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Charles Simpson: Walking in the Footsteps of David Wilkerson

Charles Simpson, Walking in the Footsteps of David Wilkerson: The Journey and Reflections of a Spiritual Son (Shippensburg, PA: Destiny Image, 2018), 210 pages, ISBN 9780768417524.

Walking in the Footsteps of David Wilkerson is the journal of a young man (the author) who walked much the same journey as the famed David Wilkerson (founder of Teen Challenge, Times Square Church, World Challenge, and many other ministries). The book offers a very detailed account, even a word for word interaction, between the life of a mentee and a mentor. Although the relationship was never planned or formal, Simpson shares how the paths of these two men were intertwined for years, benefiting both Charles and “Pastor Dave,” as he has been affectionately called.

Charles Simpson was born and raised in Tennessee, the eleventh of twelve children. After his conversion at the age of 17, he received a missionary call to New York City where he has spent most of his adult life, pastoring, planting churches, and working in Bible schools. While serving as the Pastor of Prayer at Times Square Church, he met and married his wife, Lynn. They have been privileged to work alongside great leaders such as David and Don Wilkerson, Michael Brown, Peter Wagner, Brian Simmons, Vincent Buonfiglio, Joel Sadaphal, and Russell Hodgins. Charles is currently (as of 2018) the Campus Pastor at Brooklyn Teen Challenge and the Director of its School of Ministry.

The book begins with the personal life of the author, hailing from rural life in Tennessee. He compares his youth and upbringing to the early years of David Wilkerson. Both were raised in a strict environment, both felt led to serve in New York City, both were out of their comfort zones (racially, socially, and in other ways), both had a heavy burden and believed that God wanted them to serve those who might be categorized as “unreached” due to their status, both had a prophetic ministry, and both saw the importance of prayer (for themselves and for those they served). How these pilgrims met, how they found each other on that same path, and what that relationship meant to a budding next generation minister is laid out for all to read (the good and the less good).

Typically, some would write a book about their association with the “greats” to impress the reader. “It is who you know that gets you ahead in life,” is often said. But Simpson humbly lays out his faults as well as his accomplishments and includes those of Bro. Dave. Rather than boast, the author shares the importance of having a godly mentor in life that will change both the mentee as well as those they reach. