On Wednesday 27th April the Body of Christ lost one of its greatest leaders. David Wilkerson was close to his eightieth birthday when his car was involved in a terrible accident in which he died. But not only has the Body of Christ lost a great leader, the world has lost a mouthpiece through whom God has been speaking to our generation.
I never personally met David, but have had opportunity to see the evidence of what God has done in the places where he put down his feet for the Kingdom of God. The fruit is universally good.
As a young man I was personally impacted by the remarkable true story contained within The Cross and the Switchblade. It read like an adventure story. It was certainly an adventure, but it wasn’t a made-up story, every word was true. Out of his work among the drug culture of New York City grew the mightily effective ministry of Teen Challenge.
In the centre of New York the Times Square Church became the focus of the work that grew out of his own life and ministry. And from there the tentacles of faith have spread all over the world – including to Israel where David and Karen Davies established a work among the drug community of Haifa, from which has grown a remarkable fellowship where we have been privileged to teach and minister.
On that world-shaking day in September 2001, the terrible events of what became known as ‘nine-eleven’ gave the Times Square Church an amazing opportunity to minister to the traumatised people of New York. They took it with open hands and open hearts and many were grateful.
Throughout David’s life and ministry he has constantly taught powerfully through both the written and spoken word. He is one of the most respected and quoted of modern day prophetic figures. He leaves behind a huge legacy of vital material.
His are not the sort of ephemeral prophecies that entertain for a moment, but soon disappear into the winds of time. His prophetic words, throughout his long years of ministry, have always soberly reminded both the church and the nations of the consequences of ignoring both the Word of God and the God of the Word. They will be eagerly sought after by the discerning as the Body of Christ seeks to understand the days in which we are living.
He was not shy of warning his own nation, the USA, of forthcoming judgement for their rebellion against the God who has so blessed their history. These are not words that only appeared in recent days, but were given many years ago, in time to be a warning that gives people an opportunity to change. But his words were largely ignored by the leaders who most needed to take note of them. Many commentators believe that his words about judgement are already coming true. He also never hesitated to remind the Church and the Governments of the World of the consequences of betraying Israel.
While the accidental circumstances of his death have catapulted the Christian world into the grief of mourning, I am praying that in the overall strategy of God, the way his death has become worldwide headline news, will draw the Church’s attention to the priceless treasures of truth that poured from his lips and his pen.
Just as with the prophets of old, who spoke from the heart of God, not just for their own generation, but for all generations to come, I believe David Wilkerson will increasingly be seen as one of the most significant voices of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. He may no longer be with us, but what God said through him will not and, indeed, cannot die.
While this is a time of mourning, it’s also a time of great thanksgiving – thanksgiving for a life well lived and for the extraordinary fruit that grew on the branches of faith that broke out from his work in New York. The world may be poorer for his passing, but Heaven has gained a remarkable saint.
These are some of his words:
“When we stand before God at the judgment, we won’t be judged by our ministries, achievements or number of converts. There will be but one measure of success on that day: Were our hearts fully surrendered to God? Did we lay aside our own will and agenda and take up his? Did we succumb to peer pressure and follow the crowd, or did we seek him alone for direction? Did we run from seminar to seminar looking for purpose in life, or did we find our fulfilment in him?
I have but one ambition and that is to learn more and more to say only those things the Father gives me. Nothing I say or do of myself is worth anything. I want to be able to claim that I know my Father is with me, because I do only his will.”
His life was one of full surrender to the will and purposes of God. What a challenge his life is – not a challenge to try and copy him and walk in his steps, for the pathway of David Wilkerson’s life was a unique pathway laid out by God for him – but a challenge to be sure we are walking in the unique pathway God has laid out for each one of us, fully surrendered to the One who surrendered all for us.