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The Cross and the Switchblade

4.20  ·  Rating Details  ·  32,978 Ratings  ·  383 Reviews
Harlem in the 1950s is the setting for this true story of the miracles that took place when David Wilkerson came face to face with brutal gang leaders and young lives wrecked by drugs and sexual abuse, and the complete transformation that took place in even the most hopeless situations.
Unknown Binding, 256 pages
Published December 31st 1964 by Marshall Pickering (first published 1963)
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Nichole Sonlight curriculum recommends this book for grades 7-11.
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Mike (the Paladin)
Nov 14, 2012 Mike (the Paladin) rated it really liked it
Another book I read many, many years ago, and like many people I picked it up at a time of crisis in my own life. After reading this book I went so far as to contact Nicky Cruz who was starting his own ministry.

As to the rating, the book isn't what might be called "great writing" but it is intense and in most places compelling. Told from a first person point of view Mr. Wilkerson relates the story and opens many of it's implications and inspirations to us.

That being said, and in the spirit of f
Alan Smith
As a non-Christian who dislikes being lectured about the supposed life-enriching joys of letting Jesus into your heart, I could logically be expected to loathe this book. To be fair, though, Wilkerson's work about his activities among street-kids and criminals is both entertaining and moving. He presents his case openly, with an obvious pride in his achievements and yet totally modestly, and pulls off the rare trick of telling a pro-Christian story that doesn't make the non-religious squirm with ...more
Olivia Humphrey
I decided to read this book, because of the controversial religion in this book. Previously going to a religious school, i found this book would be a good read to experience a main male character, going through adventures other men i have read about have not. As i have not read a lot of this genre, i felt it would be good to expand my knowledge. Learning about other problems in this world, beside the ones occurring in my part of the world is important in exploring what the world has to offer.

Rissa Karina Burge
CAREFUL in reading this book. It will trap you. This book is not about men. Instead, it's a book about the Holy Spirit in journeys of men. Firstly, the Spirit powerfully changed a journey of a preacher's life, David Wilkerson's. Then through this man's journey, a lot of other people's journeys are changed. From gangsters to ministers. From fighters to soldiers. From being lonesome to being loved. This is a story how God uses David Wilkerson to change teenagers in New York slums that were trapped ...more
Katie Huscroft
This is definitely not the sort of book I would normally read. My christian friend lent it to me to read as I am not a believer and she said you can see God working through people.

I did like this book and found some of the stories emotional and moving. I liked how David would pray for a sign and then something would suddenly happen. All those examples in the book made me think it was too strange to be a coincidence and made me believe there might be something out there although I am still skepti
Sep 15, 2008 Dave rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
When I was in college, I had a class on urbanization where we broke up into small groups. Each group was then assigned an inner-city neighborhood in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area. My group was assigned the Powderhorn/Central neighborhoods of Minneapolis, and we spent the next few weeks getting to know the area. (On the first day we saw the cops chase down a teenager on foot)

One of the stops we made was to a church that was home to a local TeenChallenge ministry, so we sat in on one of their dai
Diamond Cowboy
Oct 30, 2015 Diamond Cowboy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
David Wilkerson, a Pastor of a large church in New York city, wrote of his part in saving a young man Nicky Cruz from a life of misoury in a gang in New York. He explains how the love and salvation of Jesus Christ turned this young man's life around. This book will strengthen the faith of a believer and cause a nonbeliever to reconsider his or her convictions.
I recommend this book to all.
Enjoy and Be Blessed.
Aug 20, 2012 Jody rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: religious, nonfiction
I have wanted to read this one for a long time but never seemed to be able to find it at book sales. After finally being able to read it I understand why some consider it a Christian classic. You may not agree with Wilkerson's theology but while men stand around and argue theology Wilkerson's work still lives on. He was willing to go into the worst places and reach out to the meanest people and God rewarded him for that. This is a great book to read, it was an easy read and the authors kept it s ...more
Jan 17, 2011 Feliciano rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a very powerful book! I wept tears of joy after almost every chapter just watching how God was directing this man's steps toward what God was calling him to do. I remember I found it because someone from Teen Challenge suggested it when I was researching info about Teen Challenge for a screenplay I wanted to do. After reading it I felt that this book would make a powerful movie. Then I found out it was. Unfortunately the movie didn't do it justice I think because of the low budget it pro ...more
Jerome Peterson
A phenomenal true life story of gangs and one man's calling to show them that there is light at the end of their dismal tunnel;another path; hope; and a brighter future. A well written book dotted with profound reports and insights from the author about the gang members and their individual reactions. Wilkerson does a great job bringing out the shortcomings as well as the hope for his calling. Written decades ago this book is still relevant today and could be used today for our communities with ...more
Wow! What an amazing faith-building story! Highly recommended for teens and beyond (some of the content is a bit too mature for little ears, although I do plan on reading this aloud to my family with some editing as I go).
If you are looking for a book that will build your faith, read this book.
If you are looking for a good resource for teens that would deter them from desiring to experiment with drugs, have them read this book.
This book is like my grandfather. It's full of amazing stories, but it's pretty dated and a little, well direct.

