Earlier this week, pastor David Wilkerson passed away as the result of a car accident near Tyler, Texas. He was 79 years old. David Wilkerson was a pastor in rural Pennsylvania in 1958 when he followed God’s call to start a street ministry among drug addicts and gang members in New York City. He wrote about the experience in The Cross and the Switchblade which was a best seller in the 1960’s. Soon after, Wilkerson founded Teen Challenge, a Christian addiction recovery program which now has centers around the world.
In the early 1980’s, I had the privilege of meeting several Teen Challenge “participants” at a banquet in Anchorage, Alaska. I also met Bill. Bill was an evangelist whose parish was the seedy 4th Avenue section of downtown Anchorage. Here Bill shared the gospel message and brought rescue to a number of teenagers who had lost their way and pointed them on the right path through their subsequent entrance into life at the Teen Challenge facility.
I was struck at the time and still am all these years later by Bill’s humility. He tried to deflect the attention that came his way at the banquet as teenager after teenager personally thanked Bill for their rescue and recovery. I don’t even know Bill’s last name. I don’t know if it was ever mentioned. But God knows, and based on my limited understanding of God’s reward system, I believe Bill and a million “Bills” like him will be the surprise of heaven when their obscure, but life-changing, work will finally be revealed.
The legacy of David Wilkerson will live on, not only at Times Square Church which he founded, but also through Teen Challenge and its related ministries. And so will the legacy of Bill, the obscure evangelist, in the young people God touched through his ministry. Your work in God’s kingdom may be more similar to Bill’s than the national platform that God placed in front of David Wilkerson. Whatever our circle of influence, may our part be characterized by a consistent response to follow God’s call. You do have a platform. And you may have no idea of its extent. I doubt Bill, the Alaskan evangelist, knows the lasting impression and encouragement he gave to a lowly Texas geophysicist.