I spent some time last week continuing to follow the story of the death of David Wilkerson, and considering what a giant legacy he has left the church. I went back and watched the film version of The Cross And The Switchblade, which is available on YouTube. It’s a great story, but the movie is dated and suffers from a mediocre screenplay. Of course the film has its moments, since it is about Jesus, but the story is worthy of a full-blown quality remake, and I hope that someday soon it gets it.
You also can view a nice video tribute to Brother Dave here.
During my stay at Times Square Church years ago, I often was reminded of the famous saying attributed to de Tocqueville:
I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her commodious harbors and her ample rivers – and it was not there . . . in her fertile fields and boundless forests and it was not there . . . in her rich mines and her vast world commerce – and it was not there . . . in her democratic Congress and her matchless Constitution – and it was not there. Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits flame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great.
And I began to wonder how TSC was faring now, since Wilkerson retired. So I began scouring for sermons of the current senior pastor, Carter Conlon. The result has been amazing. The pulpit of TSC is still aflame with righteousness. Watching the sermons brought me right back to being there again. It’s nice to see the work Brother Dave began continue to give to the Body of Christ.
I’m going to embed two sermons here. The first one is perhaps the greatest sermon I have ever heard. It dramatically delineates the role of the law in the Christian life, and the related necessity of dying to self before we can live to Christ. The second is an powerful exhortation to believe God for fruitfulness.
Today came the sad news that Dave Wilkerson has passed away. The short press release said that it was sudden and unexpected.
Dave influenced a lot of people, including me. When he came out with The Cross and the Switchblade, it was the first time that I heard of the Cross’s power to change lives here and now, and not merely provide for the hereafter as I had been taught. When I later reached the crisis in my life that would deliver me to God’s doorstep, that message became essential to my survival.
Years later, when I was left bruised and bleeding by my first local church, I spent a season commuting down to Wilkerson’s Times Square Church. The preaching was world class, but more importantly, the Lord met me there in a very real and tangible way at a time when I desperately needed His affirmation.
One Sunday I invited a friend down to church with me. Between services, as we walked around midtown Manhattan, we were talking about family issues. I had been sensing that the Lord was calling me out of an unhealthy family situation, and as we spoke I felt led to set out a marker. I told her that if in the evening service Wilkerson would mention the incident in which Moses instructed the Israelites to strap on a sword and run though the sinning camp, each one killing his brother, companion and neighbor (Ex 32.27), then I would know that the Lord was indeed calling me to come out to freedom.
The sermon that night had nothing to do with family or ungodly soul ties. I had almost put away my challenge to God, when suddenly Dave turned away from his prepared notes and ran a sidebar on how following Christ was more important than any human relationship, including family. This was, he said, the same God who told Moses to have the people run through the crowd and kill their own brothers. Wilkerson then returned to his prepared notes and continued on. It was an amazing moment.
Another time, the backup worship leader was leading us in worship. It was good worship, but nothing more. But at the end he simply would not quit pressing in on Heaven’s gates. We kept praising and praising, and suddenly the Spirit began to fall. At some point I fell still, and I became aware of dozens of people behind me praising in tongues. Then, to my amazement, they were all praising in tongues in unison. It probably was a miracle of hearing, similar to what happened on the first Pentecost. A rush of the Holy Spirit came over me, and I felt embraced by Father’s love.
After several months, my season at Times Square Church was over, but I always have remained thankful for the work Dave raised up, and that God met me there so powerfully at a time when I really needed it.
To this day I have subscribed to Dave’s daily devotional, and I have found it filled with deep insights that only someone deeply in love with God, and fully seasoned in both life and the Word, could give out.
Dave ran a golden race, and will receive his reward. He will be missed. Well done, faithful servant.
Update: Here’s Dave’s last devotional, When All Means Fail, and it’s one of his best. Must reading. And here’s an article on his death. He was driving and swerved into the oncoming lane. His wife Gwen was in the car, and is currently in critical condition.
And here’s Part 2 of Nicky Cruz’s testimony: