“To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice” (John 18:37).
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Many Bible Students are familiar with the “For This Cause” DVD, which weaves a Truth message into the story of Jesus’ life. But some may not be aware of how this video got its start as a groundbreaking multi-media public witness project that continues to inspire forty years later.
In the late 1970’s, Bro. George Tabac, an elder with the Chicago Bible Students for some fifty years, had read about a new technology called “Multi-Media” productions. He thought how excellent it would be to present the beautiful message of Truth using this new approach. He and his wife, Sr. Florence, attended demonstrations of the equipment as well as several expositions that featured all types of equipment.
Around this same time, they had the opportunity to visit Israel, taking many “on location” photographs. The idea of combining many beautiful pictures of the actual places where Jesus walked with the story of his life, using this new technology, gave birth to a unique, modern witness effort.
The new equipment was purchased and set up in the Tabac home, like it would be set up in an actual presentation. There was a learning curve with this new medium!
Once the script was finished, narration was recorded and all the visuals for three screens were “story boarded” to coincide with the narration. This was before the advent of personal computers or the internet.
Many brethren participated in selecting the visuals, either using the photos taken in Israel, pictures from the book Jesus of Nazareth, or searching through other books.
All visuals had to be mounted in glass slides before being put into carousel trays. As the narration proceeded and visuals were selected, the programming of the presentation began.
The narration was recorded on a 4-track 10-inch reel-to-reel recorder. The audio-visual programmer placed synchronizing tones on one audio track of the tape recorder. When the tape was played back, the programmer recognized each tone and advanced the selected projector with a dissolve. As this proceeded, the selection of music was being made and recorded on two of the four recorder tracks.
The production took about a year to complete. Once finished, it was time to advertise for the first showing! 66,000 tracts and 1,500 posters were prepared and distributed. Five newspaper ads and six radio announcements were placed, along with 450 letters sent to local ministers.
The first presentation was on Palm Sunday, March 19, 1978, at the Carl Sandburg Jr. High School in Elmhurst, Illinois. The auditorium held 800, and two showings were scheduled. The total attendance for both showings was 1,200! There were so many cars wanting to exit the nearby expressway it created a traffic jam and brethren were needed to help direct traffic. It was a joyous occasion. The brethren in Chicago had never experienced a response like this before. Soon, requests started coming in from other ecclesias to have showings of “For This Cause” in their city.
Taking it On the Road
Scheduling dates and transportation arrangements needed to be made for showings in other locations around the country. Every host class ordered tracts and posters. Bible Student Publications was kept busy doing the printing, cutting, folding, and shipping, making sure the brethren received these well in advance, in order to distribute them in time.
A large van was secured to transport 17 cases of equipment. Brethren volunteered to drive the van and set up the production wherever it was needed. Crews of brethren (often husband
and wife teams) traveled nearly every week for the first three years. On many occasions one crew would drive to various cities. Another crew would then fly to the last location and the first crew would fly home. The second crew would then continue driving to other locations.
One sister, who was part of a two-sister crew setting up in Ft. Collins, Colorado; Albuquerque, New Mexico; Phoenix, Arizona; and San Diego, California, today recalls:
“It was a privilege to serve and to be part of such an awesome and elaborate effort. I was awestruck by the dedication and seriousness of this consecrated lot of people, so different than
anything I had ever seen. The time, talent, and resources that were put out at their own expense — never asking for a dime.1 How could you not trust in God’s hand moving this ‘cloud?’ So
there we went. ‘Here am I, Lord. Send me.’”
(1) All equipment purchases and travel expenses were
Taking it Across the Ocean
For international use, the production was modified to a one screen/three projector format. The script was shortened, translated, and re-recorded into various languages. In 1982 it
was shown at the first International Convention held in Kufstein, Austria, and used as a public witness in the German language.
Duplicate sets of equipment and slides allowed it to also be presented in France. Soon, Polish and Romanian versions were added. Between 1982-1986 it was used in conjunction with the Polish choir and shown in 44 cities in Poland, with many public in attendance.
Video and Finally Internet Access
With computer aids, “For This Cause” was later made into a video. This allowed the use of video clips and various transitions. The DVD has been translated into French, Polish, Ukrainian, Russian, Romanian, Spanish, and Tamil.
It has proven to be a blessing, not only for brethren using it for personal witness, but also for public witness work. Technology has progressed, and DVDs are now easily reproduced. The presentation is readily available online for the entire world to see and be inspired by the story of Jesus as the ransom for all. We do not know how many lives have been touched by the
effort of the brethren who had a hand in turning this idea into a successful reality.
We do not know how many individuals have been blessed by seeing “For This Cause” in any of its three formats. However, one brother who credits his coming into the truth to “For This Cause” is Brother Joe Shell, now an elder with the Chicago Bible Students ecclesia. He is the other half of the “Witness Pair” chosen for this article.
