The average primary care doctor spends about 15 to 20 minutes with a patient. Just enough time to discuss pertinent medical issues before having to move on to the next patient.
When I ask my Christian colleagues the barriers they face in providing spiritual care the most common answer is a lack of time. This had me asking the question, If Jesus were a physician, how much time would he spend doing spiritual care with a patient?
We don’t have examples of Jesus seeing patients in an office. But we do see him doing one on one interviews. Prolific writer and commentator Ellen White said this, “Jesus’ ministry comprised primarily of interviews.”
The history taken by the doctor, or the “interview,” is what drives the treatment plan 80% of the time. Thus a physicians one on one time with the patient can closely mirror the ministry of Christ.
Still the question remains. How long would it have taken for Jesus to do a “spiritual interview” with his patients?
Well, I went to the Bible and timed two of Jesus’s longest one-on-one interviews: His interview with Nicodemus. By reading the quoted Scripture in John chapter 3, I clocked the valuable exchange at 2 minutes and 23 seconds.
That’s plenty of truth poured out into Nicodemus’s life in under 3 minutes. And there’s no record that Jesus even prayed with Nicodemus at the end.
Using Jesus as our example physician, having a spiritual conversation doesn’t have to take a long time.
Though lack of time is the most often cited barrier, I find two other barriers that are likely more significant.
The first is staying connected to God. When my heart is farther from God, I am less likely to seek the spiritual care of my patients. When I am close to him, my desire to deliver spiritual care is intensified and patients tend to be more open to receiving such care.
The second is not giving spiritual care priority. The fact is there are dozens of voices clamoring for the attention of the doctor. “Must get to next patient!” “Must return pager” “Must finish on time!” All too often, the still small voice of spiritual care is drowned out.
What barriers do you have in providing spiritual care?