February 25, 2016

It Is Written Celebrates 60 Years After an Initial Failure

, It Is Written

When the Seventh-day Adventist Church first asked George Vandeman to try to use television as a means of reaching people with the gospel, the project failed.

It was the late 1940s, and people were unsure how to use television for Christian programming. Not everyone was convinced that the new technology had a future.

Vandeman, associate secretary of the Adventist world church’s Ministerial Association, was keen to experiment with the budding technology when church president J.L. McElhany asked him to look into it in 1948.

But he was not able to get the financial support he needed, and the project stalled.

In retrospect, it is hard to imagine that the founder of the pioneering It Is Written television ministry ever had trouble raising funds. As It Is Written celebrates its 60th anniversary in March, its evangelistic series and weekly programming can be viewed by 97 percent of the world’s population on television and online.

“As we turn the corner into our 60th year, our plans are bigger than ever,” said John Bradshaw, who has served as speaker and director of It Is Written since 2011.

“Just weeks ago I met a stranger on a gravel path on the opposite side of the world who recognized me and said, ‘It Is Written has changed my life,’” he said. “With the Lord’s blessing, lives are being impacted using the most effective technology available.”

In 1954, six years after his first attempt at starting television evangelism and after several years of preaching in Europe, Vandeman was asked by another Adventist Church president, R.R. Figuhr, to return to the idea of Christian television programming. Vandeman started to work on a program that he called “It Is Written,” named after the phrase used by Jesus when He was tempted by the devil. Vandeman planned to air the program several weeks ahead of an evangelistic series.

The first television broadcast of It Is Written finally aired two years later, on March 25, 1956.

George Vandeman hosting an It Is Written program in a studio in New York around 1956. (It Is Written)

Sixty years later, It Is Written has sought to remain at the frontlines just as when it started. Last year, it started a Bible school, released a mobile app, began a humanitarian project in Mongolia, and made the new Revelation Today evangelistic series available live to anyone with an Internet connection or smartphone. At the same time, it produced new television programming and relocated its headquarters to the U.S. state of Tennessee from California.

“I wish that my father were alive today to see what It Is Written has become in 2016,” said Connie Vandeman Jeffery. “I wish he could meet John Bradshaw, and they could share stories of people who gave their hearts to Jesus because they tuned into a TV station or went to an evangelistic meeting, or found the program online.”

George Vandeman remained with It Is Written until he retired in 1991, handing the reins to evangelist Mark Finley. Vandeman died in 2000 at age 84.

It Is Written also is having an impact on the Spanish-speaking world, holding major evangelistic series every year in North America, Central and South America, and even Europe through its Spanish-language ministry, Escrito Está. The Spanish ministry turns 22 this year.

“What Pastor Vandeman dreamed of has come to pass not only in English but in Spanish as well,” said Robert Costa, speaker and director of Escrito Está.

In addition, work is under way to construct a new headquarters for It Is Written on recently purchased land in Tennessee.

“Studio recording combined with office, warehouse, and resource space all under one roof will allow It Is Written to grow into the It Is Written of tomorrow,” said Jesse Johnson, the organization’s general manager.

At the same time, It Is Written is remaining true to its roots. In 1958, two years after It Is Written first hit the airwaves, Vandeman held the first It Is Written evangelistic series in Washington D.C. and in Fresno, California, to follow up with contacts established by his television program. This was his vision for the television program from the beginning: a way to prepare people for a public evangelism series.

This year, It Is Written will follow the same pattern with evangelism series in Gweru, Zimbabwe; Boston, Massachusetts; and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Spanish-language series will be held in Tenerife, Spain; Tijuana, Mexico; throughout Central America; and elsewhere.

“How many more years do we have left to fulfill the gospel commission? It’s impossible to imagine we have another 60 years,” Bradshaw said. “I am hopeful we won’t celebrate too many more anniversaries. Jesus is soon to return, and the sooner the better.”