February 27, 2022 David Wilkerson
February 27, 2022
When I was young, my parents would take my sister and I to the Teen Challenge Training Center in Rehrersburg, PA, for their Friday night graduation ceremonies. I remember seeing the excitement on the men's faces as they shared their testimonies of how Jesus changed their lives and helped them overcome their addiction to drugs and alcohol. I can still hear the families cheering when the men’s names were called. They were so proud, excited for a new life, and tremendously thankful for the change Jesus made in the graduates' lives.
Over the years, thousands of men have passed through Teen Challenge Centers across the United States and Canada. Yet, none of this would have been possible without the ride or die attitude of a young country pastor named David Wilkerson.
I’m sure growing up, David Wilkerson never imagined the plans that God had for his life. Born in Indiana, his parents were Pentecostal preachers. He began preaching when he was fourteen years old, attended Central Bible College, and became an Assemblies of God minister in 1952.
Like most ministers of his time, he married shortly after college and began pastoring small churches in Pennsylvania. It seemed like his life would follow a pretty typical pattern. But then the Holy Spirit stepped in and changed everyone’s plans.
In his autobiography, “The Cross and the Switchblade,” Wilkerson tells how he saw a picture in Life Magazine of seven teenagers who were gang members in New York City. The Holy Spirit used this picture to lead Wilkerson to New York and lead these men to Jesus.
Following the Holy Spirit’s leading, Wilkerson went to the courtroom where their trial was being held, but he was ejected. This courtroom ruckus led the newspapers to publish Wilkerson’s photo. But this was all part of God’s plan. Because of the picture in the paper, the gang members recognized Wilkerson and accepted him when he went to talk to them. He held evangelistic rallies for the gang members, where dozens came to accept Jesus as their Savior. One of the most famous was Nicky Cruz, the leader of the Mau Maus, who went on to be an evangelist and write the book “Run, Baby, Run.”
Wilkerson founded Teen Challenge Training Centers as a discipleship program for the gang members who came to Christ. Later, he founded World Challenge and Times Square Church.
Over the years, these organizations have played an active role in advancing God’s kingdom and helping men and women find hope and healing through Jesus. Yet, it’s important to remember that they were all birthed through the obedience of one man who had a ride or die attitude.
Think about it: How many Christians saw that same photo in Life Magazine and thought, “What a pity? Those poor boys.” That wasn’t the case for Wilkerson. When he saw the picture, he responded to the Holy Spirit’s call to go and take the Gospel to one of the darkest corners of New York City.
Let’s be honest. Saying “yes” to God’s calling to minister to the gangs was dangerous. The book “Run, Baby, Run” recounts the heinous practices of this violent and murderous gang. Pastor Wilkerson was literally putting his life on the line to follow God and reach these men.
Still, he went. He answered God’s call to ride or die, knowing there was the distinct possibility that he could die.
Today, he stands as an example for everyone who hears God’s call to “go” to a dangerous or challenging place to spread the Gospel of Jesus. He reminds us that when God calls us, He takes care of us and works out the details so that we can fulfill His plan. He challenges all of us to be brave, to look beyond our little world, and be open to following God beyond anything we can imagine—ride or die.
By: Jamie Holden, Mantour Ministries
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20, NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.