(Photo: Times Square Church via The Christian Post)
Times Square Church and Teen Challenge founder the Rev. David Wilkerson was laid to rest at a private funeral on Monday.
Wilkerson, who also founded World Challenge Ministries, was driving with his wife in Tyler, Texas, last Wednesday when his car collided with a truck.
He died at the scene, while his wife was rushed to hospital where she remains under observation. He was 79.
The funeral at Rose Heights Church of God, in Tyler, was attended by members of Wilkerson's family and close friends, including evangelist Nicky Cruz.
Current Times Square Church pastor Carter Conlon was also present at the service.
He was quoted by Charisma Magazine as saying, "It's hard to honor a great man."
Times Square Church has confirmed that a memorial service will be held in New York City on May 14 at 2 p.m. ET to give members of the church and the public the chance to pay their respects.
The service will be streamed live worldwide via the church's website.
A simultaneous translation of the service will be available in 10 different languages via conference call lines, details of which will also be posted on the church's live stream page.
Anticipating a crowd of thousands during the memorial service, Conlon chose to lead his congregation in their own private time of mourning on Sunday.
“It's our time to mourn and to celebrate the life of our beloved founding pastor, David Wilkerson,” the senior pastor said. “By May 14, cameras and the eyes of the world will be on this church. People will be coming from all over the world.”
Paying tribute to “Brother Dave,” as he liked to be called, Conlon spoke of the nearly 17 years he was trained by Wilkerson at Times Square Church. He was taught to be humble and to constantly seek the power of the Holy Spirit.
“Every time we look at the glory of this sanctuary ... we're going to have that constant reminder of our founding pastor and how he let Jesus Christ so use his life and so brought glory to the name of Christ and touched our lives and led us in a way that we should go,” Conlon said.
“One of the hallmarks of Brother Dave's life and ministry is that people were radically transformed by the power of almighty God,” he said to applause. “Many went on into ministry and became great soul winners.”
Reading the official obituary, Conlon described Wilkerson as a man of unlimited faith, a fearless witness of Christ’s saving power, and a spiritual father to generation upon generation.
And he wasn’t one for fanfare, he continued, noting that Wilkerson turned down invitations to meet with world leaders. Rather, he was an advocate for the poorest of the poor and a friend to the outcast and hurting.
“He ran his race well. He lived life to the very fullest … with a radical love for Jesus.”
Tributes have poured in since last Wednesday's accident. One relative, Rick Wilkerson Jr., described Wilkerson as a "true hero" and "a man of conviction not convenience."
"He lived what he preached. We will miss him greatly!" he tweeted.
Joel Houston, son of Hillsong Church founder Brian Houston, paid testimony to the impact of Wilkerson's bestselling book, The Cross and the Switchblade, in which he gave an account of his ministry among New York gang members and drug users.
It was this book that "seeded NYC in my heart" as a place for ministry, said Houston, who is now helping to lead Hillsong NYC, the Australian-based church's first U.S. plant.
"So grateful for the life and legacy of David Wilkerson," he tweeted.
Over 50 million copies of the book have been sold and it has been translated into 30 languages.
Conlon announced that they are currently searching for a larger venue to accommodate the crowd expected to show up for the memorial service later this month. Madison Square Garden was ruled out because it is currently under renovation.
Prepping the congregation for the large crowd, Conlon informed them that they will be called to serve and comfort others who also have been impacted by Wilkerson.
“We are most likely going to be called as a congregation to give our place and to allow those who are coming from around the world to gather here and to mourn and to say goodbye to their friend,” he said.
“The days of mourning will be upon us for a while but ... joy is coming again in the morning. Thank God for the joy.”
Speaking from a personal standpoint, the senior pastor added, “I get tremendous personal comfort from the thought of Brother Dave dancing around the throne of God.”