BUT...the story in insanely powerful, and God used it to speak directly to me about something very specific when I was reading it. Plus, it's just one of those classic things the older generation knows, and it's good to dip into their culture now and again.

Needless to say, my mom gave it to me to read.
I can't rate this book. I don't know what to rate it.

"Christ's love is a love without angles: a love that asks nothing in return. It is a love that wants only the best for these boys and girls. And this is the quality that redeems." pg 133.

I didn't like this book; I didn't love it. It made me uncomfortable, but I guess to an extend I should be: I shouldn't be comfortable with drug addiction, prostitution, murder and violence.
This book also made me cry. It was agonizing to read about the despe
Leandro Guimarães Faria Corcete DUTRA
Pentecostal small-town preacher goes to the Big Apple to try to reach drug addicts. A classic, hugely influential in hundreds of thousands, even millions of lifes of drug addicts, the missionaries who cared for them in thousands of Pentecostal recovery houses all over the world wherever there are drug addicts, not to mention the Pentecostal churches which then cared for the recoverees when they left the safe houses.

Pentecostalism at its best. Only beware the imposition of ‘gifts’ manifestation o
Jan 20, 2014 Greg rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great book!

The book is the true story of how God used a normal country preacher to start a movement that reached out to toughest drug-atticted, gang-fighting street kids in New York, and then spread to many countries across the world.

This very inspiring and God glorifying story is a "must read" for anyone leading a ministry of any kind (and the wives or husbands).

I have had a copy of this book sitting on my bookshelf for at least 20 years without touching it - don't make the same mistake I did
Jun 11, 2012 Rowan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book had been on my shelf for a few years and am very glad to finally to read it.

It did a little while to get in because as Reverend David begins his ministy with New York street kids, he doesn't know what he doing and consequently follows through step by step as the Holy Spirit leads him. A bigger picture imerges of the lives, stories and sense of hoplessness to which of the people he ministers to have.

I think this is read must christian book even though it was wrtten nearly 50 years ago
The true story of a Pentecostal minister who went to New York to work with street gang kids in the late 50s. I grabbed this book because it was a tie-in with the film version that starred Pat Boone and Erik Estrada. To be honest, I bought it mainly for camp value, but the book surprised me. It's somewhat inspiring, even though I don't buy the religious interpretation that Wilkerson places on nearly every even that happens.
Cathy Cramer
My dad liked this book, and somehow I've ended up with multiple copies, although I haven't read them until now. I actually know someone whose life has changed through Teen Challenge and he is now a youth pastor, himself. I don't think my father knew that about the man. I think my dad just liked the exciting story of how the ministry got started, helping violent gang members and drug addicts change away from those dangerous lifestyles. I can only imagine that those problems are worse in society t ...more
Marcos S
Jan 28, 2015 Marcos S rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

A true story filled with violence, action and the Holy Spirit. The Cross and the Switchblade is about pastor David Wilkerson, a small town preacher whose mission is to spread the word of God to the people on the streets of New York city. It was his faith in the Holy Spirit that gave David his strength to spread the Lord’s word. David personally sets out to find those in need of the word. David finds himself helping young teens from the notorious Mau Mau gang. He beli
Jul 24, 2014 Laure rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: autobiography
The Cross and the Switchblade by David Wilkerson, deals straightforwardly with life-threatening heroin drug addiction in its story of redemption of gang members in New York City in the early 1960s.

