(This is Chapter 13 from the book "Executive Influence, Impacting Your Workplace for Christ" published in 2002 by NavPress.  It is a book designed to tell how successful executives bring Christ into the work place.)

Executive Influence, Impacting Your Workplace for Christ

By Christopher A. Crane and Mike Hamel

Table of Contents with all the contributing author's is after chapter 13 (below)

  Chapter Thirteen

Doctor’s Advice, by David Parsons, MD

 Some professionals in society wield great authority even though they don’t preside over large bureaucracies or multimillion-dollar budgets. These include doctors, lawyers, pilots and other highly-skilled people who routinely assume the responsibility for the well being of others. While some are drawn to these occupations by the money or prestige, others go through the rigorous training and take on the enormous stress that comes with life-and-death decisions because they want to help their fellow human beings. They want their lives to make a difference.

Christians in these vocations have a unique opportunity and a solemn responsibility to share the Good News when appropriate; so says Dr. David Parsons, a world-renowned Pediatric Otolaryngology surgeon. “I believe Christians who are executives, entrepreneurs, or professionals like myself have been extraordinarily blessed. Scripture teaches that from whom much is given, much will be expected.

Parsons has never been one to shrink from responsibility. After being drafted in 1966 he joined the Air Force and became a fighter pilot, winning the Top Gun award in three different fighter aircraft including the F-105 Thunderchief, at that time the fastest low altitude fighter in the world. He flew more than 450 combat sorties during the Vietnam War.

“Tom Wolfe wrote a book about fighter pilots called The Right Stuff,” Parsons recalls with a smile. “He talks about the enormous ego of the fighter pilot and says there is no other profession with egos to rival theirs except one—the surgeon’s. The same week I won the Top Gun award in the Thunderchief, I was accepted into medical school. I went on to graduate from the University of Texas and completed both a pediatric residency in San Antonio and an Otolaryngology/Head and Neck Surgery residency at the University of Colorado.”

After twenty-six years of military service, Colonel Parsons retired from the Air Force in 1993. He is now in private practice in Greenville, where he’s also a Clinical Professor at the University of South Carolina. He has earned the respect of his peers and his patients, and has been named among the top 1000 doctors in America. But what excites David these days is the ministry he has to those who come to see him every day.

Give people what they truly need when they come to you for help.

 “I am blessed by having people with needs sit in my office and wait for me to say something important,” says the good doctor. “It’s the perfect context to explore not only the physical, but the spiritual dimension of life. I don’t try to witness to every person, but there are people who clearly have a need that transcends the physical. If I ignore the spiritual, I cannot cure that patient. For them I take the time to ask, ‘are you in a very stressful situation right now? If so, what are you leaning on to help you through this period?’ After they answer, I say, ‘can I tell you how I would deal with something similar?’ Then I might share a one-minute version of my testimony, emphasizing that when I was in a stressful situation I learned to lean on God through faith.”

Is it proper for a physician, or other professionals, to take advantage of someone else’s pain as an opening to share the gospel? Certainly it would be unethical to exploit or manipulate a patient or client for personal gain. But it would also be unloving to leave out what could be part of the solution to their difficulties. Parsons insists that doctors should not ignore the spiritual side of life. “Say you have bad sinuses and come to me with a physical complaint. How could there be a spiritual part to your sinuses? Well, I know that one of the major causes of sinusitis is the reflux of stomach acid. And the reflux of stomach acid is caused by emotional stress. If I ignore the emotional stresses causing you to reflux actively and I only treat the physical, then the reflux is not going to be well managed, which means the sinuses cannot be well managed, and then I can’t make you well. So I have to transcend the physical and get into the spiritual if I’m going to be an effective doctor.”

