My brother in Christ, follower of Jesus, faithful witness, bold spokesman full of compassion, my friend and co-laborer is now in heaven. He died in a terrible car wreck Wednesday afternoon near Tyler, Texas. His wife Gwen is in serious condition. Please pray for the family.

David Wilkerson: A Friend in Heaven

My brother in Christ, follower of Jesus, faithful witness, bold spokesman full of compassion, my friend and co-laborer is now in heaven. He died in a terrible car wreck Wednesday afternoon near Tyler, Texas. His wife Gwen is in serious condition. Please pray for the family.

I first heard of David Wilkerson more than 40 years ago when he opened a Teen Challenge Center in Houston. They took care of my alcoholic father for a few days before he disappeared into the night. I preached there to drug addicts so high on heroin they sat before me in a literal stupor, heads hanging down or thrown back over the chair. I did my best to keep their attention and to tell them about the love of God that inspired David to first minister effectively on the streets of New York, and then to open a safe haven for them. This was truly God’s love expressed freely to gang members, to the downtrodden and those considered hopeless. David inspired the 20th century church to reach beyond their walls to respond like the good Samaritan. No program has a higher success rate working with drug addicts than Teen Challenge.

I remember spending many hours on my knees praying with those addicts. How could I forget Joe Lee and Bobby? I prayed with them what many call “The Sinner’s Prayer,” but these two sinners received the fullness of the transforming power of the resurrected Jesus. Joe Lee graduated from Baylor. Bobby became an evangelist and I watched him lead thousands of people to Christ. They were only two examples among many similar to Nicky Cruz, who along with David, became great expressions of the power of love in action and were the main characters in the book The Cross and the Switchblade and also the subsequent movie. Other than “The Ten Commandments” and “The Passion of Christ,” it may very well have been the most powerful faith-based film ever shown in the theaters around the world. The book sold tens of millions and was published in over 30 languages.

David and I became close. We truly loved one another. Think of it – a Baptist with deep convictions and obvious boldness walking alongside a strong, outspoken, classic Pentecostal and telling the world that we are family. The love that bound us together knows no limits. No sectarian divide could keep us from holy, healthy heart-harmony.

When I was a young evangelist, David told me, “When you preach, I tremble. I have never heard a more powerful voice for God.” Even after David said he would not appear on other television programs, he came on LIFE Today and shared his heartfelt concerns with a viewing audience he believed was serious about the will of God.

David preached in our Bible conference years ago. He defended me when some church leaders were, as he put it, “throwing Saul’s spear” at me. He deflected them and stood for me. He said, “You need never defend yourself, James. Just love anyone who misunderstands, misrepresents  or accuses you.” Many times David and I prayed about our mutual concerns for the church and for the nation. When he watched God stretch the wineskin of my life to new limits and set my sails to catch the wind of the Spirit in new-found freedom and began encouraging everyone to be carried by the river of God’s love, he told me how it impacted him.

It seems like yesterday when watching our outreaches around the world to the poor, the starving and the thirsty, he called to say, “James, hear this: the greatest manifestation of Holy Spirit power in the book of Acts is not tongues or a prayer language, but it is a bold witness and what the New Testament Christians practiced in the last verses of chapter two. ‘Many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. But all who believed were together and had all things in common. They were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all as any had need… And God added to their number daily those who were being saved.’” David said, “James, the church today must experience this supernatural generosity expressing compassion not only in our community, but to the ends of the earth. What I’m watching you do on television and encouraging viewers and churches to do is a practice that must be demonstrated through the church.” He made it very clear that the sharing and generosity demonstrated in Acts by the believers was the result of charity, compassion and love that God put in the heart of those believers. What they gave was not taken from them to be distributed by some earthly power or government. They were freely giving and sharing because they overflowed with the love of God. He said, “James, this is the needed demonstration of Holy Spirit power.” David’s ministry — World Challenge and Times Square Church — has continually ministered to those often overlooked.

He boldly emphasized the coming calamity and crisis in our nation because, as a people and even as Christians, the Word and will of God had been too often disregarded. He warned of horrible events coming to America including his own dear city of New York where he pastored. He predicted the panic of the stock market crashes because of an unhealthy dependence upon money, material gain and wealth.

During a time of serious searching of his own heart, he said, “James, I’ve sometimes been harsh and mean-spirited. God has revealed to me more clearly than ever His love and His grace. I am becoming a different preacher.” If anyone he ever talked to could understand harshness and perhaps misplaced anger, it was surely me. I was once known as “God’s angry man.” It was true, then as now, there is plenty for us as believers to be righteously indignant about. But the problem so often is failing to recognize that “the wrath of man does not work the righteousness of God.” (James 1:20) I was convicted as was David that with all of our boldness, we must live with the heart of the Good Shepherd Jesus praying over Jerusalem prior to the predicted desolation, “Oh Jerusalem, Jerusalem, come like chicks to the hen, to the shelter of the Almighty.” Somehow we both saw that invitation as grace and hope freely offered. While issuing stern and much-needed warnings, David was continually growing in love, grace and Christlikeness. Many times I have wept as I read his articles.

