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Books, Bethel and the Brooklyn Saint

Remember the kid in elementary school who was teased for reading too much? You know, the girl with thick glasses who didn’t care if she was picked last for kickball because she was too engrossed in a new book. She’d sit alone at recess, lost in a vivid world that came alive in her imagination with every page turned.

Fast-forward 30 years, and it’s funny how the tables can turn on “bookworms” like her. They’re typically the ones now leading corporate boardrooms, arguing federal court cases and pioneering new technologies. Finance expert Dave Ramsey says a common thread among the world’s most financially successful people is their discipline of reading a book almost every week.

I’m not into measuring success by your salary or your profession. Nor am I saying all kids with insatiable appetites for reading end up geniuses. But it’s undeniable that books are powerful, positive life-shapers. In a day when dozens of other media offer more instant gratification, and in an era in which the digital tsunami has drastically altered our cultural landscape and intelligence—for better or worse—books still matter. 

Why must I state what’s been a given for hundreds of years? Because when you can carry entire libraries in your pocket (God bless smartphones), you begin to take for granted the power of a single book. That’s exactly what’s happening today, and sadly, we are forgetting that, amid the onslaught of “access anything, anywhere, anytime” information, books can still change things as nothing else can.

There are countless examples of this, but I can’t think of one better suited to highlight in the context of this magazine than David Wilkerson’s The Cross and the Switchblade. In late April, the Christian world mourned the sudden loss of this spiritual giant (whom we pay tribute to in this issue), yet his legacy will remain through his written words. Wilkerson’s powerful 1963 account of how he risked everything to show God’s love to gang members in New York City (particularly in Brooklyn and the Bronx) has affected millions around the world—and is still as riveting today as it was back then. Sure, reading habits may have changed since Wilkerson penned his first book, but the spiritual value contained on those printed pages has not. 

I was reminded of this when I visited Bethel Church in Redding, Calif., to write this month’s cover story and saw firsthand what a “revival culture” looks like after 15 years of passionately pursuing God’s presence as a community of believers. Bethel isn’t just a revival culture, it’s a reading culture too. Everywhere I went, people were talking about books by Bethel leaders. Why? Because those books carry the DNA of the church, which in turn, is the very DNA of the Holy Spirit moving there.

We’ve highlighted those and other books throughout this issue not as a generic reminder for you to read more. Instead, I hope they whet your appetite to open their pages and—as only books can do—have your life changed. read more

Remembering David Wilkerson

How the unabashed New York evangelist changed countless lives—including mine

It was early evening on April 27 when a phone call let me know the devastating news: David Wilkerson had been killed in a car accident. Dr. George Wood, general superintendent of the Assemblies of God, had just learned the news and felt I would want to report it. Knowing how important this was, we had a story online within 40 minutes. Our website’s traffic was so great, the site temporarily crashed, and the article had more forwards on Twitter and Facebook than any in Charisma News history.

That’s because David Wilkerson was one of the great Christian leaders of our generation, and his passing is a loss to the global church. He was the model of integrity, and he finished strong in a day when some televangelists are photographed in foreign countries with women they aren’t married to and others are exposed for secret gay activity while publicly opposing the gay agenda. Wilkerson was the paragon of virtue, and his influence was tremendous.

We covered him many times in Charisma—twice on the cover. Wilkerson was best remembered for his book The Cross and the Switchblade and for founding Teen Challenge, which now has centers around the world that help men and women overcome life-altering addictions. In 1987, Wilkerson founded Times Square Church, which has had a great impact in New York City.

What hasn’t been highlighted as often until now is how Wilkerson influenced others in ways he probably never knew. For example, the young Roman Catholics at Duquesne University who received the baptism in the Holy Spirit, which sparked the Catholic charismatic renewal, had read The Cross and the Switchblade, as well as They Speak With Other Tongues by John Sherrill, who co-authored Wilkerson’s book with his wife, Elizabeth.

There is a chapter in The Cross and the Switchblade in which Wilkerson tells a Catholic priest that the former drug addicts who received the baptism in the Holy Spirit had more power to live for God. In the book he described what the Bible says in Acts about the Holy Spirit. My longtime friend Bert Ghezzi told me that those books certainly made the students (which included him) more open to the Spirit in those fateful days in early 1967. 