Parsons is far from alone in this conviction. Researchers Richard Cimino and Don Lattin have discovered that,

 "Doctors are sold on the physical benefits of faith. A 1996 survey of members of the American Academy of Family Physicians reports that a remarkable 99 percent think religious faith helps patients respond to treatment. The study, conducted by Yankelovich Partners, found that most of these doctors thought spiritual techniques should be part of formal medical training, and 55 percent report they use these techniques as part of their current practice. In fact, the spirituality-health connection is finding a place in medical education. The National Institute for HealthCare Research reports in 1997 that nearly one-third of American medical schools offered courses on spirituality and healing." 1

 What about the people who are not interested in spiritual advice but just want what they came for, healing or legal counsel for instance? These services should be rendered as effectively as possible, and without reference to the patient’s or client’s religious sentiments. Christian professionals need to do what they are being paid for, “as unto the Lord.” But even when a No Trespassing sign is posted, the sensitive believer can still plant seeds. Dr. Parsons does this by talking about how he has learned to handle his own stress through dependence on God.

 Tell the story of Jesus by telling your own story.

 People who have been Christians for a long time often forget the life-changing impact of their own conversion and so lose the passion to introduce others to Christ. But Dr. Parsons can still remember what it felt like to be on top of the world outwardly and yet desperately lost. His longsuffering family put up with his drive, which kept David going nonstop—and with his temper. David’s wife was a Christian, but when she shared her faith with her husband, he wasn't interested. “In my situation everything looked good on the surface. But inside, things were in shambles. Barbara kept praying for me and a friend talked me into joining a small fellowship of men. Through their patient words and witness, I opened my heart to Jesus Christ. Slowly peace, contentment and joy began to fill me. And since then, my story only gets better. My life now centers on a daily walk with Christ that affects virtually every decision I make. And one of the most important decisions is to share my faith whenever I have the opportunity.

“From the beginning of my conversation with someone,” Parsons continues, “I want to know about the five ‘Ws’, who, what, where, why, and when. What is your family like? Where are you from? Tell me about your home, your parents. When it’s appropriate, I ask about spiritual things in a non-threatening manner: Did you go to church as a child? Did you grow up in a Christian home? Do you pray? As I get to know a person, I begin to sense where they are at spiritually and what their needs are. I look for a point of contact with my own experience as an open door to share my testimony. It takes a conscious obedience to the Holy Spirit to direct the conversation to spiritual issues and to find an opportunity to share. If you just wait for it to flow freely on its own, it may never happen.”

David encourages every Christian to have several versions of his or her personal testimony ready to share at a moment’s notice. He himself has a thirty-five-minute talk, a five-minute version, and a one-minute version. Each explains how everything was perfect for him, how it crashed, what led to the crash, what kind of lessons he’s learned, and continues to learn, through it all. At the urging of a spiritual mentor, David prepared a tape of his testimony and has been able to distribute almost a thousand copies through the years. He carries tapes with him and regularly finds occasions to give them to those he meets.

David finds another opportune moment to share the reality of his faith and love is on the way to the operating room. “I try to have physical contact with the patient, whether that’s holding their hand or even their foot, being especially careful if the patient is a woman. I say, ‘Can I tell you what I did this morning? I prayed for you.’ I don’t say ‘I am going to pray for you,’ I make it past tense. I say, ‘I have prayed for you.’ I also tell them I will be praying while I’m operating. Then, one of three things happens. They either give me positive feedback, which leads me to say, ‘Would you like to pray together before we go into the operating room?’ Or I get a cold, flat response, to which I make no further comment. The third option is somewhere in between and I ask the Lord for wisdom as to what to do.”

Rather than resent the mention of God on the way to the operating room, Dr. Parsons says, “I have never ever received a negative response about my approach. Rather, I get a tremendous number of letters from patients—even from those who gave no favorable response at the time—saying they really appreciated the prayer.” After musing a moment, David adds, “I did have a Jehovah’s Witness tell my nurse that she knew I prayed for my patients, and she didn’t want me to pray for her. That is the most negativity I’ve ever received. On the other hand, I have learned from the questionnaire that patients fill out when they come to my office that a reasonable number of them are here because they heard I pray with my patients.”

 Learn from your mistakes, and expect God to use you in spite of them.

 There have also been areas where David has not been so successful. At one time he thought it would be a great idea to do a Bible study in his office. When he announced to the staff that every Monday morning they would start the day with a Bible study for anyone who was interested, the decision produced anger and resentment. Some couldn’t come because of children; others felt left out. “In retrospect,” he admits, “I should have asked the staff individually if they were interested in a study instead of just making a pronouncement.”

