"Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints." (Psalm 166:15)
Early this morning I learned that the Reverend David Wilkerson of "The Cross and the Switchblade" fame had been killed in a car wreck in east Texas. It seems his car collided head-on with an eighteen wheeler. Wilkerson's wife Gwen was in the car and has been hospitalized with injuries. My good friend Ed, who coincidentally lives in east Texas, e-mailed me that he was "shocked" by the news. I must say, I was shocked also. Another friend named Ed, the Rev. Ed Delacoeur from Cape Cod posted on Facebook that one of God's choice servants has gone home to Heaven. He's right.
While many ordinary, everyday people in the secular world may be asking, "WHO?!" about David Wilkerson, his name is very much a household word among evangelical and charismatic Christians. In fact, most evangelical and charismatic Christians would probably have included David Wilkerson in a list of something like, "The Ten Most Important Christians Alive Today". David Wilkerson was only in his mid-twenties and pastoring a small Assemblies of God church in rural Pennsylvania in 1958 when God called him to go to New York City and evangelize mostly Hispanic teenage street gangs. Many people, Christian and non-Christian alike, considered Wilkerson sensational and at best misguided and at worst crazy. Amazingly, in several trips to New York, which included David sleeping in his car on the street, God absolutely worked supernatural miracles. One such miracle was the conversion of Nicky Cruz, one of the toughest Puerto Rican teen gang leaders in New York at the time. Wilkersons early evangelism led to the founding of Teen Challenge, a Gospel preaching and Christian discipling drug rehab program. In its early days ninety percent of the residents of Teen Challenge centers were in their late teens or early twenties. Today, it is not unusual for Teen Challenge centers to be populated by young people in rehab ranging from as young as 18 to as old as 45.
It's not only Teen Challenge that David Wilkerson is known for, however. In 1974, he published a ontroversial book entitled, "The Vision". Wilkerson claimed to have received a dramatic vision from God of what the coming thirty to forty years would hold for America and the world. I have a copy of "The Vision". I have read it a few times, and first read the book in 1974. Some of the prophecies in the book seemed really "wild" at the time, but virtually all of what's prophesied in the book has come to pass. He followed up "The Vision" a couple of years later with a similar but less popular book entitled, "Racing Toward Judgment".
Around twenty years ago, Wilkerson founded the nondenominational Times Square Church in New York. The church reaches out to both "down and outers" and "up and outers". For many years I was on David Wilkerson's mailing list and I'd read his newsletters with great interest. Beginning in the late 1990s, Wilkerson began forecasting the total economic collapse of the United States of America. He has made dire predictions of a depression coming which will be far worse than the early 1930s. Wilkerson believes God will take care of His faithful children, but that those who are not walking very close to God will suffer greatly. Although the economy has sort of "tanked" since 2008, Wilkerson's prediction of a total economic collapse has obviously not yet happened. Considering his previous track record, however, it does seem one would do well to take seriously what he had to say.
Life does not always turn out as we'd think it would. This is not Hollywood. If the life of David Wilkerson had been a Hollywood fantasy, we'd probably have imagined his passing would be of heart failure as he lay in a comfortable bed in a Norman Rockwell type setting surrounded by his family and close friends. I could imagine his face being illuminated as he'd say something like, "Look, I see an angel!" Then he'd breath his last breath, and beautiful music would begin playing.
Yes, like my friend in Texas, I'm shocked. I never thought David Wilkerson would be killed instantly in a car wreck at age 79. It's just not the script those who love him would have written. Many of us DO tend to put people like David Wilkerson on pedestals. They're human. I happen to know David Wilkerson was very afraid of flying and that he virtually never flew. He either drove everyplace or took the train. It's ironic that the man who was afraid to fly died in a car wreck. It's also ironic that this giant of faith was afraid to fly. Incidentally, I have some "connections" to David Wilkerson. My friend Dave Milley knew him personally and was the first Boston Teen Challege Director in the 1960s. David Wilkerson was a alumnus of my alma mater, Central Bible College. His son Gary and daughter Bonnie were there as students at the same time I was.
When a spiritual giant like David Wilkerson passes on it causes me to pause and wonder...who will take his place?
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