|This article relies on references to primary sources. (November 2010)|
May 19, 1931|
|Died||April 27, 2011
US Route 175, Texas
|Years active||c. 1950 – 2011|
|Spouse(s)||Gwen (died July 5, 2012)|
|Church(es)||Times Square Church|
David Ray Wilkerson (May 19, 1931 – April 27, 2011) was a prominent American Christian evangelist, best known for his book The Cross and the Switchblade. He was the founder of the addiction recovery program Teen Challenge, and founding pastor of the non-denominational Times Square Church in New York of evangelical doctrine and practice, in which more than 100 nationalities were represented.
Wilkerson's widely distributed sermons, such as "A Call to Anguish," are known for being direct and frank against apostasy and serious about making the commitment to obey Jesus' teachings. He emphasized such Christian beliefs as God's holiness and righteousness, God's love toward humans and especially Christian views of Jesus. Wilkerson tried to avoid categorizing Christians into distinct groups according to the denomination to which they belong.
Wilkerson was killed in a car crash in Texas on April 27, 2011.
Early years 
David Wilkerson was born in 1932 in Indiana. He was the second son of a family of Pentecostal Christian preachers, and he was raised in Barnesboro, Pennsylvania, in a house "full of Bibles." His paternal grandfather and his father, Kenneth, were ministers. According to Wilkerson's own testimony, he was baptized with the Holy Spirit at the age of eight.
The young Wilkerson began to preach when he was about fourteen. After high school, Wilkerson entered the Central Bible College in Springfield, Missouri. The school was affiliated with the Assemblies of God. In 1952 he was ordained as a minister.
In 1953 he married Gwen Wilkerson. He served as a pastor in small churches in Scottdale and Philipsburg in Pennsylvania, until he saw a photograph in Life Magazine in 1958 of seven teenagers who were members of a gang in New York known as "Egyptian Dragons". 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 in order to preach to them. On his arrival, Wilkerson went to court in which the teenangers were being prosecuted. He entered the room and asked the court judge for permission to tell them something, but the judge ejected him. Upon leaving, someone took a photo of Wilkerson who was known at the moment as the Bible preacher "who had interrupted the gang trial". Soon after, David left the city. However, upon his return his grandfather encouraged him to continue his evangelism. It was then that he began a street ministry to young drug addicts and gang members, which he continued into the 1960s.
Later in 1958, to achieve his purpose, he founded Teen Challenge, an evangelical Christian addiction recovery program in Brooklyn affiliated with the Assemblies of God, with a network of Christian social and evangelizing work centers.
Wilkerson gained national recognition after he co-authored the book The Cross and the Switchblade in 1963 with John and Elizabeth Sherrill about his street ministry. The book became a best-seller, with over 50 million copies in over thirty languages, and is included in Christianity Today's "Top 50 Books That Have Shaped Evangelicals". In the book, Wilkerson tells of the conversion of gang member Nicky Cruz, who later became an evangelist himself and wrote the autobiographical Run Baby Run. Nicky had been the president of the gang "Mau Maus", and he and his friend Israel Narvaez became Christians after hearing Wilkerson's preachings. In 1970, The Cross and the Switchblade was turned into a Hollywood movie starring Pat Boone as Wilkerson and Erik Estrada as Cruz.
In 1967, Wilkerson began Youth Crusades, an evangelistic ministry aimed at 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, the CURE Corps (Collegiate Urban Renewal Effort) was founded.
In 1971, Wilkerson moved his ministry headquarters to Lindale, Texas. On September 22 he founded World Challenge, an organization whose mission is to promote and spread the Gospel throughout the world. Wilkerson claimed that in 1986, while walking down 42nd Street in New York City at midnight, the Holy Spirit called him to return to New York City and to raise up a ministry in Times Square. He founded and became the pastor 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.
In relation to David's denomination, during the preaching "You Need The Baptism of the Holy Spirit", Wilkerson said:
"...I am not preaching some denominational doctrine, This church does not belong to any denomination. We are not assembles of God, we are not baptist, we're not methodist, we're not catholic. We're just Holy Ghost people believing this book [The Bible]
Wilkerson did not preach in the name of any specific denomination. Instead, he focused on biblical preaching with the aim of encouraging people to seek God through a personal and deeper knowledge of Jesus Christ and the experience of the Holy Spirit.
Throughout his ministry, Wilkerson would have contact with many other prominent Christian ministers, among which include Leonard Ravenhill, who was his friend, and Ray Comfort, whom David met in 1992 after having been listening a message called the Hell's Best Kept Secret.
From the 1990s, Wilkerson 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. They have four children and eleven grandchildren.
Wilkerson received a vision in 1973 regarding the future of the United States, subsequently published in a book called The Vision. Some of the subject areas of this prophecy were: "Worldwide recession caused by economic confusion"; "Nature having labor pains"; "A flood of filth and a baptism of dirt in America"; "Rebellion in the home"; and "A persecution madness against truly Spirit filled Christians who love Jesus Christ".
On April 27, 2011, while driving east on US Route 175 in Texas, Wilkerson crossed into the westbound lane and collided head-on with a tractor trailer. He was pronounced dead on the scene. His wife Gwen was injured.
Although Gwen survived the accident she passed away July 5, 2012, from cancer.
