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David Wilkerson (1931-2011)

David Wilkerson, during most of his ministry, and in particular since one day in 1958 when he was thrust into news headlines, was a controversial figure in ecclesiastical circles. But, he was not controversial in the same way or for the same reasons many people who have basically earned that appellation. David Wilkerson was controversial because he was a genuine modern-day prophet both to the world of the unbelieving and to the church of the purported believing.

David Wilkerson simply saw and heard things in the Spirit that others did not, or would not, and boldly and courageously, spoke out about what he saw and heard, not because he chose or even desired to, but because he was called, chosen, and impelled by God to. All of that is the very simplest but all-encompassing definition of who and what a genuine prophet is.

As he witnessed the rapidly and exponentially proliferating of unrestrained hedonism and debauchery in the 1960s and its entrenchment in American culture, Wilkerson began speaking prophetic words of admonition about impending judgment of America if Americans did not repent from their unabashed sinfulness. With strong words of exhortation that oftentimes were words of rebuke, he also chastised the churches and church leaders of the time for their complacency, inaction, spiritual blindness and dullness, and infatuation with and seduction by the world and its allures. The core of his message was essentially what every genuine prophet of all ages espouses and expounds: That as the world system, along with its human perpetrators, spirals deeper and deeper into the vortex of utter evil and wickedness, the true Church that Jesus is building, in its role of restraint (2 Thes. 2:7-8), preservation (Mat. 5:13), and salvage (Rom. 11:14; 1 Cor. 9:22) must gird up, rise up, stand up, and speak up against it, thereby “snatching some out of the fire” (Jude 1:23). Yet, as with all genuine prophets, whether those of Bible times or those of more recent times, Wilkerson’s prophetic warnings were always seasoned with grace and God’s offer of mercy for those willing to turn from their wicked ways, to repent, and turn to God. In fact, often publicly, but always privately, the messages he received from God for the people of the world and the church, who he loved so deeply and indefatigably, broke his heart, and caused him to weep uncontrollably, much like the prophet Jeremiah, who theologians dubbed “the weeping prophet.”

Before the prophetic words of remonstrance reached his lips, they were purified by having passed through a salty river of intercessory tears, sometimes for weeks, sometimes for months, and sometimes for years. Maybe no one in the 20th/21st century spent more protracted periods in agonizing prayer than David Wilkerson. Times without number, he sequestered himself away from all the hub-bub, distractions, and trifles of life and ministry, and secreted himself alone with God for two weeks, three weeks, 21 days, or 40 days of fasting and intense prayer. The frequency of his separation from others was a source of frustration and even anger and bitterness at times for family, friends, and fellows — a price that had to be paid. But, few who’ve ever lived had the fire and fervor of David Wilkerson, and the source was the austere secret place where, like Moses on the mountain-top and Elijah in his cave, he met face-to-face with God. There, in that austere secret place, alone with God, is where he came to know God — who He is, what He desires, what pleases Him, and what displeases Him — with rarefied intimacy. Above all else, like King David, David Wilkerson was a man after, meaning in desperate pursuit of, God’s heart. Like Enoch, he walked with God until he walked right into the company of God, for God took him.

On Friday, April 29, 2011, Gary Wilkerson, David’s son posted the following tribute:

“David served the purposes of God in his generation, then he died” (Acts 13:36).

On Wednesday afternoon my father, David Wilkerson, passed away in a car accident. We grieve the loss of a beloved father, a faithful husband and a holy man of God. My mother, Gwen, his wife of 57 years, was in the car also, but we are told she will recover fully. (Editor’s note: she did, but then succumbed to cancer in 2012.)

Dad’s 60-plus years of ministry have impacted the lives of those closest to him and extended to millions around the world. Today we feel a personal loss, but at the same time we rejoice knowing Dad lived life to the fullest, obeying God with devotion and loving Jesus radically.

He was known for his unlimited faith. He believed God could change the lives of gang members and transform the most desperate drug addicts. He believed that a dynamic church could be launched in the heart of Times Square, New York City.

He believed he could be a man who loved his wife and children well. And he did.

Dad was not one for fanfare, acclaim or ceremony. He turned down invitations to meet with world leaders yet would give everything he owned to support a poor orphan or a widow in distress.

Like King David of old, Dad served God’s purposes in his generation. He preached with uncompromising passion and relentless grace. He wrote with amazing insight, clarity and conviction. He ran his race well and when his work was done, he was called home.

