by Adventist Today News Team
Update added at the end on June 9
Pastor Ted Wilson, president of the Seventh-day Adventist denomination, will be the speaker for the Revelation of Hope evangelism campaign Friday (June 7) at 7:30 p.m. in the Greenwich Village neighborhood on Manhattan. Wilson began his ministry in New York City in the 1970s based in the Evangelism Center which the denomination then owned near Times Square and earned a PhD at New York University. That building has since been sold to the Church of Scientology.
A full-page ad in the Daily News this week described the event as "a no-nonsense, straightforward series of biblical presentations for New Yorkers searching for answers to life’s toughest questions." The ad promised that the campaign "deals with the hard questions and provides honest answers." Examples of hard questions included in the ad: "Why do so many innocent people suffer? If God is so good, why is the world so bad? What does the future hold? What’s the news behind the news? How will the Middle East Conflict end?"
The newspaper ad and an associated web site also mentioned, "Are we on the verge of Armageddon?" It continued an apocalyptic theme with, "Are we headed for World War III? … Are we headed for a major financial collapse?" And it touched on more visceral concerns of many local residents; "What’s really behind New York’s crime and violence? Why are our streets so unsafe?"
"Discover answers which will satisfy your mind, warm your heart, and inspire hope for today, tomorrow and forever," the web site promises. It lists sessions for Saturday night and Sunday night, as well as Tuesday evening (June 11), Wednesday evening (June 12) and the following Friday and Saturday nights (June 14 and 15). It does not say that the series will continue on a similar schedule for another two weeks.
The ad mentions that Wilson "grew up in the Middle East" and that he "grasps the ancient prophecies written in that ancient land centuries ago which speak hope to our day." It states that he has "lived on three continents, but is a New Yorker at heart" and "understands the complexities of life New Yorkers face," as well as having "a genuine concern for people in urban environments and presents hopeful answers from the Bible which meet 21st Century human needs."
The advertizing includes radio and television spots and large posters in the subway, according to a news released from the denomination's North American Division (NAD). "Please pray that thousands will respond," an NAD newsletter asked.
Wilson will speak in the Manhattan Adventist Church located at 232 West 11th Street just off Seventh Avenue. The building is an historic facility constructed with funds from John D. Rockefeller for the North Baptist Church in 1881-82. By 1947 the Baptist congregation had dwindled to about 100 members and sold the building to an Adventist group.
This campaign is one of more than 400 such campaigns being conducted by Adventists in the tri-state New York City metropolitan area this year, 160 in June alone. Some 250 to 300 different speakers will be involved, but Wilson's participation demonstrates that he is serious about the strategic emphasis he has brought to the denomination since he was elected president in 2010, "Mission to the Cities." The New York 2013 project also involves 2,000 volunteers trained as Bible workers and 1,500 volunteers helping staff health promotion activities. More than 6,000 teens and young adults have volunteered in compassion projects in the city also.
Wilson describes his first efforts in New York City in the spring of 1971 in an article in the June issue of Adventist World, the official magazine of the denomination's General Conference. He writes about a group of young adults cleaning out the basement of this same facility in Greenwich Village, "well known for its artists and actors, brownstone buildings [and] as a rallying place for the anti-war movement and hippie scene." The group created an Adventist coffeehouse "to reach out to the people of this very diverse community," a place "where people could hang out, listen to music, sing, talk about Christ, and enjoy snacks." The coffeehouse ministry was named The Catacombs.
There are a total of 361 Adventist churches in the New York metro area, including the suburbs in northern New Jersey, southern Connecticut and Long Island. There are nearly 90,000 Adventist adherents, but almost all of them are immigrants participating in immigrant churches. Only a handful of these local churches focus on the 75 percent of the population who are native-born Americans.
Another complication for evangelism in New York City is the reality that only four percent of the population has a background in evangelical or conservative Protestant groups that use the same version of the Bible and the same hymns as do Adventists. The vast majority of New Yorkers have a religious experience that is quite different from that of the Adventist denomination; 44 percent are not affiliated with any organized religion, 37 percent are Catholics and eight percent are adherents of non-Christian faiths, according to data from the United States Religion Census.
Wilson's sermons will be streamed live via Hope Church Channel at www.HopeTV.org, through the Hope Channel App and GloryStar Channel 124.
Update Added June 9
"The drenching rains of Tropical Storm Andrea, which deposited two inches of water on the streets of New York … failed to dampen the enthusiasm of people who attended," wrote Mark Kellner, news editor of the Adventist Review, in a release Sabbath from the Adventist News Network (ANN), the official news service of the denomination. He reported that "more than 500 people gathered," but gave no indication of how many of these were church members. His story quoted two people, both evidently immigrants.
Tatiana Featherstone, a 20-year-old woman originally from Barbados, said she attended in part because her father is an Adventist and invited her. She said the meeting met her expectations: “It was all good.” David Tan, who called himself “a Singaporean retired and living in Thailand,” said Wilson’s message was a “good and clear” introduction to the Book of Revelation.