Wednesday evening when I called his son Greg, who was at the hospital where his dad and mom had been taken, I assured them of our love, concern and prayers. I asked Greg if he had read what his father posted on the internet earlier in the day. He had not and I asked if I could read it to him. Somehow even before I began to read, I felt that it was a message from God to all the families who lost loved ones in the current catastrophic tornadoes and storms that ripped across our nation and to those in our own state who have lost homes, possessions and family in the raging fires. I began to read this to Greg:

To those going through the valley and shadow of death, hear this word:

Weeping will last through some dark, awful nights—and in that darkness you will soon hear the Father whisper, “I am with you. I cannot tell you why right now, but one day it will all make sense. You will see it was all part of my plan. It was no accident. It was no failure on your part. Hold fast. Let me embrace you in your hour of pain.

Beloved, God has never failed to act but in goodness and love. When all means fail—his love prevails. Hold fast to your faith. Stand fast in his Word. There is no other hope in this world.

I can assure all of you that David is now standing in the very presence of Jesus as part of that great cloud of witnesses, looking down at us in perfect harmony with Christ saying, “Joy does come in the morning! We want it for you and we want the world to see that we really are His followers because we love one another and we care about those who suffer.”

To God be the glory for the great things He accomplished through David and let me go on public record and say that this love David so well understood is big enough to help a Baptist and a Pentecostal understand clearly we are family, we are friends, and we are one in Christ. God help us all as Christians to experience true spiritual unity and, above all, never compromise the clear expression of God’s great love.

Please join us praying for Gwen and the Wilkerson family. I miss you, my friend, David, and cherish the memories.

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19 comments

  1. David was my spiritual father. We met in California at his pastors convention back in the early 90’s.. I was introduced to him in the lobby of the hotel. It was a set up by the Lord Jesus!

    A day later he found me and told me that God had kept him up all night regarding me. He said,” Do you have a message for these pastors?” “Yes, brother Dave, I do,” I replied.” God told me that I am to give you my pulpit, and I don’t even know you!” he said with that nervous voice of his. “What are you going to say?” he asked. “I won’t know until I stand before them,” I stated, ” but I assure you, I have a word for these people.” “You might want to take out those earrings before you speak. These are pentecostal ministers, he said. First of all, you’re a women, and then those earrings… they won’t listen you.” “If you think these earrings will be a stumbling block for these men, then I will be happy to take them out, but believe me, they will hear me.” He left and walked away, and then he turned around and came back to me and said, “God just told me that you can leave those earrings in.” I couldn’t help but to laugh at God’s sense of humor! David was a nervous wreck

    That was many years ago. Everything shut down that night after that meeting. The banquet hall sat empty as everyone fell to their knees and cried out to the Lord for hours. Food was the farthest thing from our minds. As I spoke, I saw David and his brother, Don, and Bob Phillips hit the floor behind me. It was a night we will all remember. It was a night of supernatural repentance!

    David became a treasure to me and to my family. I loved him dearly, and I adore Gwen. I actually just spoke with Barb the other day through email. Barb was his secretary for many years, and is now is Texas.

    My heart broke when I heard that he went out in such a terrible way. But God has a way of pulling his prophets out in a blaze of glory. Heaven is rejoicing that this saint is home at last. Our loss is heaven’s gain. He was one of a kind. He will always be loved by those who knew him.

  2. November 7,1994 I walked into Times Square Church, invited by a friend, and my life changed instantly. I am so blessed to be saved by the power of the Holy Spirit under the ministry of David Wilkerson. I have moved since then but I still recall the words spoken from the pulpit that still have an impact on my life today. I believe the prayers he prayed back then for his congregation are still being answered today. Let’s pick up the mantle, get on our knees, go in our prayer closets and ask God to give us a heart for the lost and those
    hurting around us, those bound by addiction and bound by sin. Let’s be bold with conviction but loving and tenderhearted, caring and compassionate as well –as David Wilkerson taught us and lived.
    A fabulous Shepherd he was! Praise and glory to God!

  3. On December 1989, my life took a turn that shock my world. I questioned the Lord as a young beiever myself. I couldn’t understand how he would allow such pain come to me. In January 1999, a friend invited me to Time Square Church and would not allow me to back away. When i got there as I entered the entrance, the spirit of Jesus in this place filled my heart and as I sat at the very end of this church back corner. I wept uncontrollable. Telling the Lord that I couldn’t understand what happen, I couldn’t understand as I served him with all my heart and soul for this to have happen to me. Yet it happened? The choir began to sing and the songs just kept adding to the tears. Then came this short man full of boldness and stood there and forgave his church for interrupting their worship. But, he said he needed to say this to someone there. He said when the world comes crushing in like a storm and all is gone and you can’t understand how and why? And you are asking for a miracle to turn this thing around. Just know that this man called Jesus, who walked on earth performed miracles after miracles and if you believe this man today, even if today your eyes don’t see him, as long as you believe in him, he will be that miracle you need for the day. He is the miracle man, He is your miracle for today. So, straigthen up from your sit, stand tall and worship Him today for your miracle has come. Since that year, I have looked at my savior Jesus as the one who has kept me throughout all these years. I stood at Time Square Church until Sept.2003. I watched and heard sermons on the internet from my home state Florida. Each time I went back home, I always made sure to visit my home church away from home and I missed it greatly. When I heard of my Time Sq.church pastor David passing away in my home church as our pastor lead the congregation pray for David’s family and Gwen his wife in the hospital. I wept during that service. David saw my face a few times, he never knew how he had impacted my life. He never knew that word he spoke was for me and probably other there that day. But this man brought Jesus’ love to my heart when I wanted to hate those who hurted me. This man taught God’s forgiveness which allow me to let go and trust God. And today I can say like many others, we remember those spirit filled messages from the pulpit that brought the word of God to life and gave hope to the heart and from time to time bring in remembrance when times are hard and difficult that as long I keep walking next to Jesus, He will continue bring miracles to my life. Forever will I love my God, my Jesus and my pastor in heaven David and one day I too will see them soon.

