David Wilkerson died today. He was killed in an automobile accident in Texas. Unless you are an evangelical of a certain age, you may have never heard of Wilkerson. He was the founder of an organization called Teen Challenge, a ministry that worked with teenage gangs in New York City.
Wilkerson became famous in 1963 when his book The Cross and the Switchblade was published. The book told the story of the conversion of gang member Nicky Cruz and has sold millions of copies. In 1970, the Cross and the Switchblade was turned into a Hollywood movie. Pat Boone played the role of Wilkerson and Erik Estrada played the role of Cruz.
In the 1980s, Wilkerson founded Times Square Church, which continues to meet in New York’s historic Mark Hellinger Theatre. He has also been known for his attempts to predict the end of the world.
Wilkerson was an evangelical hero ever since The Cross and the Switchblade appeared in print. His ministry, which reflects Wilkerson’s Assembly of God/Pentecostal beliefs, has helped hundreds and hundreds of drug attics and poverty-stricken New Yorkers.
On a personal note, my brother (who is neither a drug attic nor poverty-stricken) has been attending Wilkerson’s church for several years. (So does former New York Jets defensive end and member of the “New York Sack Exchange,” Mark Gastineau).
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