BUDAPEST/NEW YORK (BosNewsLife)– World famous evangelist David Wilkerson, who founded Times Square Church in New York City and authored the best-selling book, “The Cross and the Switchblade,” has died. He was 79.
Wilkerson died Wednesday afternoon in a car accident in East Texas, Texas Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Tela Mange told reporters.
Wilkerson’s car smashed head-on into a tractor-trailer rig after veering into oncoming traffic on U.S. 175 west of Cuney, about 95 miles southeast of Dallas, Mange said.
He founded the non-denominational Protestant Times Square Church in 1987 in an area of Manhattan that was then riddled with X-rated movie houses, strip clubs, prostitution and drugs. He also founded Teen Challenge, which uses a biblically based recovery program for drug addicts.
Wilkerson also showed affection to those often overlooked by society in other countries including in former Communist nations, where religion was discouraged by the previous regime. In 2003 hundreds of Hungarians, including alcoholics and drugs addicts, acknowledged Jesus Christ as their Savior after they came forward at a rally of Wilkerson in one of Budapest’s most impoverished districts.
COMMUNIST STYLE CONFERENCE CENTER
The call came at the end of an evangelistic meeting held in a Communist style conference center with no apparent air conditioning near what is known as Black Hole, a former night club that was recently closed down because of drugs abuse. “For 40 years I have been praying for alcoholics and drugs addicts. I can’t change your heart, but the Holy Spirit can,” said Wilkerson at the time in his sermon that was translated into the Hungarian language, as he spoke to those who stood in front of the platform.
Although the event was not advertised in public media, up to 3,000 people packed the center’s two floors, with many people standing because of a lack of seats, while watching the evangelist on huge cinema screens.
He used his own life experiences to convey that message.
In “The Cross and the Switchblade” Wilkerson wrote about his early years in New York City administering to drug addicts and gang members.
The 1963 book became a best-seller and was made into a movie starring Pat Boone.
NOW “WITH JESUS”
His family confirmed his death in a statement posted on the website for Wilkerson’s World Challenge Inc. ministries, saying he “went to be with Jesus.”
“We appreciate your prayers and our hearts are sorrowful, yet we rejoice at the joy of knowing David Wilkerson spent his life well,” the statement said.
Wilkerson was not wearing a seat-belt at the time of the crash, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety. His wife, Gwendolyn,
was also in the car and was wearing a seat-belt, Mange said. She was taken to a hospital, where she was in stable condition with cuts and bruises, Mange said.
Along with his wife, David Wilkerson is survived by four children.
Wilkerson was well known as the founder of Teen Challenge and of Times Square Church, but also for his failed prophecies of doom.