Remembering David Wilkerson

by | May 31, 2011 | Charisma Archive, Uncategorized

How the unabashed New York evangelist changed countless lives—including mine

It was early evening on April 27 when a
phone call let me know the devastating news: David Wilkerson had been
killed in a car accident. Dr. George Wood, general superintendent of the
Assemblies of God, had just learned the news and felt I would want to
report it. Knowing how important this was, we had a story online within
40 minutes. Our website’s traffic was so great, the site temporarily
crashed, and the article had more forwards on Twitter and Facebook than
any in Charisma News history.

That’s because David Wilkerson was one of
the great Christian leaders of our generation, and his passing is a
loss to the global church. He was the model of integrity, and he
finished strong in a day when some televangelists are photographed in
foreign countries with women they aren’t married to and others are
exposed for secret gay activity while publicly opposing the gay agenda.
Wilkerson was the paragon of virtue, and his influence was tremendous.

We covered him many times in Charisma—twice on the cover. Wilkerson was best remembered for his book The Cross and the Switchblade
and for founding Teen Challenge, which now has centers around the world
that help men and women overcome life-altering addictions. In 1987,
Wilkerson founded Times Square Church, which has had a great impact in
New York City.

What hasn’t been highlighted as often
until now is how Wilkerson influenced others in ways he probably never
knew. For example, the young Roman Catholics at Duquesne University who
received the baptism in the Holy Spirit, which sparked the Catholic
charismatic renewal, had read The Cross and the Switchblade, as well as They Speak With Other Tongues by John Sherrill, who co-authored Wilkerson’s book with his wife, Elizabeth.

There is a chapter in The Cross and the Switchblade
in which Wilkerson tells a Catholic priest that the former drug addicts
who received the baptism in the Holy Spirit had more power to live for
God. In the book he described what the Bible says in Acts about the Holy
Spirit. My longtime friend Bert Ghezzi told me that those books
certainly made the students (which included him) more open to the Spirit
in those fateful days in early 1967. 

It seems nearly every Christian leader
from that era has a David Wilkerson story. Dr. Wood remembers that at
the time Wilkerson’s dad was pastor of the Assemblies of God church in
Turtle Creek, Pa., his own father pastored 30 members at the Assemblies
church in nearby Pitcairn, Pa. A young, enthusiastic David Wilkerson
wanted to preach in Pitcairn, but Dr. Wood’s father wasn’t sure David
was ready and didn’t let him.

John Sherrill remembers that when The Cross and the Switchblade
was translated in many languages, sales took off except in one
Scandinavian country. Wilkerson suspected the translation was bad, so he
had someone read it and discovered the translator had stripped out all
references to the power of the Holy Spirit due to a personal theological
bias. He insisted the book be republished with the material on the Holy
Spirit reinserted. The sales after that took off.

I also was impacted by Wilkerson. I read
his book as a teenager, and his description of drug addiction scared me
so much I never experimented with drugs, even though it was the norm
among many in my generation. I had the privilege of interacting with
Wilkerson many times over the years and have my own story about him.

In February 1972, as a junior at the
University of Florida, I found out Wilkerson was speaking at a youth
rally in Lakeland, Fla. I drove 120 miles from Gainesville with two
friends to attend. It was that weekend I met a beautiful woman named
Joy, who today is my business partner, my wife and my best friend.

Years later when I took a picture (shown
here) with Wilkerson at his church office in New York, I was able to
tell him about his influence on my life and career—because without Joy,
there would never have been a Charisma magazine.

I, along with millions of others around the world, thank God for the life and influence of David Wilkerson.


Steve Strang is the founder and publisher of Charisma. Follow him on Twitter at @sstrang.To read more of his and others’ reflections on David
Wilkerson, plus videos, photos and articles by the New York evangelist,
go to wilkerson.charismamag.com.

 

CHARISMA NEWSLETTERS

Stay up-to-date with current issues, Christian teachings, entertainment news, videos & more.

The latest breaking Christian news you need to know about as soon as it happens.

Prophetic messages from respected leaders & news of how God is moving throughout the world. 


MORE FROM CHARISMA

Spirit-Filled Pastor: Can I Ask God for Confirmation?

Spirit-Filled Pastor: Can I Ask God for Confirmation?

There are many incidents of God giving people a sign throughout the Bible. Although I believe God still does this, I also believe that we must be careful. Asking for a sign can be misleading if other factors are not taken into consideration. In Genesis, we find an...

Man Who Spent 23 Minutes in Hell: Are You Ready To Meet Jesus?

Man Who Spent 23 Minutes in Hell: Are You Ready To Meet Jesus?

The last words Jesus spoke to me in my 23 Minutes In Hell vision were, “Tell them I am coming very, very soon.” Then He repeated Himself and said again, “Tell them I am coming very, very soon.” The Bible is clear that Jesus is coming back to rapture His believers,...

The Best Way to Love Others and Yourself

The Best Way to Love Others and Yourself

I believe that other than the gospel regarding salvation through faith in Christ, learning to walk in love is the most important lesson in God’s Word. Jesus says that love is the most important commandment (Mark 12:28–31). The apostle Paul writes that love is the...

Prophecy: The Breach in Our Nation Will Be Repaired

Prophecy: The Breach in Our Nation Will Be Repaired

Praise be to Almighty God, righteous judge, holy of holies, the King of kings and the Lord of lords. The earth is His footstool, and to His kingdom there is no end! Breached Births The Spirit of the Lord says this day: “There has been a breach—breached births, My...

10 Reasons the Apostolic Movement Is Essential to Gospel Expansion

10 Reasons the Apostolic Movement Is Essential to Gospel Expansion

The global apostolic movement is the most significant expression of Christianity today. This is the view expressed by historian Philip Jenkins. He talks about the rapid expansion of the church in the global south, much of which is reminiscent of the first-century...

Experience a Better Kind of Love in Your Relationships

Experience a Better Kind of Love in Your Relationships

Do you have any relationship struggles? Perhaps you want to learn how to love, for real. Too often today, people search for a fairytale love and are disappointed when the fairytale fizzles, which it will. Michael Gibson, author of Real Life Love, challenges folks to...

The Power of Godly Words Over Another Life—and Yours

The Power of Godly Words Over Another Life—and Yours

Have the words that others have spoken over you ever significantly impacted you? Words can birth destinies on the inside of us and bring hope to our hearts for the future. They have the power to ignite our dreams and give life to our souls. At the same time, negative...

RECENT ARTICLES

How You Can Foil the Plot Against Your Life

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” Jesus warned us that we have an enemy, and he is a thief. He steals our joy, purpose,...
Activating Introverts in Evangelism

Activating Introverts in Evangelism

 Many believers mistakenly think that evangelism is only for charismatic, extroverted personality types. If they aren’t called to be evangelists, they shrink back from sharing the gospel with the lost entirely. The scriptural reality is that fivefold ministers, and...

Pin It on Pinterest

[class^="wpforms-"]
[class^="wpforms-"]