Crossing Into Eternity

A minister known worldwide for writing the best selling book “The Cross and the Switchblade” and starting up Teen Challenge has gone home to be with the Lord. David Wilkerson was killed last Wednesday when the car he was driving on a Texas highway swerved into oncoming traffic and collided head-on with a tractor-trailer. David was 79 years old.

Back in 1958 while pastoring a small church in Pennsylvania, the Lord compelled David Wilkerson to go to New York City. He later wrote “The Cross and the Switchblade” about his early years in the Big Apple ministering to drug addicts and gang members. Over 15 million copies of that book have been published in numerous languages. David’s story was made into a movie starring Pat Boone as David and Erik Estrada as Nicky Cruz, a gang leader who later became an evangelist.

David also founded Times Square Church in an area of Manhattan that had been infested with X-rated movie houses, strip clubs, prostitution and drugs. The church now has more than 8,000 members and many outreach ministries.

I first heard about David Wilkerson in the late 1990’s. While working at World Wide Pictures (Billy Graham’s film ministry), I occasionally received inquiries for “The Cross and the Switchblade” from pastors who thought the movie was one of our productions. Around this time I made visits to the Brownsville Revival in Pensacola, Florida. Evangelist Steve Hill and his wife Jeri were both discipled through Teen Challenge, a biblically based drug recovery program that David founded. Since then I’ve met other individuals whose lives were transformed through Teen Challenge.

In 2000, a fellow street evangelist gave me one of David Wilkerson’s monthly newsletters. If I recall correctly, the teaching article was about forgiveness. At the time, I was struggling with forgiving a close friend who had betrayed me.

A year later during a road trip through upstate New York, I made a pit stop at a convenience store that happened to be giving away copies of “The Cross and the Switchblade.” One thing I distinctly remember reading in the book was that some of those going through Teen Challenge weren’t totally delivered from drug addiction until they received the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

Three years later I watched “The Cross and the Switchblade” movie for the first time (and have since seen it many times). That same year I visited Times Square Church but never got to see David Wilkerson minister there. I later heard David preach via the Internet.

David often wrote and spoke frank prophetic words. I didn’t agree with everything he preached. But there was no questioning David’s compassion for the lost and the impact his ministry had on people. Many saints in heaven are thanking David for his obedience to the Lord.

It’s unfortunate how David Wilkerson died. Had he worn his seat belt like his wife Gwen (who was seriously injured in the accident but is expected to recover), David might still be with us today. Nonetheless, he is with the Lord now. A private funeral will be held tomorrow in Texas. A public memorial service at Times Square Church will be broadcast online on May 14th.

Let’s keep the Wilkerson family in our prayers during this time of transition.

“Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” - Romans 12:15

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