- The Cross and the Switchblade (with John and Elizabeth Sherrill) . Jove. 1962. Missing or empty
|title=(help) , ISBN 0-5150-9025-5
- America's Last Call, On the Brink of a Financial Holocaust  (1998), ISBN 0-8836-8617-1
- Beyond The Cross and the Switchblade (1974), ISBN 0-8912-9151-2
- Born Old (1966) original title The Little People, ISBN 0-5510-1076-2
- David Wilkerson Exhorts the Church (1991) ISBN 9780829703962
- David Wilkerson Speaks Out (1973), ISBN 978-0871230911
- Dearly Beloved  (2009), ISBN 0-9712187-4-9
- End Times New Testament ISBN 978-0912376110
- Get Your Hands Off My Throat (1971), ISBN 978-8472281332
- God's Plan to Protect His People in the Coming Depression  (1998), ISBN 978-0883686164
- Hallowed Be Thy Names  (May 2001) ISBN 0-9709326-0-X
- Have You Felt Like Giving Up Lately? (1980) ISBN 0-8007-8481-2
- Hey, Preach . . . You're Comin' Through! (1968) ISBN 978-0891290643
- Hungry For More of Jesus  (February 1992) ISBN 978-0800792008
- I'm Not Mad at God (1967), ISBN 978-0871232458
- I've Given Up On Parents (1969), ISBN 978-0340108291
- Jesus Christ Solid Rock: The Return Of Christ (with Kathryn Kuhlman, Hal Lindsey and W. A. Criswell) (1973)
- Jesus Person Maturity Manual
- Jesus Person Pocket Promise Book (1972)
- The Jesus walk: Selected " why's " and " how-to's " for a closer walk with Christ (A Regal Jesus Person Maturity book) (1972), ISBN 978-0830701711
- Life on the Edge of Time (1972) ISBN 978-0800705534
- Man, Have I Got Problems (1969) ISBN 978-0515046687
- My Bible Speaks to Me
- The New Covenant Unveiled  (April 2000), ISBN 978-0966317237
- One Way To Where? (1972), ISBN 978-0830701698
- Parents on Trial (1967)
- Pocket Promise Book (1972), ISBN 0-8307-0191-5
- Pocket Proverbs (1983), ISBN 0-8307-0893-6
- Promises To Live By, ISBN 978-0830718870
- Purple Violet Squish (1969), ISBN 978-0551000483
- Racing Toward Judgment (1976), ISBN 978-0800782764
- Rebel's Bible (1970), ISBN 978-0551007512
- Revival on Broadway  (September 1996), ISBN 978-0966317206
- Rock Bottom (pamphlet) (1981)
- Set the Trumpet to thy Mouth (1985), ISBN 978-0883686409
- Sipping Saints  (1978), ISBN 0-8007-8339-5
- Suicide (1978), ISBN 978-0800786434
- This Is Loving? (1972), ISBN 978-0830701704
- Triumph Through Tragedy  (2001), ISBN 978-0800793562
- Twelve Angels from Hell (1965), ISBN 978-0551004238
- The Untapped Generation (with Don Wilkerson) (1971), ISBN 978-1135577704
- Victory Over Sin and Self (1980) Originally titled Two of Me, ISBN 978-0800784348
- The Vision (1973), ISBN 0-515-03286-7.
- What Every Teenager Should Know About Drugs (1971), ISBN 978-0551050679
- When In Doubt, Faith It! (1972), ISBN 978-0830701681
- "Rev. David Wilkerson Killed in TX Car Crash". Christian Broadcasting Network. April 28, 2011.
- Preaching "You need the baptism of the Holy Spirit", available in
- Wilkerson, David. ""The Cross and the Switchblade" More Details". David Wilkerson Publications. Retrieved 2011-03-12.
- http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/29/nyregion/rev-david-wilkerson-79-evangelist-dies-in-crash.html?_r=0 Margarit Fox, (2011), The New York Times, "Rev. David Wilkerson Dies at 79; Started Times Square Church"
- "History :: Teen Challenge USA". Retrieved 2008-11-22.
- "Teen Challenge's Proven Answer to the Drug Problem". Association of Christian Alcohol & Drug Counselors.
- "The Top 50 Books That Have Shaped Evangelicals". Christianity Today. October 6, 2006.
- http://www.sermonindex.net/modules/mydownloads/singlefile.php?lid=15234&commentView=itemComments You Need The Baptism Of The Holy Spirit (4:49-5:8)
- "Evangelist David Wilkerson, Times Square Church founder, dies in car crash". Pocono Record. April 28, 2011.
- Wilkerson, David. ""America's Last Call" More Details". David Wilkerson Publications. Retrieved 2011-03-12.
- Wilkerson, David. ""Dearly Beloved" More Details". David Wilkerson Publications. Retrieved 2011-03-12.
- Wilkerson, David. ""God's Plan to Protect His People..." More Details". David Wilkerson Publications. Retrieved 2011-03-12.
- Wilkerson, David. ""Hallowed Be Thy Names" More Details". David Wilkerson Publications. Retrieved 2011-03-12.
- Wilkerson, David. ""Have You Felt Like Giving Up Lately" More Details". David Wilkerson Publications. Retrieved 2011-03-12.
- Wilkerson, David. ""Hungry for More of Jesus" More Details". David Wilkerson Publications. Retrieved 2011-03-12.
- Wilkerson, David. ""The New Covenant Unveiled" More Details". David Wilkerson Publications. Retrieved 2011-03-12.
- Wilkerson, David. ""Sipping Saints" More Details". David Wilkerson Publications. Retrieved 2011-03-12.
- Wilkerson, David. ""Triumph Through Tragedy" More Details". David Wilkerson Publications. Retrieved 2011-03-12.