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The Biggest Mistake We Make When We Try to Share the Gospel

By Nathan Henson, May 2, 2019

Dr. Nathan Henson is an ophthalmologist and MTW medical missionary serving alongside his wife Kristen, a nurse practitioner, in Cusco, Peru. There, Nathan and his colleagues work at La Fuente medical clinic, caring for the medical needs of the poor and sharing with them the good news of the gospel. At a recent conference, Nathan spoke about his method and philosophy of sharing the gospel with patients—a method and philosophy that applies to us all. The following is an edited version of that talk.

We took care of about 38,000 patients at La Fuente last year. That’s a lot of patients. But with a different model we probably could have seen 60,000 patients. We intentionally put a cap on the number of patients that we see because our goal is both to care for people and share the gospel with them, and by seeing fewer total patients, we get more time with each patient that we do see.

Long-term, we have 100% failure rate with all of our treatments—everybody loses their sight eventually, everybody dies. It’s important to care for people’s physical needs, but we also think it’s really important to share the gospel with people, to pray with them, and to bring them the good news.

Some people ask me, “How do you do that?” So let me tell you a bit about my personal method of sharing the gospel with people.

There are three types of conversations that you can have with people: external conversations, internal conversations, and eternal conversations.

External conversations
External conversations are the conversations we have everyday with anyone. Things like: “How’s the weather?” “My roof is leaking.” “The florist came the other day.”

Those kinds of conversations are normal and good and appropriate. I have external conversations with my patients every day. We talk about their kids, their situation, their work.

Internal conversations
Internal conversations are those more personal things that people share with you. Things like: “My father died yesterday and I’m really struggling with that.” “I lost my job.” “I’m having trouble with my kids.”

We hear a lot of those stories in medicine.

Eternal Conversations
And then there are eternal conversations, and we all know what that means.

The problem that people struggle with as they share the gospel—and this is true not only in my context, but in every context—is that often they will go straight from external conversations to eternal conversations. So that’s like: “What do you think of the weather today? It’s kind of rainy. If you don’t know Jesus you’re going to hell.”

And so people hear that and go, “Oh, that’s weird! We were talking about the weather or the game.”

And that is weird! I know people that do that. It’s not wrong. But it certainly doesn’t bridge the gap very well. … The internal conversations are the key. If you can get into an internal conversation with someone, the eternal conversation is easy, because there aren’t good answers to the internal questions in the secular world. We have the answers. We have the inside knowledge.

Moving From Internal to Eternal
As I talk with patients, we do have those external conversations, but then I try to reach for some internal realities and ask them questions about their personal lives. I also pray with every patient. That establishes who we are and what we believe, and that’s important. I always ask them: “How can I pray for you? Can I ask God to help us? I’m going to do my best for you as your doctor, but I’m also going ask God to help us. I believe there’s a God who loves us and He can help you.”

I started doing this when I was a student, and in my entire career I’ve probably had three people say no. And I’ve prayed with thousands of patients both in Peru and in the United States. The key is that when you get in internal conversation, when someone shares something with you that’s personal, to not let that pass, to not lose that opportunity. Because you have the answer, and the transition is easy with practice.

I try to think about that. I pray with every patient, establish who we are, and sometimes the eternal conversation comes up right away. Sometimes I’ll see that patient three times and we’ll have some external conversations and a few internal conversations and eventually we can get there.

I don’t think this applies just to medicine. I think that applies everywhere. In your job, with the people you interact with on a daily basis, think about: “How can I get to that internal conversation so I can share the real answer to their problem in the good news of the gospel?”

Nathan Henson serves with MTW in Cusco, Peru

 

 

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