My wife Dorothy and I read books together, mostly biographies, and recently we read two books that had an impact on us. Let me share about the two books and two ministers who were among the greatest ministries of the 20th Century.
Recently we read the book ‘David Wilkerson – The Cross, The Switchblade and the Man who Believed,’ written by his son Gary Wilkerson with R.S.B. Sawyer. It is a most remarkable insight into the life, heart and ministry of one of the greatest Christian ministries of the 20th Century. I was a young minister back in the late 1960’s in Australia, struggling with a crisis in our family that began with the birth of our second daughter Joy. This was in the days before the Charismatic Renewal broke out. In the midst of it all, a pentecostal young man, who was courting our organist gave me a book to read. It was ‘The Cross and The Switchblade,’ the story of David Wilkerson and the ministry of Teen Challenge in Brooklyn, New York. After I read his story, I had to say he had touched something in the Holy Spirit, that I hadn’t experienced. And thus began a somewhat reluctant search, at first, that ending up with me receiving the Baptism of the Holy Spirit in 1971 in a Catholic Prayer Meeting at the University of Sydney, Australia. In time, it led me on my first overseas trip as I travelled to New York to spend 2 – 3 weeks at Teen Challenge in New York. God used David Wilkerson and his book to have an impact on my life as he did with countless others.
So, when I read that Gary Wilkerson had written a book about his father, I wrote away for a copy. It is a remarkable book as he is very honest in telling about his father, not just his successes, and he had many of those, but also the struggles he had across the years, struggles he had in his marriage – Gwen his wife almost left him at one stage and she battled cancer – but also the personal struggles he had.
At one time, he was on a trip to Latvia and he strolled through a park with his son, Gary. Sitting on a park bench David said, ‘I don’t talk much about this, but I struggle with something . . . I wonder whether God loves me. Most of the time, I know that he loves me, but I still go through doubts. I feel like I’m not pleasing God. That I’m not doing enough.’
He was being vulnerable, sharing his heart with his son. Why did he feel that way? The answer comes a few pages later in the book when David is talking to Roger Hayslip, Gary’s brother in law. Roger recalls, ‘We were talking and he just flat out asked me what was your father like? He went on to describe his relationship and then he asked David about his own family life. Was he ever held? Was he ever told he was loved?’ David answered simply, ‘No.’
To me, it is remarkable that David, who had never experienced a real kind of love in his growing up years in a legalistic, holiness Pentecostal setting, was able to be used of God so powerfully over so many years. The answer is also in the book ‘He was flawed, but he was yielded.’ He did what he believed God wanted him to do and he was yielded to His will. It was later in his life, through the influence of people like Leonard Ravenhill that he began to understand grace and not be so bound up by legalism.
In 1971, when I was at Teen Challenge in New York, it was arranged for me and two other Australians, who were also there at the center, to travel to Pittsburgh, Pensylvania to attend a Katherine Kuhlman meeting. We were given seats in the front row of the church, so close we could have reached out and touched her, as we experienced a powerful healing service right before our very eyes. I was fortunate to be in two of her other services and for me. Katherine Kuhlman was the most powerful healing evangelist I ever personally witnessed. I have never experienced a ministry that was so committed to giving the glory to God for the healings that were taking place.
Dorothy and I have read many books about Katherine Kuhlman, but recently we have been reading an eye opening book by Wayne E Warner, director of the Assemblies of God Archives in Springfield, Missouri, entitled ‘The Women Behind the Miracles: Katherine Kuhlman.’ He has been able to bring out what he describes as well-kept secrets. For example, she always declared, ‘I got my schooling at the feet of the greatest teacher in the world. It wasn’t in some great university or theological seminary. It was in the school of prayer under the leading of the Holy Spirit.’ Well, that’s not completely so.
By the way, because of this and other examples, some young ministers seek to dismiss the need for study and training. In actual fact Katherine did enter a Christian and Missionary Alliance Bible Institute, Simpson Bible Institute in Seattle, Washington in 1924 and one of her acquaintances then described her as ‘an excellent student, well liked and always dramatic.’ But Katherine was expelled in 1926 after being caught in a midnight rendezvous with a male student. Later in Los Angeles, it appears she attended some night classes at the Foursquare Church L.I.F.E Bible School established by Aimee Semple McPherson, as well as attending services to hear her preach.
The strange thing is that she never admitted going to either the Simpson Bible Institute or L.I.F.E. Why not? It seems she wanted it to be known that she had made it on her own. Likewise she was very sensitive about her age and made out that she was younger than she really was, especially after she made a crucial decision in a dead end street in Los Angeles in 1946. You will need to read her story to understand what that means.
So, she too had flaws (and there were others including a failed marriage that should never have been) but she yielded to God in what He wanted of her, in regard to the healing ministry.
WHAT DID I LEARN FROM THESE BOOKS?
Many things including-
- You don’t have to be perfect for God to use you. You may be flawed (and aren’t we all) but if we yield to God’s call for our lives, God can use us in the work of the Kingdom.
- They used the gifts God gave them. David in evangelism (and by the way David, at times, ministered for Katherine Kuhlman), his faith, his boldness, his indomitable spirit and his life of prayer. Katherine, in the ministry of healing. She was naturally dramatic, even as a child, and her personality was used by God to convey His life and love.
- They were yielded. Somehow I feel God is looking for people with a passion to serve Him and do whatever He wants them to do. Yes, they were flawed, but they were yielded, just like David of the Bible who sinned with Bathsheba, and yet he was described as a man after God’s own heart.
In both cases, with David Wilkerson and Katherine Kulhman, one other thing stood out. They both had a tremendous compassion for people and gave themselves to minister to others in His name.
One other reminder, we need to be careful not to put people who are in ministry, especially those who minister powerfully, on a pedestal. They are like what James said of the great prophet Elijah. He was ‘a man with a nature like ours’ and consequently, as you see when their lives are examined closely, they are ‘flawed yet yielded.’ So pray for them and give thanks to God, but realize they are not perfect and neither are we. There is only one who is and His name is Jesus!
God is looking for the positives in peoples lives. What about you? What about me? We will inevitably have some flaws too, but God can still use us in the work of the Kingdom if we are yielded to Him.