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I Can Appreciate David Wilkerson's Ministry But I Didn't Feel The Power In This That So Many Speak Of
I found this movie to be a strange one. Naive - even simplistic in its presentation of how David Wilkerson (played by Pat Boone) began his street ministry to troubled teens and gang members in New York City in the late 1950's. Not that there's anything particularly wrong with naive and simplistic. I'm a pastor myself and I'm willing to say that the Gospel message of divine love for the world is in itself somewhat naive and simplistic - but I believe it to be true. And yet things seemed too easy for Wilkerson in this movie. Yes, I know there was a lot of violence portrayed and a lot of drug abuse portrayed and a lot of gang fighting portrayed, but eventually it seemed as if it all came together thanks to one sermon Wilkerson preached to a youth rally? Perhaps that was just dramatic licence. You probably can't fit the whole story into a less than two hour movie so I guess it has to be abridged. Or maybe it really happened that way. Maybe the 50's were just a different era indeed. I could appreciate the turnaround in Nicky Cruz (played by Erik Estrada) who has, himself, become a fairly noteworthy evangelist. I don't want to deny the possibility of a truly dramatic conversion experience. And a lot happened through one sermon - and I don't want to deny the power of the preached Word of God, nor do I want to deny that the movie does make clear that Wilkerson did make real sacrifices for the sake of the street kids he ministered to and he took real chances, so it wasn't just one sermon - it was Wilkerson's decision to invest himself in the kids and not just to preach to them. I can appreciate that. That's ministry.
And yet, in spite of the testimony of many people about how powerful this movie is, I just didn't feel that power as I watched it. Maybe I'm just more cynical than I realize or care to admit, but I think the reaction of most kids today (just your average everyday kid and not a gang member) would be to sneer at what was shown on screen - or at least to roll their eyes. I can appreciate and be humbled by Wilkerson's Pauline-style call to Antiochean ministry (Paul and Silas went to Antioch and stayed among the people) or to a Mother Teresa ministry (who went to the slums of Calcutta and stayed in the slums of Calcutta) but I certainly wouldn't show this movie to a youth group in church. I don't think they'd get it.
There are parts of this that are quite moving - particularly the withdrawal of a young teenage girl from heroin addiction that was painful to watch. Overall, though, I just didn't feel the power that so many claim for this movie. (4/10)
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