IVP - Online Pulpit - Spiritual Triage

October 1, 2008

Spiritual Triage

Last November I found myself in the emergency room with my husband. He had been having nose bleeds on and off for a week. But this nose bleed was definitely “on!” There were two other people waiting for attention in the emergency room. Both were elderly and looked in much worse condition than my husband, who is fairly trim and fit and barely over fifty. A superficial look would have concluded that my husband could wait. I pressed the triage nurse a bit, indicating the escalation of his condition. She took his blood pressure. The reading was so high that she assumed it was wrong. She took it two more times. These readings confirmed it was 220 over 190 and his pulse was 120. That triage nurse went into emergency action. Drew was a heart attack or stroke waiting to happen! Understanding the degrees of his critical condition, she directed all of her energy and resources to the most immediately critical patient.

I have come to realize this is what I do. Being a pastor is like being an emergency-room triage nurse. In the emergency room, a triage nurse must quickly assess all those medical conditions presented at any given time and direct energy and resources toward those persons presenting the most critical care needs. There are several parallels that help me manage my time and my heart, both of which are easily overtaxed.

First, there are always more patients to care for than I can address at any given time. The ministry of the church is ever-growing and expanding. I am one person. I must work very hard to direct energy and resources at the most critical need determined through careful observation, prayer and godly counsel.

Second, I cannot help everyone. It takes a whole hospital to care for the needs of all the sick and dying. The triage nurse simply mobilizes the right people and resources to best do the job. Alone, I will not be able to care for the spiritual needs of all whom God brings to my church. I must equip, train and encourage those who can.

Third, some folks will not come for care—and will die. Even worse, some will come, and because the medical staff are people and not gods, there will be losses. I am human. I must constantly reiterate the confession of John in the third chapter of his Gospel account—“I am not the Christ.” In Christ’s name and by his Spirit I will be able to do far more than I could ever imagine, but I can’t do everything.

Finally, I can’t serve twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. I must get time off. And this does not jeopardize my care capacity; it ensures it will be sharper and more effective. I must get rest and care for myself in order to come to the emergency room ready to give the best care possible. If the emergency room nurse has an infection, he or she only jeopardizes the health of those being served. Pastors are no different. If we try to do ministry when we are not well (emotionally, physically, spiritually, intellectually), we risk jeopardizing the spiritual health of others.

God has called us to spiritual triage. By the power and presence of the Spirit of God, let’s give the best care we can to those in the greatest need. And let’s inspire and equip the people of God to be partners in ministry.

Posted by Candie Blankman at October 1, 2008 8:51 AM Bookmark and Share

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