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The Cross and the Switchblade

4.23  ·  Rating details ·  53,057 ratings  ·  795 reviews
A young preacher from the Pennsylvania hills comes to New York City and influences troubled teenagers with his inspirational message.
Paperback, 176 pages
Published November 15th 1986 by Jove (first published 1963)
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Edward L I would recommend this book for readers of all ages starting at 11 to any age. I am 76 years old and I found it hard to put down.
Lara I would recommend this for all children who can read the title; I would also read it to all children and adults of inquisition .

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Average rating 4.23  · 
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 ·  53,057 ratings  ·  795 reviews

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Mike (the Paladin)
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
Elizabeth Dragina
Aug 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memorable
I read this when I was ten and I still remember every detail!! It is one of the coolest and most GOD POWERFUL stories ever. And you wanna know what the best part is!? It's all true!! ...more
Olivia Humphrey
Feb 10, 2013 rated it liked it
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.

Alan Smith
Mar 27, 2013 rated it liked it
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
Rissa Karina Burge
Aug 21, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Ram Alsrougi
Mar 23, 2017 rated it did not like it
Although the book seems interesting for teenagers and brainwashed people, but I've never believed what the clergy ever say about anything. ...more
Nov 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: previously-read
This was a Christian classic; a book to be found in any church library and one I owned and read as a teenager.
I was both shocked and feeling old when I was drawn to this 60th anniversary edition of the Teen Challenge. However, I am happy to report that there is nothing wrong with my comprehension or quickening spirit as I read of the special work David Wilkerson was called to so many years ago. A man of prayer, used to feeling God's direction his initial response to leave his country parish and
Aug 19, 2008 rated it liked it
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
Nov 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: prayer, biography
I have read this book several times since it was published and reread it again today.

This book documents a walk of life probably closest to that of the early church that I have ever read. It is a story of being led by the Holy Spirit in every detail of life, in order to reach into the hearts of the lost boys and girls of the slums of New York City and to show them powerful deliverance from drug addictions, violence, street gangs, broken homes, poverty, etc. For example, twice he needed to find s
Aug 14, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Dec 04, 2021 rated it it was amazing
A profoundly moving and beautiful book. David Wilkerson was a sheltered country pastor with a charismatic background who was called by God to minister to troubled inner-city youth, who were often violent and addicted to drugs.

This book is interesting to me because it is the third major work of John and Elizabeth Sherrill, a pair of chaismatics who helped write The Hiding Place and God's Smuggler. This book is the darkest of the bunch in many ways, though Corrie ten Boom is a more convicting writ
Angie Thompson
Wow! I know I've read bits and pieces of this story before, but never the full account. It was amazing to see how God worked through so many unexplainable impulses, seeming accidents, and even what appeared to be mistakes to begin a powerful ministry that's touched more lives than anyone could have imagined. I also loved the reminders of how very weak we are without God's strength and how we can never judge what God can do in someone's heart by their outside appearance. Such a powerful, powerful ...more
Chaplain Walle
Nov 23, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This is an awesome book about a gangster, Nickie Cruz, conversion from street thug to a strong man with Christian charictor.
I recommend this book to all who need some inspiration.
Dawn Michelle
This is another book I am just not sure how to rate - I was more like 12 or 13 when I read this and to be honest, it scared the beejeezus out of me. I had nightmares for weeks [and when my Mom found out that I had read this and that I had gotten it from the christian school I attended, she was livid. Good thing she never found all those John Benton books. WHEW!!] and even now, I get the willies thinking of this book and the story. Which I guess was the point - scare them straight while they are ...more
Jan 16, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 30, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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.
Aug 26, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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.
Oct 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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 ! ...more
May 27, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir, spirituality
Noting on my Goodreads newsfeed that this book is being re-published, I was reminded that I read it long, long ago. (I was about 13 years old, and it was available in our church library.) I clearly remember one scene that has stuck with me all these years; if an author can write with that kind of staying power, his book probably deserves 4 stars. (-:
Melissa Stacy
First published in 1962, and republished in 1983 with an author epilogue updating the original text, "The Cross and the Switchblade" is the memoir of a small-town preacher's adventures helping troubled teens in New York City.

Writers John and Elizabeth Sherrill assisted author David Wilkerson in penning this memoir, and they are credited on the book cover as co-authors.

David Wilkerson believes in the power of prayer to create miracles, and in a number of personal anecdotes in this memoir, he sha
James Burns
Feb 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: my-librairy, religion
The Cross and the Switchblade is still one of the most inspiring and heartrending books that I have ever read, it was even better the second time around. The story of how team challenge got its inspiration and its start. How faith and courage prevails over evil and drug abuse through the power of the Holy Spirit. How one man read a magazine about gang members on trial for murder and how that same man (The Reverend David Wilkerson) had the faith and the courage to respond and act on the unctions ...more
Apr 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
A great story and very, very eye opening. Sadly the doctrine was way off and I would be very careful recommending this book to a friend.
Age suggestion: 15+ due to mature content. After all, this is a book about gangs.
Jerome Peterson
May 10, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Onisim Pînzariu
A few years ago I read “Run, baby, run” by Nicky Cruz and his story changed my perspective over the suburban life. Now, years later, I’ve read this book which is the other side of the story. The story of the preacher who had the courage to leave his home and go preach among the young people on the streets. David Wilkerson inspired me and made me cry several times through the book. I’m so glad I had the opportunity to pick this book up.
Megan Lewis
Sep 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Such an intense and intensely interesting book. I just could not stop till it was done. The reliance upon prayer and thanksgiving prayer was inspiring; it's encouraging to hear from other sources than just my church the effectiveness of thanksgiving prayer. ...more
Mar 01, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A great story of the Gospel being spread to the darkest regions of society...and all the more impressive because it's true. ...more
ValeReads Kyriosity
After listening to The Expulsive Power of a New Affection two nights ago, it was perfect timing to come across this in The Cross and the Switchblade tonight:

"Grandpap developed what he called 'The Lamb Chop School' of evangelizing. You win over people just like you win over a dog,' he used to say. 'You see a dog passing down the street with a bone in his mouth. You don’t grab the bone from him. He’ll growl at you. It’s all he has. But you throw a big fat lamb chop in front of him, and he’s going
Apr 22, 2020 rated it liked it
3.5 stars.

Powerful story about the transformative power of the Gospel for aimless teenagers in New York and for a country preacher.

One of my favorite moments is the conversation between David and his grandfather on his farm. David goes to see him in need of wisdom and direction early in the process of starting the teen challenge center. At one point his Grandfather, also a preacher, asks David what the gospel is. David replies that it's encounter with the living God, and transformation, and ne
Apr 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book was so fascinating and encouraging! David Wilkerson was faced many trials and dangers, but the work of God shone through! Even in the lives of drug dealers, murderers, and prostitutes!

Now the only reason I’m giving this 4 instead of 5 stars, is that near the end there was a LOT of emphasis put on “the baptism of the Holy Spirit” and how it was the thing transforming lives, completing the experience. I know opinions on this matter vary from denomination to denomination, I don’t believe
Maureen Barnes
May 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A little known preacher, called by God to reach the gangs of New York City. He was young himself, not versed in the language of the slums, the determination of the Addict, and the hatred of anything good. David Wilkerson is the Preacher, trembling but sure of the call. Nicky Cruz is the gang leader, filled with enough hatred to instill fear in everyone he encountered. This is a true story, nothing made up, it is true and raw. Filled with love for his fellow man, David does not stop reaching out. ...more
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Goodreads Librari...: Correction #1 3 210 Aug 11, 2018 06:57PM  

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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

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