One of the most hardened gang members, Nicky Cruz, recounts how as the president of the Mau Maus, he was the most ruthless in his violent acts, even to the point of murder. When the skinny preacher from rural Pennsylvania showed up on the streets of his city, Cruz mocked and spit at him, but Wilkerson
What I liked:

Even though he was poor and naïve, Wilkerson started reaching out to “the least of these.” I like that he did something, instead of talking.

I love that later in the book several denominations of churches came together in purpose. Unity is under-rated in our culture. I think you see this in the churches in Acts. When people are united in Christ great things begin to happen.

Wilkersons words to Nikki, a gang-member who threatened his life: “You could cut me up into a thousand pieces a
Nov 09, 2015 Dana rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Dana by: Christian Book Devourers Group Hidden Gem for October
I finished this book today and it's all I have been thinking about. I am always blown away when I read about how God has worked in others lives, Holy Spirit stories, faith, how God comes through when we put all our trust in him, I learned so much about drug addiction and the hard areas of New York City. I truly admire David Wilkerson and all that he has done there and his faithfulness in God and truly doing God's will , wow. I can go on and on about this one, highly recommend it !
Apr 30, 2011 Lacey rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
True Story of a small town Pastor who, through a commitment to replace watching T.V with prayer, is led by the Spirit to Harlem to minister to 13-16 year old gang members responsible for the murder of a special needs boy.
The story recounts the conversation of gang members, Rev.Wilkenson's faith to follow and trust the Holy Spirit's leading and provision, and provides a great reminder of the powerful God I serve....His heart for the lost and exhorts me to trust his power more.
Jan 11, 2016 Victoria rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-i-ve-read
When I was only six years old, my mom made me see the movie version of this book. Looking back on it, I think it was far too intense for a six year old to watch. However, I had a cousin who was in a gang (who died the following year), an alcoholic family line, and another cousin who was a drug addict and sent to Teen Challenge in which David Wilkerson started. My mom thought since I was aware of how my family members were acting, I should see it. My older brothers and I can quote so much from th ...more
Dane Cramer
Nov 13, 2014 Dane Cramer rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this book when I was a teenager. It had a profound impact on me then. This time, I listened to the audio book. Again, it left an imprint on my soul,

First, let me say that the narrator, Paul Michael, did an amazing job. His voices blended in so well with the story that it was easy to get caught up in it. He was flawless.

The story itself is of how a Pennsylvania preacher was led by God to New York city to share the gospel to its street gangs. As a volunteer who leads weekly Bible studies at
Central Beat
Dec 25, 2014 Central Beat rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Have you ever heard of "Teen Challenge"? This is the story of the creation of that youth group back in the 50s and 60s as told by its founder, Pastor David Wilkerson. This story is both incredible and amazing. As another reviewer stated, this should be required reading by all Youth Ministers but I would take it a step further and say it should be required reading for the entire church body to remind of us of our mission. This is an easy yet moving read. Don't miss an opportunity to check this ou ...more
This was a the right time to read this book on Good Friday. It is honest, realisitic and I was indeed inspired. The power of prayer and child-like faith will always leave you amazed at the power of God.
Feb 21, 2016 Vicki rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I read this with a group of teens at my church . We did not know about gangs or the dangers of being unloved and on the streets and alone. When I read this book, I could feel God and his presence in David Wilkerson's life. That he was led to help the people of New York that were in gangs, prostitutes and drug addicts, to know the love of God.

He was a pastor that through God's love was able to reach Nicky Cruse. Able to share his own love by his actions. It was a hard story for me and my friends
Feb 02, 2012 Ronda marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Pastor David Wilkerson was my mother's pastor for 15yrs at 42nd St Church in Manhattan. I have heard this story for years but never read it.
it's famous, and I can see why for evangelical Christians - it was selling a particularly attractive vision during depressing
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David Ray Wilkerson was an American Christian evangelist, best known for his book The Cross and the Switchblade. He was the founder of the addiction recovery program Teen Challenge, and founding pastor of the non-denominational Times Square Church in New York.

Wilkerson's widely distributed sermons, such as "A Call to Anguish", are known for being direct and frank against apostasy and serious about
More about David Wilkerson...

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“What is it about tears that should be so terrifying? the touch of God is marked by tears...deep, soul-shaking tears, comes when that last barrier is down and you surrender yourself to health and wholeness” 44 likes
“You asked the Holy Spirit for a miracle, and now that you’ve got one you’re trying to argue it away. People who don’t believe in miracles shouldn’t pray for them.” 21 likes
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