Some years ago I accepted a call to do evangelistic work among the two million Jews in New York City. At that time, scattered among the Adventist churches in New York, there were fifteen Jewish people who were baptized Seventh-day Adventists. They had no church building or even a Jewish congregation. And as for evangelism, there was no established evangelistic method of working for the Jews. We were literally in the position of pioneers.
For years we groped our way through a wilderness of misunderstanding. We were able to assemble an audience, but we could not hold them after we began to present the Messiah as Jesus, the Christ, the Son of God. Meetings were rudely interrupted; almost entire audiences would leave en masse. Although we followed the admonitions of the Spirit of Prophecy writings and spoke to them first upon points of doctrine on which we could agree, when we came to talk of the Messiah the meetings were disrupted. We almost came to the conclusion that evangelistic work was not possible among the Jews, that they could be won only through personal approach. But how could we reach two million people by personal approach? We prayed and wrestled with the problem; we read the Bible and studied the teachings of the Spirit of Prophecy. Finally, one method stood out like a light in our darkness—the health message, the right arm of the third angel's message! This would be our method of winning the Jews. The messenger of the Lord said:
I can see in the Lord's providence that the medical missionary work is to be a great entering wedge.'
Medical missionary work . . . will gain access to the hearts of the people.'
This work will break down prejudice.'
Medical missionary work brings to humanity the gospel of the release from suffering. It is the pioneer work of the gospel. It is the gospel practiced.'
Medical missionary work is the right hand of the gospel.'
From that moment the health message became the right hand of our work.
Besides the arduous task of outlining and preparing a season of health lectures gauged to our prospective listeners, there was the matter of assembling as the core of our audience Jewish people who would be particularly susceptible to this approach. We procured lists of names of people who attended other health lectures in New York City. To these names we added about 10,000 Jewish names we took from the telephone book. For every two Jewish names, we added one Gentile name. We believed that with sympathetic Gentiles present the Jews would be less likely to interrupt the meetings. This proved to be true. To all these people, as well as to the friends and Jewish neighbors of our members, we sent out an attractive brochure announcing a series of health lectures, along with a covering letter. The meetings were scheduled for Saturdays at 5:00 P.M. and Sundays at 3:00 P.M. Later, on Wednesday evenings we offered an all-motion-picture program, consisting of one film on travel, one on health, and one on Biblical subjects, using the films of Elder George Vandeman for It Is Written. As we had hoped, the presence and attitude of the Gentiles prevented the Jews from interrupting. Besides, we had partly won them with the approach through health. Our procedure is as follows:
Our lecture meetings are without gospel singing. An organ prelude lasting about thirty minutes precedes the introduction of the evangelist by one of the workers. The health lecture precedes the Bible lecture, before which the offering is taken, announcements are made, and literature or decision cards are passed out. At the beginning of the series the Bible lecture contains no controversial material. At one lecture we work in the health laws of Moses. At another, we discuss the mystery of the polar regions, weaving in the health principle. Then the original diet of man, as found in the Bible, may be the next subject, and thereafter evolution versus creation. A lecture on archeology demonstrates how "the stones cry out." From here we follow on with our regular Bible program, but the presentation of Christ is still postponed until we have further paved the way according to the admonitions of the Spirit of Prophecy:
Dwell on the necessity of practical godliness. Give them evidence that you are a Christian. . . Gain their confidence. . . . Let the heart be won, the soil prepared, and then sow the seed.6
By following this blueprint of the Spirit of Prophecy for the winning of souls, and the third angel's message for health education, we believe we have established a reliable method of working for the Jews. Now, when we first present the Messiah, the Gentiles applaud and there are some Amen's, and then some of the Jews join in. We have at present a congregation at the Times Square Center of about one hundred members, roughly two thirds of whom are Jews baptized as Seventh-day Adventists. This is not yet a very large number among the two million Jews in New York City, but it is an entering wedge. It represents a giant step forward from the day when a Jew stood up in one of our meetings and with a wide sweep of his arm, called out: "Come on, Jews, let's get out of here! These people are missionaries!"
The procedure of the Times Square Center for presenting the Bible to the Jews has been fully outlined and enlarged upon in a three-volume work entitled Israel's Heritage. The first volume prepares the way for the presentation of the Messiah. It contains a discussion of the subjects in the Old Testament that will not antagonize the Jews. The subjects are presented from the point of view of the Adventist message. The second volume contains, subject by subject, the convincing testimony in the Bible that establishes Jesus as the Jewish Messiah, the Son of God—His coming into the world, His sufferings, His teachings, His healings, His crucifixion, and His death on the cross of Calvary. The third volume presents our advanced doctrine, to prepare the Jewish people for the complete truth, for -decision and baptism.
Faith for Today conducts a Jewish Bible course based on the material in these books. The forty lessons correspond to the forty chapters that make up the three volumes of Israel's Message. The books may be obtained at the cost of publication—$4.40 for the three—by writing to Elder Jay M. Hoffman, Times Square Center, 410 West 45th Street, New York 36, N.Y.
The making of filmstrips for work among the Jews is being planned. These strips would eventually represent each of the 40 lessons corresponding to the 40 chapters in Israel's Heritage. The plan includes putting on tape the messages pertinent to the respective filmstrips. This work will be in progress in 1965. It would be useful if any workers who would like to use these films and tapes would indicate their interest in advance, by writing to Elder Hoffman. Any who wish to enroll in the Bible course may apply to Faith for Today.
1 Counsels on Health, p. 535.
2 An Appeal for the Medical Missionary College, p. 14.
3Testimonies, vol. 9, p. 211.
4 Medical Ministry, p. 239.
5 Testimonies, vol. 7, p. 59.
6 Gospel Workers, p. 120.