How Can Medical Missionaries Support Local Churches? - Radical

How Can Medical Missionaries Support Local Churches?

Jesus cares deeply for the hurting. In the Gospels, we see his heart moved with compassion for the sick and the weak. As believers, we seek to follow our Lord’s example, loving his church and caring for the least of these. 

It seems beautifully simple, yet in daily practice, it’s all too easy to compartmentalize the mission of the local church as separate and distinct from that of medical missions. I hope to help you see that there is a good, God-glorifying way forward that emphasizes the local church and also appreciates medical missions.

Missionaries must question how the relationship between church ministry and medical practice on the mission field fit together. And yet, we don’t necessarily have to choose one over the other—concluding that faithful church ministry leaves no room for caring for the sick or vice versa. As healthcare professionals, we’re well-trained in the art of triage, which is the ranking of concerns in proper order. As we apply those skills here, priority belongs to the local church. 

The church is the biblically mandated embodiment of the gospel across all times and cultures; the hospital is not. The gospel can be preached with or without ongoing medical aid efforts, but it will not be proclaimed faithfully for generations if healthy local churches are not established. Nonetheless, medical outreach can be brought under the oversight of the local church in such a way that strengthens the congregation’s love for one another and enhances its engagement with the surrounding community. 

1. The medically trained missionary cares for physical needs within the congregation.

Of course, this first requires the missionary to either be part of a gospel-preaching local church or be deeply involved in the planting of a church where there is none. No busy clinic schedule or other good endeavor takes precedence over regularly meeting with the people of God

Medical outreach can be done such a way that strengthens the congregation’s love for one another and enhances its engagement with the community.

Paul tells us that we are to do good to all but to care particularly for “Those who are of the household of faith”(Galatians 6:10). Attending to health concerns is a way to do good for our brothers and sisters. Medical needs are endless. 

I humbly realize that I can’t be everyone’s friendly neighborhood pediatrician, but I can care deeply for the kids in our local church. So, my stethoscope is almost always tucked away in my bag on Sunday mornings—there if needed but never pulled out unless requested. I know, for example, that allaying a young mother’s concerns about her baby’s cough ministers to her, and other church members can then continue to encourage her to trust the Lord’s sovereign care for her family.

2. The medically trained missionary is sent out to evangelize alongside others from the congregation.

Our local church in Peru is blessed to have several medical professionals in its membership. Naturally, we consider visiting outlying areas to provide lacking medical services and establish relationships for sharing the good news of the gospel. For other churches, this may not be a feasible strategy, and that’s perfectly fine—we simply want to make the best use of the skills and resources the Lord has given us to steward. 

Going out from the local church with brothers and sisters provides a special opportunity to teach. We can model how to engage in careful, gospel-centered conversations during a medical consult, rather than using medicine as a quick bait-and-switch to talk about spiritual matters. 

3. The medically trained missionary supports the evangelistic efforts of sister congregations.

Many churches are not able to help address health needs within their membership or local community. The clinic where I work is connected to a small church fellowship in another part of town, and I seek to encourage these believers as they labor to reach their neighbors with the gospel. Periodic visits to like-minded churches farther away also form valuable partnerships. 

Churches that send missionaries with medical training should encourage deep local church involvement in the field above all else.

I have especially enjoyed traveling to teach a series of first aid courses to brothers and sisters who live in remote places where there is no doctor. These courses are taught alongside our missions agency’s longstanding pastoral training program in the Peruvian jungle. Each church names health representatives who then travel to the training site alongside their pastor. 

During their travel to and from the training site and throughout the week of classes, the participants enjoy fellowship with one another and the host church and engage in deep conversations with their church leaders, all the while gaining practical skills that they can use to serve their villages. 

Hold Onto the Hope of the Gospel

Jesus loves his church, and medicine can be an effective mercy ministry for a local body of believers. To the churches that send missionaries with medical training, please encourage deep local church involvement in the field above all else. 

In the end, it’s the church, not the hospital, that’s promised to prevail. There will come a day when there will be no more sickness or sorrow for God’s people (Revelation  21:4). In the meantime, fellow missionaries, take great joy in all the small ways the Lord uses your training to bless his church abroad.  

Courtney Miller

Courtney Miller currently lives in Tacna, Peru, where she serves through medical ministry. She desires to help Peruvians know the Word of God well so that the Gospel spreads through healthy local churches. Courtney graduated from the Medical College of Georgia and is a pediatrician. She and her husband Andy were sent by Trinity Baptist Church in Vidalia, Georgia.


That means that the people with the most urgent spiritual and physical needs on the planet are receiving the least amount of support. Together we can change that!