I don’t think my father would have retired well. I don’t think he was one to sit in a rocking chair and reminisce about times past. I believe that Jesus, knowing this, graciously called him home.

Dad’s last mission on earth was to be an advocate for the poorest of the poor—to provide relief and support for hungry children and widows and orphans. After founding Teen Challenge, World Challenge and Times Square Church, he sought to feed starving children in the most impoverished countries in the world. Today, Please Pass the Bread is saving the lives of thousands of children, through 56 outreaches in 8 countries.

Like King David of old, after having served God’s purpose, he died. I know if my father were able to encourage you with his words today, he would invite you to give your all to Jesus, to love God deeply and to give yourself away to the needs of others.

The works he began outlive him. We can all attest to his impacting us—not only in his preaching, writing and founding of world-changing ministries, but in his love, devotion, compassion and ability to stir our faith for greater works.

You can read the above devotion online at: http://www.worldchallenge.org/en/node/13180.

Wilkerson published many of his warnings and admonitions in various publications, including his newsletters (prior to the Internet), books, audio sermons, and videos later in his ministry. By and large, the more he warned, the more controversial he and his ministry were regarded, especially, it seemed, by the Pentecostal church of which he was a part, being a third generation Pentecostal minister, having received the Baptism in the Holy Spirit at age eight, and having been ordained by the Assemblies of God in 1951, after attending the AG-affiliated Central Bible College. While the church he founded in 1987 in New York City, Times Square Church, quickly grew to several thousand congregants, and continues to minister to tens of thousands, nevertheless, Wilkerson was basically held at arms length by Pentecostal church leaders, and even more by Charismatic church leaders, as complacency, lack of fervency, deception, and outright apostasy increased in those streams.

In the early days of the PTL Club nationally televised program, its founder/host Jim Bakker would occasionally have prophetic types like David Wilkerson as guests on the program. But, as “sin in the camp” increased, that occurred less and less, until finally, “negative” voices speaking about sin and error were banned entirely from the program. Nothing new or surprising about that, it goes on yet today on Christian television networks like TBN who bans and ostracizes genuine prophets who are deemed to be “loose cannons” who network brass know can’t be muzzled or silenced, but who are genuine mouthpieces of God, who speak whatever God whispers in their ear and the Spirit leads them to speak without hesitation, filtering, qualm, bias, or concern for self-preservation, no matter who or what it is about.

Even an obscure and unknown nobody like me is subject to such discriminatory banning and blackballing in that I was banned from the local TBN station more than ten years ago now, after only one appearance on the local “Praise The Lord” program, which I only found out about when a local host invited me to be a guest on that program he was hosting because, he said, I was among the few in the area who had a true understanding of the topic he was going to be discussing on the program — the apostolic and prophetic restoration. He had known this because I had reached out to him after hearing his radio program several times and invited him to be a panelist at a round-table I had moderated about a year before that was one of the breakout sessions during the day of a conference hosted by another ministry in the area. About ten minutes after I had accepted his invitation, he called back to say that regrettably he would have to retract his invitation because when he called the station manager to inform him of the lineup of guests he had put together for the program, the station manager informed him that I could not be a guest on his program because I had been summarily and totally unbeknownst to me banned from appearances on the station. He was shocked by that revelation, but not nearly as shocked as me. When I asked him if the station manager had given him any reason(s), he said he had not and that it was clear that the decision was non-negotiable. To this day, more than ten years later, I’ve never been given a reason for that banning, but that station manager and his wife who also worked at the station were summarily dismissed themselves sometime later.

For ten years or so, I put the whole matter out of my mind, and didn’t give it another thought. But then, a short time before Paul Crouch Sr.’s death, who actually interviewed me in 1977 when I was the scheduling coordinator for a large touring choir I helped to start called, “Festival of Praise,” at the top of the “Praise The Lord” program that was entirely devoted to a FOP performance at Ralph Wilkerson’s (no relation to David) church that then met in a high-capacity auditorium laid out in the round that the church had purchased from a failed theater, located across the street from Disneyland in Anaheim, called, “Melodyland Church,” I felt led of the Lord to reach out to TBN via email concerning whether or not this ban had come from TBN headquarters and was network-wide or just that station manager and was limited to that station. Paul’s assistant, and later Matt Crouch’s assistant, responded telling me Paul and TBN brass knew nothing about it, knew nothing about any purported justification or reasoning, that that manager had been terminated, which I already knew, and that I should consider any such purported ban lifted. Which was decent of them, but, though I forwarded that email to the new station manager, mailed them some ministry materials, and subsequently called twice requesting to speak to the new manager, I’ve never heard from anyone at the station, the manager has never returned my phone calls, and I’ve never again been invited to be a guest on the local version of the program.

