by David Gardner
Ellen G. White wrote, “When this gospel shall be presented in its fullness to the Jews, many will accept Christ as the Messiah.… God expects His messengers to take particular interest in the Jewish people” (The Acts of the Apostles, pp. 380-381).
David Gardner, director of Jewish Ministries for the Pacific Union Conference, has taken this “particular interest” very seriously. In September, he was appointed by the Union to serve in this position throughout its territory.
Currently there are 25 Jewish-Adventist congregations in North America and 56 worldwide. Gardner’s responsibilities include support of the two Jewish groups in our Union territory: a Russian-Jewish congregation in Glendale, California, and Beth B’nai Zion, a group of members of the Santa Barbara, California, church. He also offers the support of the Union in work with pastors and lay leaders to assess needs in major Jewish population centers and the feasibility of launching Jewish-Adventist groups through contextualized outreach, done in partnership with Adventist Global Mission.
In addition, Gardner assists in arranging special Jewish occasions at churches in the Union for educational purposes. Special guest speakers and programs are available through Shalom Adventure Magazine, Shalom Learning Center, and Christians Against Anti-Semitism—all Adventist organizations.
Gardner has worked for the church over 40 years and holds degrees in theology and education. He also holds a certificate in Jewish Ministries Leadership from Shalom Learning Center. This training equips him to appreciate Jewish history, culture, and religion to better work at building understanding and friendships that will lead to Jews accepting their Messiah.
Gardner also works to recruit students for Shalom Learning Center and a new masters’ degree program in Jewish studies at Andrews University. The vision for this degree arose as the Shalom Learning Center’s Alexander Bolotnikov saw an alarming increase in Adventists converting to Judaism in recent years.
“I decided I should learn what my heritage meant, because I was raised as a communist, not a Jew,” said Bolotnikov, a Jewish rabbi turned Adventist pastor with a doctorate in rabbinic literature. “So, I went to the yeshiva. When I became a believer in Jesus, the only Christian church I could join without compromising scripture was Seventh-day Adventism.”
“What I learned in the yeshiva has anchored me within Adventism,” he continued. “Thus, my dream developed of bringing together instructors and a curriculum that equips Adventists to interact effectively with both secular and religious Jews, while also addressing the attrition of our people to Messianic congregations and Jewish communities.”
The Jewish people are part of God’s family, waiting to be introduced to their Messiah. Jews and Adventists have many common beliefs, practices, and cultural traits that can open doors to friendships and acceptance of the gospel message.
Gardner described one such experience, a highlight of his years in ministry: “A Jewish physician requested Bible studies. When we came to the last study from the book of John, he asked, ‘I’ve accepted Jesus as my Messiah, but I’m a Jew. What am I?’ He beamed a smile of relief when told, ‘You ARE a Jew! A Jew who has found your Messiah.’”
Top of page: Dr. Alexander Bolotnikov, a Jewish rabbi turned Adventist pastor with a doctorate in rabbinic literature, reads from the Torah.
David Gardner, Director of Jewish Ministries for the Pacific Union Conference