"It is with deepest of sadness that we have to inform you of the sudden passing of Reverend David Wilkerson, our founding pastor," Times Square Church Senior Pastor Carter Conlon said in a statement on the church website.
Pastor David Wilkerson was first called to New York City to minister to gang members and drug addicts in February, 1958. Prior to that, he had been serving as pastor in small churches in Scottdale and Philipsburg, Pennsylvania. It was there that he saw a photo in Life Magazine of seven New York City teenagers charged with murder. Feeling moved with compassion, he went to New York and began a street ministry.
He began by taking runaway children into his apartment to sleep on his couch and floor. One night, his was room filled with more kids than he could handle. Feeling overwhelmed, thinking there was no way he could accept another child, there was a knock at the door. He opened the door to find two forlorn children, who quietly asked if they could stay there as well. He told them he was sorry, but no. His apartment was full. Looking devastated, the children turned and left. Pastor David felt terrible. He never forgot the look of despair in their eyes, and he determined that he would never turn a child away again.
Later that year, Pastor David Wilkerson founded 'Teen Challenge,' an evangelical Christian recovery program that has since grown into a network of Christian centers in several countries. In 1967, Wilkerson began Youth Crusades, a ministry for middle-class teenagers who were restless and bored - whom he called "goodniks" - with the hope of preventing them from getting into drug abuse, alcoholism and violence. Through this ministry, the CURE Corps (Collegiate Urban Renewal Effort) was founded with a goal of being a Christian version of the Peace Corps and Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA).
David Wilkerson is the best-selling author of "The Cross and the Switchblade" and "The Vision." Co-authored with John and Elizabeth Sherrill, "The Cross and the Switchblade," published in 1963, is considered one of the most influential and evangelical books in history. It tells the story of gang member Nicky Cruz's conversion and sold over 50 million copies in over thirty languages. A 1970 movie based on the book, starring Pat Boone as Wilkerson and Erik Estrada as Cruz, was included on Christianity Today's "Top 50 Books That Have Shaped Evangelicals."
In 1971, Wilkerson moved his ministry headquarters to Lindale, Texas, and founded World Challenge, an organization with the mission of spreading the Gospel throughout the world.
Fifteen years later, walking down 42nd Street at midnight in 1986, he was passing by live peep shows and X-rated movie houses when his heart broke over the prostitutes, pimps, drug addicts, runaways and hustlers crowding Times Square. Again overwhelmed, he cried out for God to do something to help all the spiritually dead and dying people.
Pastor David later said the Holy Spirit called him to return to New York City and to raise up a ministry in Times Square.
“I saw 9, 10 and 11-year-old kids bombed on crack cocaine. I walked down 42nd Street and they were selling crack. Len Bias, the famous basketball player, had just died of a crack overdose, and the pusher was yelling, ‘Hey, I’ve got the stuff that killed Len.’ I wept and prayed, ‘God, you’ve got to raise up a testimony in this hellish place…The answer was not what I wanted to hear: ‘Well, you know the city. You’ve been here. You do it.’”
He obeyed and in October of 1987, at the “crossroads of the world,” he opened the Times Square Church in rented auditoriums in Times Square (Town Hall and the Nederlander Theater). Later, in 1989, the ministry purchased the historic Mark Hellinger Theater, where the church then moved.
Since that time, he has faithfully led the congregation, delivering powerful biblical messages that encourage righteous living and complete reliance on God. Wilkerson's sermons, such as "A Call to Anguish," are direct and frank, emphasizing Jesus Christ, God's holiness and righteousness, and God's love for people.
He has also had a strong burden for pastors all over the globe. In the 1990's, Wilkerson focused his efforts to encourage pastors and their families to "renew their passion for Christ" and since 1999, has traveled around the world holding conferences to strengthen and encourage Christian ministers.
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."
In 2006 Wilkerson and his wife Gwen began splitting their time between New York and Texas. They have four children and eleven grandchildren. His son Gary Wilkerson is also a Christian minister and evangelist.
According to Texas state troopers called on the scene, Wilkerson was hit head-on by a tractor trailer that moved into his lane. Although the truck driver saw the car and attempted to avoid the collision, Wilkerson crashed and was pronounced dead on the scene. Gwen Wilkerson is in critical condition.
Memorial services for Pastor David Wilkerson have been set for May 14, 2 p.m. ET at Times Square Church.
David Wilkerson was 79 years old.
In April 1973, Pastor David Wilkerson had a vision regarding the U.S., which he then gave a sermon and wrote a book concerning. (called 'The Vision.' )
Some of the details:
1. "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 security will also disappear).
2. "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."
3. "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.
4. "Rebellion in the home"
* "I see the new number one youth problem in America and the world as hatred towards parents."
5. "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.