  4. I was in the Aglow Fellowship, there I heard David Wilkerson And James Robison. Today I don’t look at soap stories. David taught God did not want us to do what is seen on the soaps He did not want us to watch them. To day I don;t watch them. James came with a message to set us free. I will miss Him but still I have devotions from his ministry daily. May the family find peace and the love of God daily. I watch James and Betty I also give monthly.

  5. I just saw the end of your TV program tonight where you mention David Wilkerson and what he had posted on the internet the day he went to be with the Lord. My husband and I had been on David Wilkerson’s mailing list for years and enjoyed reading his newsletters.

    In April of 1995 when our family was moving from Utah to Nebraska the driver of the moving van gave me papers to sign. As I was signing them I noticed the name of the driver which read David Wilkerson. When I read it aloud I asked him if he knew that he had a famous name. The driver said yes, that he was the son of the famous David Wilkerson but he himself was not following the Lord. This always bothered me and made me wonder if this really was David Wilkerson’s son. I was going to write him and letter and tell him that I was praying for his son but never did.

    Tonight when I saw your show and read the article about you being his friend and how your read a letter to his son Greg I was hoping this might have been David Jr. My question is this, “Is there a David Wilkerson Jr.?” It has been on my mind for years if he was his son. I even told the driver David that I would be praying for him. He seemed so sincere and would have been the age his son could have been.

    Wondering,
    Debbie

  6. I appreciate you James Robison and thank you for this article. I was raised in the home of a pioneer Assemblies of God preacher. I married young and we had our first child when I first heard of David Wilkerson. We attended a General Council of the Assemblies of God in Memphis. David Wilkerson was there with many of the young people that by God’s help he had rescued from a life of drugs and gangs. Their testimonies had a lasting impact on my life. Soon after that I felt a call to go to New York and become a part of the Teen Challenge outreach ministry. However, because I had a young wife and a young son, I failed to respond to that call. I have often wondered how different my life would have been had I obeyed that call. I did surrender to the call of God to preach the gospel of Chirst. I was ordained in the Assemblies of God denomination and was pastor of three small churches. In 1984 I entered the United Methodist ministry. I attended serminary and became an elder in the Methodist Church. In 2003 I was appointed to serve the First United Methodist Church of Parsons, TN. While I was pastor there, our local Ministerial Alliance was used of God to bring a Teen Challenge Outreach Center to Parsons. That Center has reached many lost sould for Christ and continues until this day. Thanks be to God for a young preacher named David Wilkerson hearing and answering the call of God to go to the streets of New York City. I believe that his reward is great in heaven. Amen,

  7. David Wilkerson’s book,The Cross and the Switchblade,was instrumental in my ultimately surrendering to Christ in the early 1970’s. I spotted it on the bookshelf of my catholic neighbor for whom i was babysitting. Praise God for drawing me through this work of David’s. Our Father remains faithful all these years later, each and every day.

  8. James, I read this article as a result of viewing your program on August 17,2011. You asked the viewing audience to read the article you wrote concerning Dave Wilkerson and the impact his friendship had on your life. James, I don’t think I have felt the Holy Spirit any closer than when I read this article. What a blessing! Thank you for penning into words how this man influenced your life. Because you wrote from your heart, my life has been deeply touched. Oh, that all of God’s children could impact others’ lives as David did yours. It’s only through the love of our Lord, Jesus Christ, that we as believers have the desire to “live” compassion and are willing to allow the Holy Spirit to bear the beautiful gifts of the His Fruit in us. Thank you for sharing your heart.

  9. James, I read this article as a result of viewing your program on August 17,2011. You asked the viewing audience to read the article you wrote concerning Dave Wilkerson and the impact his friendship had on your life. James, I don’t think I have felt the Holy Spirit any closer than when I read this article. What a blessing! Thank you for penning into words how this man influenced your life. Because you wrote from your heart, my life has been deeply touched. Oh, that all of God’s children could impact others’ lives as David did yours. It’s only through the love of our Lord, Jesus Christ, that we as believers have the desire to “live” compassion and are willing to allow the Holy Spirit to bear the beautiful gifts of the His Fruit in us. Thank you for sharing your heart.