It seems nearly every Christian leader from that era has a David Wilkerson story. Dr. Wood remembers that at the time Wilkerson’s dad was pastor of the Assemblies of God church in Turtle Creek, Pa., his own father pastored 30 members at the Assemblies church in nearby Pitcairn, Pa. A young, enthusiastic David Wilkerson wanted to preach in Pitcairn, but Dr. Wood’s father wasn’t sure David was ready and didn’t let him.

John Sherrill remembers that when The Cross and the Switchblade was translated in many languages, sales took off except in one Scandinavian country. Wilkerson suspected the translation was bad, so he had someone read it and discovered the translator had stripped out all references to the power of the Holy Spirit due to a personal theological bias. He insisted the book be republished with the material on the Holy Spirit reinserted. The sales after that took off.

I also was impacted by Wilkerson. I read his book as a teenager, and his description of drug addiction scared me so much I never experimented with drugs, even though it was the norm among many in my generation. I had the privilege of interacting with Wilkerson many times over the years and have my own story about him.

In February 1972, as a junior at the University of Florida, I found out Wilkerson was speaking at a youth rally in Lakeland, Fla. I drove 120 miles from Gainesville with two friends to attend. It was that weekend I met a beautiful woman named Joy, who today is my business partner, my wife and my best friend.

Years later when I took a picture (shown here) with Wilkerson at his church office in New York, I was able to tell him about his influence on my life and career—because without Joy, there would never have been a Charisma magazine.

I, along with millions of others around the world, thank God for the life and influence of David Wilkerson.


Steve Strang is the founder and publisher of Charisma. Follow him on Twitter at @sstrang.To read more of his and others’ reflections on David Wilkerson, plus videos, photos and articles by the New York evangelist, go to wilkerson.charismamag.com.

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What I Learned In San Juan

In April I preached for several days at Casa del Padre, a small but growing church near San Juan, Puerto Rico. The congregation meets in a rented facility with tile floors and folding chairs. They don’t have a worship leader yet, so a CD player provides accompaniment for the singing. The pastor, a gentle guy named Luís, keeps a second job to pay his family’s bills. Up until a few weeks ago, the church’s office was in his garage.

Casa del Padre is not a fancy place. But its lack of sophistication is overshadowed by an amazing level of love. When I ministered on Sunday morning, the meeting began at 10:30, yet I didn’t leave the building until 5 p.m.—not because I preached too long, but because nobody wanted to go home. 

I know what you’re thinking: That’s just the way Puerto Ricans are. They’re very relational. It’s certainly true they love to party and that their food—especially the rice, beans, pork and mofongo (mashed plantains)—keeps people coming back for more. But the authentic fellowship I experienced in San Juan can’t be trivialized as an expression of Latino culture. No, this Puerto Rican church understands a biblical secret many of us have forgotten.

The book of Acts tells us that after the first disciples were baptized in the Holy Spirit, they were “continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to
fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (Acts 2:42, NASB).  The Greek word for “fellowship,” koinonia, appears here for the first time in the Bible and then is used 18 other times in the New Testament.

Koinonia, which can be translated “partnership,” is a supernatural grace that causes Christians to love one another deeply. It was not possible before Pentecost because it is a manifestation of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Just as dunamis power enables us to heal the sick or work miracles, koinonia unites our hearts so we can work together.

Koinonia is what connected Paul, Luke, Timothy, Titus, Priscilla and Aquila as a team. It is what held the early Christians together in the face of persecution. Koinonia makes us feel like a family. It knits our hearts to one another. It also motivates us to pray for one another, bear one another’s burdens and share with one another materially.

I saw a vibrant example of koinonia in Puerto Rico, so I know it’s alive and well. But it seems that in many parts of the church we have forgotten about the essential need for fellowship and try to build the church without it. We have developed a sterile church model that is event-driven and celebrity-focused rather than genuinely relational. We build theater-style buildings where crowds listen to one guy talk. The crowd is whisked out of the sanctuary to make room for the next group. Many of these people never process with anyone else what they learned, never join a small group and never receive any form of one-on-one discipleship.