Dr. Parsons has also been frustrated when trying to witness to his peers. “I don’t know why it is. I am very effective outside the medical community or with people such as patients and nurses and technicians. But doctors are so busy; they have very little non-medical time to go beyond surface conversation. However, there are exceptions. I once had a competing surgeon ask me if I would help him with his terrible sinus problems. What a humbling thing it was for this doctor to come to me. And as he was pinned to my examining chair with a telescope up his nose, I began asking him questions and getting to know him as a person instead of a competitor. I said to him, ‘Isn’t it amazing that as men we can talk about business and sports, but we never get to the harder things. Women can sit down and share everything with each other, including what’s deep in their hearts. Men never do that. I’ll tell you why. It’s because we’re afraid we will say something that will cause the other person to not respect us.’

“I went on about how we men never get together and discuss the important issues of life. Then I told him about the group of men I met with on Thursday mornings. I invited him to join us. Not only did he come, but he became a Christian as a result. He still meets with the group today. He is growing by leaps and bounds in his faith, and we have gone on five missions trips together.”

These missions trips take Dr. Parsons all over the globe, including back to Vietnam and Cambodia where he now helps the people he once tried to destroy. Personally and professionally, David is a new man with a new mission. He is following the practice of the Great Physician who cared for both body and soul. Jesus never imposed on those who came to Him for help, yet He never hesitated to address the spiritual issues behind surface problems.

Physicians are an extreme example, but most professionals have a certain amount of credibility because of their expertise. Most want to provide quality service and genuine help to those who seek them out. And what could be more helpful in the long run than helping someone find eternal life?


1. Richard Cimino & Don Lattin, Shopping for Faith: American Religion in the New Millennium, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1998, p. 46. (105)

 Meet the Contributors

 Chapter Thirteen                      Doctor’s Advice

David Parsons was a fighter pilot and winner of the Top Gun award in three fighter aircraft. He flew more than 450 combat sorties during the Vietnam War. While in the Air Force he also decided to become a surgeon. He went on to graduate with honors from the University of Texas and completed both a pediatric residency in San Antonio and Otolaryngology/Head and Neck Surgery residency at the University of Colorado.

Colonel Parsons retired from the Air Force in 1993. In 1998 he entered private practice in Greenville, where he’s also a Clinical Professor at the University of South Carolina. He has designed more than forty surgical instruments and published over 125 medical articles. He has also been named among the top 1000 doctors in America. David is active as in medical missionary work in the Third World. He and his wife, Barbara have three children and four grandchildren.

 Chapter One               Service Call

Insights from Bill Pollard, Chairman and former CEO of The ServiceMaster Company.

Chapter Two               Built to Last

Insights from David Weekley, Founder of the second largest privately owned homebuilding company in America.

 Chapter Three  The Business of True Religion

Insights from Paul and Terry Klaassen, Founders of Sunrise Assisted Living.

 Chapter Four              24 x 7

Insights from Ken Eldred, Co-founder of Inmac and Ariba Technologies, Inc.

Chapter Five              Personal Best

Insights from Dale Gifford, Chief Executive of Hewitt Associates.

 Chapter Six                Owner’s Privilege

Insights from Ray Berryman, Founder and CEO of Berryman & Henigar Enterprises.

Chapter Seven 

Insights from Donna Auguste, founder of Freshwater Software

Chapter Eight            Right and Responsibilities

Insights from John Beckett, CEO of R. W. Beckett Corp.

Chapter Nine              Business as Stewardship

Insights from Dennis Bakke, Co-founder, President and CEO of the AES Corporation.

 Chapter Ten               High (tech) Calling

Insights from Greg Newman, Co-Founder of C2B Technologies.

Chapter Eleven Family Litehouse

Insights from Doug and Edward Hawkins Jr., Owners of Litehouse Foods.

Chapter Twelve            Living on Target

Insights from Albert Black, Founder and CEO of On Target.

Chapter Thirteen            Doctor’s Advice

Insights from David Parsons, former Air Force Top Gun and world-renowned surgeon.

 Chapter Fourteen        

Insights from Paula Mann, CEO of Sun Telecom.

Chapter Fifteen            Crisis Management

Insights from Merrill Oster, Founder and CEO of Oster Communications