
Encourages better financial stewardship of health care spending.
Christians spend a lot of God’s money on health care, much of it with organizations that have little respect for Christian values. Christians must rethink their stewardship of health care dollars. A local church clinic operates with better fiscal efficiency than nearly any other health care setting, allowing families to repurpose money for other priorities.
Maximizes the stewardship of church facilities.
The current real estate models utilized by churches and other Christian ministries are limited, often wasteful, and frequently hinder mission. A lot of money donated to churches and parachurch ministries is spent on their physical facilities. The average U.S. church spends as much as 50 percent of its annual budget on facilities it fully utilizes only 5 percent of the week. Churches must be better stewards. Many churches could repurpose a portion of underutilized space to house income-producing, self-sustaining medical clinics.
There are some who will argue that a church-based clinic is a distraction from the Church’s main mission of “preaching the Gospel.” The early Church did not think so, which I documented in my book Missional Medicine: Restoring the Soul of Healthcare. Many churches already provide social services, counseling, and material support to their members and community. Some churches are home to Christian K-12 schools and daycare centers. Why not health care? Quality, affordable, faith-based health care is in great demand, and access to primary care in many smaller communities is often in short supply.
Provides self-sustaining income.
Church-based health care can help churches reduce their facilities budget while offering Christ-centered medical services for the congregation and their neighbors. Since most people end up paying out-of-pocket for most or all of their primary care, why not keep those funds in the church “family”? Why put the Christian community and its financial resources at the mercy of an over-priced secular health care system when we have the opportunity to do something better?
Christian Healthcare Centers’ clinic model has proven to be financially self-sustaining. Its direct patient care model is affordable for patients and provides enough compensation to attract high-quality personnel. Patients gain access to medical services in exchange for a small monthly fee—no copays, deductibles, coinsurance, or other insurance hassles. It is a great solution for red tape-weary patients who get nickeled-and-dimed by the medical cartels.
Next: How it's done.