David Wilkerson, 79, author of the The Cross and the Switchblade and founder of World Challenge Ministries and Times Square Church in New York City, died in a car crash in Texas yesterday. His wife, 70-year-old Gwendolyn Wilkerson, was seriously injured in the collision between their car and an 18-wheeler tractor-trailer rig.
Wilkerson was called to New York in 1958 to minister to gang members and drug addicts, and his book, The Cross and the Switchblade, was a great source of inspiration to people working in similar ministries in many parts of the world, including South Africa.
In 1981 Wilkerson founded World Challenge Ministries and in 1987 he returned to “the crossroads of the world” to establish Times Square Church. Since then, he has faithfully led this congregation of some 8 000 people, delivering powerful biblical messages that encourage righteous living and complete reliance on God. His Teen Challenge ministry is very prominent in discussions of drug treatment and social service partnerships between church and government. And Times Square Church is known for its many social service ministries.
Wilkerson had a strong burden to encourage and strengthen pastors throughout the world. Since 1999, he had been travelling around the globe holding conferences for Christian ministers. He visited South Africa in 2004 to conduct pastors’ conferences in Cape Town, Durban and at Kwasizabantu mission in Kwazulu Natal.
“We appreciate your prayers and our hearts are sorrowful, yet we rejoice at the joy knowing David Wilkerson spent his life well… Thank you for your prayers,” the Wilkerson family says in a short message published on the official World Challenge website.