The apostles’ teaching of Acts 2:42 is crucial, but teaching without koinonia becomes dry and clinical. The church should be more like a family room than a classroom.

Our lack of relationships has created a void that we fill with technology. We figure if we create a “wow factor” with cool video clips, 3-D sermons and edgy worship bands, the crowds will scream for more. I don’t think so. Trendy can quickly become shallow.

As I travel I find that Christians are starved for meaningful relationships. Pastors often tell me that they don’t have friends. This is sometimes because they felt betrayed in a previous relationship. Meanwhile, many Christians in the pews have given up on church altogether—not because of doctrinal issues, but because they were wounded by someone at church.

What we need is a return to koinonia—but you can’t download it. There’s no app for it. And you can’t fake it. (If you want a concrete example to copy, I can give you the address of Casa del Padre.) This love comes from the Spirit. Let’s reclaim relational Christianity. 


J. Lee Grady was editor of Charisma for 11 years. He now serves as contributing editor while devoting more time to ministry. You can find him online at themordecaiproject.org. His latest book is 10 Lies Men Believe (Charisma House). read more

Behind Every Good Man...

Meet the ‘better halves’ of 10 well-known ministers

 

There was a time when the role of a pastor’s wife was virtually set in stone: She was expected to serve as pianist, choir director or children’s director—or all of the above. She attended every service and sat near the front, carefully groomed to avoid scrutiny. She was required to be part of most midweek meetings and host after-church socials. Remember the day?

Today’s booming churches illustrate that times have changed for such women in ministry, whether their husbands are pastors, presidents or founders. The 10 women featured here serve in areas where they are gifted. Though most of them aren’t in the pulpit regularly, they have a profound impact on their church’s culture. Some were called to be a pastor’s wife as a child; others willingly took on the role after marriage. Charisma celebrates the way in which they use their God-given talents while honoring their husbands and making a difference for the kingdom. read more

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Holy Confidence

How I learned a lesson from my children about taking bold leaps of faith 

As the father of four energetic boys and a beautiful daughter, I am regularly jumped upon in the comfort of my own home. Often I will be minding my own business, perhaps walking past the stairs, when one of my sons will leap from a great height and land on me, trusting that I will catch him. Having gotten over the initial shock of being mugged in my own house by a person half my size, I’ve learned to take this activity as a huge compliment. It says so much about what they think of me and of what they consider me to be capable of. 

Apparently, they even think I have eyes in the back of my head. When they launch themselves from the sixth or seventh step, they are counting on my strength and quick reaction to make sure they don’t end up in a heap on the floor. I love their bounding confidence and enjoy the way it fuels a sense of carefree adventure in them.  read more

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A Way Out

Former lesbian Janet Boynes is living proof that despite a past filled with physical and sexual abuse, depression, and failed homosexual relationships, God still offers a way out—in love

There is a dark and destructive lie that the enemy is perpetrating in the world today, a lie that keeps many in bondage and despair, preventing them from becoming all that God has called them to be. While the devil seems to have no shortage of ways to deceive people and drive them ever further into hopelessness, one of his chief tricks is to convince them their sinful lifestyle is, in reality, an integral part of who they are—part of their very DNA.

“You can’t change,” he whispers. “You were born this way, and whether you like it or not this is the way you’ll be until the day you die. You might as well just accept the way you are and make everybody else accept it too.”

Does that line sound familiar? It should, because it dominates our culture today. read more

Feedback

Better Than the Rapture

I agreed 100 percent with the article “Don’t Freak Out” (J. Lee Grady, May) about the rapture prediction. I heard Harold Camping over my shortwave radio ... over a year ago. Grady said it well, “I don’t need to know what day Jesus is coming back—my prayer is that I can take as many people as possible to heaven with me when He splits the sky!” Amen! God bless you for telling it how it really is.

Mary A. Morrow, Mineola, Texas

 

Covered in Prayer

I love the cover and the story of your May prayer issue. I have been a part of three churches that exploded by simply dedicating time for the entire congregation to meet regularly in prayer.

