David Wilkerson (born May 19, 1931 in Hammond, Indiana) is an American Christian evangelist, most well-known for his book The Cross and the Switchblade. He is also the founder of Times Square Church in New York, an interdenominational church.
Wilkerson's widely distributed sermons, such as "A Call to Anguish", are known for being direct and frank. He emphasizes Christian beliefs, such as: God's holiness and righteousness, God's love toward humans and especially Christian views of Jesus. Wilkerson tries to avoid categorizing Christians into distinct groups according to the denomination they belong to, and as such he is an evangelist with broad-based appeal.
Wilkerson served as a pastor in small churches in Scottdale and Philipsburg, Pennsylvania, until he saw a photograph in Life Magazine in 1958 of seven New York City teenagers charged with murder. He later wrote, that as he felt the Holy Spirit move him with compassion, he was drawn to go to New York in February 1958. It was then that he began his street ministry to underprivileged inner-city youth.
Wilkerson is well-known for these early years of his ministry to young drug addicts and gang members in New York City in the 1950s and 1960s. He co-authored a book with Nicky Cruz about his work with the New York drug addicts, The Cross and the Switchblade, which became a best-seller. Included in the book is the story of Cruz's decision to become a Christian. The book has sold over 50 million copies in over thirty languages since it was published in 1963. In 1970 the book was also released under the same title as a Hollywood movie starring Pat Boone as Wilkerson and Erik Estrada as Cruz. The book was included among the 100 most important Christian books of the 20th century.
In the early 1960s, Wilkerson, his wife Gwen, Loren and Darlene Cunningham, and Howard and Pat Foltz, prayed together in Colorado. From this developed three ministries: Teen Challenge USA (Wilkerson's), Youth With A Mission (Cunningham's), and Teen Challenge Europe-Asia (Foltz's), which have reached youth and adults worldwide, many with life-controlling problems, through its centers and ministry. Teen Challenge's USA and Europe-Asia ministry is a biblically-based recovery program for drug addicts that has been recognized as one of the most effective efforts of its kind.
In 1967, Wilkerson began Youth Crusades, an evangelistic ministry that was aimed to reach teenagers whom Wilkerson called "goodniks" — middle-class youth who were restless and bored. His goal was to prevent them from becoming heavily involved with drugs, alcohol, or violence. Through this ministry, CURE Corps (Collegiate Urban Renewal Effort) was founded. It was intended to be something of a Christian version of the Peace Corps and Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA).
In 1971, Wilkerson moved his ministry headquarters to the town of Lindale, Texas (just outside of Tyler), where he founded World Challenge. The organization's mission is to promote and spread the Gospel throughout the world.
In 1986, while walking down 42nd Street in New York City at midnight, Wilkerson believes that the Holy Spirit called him to return to New York City and to raise up a ministry in Times Square. This resulted in the establishment of Times Square Church which opened its doors in October 1987. The church first occupied rented auditoriums in Times Square (Town Hall and the Nederlander Theater), later moving to the historic Mark Hellinger Theatre, which the ministry purchased in 1989 and in which it has operated ever since.
For over four decades, Wilkerson's ministry has included preaching, teaching and writing. He has authored over 30 books.
Since the 1990s, Wilkerson has focused his efforts to encourage pastors and their families throughout the world to "renew their passion for Christ". In his own words:
"I've been an evangelist for 50 years, but I didn't want to preach to pastors until I had gray hair, until I'd pastored. Now after 15 years of pastoring, sharing the hurts, pains, and difficulties of the ministry as a pastor, I felt the Lord finally release me, that I might have something to say."
Wilkerson and his wife Gwen moved to New York City at the inception of Times Square Church in 1987, and in 2006 began splitting their time between New York and Texas (near their World Challenge offices in Lindale). They have four children and eleven grandchildren. His son Gary Wilkerson has also begun to gain recognition as a Christian minister and evangelist.
Wilkerson believes that in April 1973 he received a vision regarding the future of the United States and subsequently gave a sermon on the vision and published a book called The Vision. He has said that God revealed to him a great calamity which was going to befall America due to increase in sins such as homosexuality, sexual promiscuity, and greed.
Some of the details of this reputed vision were:
- "Worldwide recession caused by economic confusion"
- "At most a few more fat flourishing years, and then an economic recession that's going to affect the life style of every wage-earner in the world. The world economists are going to be at loss to explain what's happening. It's going to start in Europe, spread to Japan and finally to the United States."
- There will be a move toward a worldwide, unified monetary system. The US dollar will be hit bad and it will take years for it to recover.
- The only real security will be in real estate (until a somewhat later stage, at which point this apparent security will also disappear).
- "Nature having labor pains"
- Environmentalists will come under heavy criticism.
- There will be major earthquakes.
- There will be a major famine.
- Floods, hurricanes and tornadoes will increase in frequency.
- "A new kind of cosmic storm appearing as a raging fire in the sky leaving a kind of vapor trail."
- "A flood of filth and a baptism of dirt in America"
- Topless women will appear on television, followed by full nudity.
- Adult, X rated movies will be shown on cable television. Young people will gather at homes to watch this kind of material in groups.
- Sex and the occult will be mixed.
- There will be an acceptance of homosexuality, and the church will even say that it is a God-given gift.
- "Rebellion in the home"
- "I see the new number one youth problem in America and the world as hatred towards parents."
- "A persecution madness against truly Spirit filled Christians who love Jesus Christ"
- There will arise a world church consisting of a union between liberal ecumenical Protestants and the Roman Catholic Church, using Christ in name only.
- There will be a hate Christ movement.
- There will be a spiritual awakening behind the Iron and Bamboo Curtains.
- There will be another wave of riots.
- There will be a fall in moral conduct.
- There will be a new drug that will be popular with teenagers that will break down resistance and will encourage sexual activity.
- Homosexual and lesbian ministers will be ordained and this will be heralded as a new breed of pioneer.
- There will be nude dancing in church, but this will never be widespread.
- There will be occult practices in churches.
Since then, Wilkerson has continued to produce books predicting economic disasters, food shortages, rising crime, and ultimately, the destruction for the United States. He urged his followers to store food, water, and medicine for a coming disaster in the late 1990s in a book entitled God's Plan to Protect His People in the Coming Depression. Wilkerson has faced increasing criticism from many sources, many of whom voice concern that the threats of upcoming disasters have led many of Wilkerson's followers to take preemptive action that they later regretted. His most serious utterances are reserved for the dire state of the Christian Church, in particular, the church in Western nations. He predicts that the church in Asia and Africa will flourish greatly, but under severe, if not dire circumstances. Other material that he has written is very critical of the so-called "Faith movement" in which he identifies many doctrinal errors, some serious enough to place the practitioners in a very serious position with God. He identifies many of the problems that genuine Christians have as a direct result of exposure to these types of movement.
An earth-shattering calamity is about to happen. It is going to be so frightening, we are all going to tremble -- even the Godliest among us...There will be riots and fires in cities worldwide. There will be looting—including Times Square, New York City..
Internet media beginning with WorldNetDaily at 3:15 a.m. EST Sunday March 8, 2009 and then the Matt Drudge "Drudgereport" reported the prediction under the headline "Famed pastor predicts imminent catastrophe..."