An old friend said, “I want a good doctor and a good pastor. All I have is body and soul, and I don’t want a tinkerer working on either of them.” His statement has validity. The priest and the doctor are among the world’s oldest professionals. In tribal cultures they were united in the same person – the witch doctor, for example. Always they had similarities and differences, and in each profession there are good and bad.
Some years ago a doctor ministered to a family member. His diagnosis was perfunctory and inaccurate; his intention was unforgivable. Another doctor, with whom I discussed this, said, “Fred, you must remember there is a much difference between doctors as there is between pastors.”
That shook my confidence in the medical as nothing ever has, but the statement was correct.
In selecting a doctor or a minister, there are some things that I would look for. First, I would look for training. Has there been a willingness to pay the price in education? Is there indication of continuing pursuit of knowledge? Is there professional competence?
Second, I would look at the person. Is there dedication to the work? Does professionalism blot out humanity? Both the doctor and the minister, in the work of physical and spiritual healing, must deal with the whole person. There should be a sensitivity to the needs, the hurts, the wounds.
I have seen ministers weep over the needs of their people. I have also stood with a neurosurgeon who had tears streaming down his face as he told of his inability to save an accident victim.
Finally (and more difficult to determine), I would look at motivation. Above all things, the doctor should be dedicated to healing and the minister to ministry.
It is possible for lesser motives to creep in – self-aggrandizement, material accumulation, personal recognition or acclaim, professional advancement or any one of a score of other things.
In both professions, there is the temptation to succumb to the “God complex.” In motivation the doctor should realize that she treats the wounds but it is God who heals. The minister should understand that, though his work may hold heavenly treasure, she herself is but a common earthen pot in which the treasure resides.
The thought for this article came when a friend shared the story of his cancer operation. His doctor said, “Yours is a rare kind of cancer, but I am reading about it and will let you know more on your next visit.”
My friend answered, “I don’t want the doctor who reads the book. I want the doctor who wrote the book.”
It was my intention to write a light article about doctors and pastors. Maybe I’ll do that sometime. Few of us, doctors or pastors, “wrote the book.”
Today remember the admonition, “All I have is body and soul, and I don’t want a tinkerer working on either.”
Rev. Dr. Fred Andrea is Aiken’s First Baptist Church’s pastor.