David Wilkerson: The Cross, The Switchblade, and The Man Who Believed
by Gary Wilkerson with R.S.B. Sawyer
5 Stars *****
David Wilkerson a fiery young preacher, seemed larger than life, after he faced down the switchblades of New York’s gangs with the Bible in his hand, and the love in his heart that he held for the addicts, gang members, and prostitutes struggling to survive in New York’s inner city.
His faith and commitment led to the salvation of key gang leaders, including Nicky Cruz, and the founding of the Teen Challenge ministry, which throughout the years has had an unbelievable success rate for those struggling with life-controlling problems.
His story would be immortalized in the book The Cross and the Switchblade, co-authored by John and Elizabeth Sherrill, and the movie of the same name starring Pat Boone and Erik Estrada.
Later, David would reach out to the youth of America through a powerful crusade ministry active during the 1960s and 1970s as the drug culture invaded suburbia. His voice and ministry would impact the Jesus Movement and the Charismatic Movement, as it crossed societal barriers to present the hope found in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Throughout his ministry, David would serve a prophetic role as the conscience of the nation, experience the trials and trauma associated with sudden fame, struggle as his wife Gwen, and other family members, battled cancer again and again, and remain faithful to God’s call on his life as he wrestled with his own inner turmoil.
David would go on to found the outreach organization, World Challenge, and eventually, he would return to New York to found the now famous Times Square Church. Throughout his journey, David would serve as a prophetic voice to our nation, often stand alone in his singular vision to serve God whole-heartedly, facing vilification by some, and standing as a hero of the faith to others.
His journey would tragically end with an automobile crash on April 27, 2011. Although his wife Gwen would survive the accident, she would pass away on July 5, 2012 from cancer.
Many of us who know the story of David Wilkerson are at least aware of these key events in his life. However, Gary Wilkerson paints a fresh portrait of the man through the eyes of a son, watching the life of his larger-than-life father unfold, as he seeks to find his own place within the framework of God’s plan.
Throughout the pages of David Wilkerson, Gary shares the story of his Dad’s life transparently; honestly speaking about the strength and frailties of a father he loved and admired. He gives voice to others who knew his famous father, and allows their stories to be heard, as he weaves a story of a very human man, who became a hero of the faith because he dared to be obedient to the voice of God. Gary doesn’t hide the struggles of his family, nor his father’s own inner turmoil, and throughout his biography successfully paints a portrait of the central message of David’s ministry: God loves lost souls, and He can use anyone who fully gives their life to Him.
I found this insider’s perspective on the life of a great man of God thrilling. Gary’s openness and honesty in sharing his Dad’s journey has made David Wilkerson more realistic and more heroic to me. You can’t help but admire a man like David Wilkerson, who gave so much to serve the God he loved, and at the same time it is impossible to not be left in awe at how the grace of God, working through the life of one flawed individual, can impact so many lives for eternity.
Gary Wilkerson has done a great service sharing the story of his father’s faith, and he has further solidified my vision of David Wilkerson as a man to be emulated. If you want to be inspired on your own journey of faith, then David Wilkerson by Gary Wilkerson is a must read.
David Wilkerson Biography | World Challenge