Ministerial Malpractice

A Doctor fired for botching a surgery.
A nurse losing her job for injecting the wrong dosage into a patient.
A Pharmacist let go for prescribing the wrong medication.
A hospital sued for wrongful death of a patient in the operating room.

All of these are examples of what is termed "medical malpractice".

While most of us are familiar with this concept in the healthcare industry, I feel there is an analogous phenomenon in the Church: improper conduct perpetrated by those who work in lifelong ministry.

Though it is a controversial subject, I would like to broach it in today's blog post.


Medical mis-steps have serious consequences. Wrong medications can cause dramatic side effects, even death. Unnecessary surgery could result in damage to healthy body parts.

Even a simple procedure like a routine checkup begins with a series of questions in order to identify the most drastic cases and appropriately address them.

So I ask, are there occasions in ministry when the wrong "prescription" is given? Yes.

Are unnecessary "surgeries" into our innermost selves and sinful pasts performed at times? Indeed.

Do we - the ministry - do a good job in identifying the most serious cases? We try our best.

Surely there must be ways to avoid ministerial mis-steps; that is my goal in writing this post. To accomplish this, let's discuss the particulars of what causes these errors of practice to occur.

The Causes of Malpractice

1. Fatigue - both physicians and ministers share the following trait: they routinely work long hours with very little work-life balance. And at the exhaustion point, it doesn't matter how much you want to do a good job - your mental readiness and physical acuity are not at their top level. Biology demands you rest, and the consequence of refusal is compromised work output. In other words, you'll mess up! I know there are constraints on a minister's time, but it is a revival issue to rest & re-charge for future sermons and pulpit work. If not, the physical toll can result in mistakes we did not want to make.

2. Incorrect diagnosis - I wonder how many medical mistakes are made, not because the surgeon did anything out-of-bounds, but because the diagnosing physician incorrectly identified the problem. Likewise, how many ministers struggle to help certain souls, not because ministerial "medicine" or process is broken, but because the root problem has not yet truly been identified. It may not even be *your* fault - if I rely on someone else's diagnosis, I'm vulnerable to their errors of judgment. Let The Holy Ghost lead you, man of God, in singling out the true issue and helping that saint to heal and recover.

3. Improper surgical tools - I don't use a bone saw on a pimple. A foot-fungus cream is not enough for cancer treatment. And wrong ministerial tools won't help the soul-in-need. I can correctly identify the problem, be fully prepared to address it, yet bring the wrong instruments in helping cure the patient. Be sure to use the right tools in helping each individual, which brings me to my next point:

4. Incomplete training - there is a reason doctors spend years in medical school and residency: experience helps avoid mistakes. Will a med student be ready to perform brain surgery? Will a novice minister be ready to tackle the most challenging circumstances? As the saying goes, 'experience is the best teacher'.

5. Failure to consult a specialist - not every doctor is as knowledgeable in the needed area of disease. Not every minister is as experienced or prepared in a specific issue of a particular soul. The Apostle Paul discussed 5 distinct giftings of ministry - Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors and Teachers. Complementary roles for the cornucopia of scenarios we encounter as Holy Ghost ministers. It's ok for God to use other voices to aid you. Again Paul said, "I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase." I don't have to be the sole difference-maker. Are there times when the most mature course of action is to ask for help? I wholeheartedly believe so.

6. Negligence - perhaps this is obvious, but quite a number of medical malpractice cases boil down to capable practitioners simply IGNORING the problem. This won't make it go away. The tumor must be removed. The wound has to be sutured. The broken limb must be reset and allowed to heal. Else? That body part may die. And for ministerial practice, that means a member of the body of Jesus may be lost, and we can't allow that. Every soul is important, and they must receive their necessary Spiritual treatment.

Final thoughts

There are ways I can avoid the risk of messing up. If I guard my actions and truly work to help souls, if I take the time and understand the major pitfalls, there are some faults I won't be in danger of.

All of my actions must begin in seeking God and in prayer for guidance and wisdom from above. Ultimately it is the Divine Physician who heals and restores, but I am thankful to be a part of His work.

May all of us who minister strive to practice this high calling with love and patience, and may our work in the body be directed and strengthened by our Lord. God bless each of you who answer Heaven's call to preach and work in The Kingdom!


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