David Wilkerson (review)

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David Wilkerson: The Cross, the Switchblade, and the Man Who BelievedDavid Wilkerson: The Cross, the Switchblade, and the Man Who Believed by Zondervan Publishing

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

God always makes a way for a praying man. You may never be able to get a college degree, you may never get rich, but God always has and always will make a way for a praying man – David Wilkerson, Kindle Location 903.

If there is one secret to the success and impact of David Wilkerson’s life, prayer is probably it, at least according to his son Gary. In David Wilkerson: The Cross, the Switchblade and the Man Who Believed, Gary Wilkerson lays it all out for us: his dad’s early years as the oldest son in the home of a strict Pentecostal preacher, his first pastorate where he supplemented his salary by selling cars, his change of focus from what people thought to what God thought, his move to New York to work amongst gang members and addicts founding what is now known as Teen Challenge, the writing of The Cross and the Switchblade, his move to California in the 60s, then to Texas, and eventually back to New York. The story takes us to Wilkerson Sr.’s death in 2011.

In a way the book is like a modern book of Acts, replete with stories of how Wilkerson Sr. used his gifts of prophecy and healing, introduced thousands to Jesus in crusades, then taught, scolded and encouraged them through his newsletter. And like the stories in Acts, there are also tales of ministry bumps, broken relationships, physical illnesses, the need to adjust to the challenges of a changing society and a changing church culture.

I appreciated the writer’s frank but always respectful tone. He loved and idolized his dad, but still makes us privy to his shortcomings. The text and the acknowledgements tell us that he went to great lengths to get all sides of the story. There are numerous quotes from ministry colleagues, students, family members, friends, and neighbors, giving us a well-rounded look at the man.

David Wilkerson’s story is exciting and inspiring, but I also found it challenging because of the high standard that he held for himself and those that worked with and for him. Some of the bits from the book I highlighted:

Always he saw the world and those around him through the lens of eternity – KL 28l.

Quoting John Sherrill about the success of The Cross and the Switchblade:

“I don’t think books take off and do well or don’t do well depending just on the quality of the writing. I think it depends on catching something that’s in the air, something that people need” – KL 1959.

Speaking of how his dad chose singer Dallas Holm and other ministry partners:

Throughout his life, Dad would speak of a certain ‘sound’ he heard in preachers, something that spoke to him of God’s holiness – KL 2065.

Ralph Wilkerson (1960s youth leader who worked with David Wilkerson)says:

“He was like some of the old revivalists. There was so much prayer behind his sermons that there was a powerful anointing on the reading and people were converted” – KL 2177.

(David Wilkerson’s preaching style was to write out his sermons in longhand, then read rather than orate them.)

And two more random quotes:

Every event was a sacred moment ordained by God, with nothing less than eternity at stake for everyone present. For that reason alone, he could never judge a sermon based on people’s reaction to it. He had to judge himself on how faithful he was to speak the message God had impressed on him – KL 2968.

When Dad spent time in the Scriptures, he wasn’t looking to gain breadth of knowledge; he was searching to know the ways of God – KL 3817.

If you want to be challenged and convicted to pray more, care more about what God thinks of you than what people do, love your fellow-man more, read this book. One thing is sure: you won’t read it with an open heart and come away unchanged.

David Wilkerson: The Cross, the Switchblade and the Man Who Believed releases from Zondervan on September 2nd. I received it as a gift from the publisher for the purpose of writing a review.

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