In Honour Of David Wilkerson

David Wilkerson (May 19, 1931 – April 27, 2011) was an American Christian evangelist, best known for his book ‘The Cross and the Switchblade’. He was the founder of the addiction recovery program Teen Challenge, and founding pastor of the non-denominational Times Square Church in New York.

Wilkerson’s widely distributed sermons, such as “A Call to Anguish,” are known for being direct and frank. He emphasized such Christian beliefs as God’s holiness and righteousness, God’s love toward humans and especially Christian views of Jesus. Wilkerson tried to avoid categorizing Christians into distinct groups according to the denomination to which they belong.

David was killed in a car crash in Texas on April 27, 2011.

Wilkerson served as a pastor in small churches in Scottdale and Philipsburg, Pennsylvania, until he saw a photograph in Life Magazine in 1958 of seven New York City teenagers charged with murder. He later wrote that as he felt the Holy Spirit move him with compassion, he was drawn to go to New York in February 1958. It was then that he began a street ministry to young drug addicts and gang members, which he continued into the 1960s. Later in 1958, he founded Teen Challenge,an evangelical Christian addiction recovery program affiliated with the Assemblies of God, with a network of Christian social and evangelizing work centers.

Wilkerson gained national recognition after he co-authored the book The Cross and the Switchblade in 1963 with John and Elizabeth Sherrill about his street ministry. The book became a best-seller, with over 50 million copies in over thirty languages, and is included in Christianity Today’s “Top 50 Books That Have Shaped Evangelicals”. In the book, Wilkerson tells of the conversion of gang member Nicky Cruz, who later became an evangelist himself and wrote the autobiographical Run Baby Run. In 1970, The Cross and the Switchblade was turned into a Hollywood movie starring Pat Boone as Wilkerson and Erik Estrada as Cruz.

In 1967, Wilkerson began Youth Crusades, an evangelistic ministry aimed at teenagers whom Wilkerson called “goodniks”—middle-class youth who were restless and bored. His goal was to prevent them from becoming heavily involved with drugs, alcohol, or violence. Through this ministry, the CURE Corps (Collegiate Urban Renewal Effort) was founded. It was intended to be something of a Christian version of the Peace Corps and Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA).

In 1971, Wilkerson moved his ministry headquarters to Lindale, Texas, where he founded World Challenge, an organization whose mission is to promote and spread the Gospel throughout the world.

Wilkerson believed that In 1986, while walking down 42nd Street in New York City at midnight, the Holy Spirit called him to return to New York City and to raise up a ministry in Times Square. He founded and became the pastor of Times Square Church,which opened its doors in October 1987. The church first occupied rented auditoriums in Times Square (Town Hall and the Nederlander Theater), later moving to the historic Mark Hellinger Theatre, which the ministry purchased in 1989 and in which it has operated ever since.

From the 1990s, Wilkerson focused his efforts to encourage pastors and their families throughout the world to “renew their passion for Christ”. In his own words:

“I’ve been an evangelist for 50 years, but I didn’t want to preach to pastors until I had gray hair, until I’d pastored. Now after 15 years of pastoring, sharing the hurts, pains, and difficulties of the ministry as a pastor, I felt the Lord finally release me, that I might have something to say.”

Wilkerson and his wife Gwen moved to New York City at the inception of Times Square Church in 1987, and in 2006 began splitting their time between New York and Texas. They have four children and eleven grandchildren.

Wilkerson claimed to have received a vision in 1973 regarding the future of the United States, subsequently published in a book called The Vision. Some of the subject areas of this reputed prophecy were: “Worldwide recession caused by economic confusion”; “Nature having labor pains”; “A flood of filth and a baptism of dirt in America”; “Rebellion in the home”; and “A persecution madness against truly Spirit filled Christians who love Jesus Christ”.

On April 27, 2011, while driving east on US Route 175 in Texas, Wilkerson crossed into the westbound lane and collided head-on with a tractor trailer. He was reportedly not wearing his seat belt, and was pronounced dead on the scene. His wife was wearing a seat belt, and was injured.

Rev. Wilkerson’s last blog post stated the following: “To those going through the valley and shadow of death, hear this word: Weeping will last through some dark, awful nights,” he wrote, “and in that darkness you will soon hear the Father whisper, `I am with you. I cannot tell you why right now, but one day it will all make sense. You will see it was all part of my plan. It was no accident.”‘

Source:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Wilkerson

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