All this to say that nothing has changed with Christian television networks; they still don’t like genuine prophets on their programs because they know they can’t control them or what they will say. They’re not invited to be a part of the “good ole boy” club of preachers who, like our Congress, “go along to get along” and to maintain their political careers. Genuine God-called, -appointed, and -anointed prophets are GOD’S spokesmen, not any man’s or collection of men. Their “silence” cannot be purchased with inordinately large honorariums, like so many of the “yes-man” sycophants who comprise the relatively small club of hosts and frequent guests who have demonstrated their willingness to “look the other way” or “wink” at the obvious, broadly-publicized and well-known outright, blatant, and habitual sinfulness and debauchery of the network’s founders, family members, board members, bigwigs, and many of its frequent hosts. Such people are enjoying their “rewards” now in the form of appearances on internationally televised programming on the largest television network in the world in order to expand their personal notoriety and thereby fill up their ministry coffers, but in the final day of reckoning, as they stand before the Bema Seat of Christ, their going to have some major ‘splainin’ to do, as I see it…IF they even make it to that glorious and privileged place…which in my view is highly questionable!

Such people, ministers and leaders of ministers, whose conscience allows them to simply “look the other way” and pretend that these things are not happening, or that they don’t know anything about it, or to hide behind some disingenuous claim that these reports are only unconfirmed rumors that they have no direct confirmation of their validity, or who disclaim any culpability or association with known hypocrites and their irrefutable behavioral apostasy, strictly for self-aggrandizing purposes, in my opinion, are people of highly questionable character, morals, and spirituality, no matter how well they can sing a song, preach, prophesy, orate, interview, moderate, or speak with the sincerest of countenances into cameras. They might be “stars” on Christian television networks, but they’re only spiritual criminals, con-men, and apostates in the Kingdom of God.

David Wilkerson was of the polar opposite ilk. He was one of those men the Bible talks about who was of such high character, morality, and spiritual nature that the world was not worthy of his life and presence for the 79 years that he graced this planet. The thousands who knew or knew of him were to a person shocked and dumbfounded when in 2011 he was suddenly and mysteriously taken from us.

“April 27, 2011, Reverend Wilkerson posted on his devotional blog, “To those going through the valley and shadow of death, hear this word: Weeping will last through some dark, awful nights, and in that darkness you will soon hear the Father whisper, ‘I am with you. I cannot tell you why right now, but one day it will make sense. You will see it was all part of my plan. It was no accident.’” That afternoon, Reverend Wilkerson was killed in a car accident.” [From David Wilkerson’s Bio on his ministry website]

To learn more about David Wilkerson and his international ministry and the tremendous impact of his life, visit his ministry website at: worldchallenge.org

Virtually (possibly literally, if they all could be known) all of David Wilkerson’s prophecies about America, in particular, have come true already, many, if not most, of them came true during his lifetime, which is not something that made him happy or caused him to swell up with pride, for he, like all genuine prophets, was a reluctant prophet, for the true prophet speaks not out of hubris and selfish ambition, but out of severe brokenness and humility, and as one who has begged God, sometimes for many years, for his divine and sovereign intervention so that the message need not be spoken and the impending judgment, if repentance is not forthcoming, need not be meted out. In a PTL program taped in November 1976, David Wilkerson shouts from the rooftops what he heard whispered in his ear from the Lord. It’s astonishing how accurate Wilkerson’s predictions he talked about in this brief TV appearance were.

Dr. Steven Lambert was ordained in 1977 and holds several earned graduate/post-graduate degrees. Over more than four decades in ministry, he has served as a pastor, radio/TV host, adjunct-professor, Board Certified Doctoral Diplomate Christian Therapist/Counselor, and a speaker/commentator on a range of social, political, and theological issues, particularly as a recognized authority on the matter of ecclesiastical authoritarian abuse. He is the founder/Overseer of Ephesians Four Network (ephesiansfour.net) and its subsidiary, Ephesians Four Network of Deliverance Counselors (efndc.ephesiansfour.net). Dr. Lambert authored several books (catalog at realtruthpublications.com), many published articles, and is the founder/editor of Spirit Life Magazine (spiritlifemag.com). His bio, extensive blog, and scheduling information are available on his ministry website at: http://www.slm.org. You can follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

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