Brother Joe’s Story
When I was a child, I had a sense of God that was different than what I was getting from the world. I wondered about it, but was not inquisitive and did not ask many questions.
I have an early memory of a television commercial in the 1960’s produced by the Mormon Church. The line that stuck with me was, “Truly God’s work on earth must be our own.” This statement lodged in my mind. There is a work being done. It is our own, because we were called to do it. It is on earth. These happen to be all the essential elements of what I now believe, coming from an unlikely source. That was my earliest stepping stone to an understanding that if God had a plan, whatever
it was, it would somehow involve His creation. Further, why could not some of His creation come into a relationship with Him right now? I now see that God can use people or experiences for being an arrow to point you where He
My mother died when I was 12 years old, and my father died when I was 21. As a young man, I remember wanting to reach out for God but did not know how. I married shortly after my father died and joined the military. I was in California for military training, but a family matter required my attention back in Chicago. I went to the Air Force chaplain to ask if he
could write a letter recommending I go back to my home base to continue training. I did not go to the chaplain for religious advice; I went for practical purposes.
Something profound happened during the meeting. The chaplain came right out and asked, “Do you believe
in Jesus Christ?” No one had ever asked me that before, and I was surprisingly emotional. I said, “Yes.” That was a pivotal moment where I admitted out loud that I had faith. Up until this point, I was a “closet” Christian, not speaking of religious things to my family, friends, or schoolmates. I believe the longings and yearnings I had all my life were a “pre-conditioning,” and the chaplain was a tool in the Lord’s hands to prod me along.
Back in Chicago, my religious yearnings did not end. I found opportunities to search them out a little more, but I never had a desire to just walk into a church without knowing anyone, nor did I have friends or family who would be willing to do that with me. What I did know about commonplace Christianity held
no appeal for me. I instinctively knew there was something more.
I took a college class in writing and wrote a paper about “Moral Relativism,” the study of how morals change based on cultures and circumstances. Researching and pondering on the subject forced me to come to conclusions about how we have a sense of moral obligation to each other and to God. I proved to myself
that morality does matter! This was another significant stepping stone, as writing that paper taught me the importance of taking the time and effort to reason and to find truth on a matter. We should prove things to ourselves and then act upon those discoveries. This helped me to realize we must own that research and not just blindly accept other peoples’ thoughts,
writings, and expressions. Truth must be made our own. One can see how later being a Bible Student would fit right into this concept I now forever hold as important.
In the middle 1980’s, I learned of a showing of “For This Cause” being held at Triton Community College in River Forest, IL. For years I had rejected traditional doctrinal viewpoints regarding hell and the trinity because it did not fit with who I believed God was.
I did not have an epiphany moment watching the presentation, but my reaction was that this was a reasonable presentation of the truth, leaving me with a desire to learn more. It had elements of being sentimental but not overdone. It seemed
genuine. It showed enough of the plan and I grasped that there was a personal element to God’s plan, harkening back to that commercial from the 1960’s.
There was not any aspect of the showing that stood out regarding who Jesus was, what he did, or even the kingdom. Rather, it all fit harmoniously and was reasonable to my conscience regarding who God was and His plan for mankind.
There was nothing I heard where my mind said, “I reject that.” There was nothing to reject! It was understandable and left me with a desire to find out more. I had to pursue this!
In contrast, I never had any desire to seek out and meet with any religious body. Period. I had no desire to go to some denominational church, because I felt they would tell me something that would make me squirm. There was
no squirming in the message of “For This Cause!” I remember having a sense of, “I’m ready now. I’m ready to go look and see how reasonable this is.” I was 30 years old.
WITNESS LESSON: The Truth is reasonable and logical. Let its harmony appeal to listening ears. Accepting an invitation to come to the Sunday meeting was a huge step for me. I sat down
at the meeting and soon realized I did not have a Bible like everyone else. Sr. Roberta Tabac noticed this and loaned me a Bible. I had a need and she reached out. This made an impression on me. In 1993 I was immersed at the Chicago Memorial Day convention. God deals with us on an individual level as we try to emulate Jesus. This means different things to each of us, because we each have different experiences. No matter where this road takes me, I want to come to the conclusions that would be pleasing to our Heavenly Father.
I like to think the activity of spreading the truth will continue. When we receive our new bodies and the world comes to terms with the New Covenant, they will see what was done on their behalf, including those who sacrificed for them. We can use this as motivation. The things we do are not done strictly for our brethren, even though that is a big part of the sanctification
process. But unless there is a greater appreciation for the benefit that will come to the world, there is a missing element. God desires we work in the vineyard, knowing our efforts will benefit mankind in the kingdom.
WITNESS LESSON: Do not merely depend on group witness efforts. Make it a personal goal to speak directly to people and share the wonderful message of Truth. The most productive efforts often come when someone shows a caring heart for the listener.