The Rev. David Wilkerson, a slim, intense, 34-year-old evangelist whose ministry to teen-agers in trouble (especially narcotics addicts) has won national attention, is expanding his Brooklyn-based work, called Teen Challenge. The main new emphases are on mass youth evangelism, magazine publishing, literature distribution, and specialized schooling for converts to Christ. His purpose is to reach a greatly expanded segment of the nation’s immense teen population (those from twelve to twenty years old), now numbering about 29,000,000.

Wilkerson’s work with young people began nearly six years ago when he saw a picture of a gang of New York toughs in Life magazine. Strangely, the picture made him weep. It constituted what he terms a “burden from the Lord” that made him leave his Pennsylvania country-church pastorate to invade bleak tenement hallways and gang “turfs” with a message to socially deprived, hostile youth that God loved them in very fact. Teen Challenge is now a $670,000-a-year operation in the New York area, with similar projects in Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Boston, and Toronto.

The Cross and the Switchblade was the title of the book that told the story of his curbstone encounters with the teen-age underworld and his penetration of narcotics cloisters where kids jabbed their arms full of needle holes. Its accounts of about-face turns to Christ and redeemed young lives caused a considerable stir among church people, and the book, which has gone through nineteen printings in hard-cover and paperback, has sold 478,000 copies in paperback alone and well over half a million altogether.

The Cross and the Switchblade has now become the name of a new pocket-sized magazine whose first issue comes off ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.

Tags:
Issue: