DAVID WILKERSON: Unshackled from the "Small Screen"
An onslaught of restlessness hit David Wilkerson as he watched
the remnants of "The Late Show" fade slowly from the television
screen. He began to pace the room, calculating the amount of time
he spent absorbed by the media´s lure every night-at least two
hours. Wilkerson glanced at the ceiling and wondered aloud, "What
would happen, Lord, if I sold that TV set and spent that time-
praying?" Within a few minutes, Wilkerson determined that if God
wanted him to substitute prayer for television, then He would allow
him to sell the television no more than half an hour after a newspaper
ad for the TV hit the streets. The morning came, and the Wilkerson
family sat in the living room watching a big alarm clock posted
beside the telephone. Twenty-nine minutes after they began their
vigil, a man called and purchased the set, sight unseen.
That was February 9, 1958. A few months later, during one of
Wilkerson´s prayer sessions, God spoke to him through a
courtroom drawing in Life magazine, a picture of seven boys in
a murder trial. Wilkerson realized God was calling him to New
York City to bring the gospel to these troubled teens. The next
day he announced his intentions at a prayer meeting in his
Pennsylvania church. They took up an offering to cover his
transportation costs, and he departed for New York City early
the next morning, full of conviction but with little direction.
After a series of trips to the city, Wilkerson began street
evangelism in the most dangerous areas of Brooklyn, Manhattan,
and the Bronx. By August of 1959, several of the most violent
gang leaders, including Nicky Cruz and Israel (and their entire
gangs), had genuinely converted to Christianity-the story
captured in the best-selling book The Cross and the Switchblade.
A few even decided to attend seminary. Within two years,
Wilkerson permanently left his burgeoning parish in Philipsburg,
dropped his wife and children off at her parents´ in Pittsburgh,
and moved into a grungy office space in Staten Island to start
a "program aimed at setting youngsters free." He soon retrieved
his family, purchased a home in Brooklyn, and with a staff of
young evangelists in tow, established a safe haven for New
York´s urban, troubled youth.
So began a journey that grew into a worldwide youth ministry,
today called Teen Challenge. It provides faith-based rehabilitation
services to teenagers plagued by addiction. Its program has
broken addictions psychologists claimed impossible to overcome;
it maintains a high success rate of long-term recovery. Wilkerson
opened the first center in Brooklyn, and now centers can be found
across the U. S. and around the world.4
People may wonder what attributes made Wilkerson such a
formidable force in New York City and beyond. First, he pursued
the Lord in prayer before he made any decision or took any action
regarding his calling. As he prayed with Bible in hand, he learned
the power of balancing petition and praise.5 Second, once he
discerned God´s will, Wilkerson was readily obedient: He started
going to New York City every week. He walked the crime-infested
streets, and he talked to as many teenagers as possible about
the issues they faced. Essentially, he took the trouble to become
well-informed. And though he faced obstacles, Wilkerson kept
going back. Third, Wilkerson´s ministry was led and empowered
by the Holy Spirit. When a teen suggested he was "trying too
hard," Wilkerson realized that he needed to step aside and allow
the Spirit to win the hearts of his unconventional congregation. It
was not that Wilkerson ceased to prepare for his interactions with
the teens or to work diligently at his ministry; it was merely that
he remembered that "it is God, and only God, who heals." And
the healing began at a stunning pace.
Who knows what can happen when the man or woman of God
turns off the TV long enough to hear the Lord speaking to him.
~adapted from Kairos Journal.
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Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of theFather, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost Matthew 28 : 19
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