Do you ever think about what it will look like when the earth is being filled with the glory of God? You know…when somehow people start to see what God is really like because those who know Him are reflecting Him well.

We know that time is coming, but what has to happen to get it started? Is there something we need to be doing differently?

Let’s consider some changes in ministry that could bring about those end-time events and Christ’s return. It’s only fair to start with my area, which is health ministry. We’ve often heard that health ministry is the right arm of the gospel and I’ve found myself using that emphasis to gain more support for my ministry.

Health ministry does provide great opportunities for touching lives in a most personal way. But is it functioning right now at that level? If health work is “the last work,” “the entering wedge,” “the right arm,” * wouldn’t you think more conferences would have full-time, paid health ministry directors? It’s a stretch to say today that health ministry is functioning as the right arm of the gospel.

I’m not making a case to get paid more or for other conferences to hire more health directors. What I’m saying is that we need to change how we do health ministry. If it was currently wildly effective in soul winning and reflecting Christ so that our communities were filled with the glory of God, I wouldn’t have to ask for more attention. It would be the right arm because of its effectiveness, not because someone says it should be.

Beyond the facts

What will elevate the health ministry to that world-changing position? We can never go wrong if we imitate Christ and His approach. He met people where they were—by the sea, in the marketplace, in the home. Imagine Him talking to the men as they mend their nets, to the women in the marketplace as they sell their goods. Later, He would return to ask about that problem shared with Him the other day.

Most of our health work takes place in church-based programs. We often give health information to a group for 8-10 weeks, but we seldom learn about their personal needs or goals or exactly what that they came to receive. We wish them luck and send them on their way to struggle alone with lifestyle changes.

Have we reflected the character of Christ? Or have we just given them information? Information alone will not light up the earth with the glory of God, and seldom will it bring about the changes people are seeking. Today, information is cheap; it is everywhere. And if all we do is give information, we are dispensable. If we want to be indispensable, we must give something that the world is lacking.

Along with information, we need to give support—not just for a day or two, but as long as is needed. Something like the Holy Spirit does. He reflects Emmanuel God, the God who doesn’t just give information, but continues to work with us.

One-on-one success

How can we provide meaningful support for people who attend our health programs? I have found that the skills taught in coaching programs are not only the most effective for helping people reach their goals, but they also best reflect the character of God. When we truly listen, we reflect a caring God. When we ask powerful questions, we reflect a God who believes others’ ideas are important and has an interest in what they think. And when we call each week to provide support, we reflect the ever-present Holy Spirit who never leaves us and is present for us, even as we struggle to make lifestyle and spiritual changes.

If we are to reflect the personal God who listens to our individual needs, we need to provide more one-on-one attention in the home and in the workplace. When a neighbor says they need to lose weight and that they know they could eat better, we can invite them, along with a friend to our home to fix a healthy meal together instead of waiting for a cooking school to begin at the church. Not only is that more effective for them in actually making the change they are seeking, but the opportunities for life-changing conversations around the stove and the table come easily. These valuable opportunities seldom exist in large group settings typical of our health programs.

Health ministry will be the “right arm” and we can elevate it to that level now, if we follow Christ’s example. The earth will be filled with the glory of God as His people truly reflect His character, meeting people where they are, keeping it personal, and continuing to support even after the program is over. Reflect Him to your world. And He will come.

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* Ellen White, Counsels on Health, p. 533, 535 and 524

Rick Mautz is Helath Ministries director for the Rocky Mountain Conference.