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Women who answer God's call provide valuable local ministries (1/11/04)

Pastors predict bleak future if local casinos open (12/28/03)

Soap, figurines, candles keep books company in Christian stores (12/21/03)

In order to form a more perfect union (11/30/03)

Federal Marriage Amendment receives Fellowship’s endorsement (11/23/03)

Drug czar congratulates Teen Challenge (11/16/03)

Christian fiction no long back-shelf item (10/19/03)

DREAM3 benefits churches (10/19/03)

Youth rise to DC03 challenge (10/12/03)

Ministry uses drama, music to touch city for Christ (9/28/03)

Displeased viewers protest raunchy programs (9/21/03)

Grit, determination key to cities blocking cable pornography (8/31/03)

Economic slump doesn't always derail giving (8/24/03)

Ruling threatens family, Christian leaders say (8/17/03)

Anti-aging options require balanced approach to health, beauty (8/10/03)

Convoy of Hope reaches out to inner-city neighborhood (7/27/03)

Fight for the flag moves to nation’s schools (7/20/03)

Drama speaks volumes to alienated veterans (7/13/03)

Church's integrity well received following nightmarish ordeal (6/29/03)

Tornadoes cut wide swath across nation's midsection (6/22/03)

Accountability partners provide human feedback that filters don't (6/15/03)

Checking out your horoscope? God advises you to skip it (6/8/03)

Christian filmmakers pursue wider market success (5/25/03)

Intervention is key to preventing suicide (5/18/03)

Adoption often right decision for young expectant mothers (5/11/03)

Dallas-based ministry keeps inmates out of jail (4/27/03)

Medical analysis of Jesus' death generates interest (4/20/03)

Small-town church reaches community (4/13/03)

Young married couples lulled by false sense of security (3/30/03)

Virtual gambling days may be numbered (3/23/03)

Contemporary Christian music copes with its continuing success (3/16/03)

A/G prayer event set for gathering in nation's capital (3/9/03)

Volunteers give church voice in community (2/23/02)

Federal law protects churches in zoning battles (2/16/03)

Singles find cyberspace dating not always match made in heaven (2/9/03)

Predators often plan strategies long in advance (1/19/03)

The Cross and the Switchblade still makes impact 40 years later (1/12/03)

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2002 PE Report stories

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The Cross and the Switchblade still makes impact 40 years later

By Peter K. Johnson (January 12, 2003)

First published in 1963, The Cross and the Switchblade has touched millions of lives and keeps on spreading the gospel message.

On the street: Evangelist Nicky Cruz (left) prays with a young man as David Wilkerson preaches.

The book is a publishing blockbuster. An estimated 32 million copies have been sold or distributed free.

“I am amazed that after 40 years it would still be opening doors for evangelism,” says David Wilkerson, its author and founder of Teen Challenge. Pulling no punches, the book tells how God led Wilkerson to minister among violent street gangs and drug addicts in New York City during the late 1950s and to launch Teen Challenge. He wrote the story with John and Elizabeth Sherrill, co-authors of The Hiding Place and God’s Smuggler.

The story began as an article in Guideposts magazine where the Sherrills worked. The Sherrills spent more than two years helping Wilkerson turn it into a book. Wilkerson narrated scenes from notes that he had compiled while the Sherrills edited and rewrote his descriptions. Studying the revised manuscript at home, Wilkerson prayed on his knees over every word.

In 1972, the book was made into a feature film starring Pat Boone as Wilkerson. “We did not have the least idea of the impact of the book,” Elizabeth Sherrill says.

According to the Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements, the book helped spark the beginning of the charismatic outpouring among Roman Catholics and mainline Protestant denominations. Reading about speaking in tongues made many believers hungry for the baptism in the Holy Spirit.

Numerous Christians are serving the Lord today as a result of the book. “God called me to Teen Challenge work in 1968 while I was in Bible school when I read The Cross and the Switchblade,” says Duane Henders, a missionary with Global Teen Challenge.

Barbara Taylor, a counselor at the Lakeland, Fla., Teen Challenge Center for Girls, devoured the book in one day in 1975. “I did not personally know this Jesus who had the power to change lives,” she says. “The Holy Spirit had begun a process, and within weeks my 13-year-old daughter led me to Jesus. That night I told the Lord that my life was His to control. God placed a desire in my heart to work for Teen Challenge and set the course for the rest of my life.”

Wilkerson gained new insights into the book’s global impact during a recent trip to Europe. A Baptist bishop related how he became a Christian while reading it in a Russian prison. Inmates passed around handwritten copies of the book one page at a time. A Lutheran minister told him about accepting Christ as Savior after reading The Cross and the Switchblade in seminary. Wilkerson still receives e-mails about the book from around the world, including countries such as Afghanistan and Pakistan. Typical messages say: “That was my first introduction to Jesus.”

“I thank God for the doors it has opened,” Wilkerson says.


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