Brian Boisselle, Via Facebook

 

Charisma ‘Saved My Life’

Many years ago I went through a personal tragedy that cost me tremendously. One day I picked up Charisma. Its lead article, “Why Do Christians Shoot Their Own Wounded?” (by David Kyle Foster, March 1998), saved my life. It brought a fresh perspective on many things, which eventually paved the way to my healing. I want to thank you for your ministry and all that you do to bless the body of Christ. People whom you never thought you would reach have been reached because your ministry brought me healing. Because I know what it’s like to be lost and broken, I can now reach out to others with a better understanding than ever before and be more effective in my ministry to them. Thank you. 

Daniel Rodriguez, El Paso, Texas

 

Marvin Sapp Sets an Example

As a long-time reader of Charisma, I was so moved by the “Praise Through The Pain” article (DeWayne Hamby, April) that carried us through pastor Marvin Sapp’s grief journey. His willingness to be transparent and openly share his tears will serve as a positive role model for healthy bereavement. Thank you for sharing this powerful story!

Ellen M. Walston, Greenville, N.C.

 

Binding ... and Loosing

I love your magazine. It seems, however, that it falls apart easily at the middle. I like to save and preserve my copies. I hope you get better binding in the future. 

Teresa Omlor, Elizabethtown, Ky. read more

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Charisma Online

You’re Already in the Debate, Why Not Learn the Argument?

As homosexuality has become more accepted in society, many believers have been forced to defend the biblical view of homosexuality. But do you know exactly what Scripture has to say about this hot-button issue? Visit gaydebate.charismamag.com to find out what  you need to know in the debate. 

 

 

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The Great Deception

I used to cringe whenever the topic of homosexuality came up in church. It wasn’t because I had anything to hide, but because of how poorly we Christians have dealt with this hot-button issue in the public arena. As with many things, we’ve become known more for what we stand against rather than the God we represent. 

The “God Hates Fags” and “God Abhors You” signs obviously don’t help reflect the heart of Jesus, nor do they accurately reflect the beliefs of most Christians in America. But it hit me recently that maybe the more embarrassing, cringe-worthy believers aren’t the extremists wielding such signs but those who, like me, have stood on the sidelines and done virtually nothing to change the public opinion of God or His people.

Homosexuality is anything but a simple topic—certainly not one that can be reduced to a protest sign. As we’ve tried to represent in this month’s Charisma, it involves multiple angles that, if expressed without the Holy Spirit’s filter of truth, grace and love, can be easily misunderstood amid all the lies and politicalspeak surrounding the issue. read more

What’s Love Got To Do With It?

How churches must respond to increasing attacks from radical opposition

When a national organization representing the gay community targeted pastor John Hagee’s Cornerstone Church in San Antonio two years ago, Hagee responded with Christian love, and whatever negative publicity the group intended to stir up failed. But as the cultural battle over homosexuality escalates, the incident exemplifies how the church can and should respond to any radical opposition. In the end, love always wins over hate, and light always extinguishes darkness.

In this case, a soft answer turned away wrath. It started when Soulforce launched a 2009 campaign targeting churches that oppose the gay lifestyle. The group wrote Hagee and informed him they’d be coming to his church on a certain Sunday. Hagee replied to the Soulforce’s leader and not only welcomed them to attend any of Cornerstone’s worship services, he also said he’d like to meet with them in a reception immediately following the morning service. What Hagee did after this was nothing short of brilliant—or maybe I should say Spirit-led.

The group of 40 from Soulforce sat quietly through what was otherwise a routine service. Afterward they met over lunch with about 40 of Cornerstone’s church leaders and elders. Hagee began by welcoming them and saying they might never agree about their differences, but that he sincerely wanted to listen to their concerns. He invited the group’s leader—a Baptist minister’s son who’d come with his live-in partner and the children they’d adopted—to meet with him in a side room. The rest of the group visited with the other leaders and Hagee’s vivacious wife, Diana. Hagee asked his leaders to greet each person in the delegation individually and let each speak his or her mind freely. Meanwhile Hagee told the Soulforce leader that he appreciated the respectful way they attended the worship service. He listened to his concerns and at the end prayed for the group. read more

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