As a thirteen-year-old, I sat spellbound on a stool in a bright, airy art room listening to the ‘Cross and the Switchblade’ being read to my class. Our religious education teacher, David Patterson, took a risk to read this story to us. It told of a young pastor who gave up a comfortable parish to reach out with hope to young people held in the grip of drugs and prostitution in the New York projects.
I grew up in a church that was made up of working and middle class decent, nice folk. There weren’t any with drug addiction, or prostitution in their backgrounds. Well, if there were, they kept it to themselves. Hearing David Wilkerson’s story of God’s challenge to reach those on the underbelly of society was far more real than any of the good preaching I heard on a Sunday.
My Dad was also one who was inspired in this way. He took outreach onto the streets and into the nightclubs of Cardiff. He brought some of the folk from his outreaches into our church. On one occasion, he was told off by a church member for bringing people of that sort into our church.
The fact is, it’s what Jesus would have done. Church is for those who understand how poor and wretched they are and need God to love, accept and wash them clean. That’s exactly why we celebrate Easter. God sent Jesus to heal broken people in a broken world. He asks us to do likewise.
People like David Wilkerson were an inspiration to me when I was young. They inspired me to live my life for something that was worth dying for. Ordinary people inspired by an extraordinary God.
The Bible is full of stories of people like that. People that were very human, made mistakes and far from perfect. However, they let God into their lives and allowed him to change and inspire them to reach beyond their ‘ordinariness’.
Some years ago, a prominent Christian ‘prophet’ said that this would be the day for faceless leaders. In a day of celebrity worship, I can understand the message behind that prophecy. God doesn’t need celebrities to affirm who he is. A celebrity is famous, or infamous, for what they can do. Often, in their private lives they are blighted with poor lifestyle choices. This makes them poor role models.
However, God does like to point out inspirational people. People who do have a face. He looks for the ordinary person and inspires them to reach beyond their ordinariness. People who are aware of their frailty and rely heavily on God’s strength.
David Wilkerson was one of those people. He was imperfect, but he was a friend of the One who is perfect. He was a friend of the One who could take him beyond his imperfections and leave a lasting legacy and inspiration to others.
God does inspire us to look to those who have a face. Real everyday people who do exceptional things for God. Who will fill the shoes of these great giants of the faith? More ordinary people touched by an extraordinary God.
I have been inspired to walk with God and take risks for Him because of people like David Wilkerson and my dad.
The book of the Acts of the Apostles is still being written. If you’re a writer and know people who’ve inspired your faith, write about them. Use your talent to inspire others in their faith.
If you’re like me, I need the stories of the saints who’ve lived the life, taken the risks and seen God at work. If you have a story to tell, but you’re not great with words, email me.
Perhaps we can tell the story together and be an inspiration to others.