DAVID WILKERSON: Unshackled from the "Small Screen"

An onslaught of restlessness hit David Wilkerson as he watched

the remnants of "The Late Show" fade slowly from the television

screen. He began to pace the room, calculating the amount of time

he spent absorbed by the media´s lure every night-at least two

hours. Wilkerson glanced at the ceiling and wondered aloud, "What

would happen, Lord, if I sold that TV set and spent that time-

praying?" Within a few minutes, Wilkerson determined that if God

wanted him to substitute prayer for television, then He would allow

him to sell the television no more than half an hour after a newspaper

ad for the TV hit the streets. The morning came, and the Wilkerson

family sat in the living room watching a big alarm clock posted

beside the telephone. Twenty-nine minutes after they began their

vigil, a man called and purchased the set, sight unseen.

That was February 9, 1958. A few months later, during one of

Wilkerson´s prayer sessions, God spoke to him through a

courtroom drawing in Life magazine, a picture of seven boys in

a murder trial. Wilkerson realized God was calling him to New

York City to bring the gospel to these troubled teens. The next

day he announced his intentions at a prayer meeting in his

Pennsylvania church. They took up an offering to cover his

transportation costs, and he departed for New York City early

the next morning, full of conviction but with little direction.

After a series of trips to the city, Wilkerson began street

evangelism in the most dangerous areas of Brooklyn, Manhattan,

and the Bronx. By August of 1959, several of the most violent

gang leaders, including Nicky Cruz and Israel (and their entire

gangs), had genuinely converted to Christianity-the story

captured in the best-selling book The Cross and the Switchblade.

A few even decided to attend seminary. Within two years,

Wilkerson permanently left his burgeoning parish in Philipsburg,

dropped his wife and children off at her parents´ in Pittsburgh,

and moved into a grungy office space in Staten Island to start

a "program aimed at setting youngsters free." He soon retrieved

his family, purchased a home in Brooklyn, and with a staff of

young evangelists in tow, established a safe haven for New

York´s urban, troubled youth.

So began a journey that grew into a worldwide youth ministry,

today called Teen Challenge. It provides faith-based rehabilitation

services to teenagers plagued by addiction. Its program has

broken addictions psychologists claimed impossible to overcome;

it maintains a high success rate of long-term recovery. Wilkerson

opened the first center in Brooklyn, and now centers can be found

across the U. S. and around the world.4

People may wonder what attributes made Wilkerson such a

formidable force in New York City and beyond. First, he pursued

the Lord in prayer before he made any decision or took any action

regarding his calling. As he prayed with Bible in hand, he learned

the power of balancing petition and praise.5 Second, once he

discerned God´s will, Wilkerson was readily obedient: He started

going to New York City every week. He walked the crime-infested

streets, and he talked to as many teenagers as possible about

the issues they faced. Essentially, he took the trouble to become

well-informed. And though he faced obstacles, Wilkerson kept

going back. Third, Wilkerson´s ministry was led and empowered

by the Holy Spirit. When a teen suggested he was "trying too

hard," Wilkerson realized that he needed to step aside and allow

the Spirit to win the hearts of his unconventional congregation. It

was not that Wilkerson ceased to prepare for his interactions with

the teens or to work diligently at his ministry; it was merely that

he remembered that "it is God, and only God, who heals." And

the healing began at a stunning pace.

Who knows what can happen when the man or woman of God

turns off the TV long enough to hear the Lord speaking to him.

~adapted from Kairos Journal.WHAT CHANGED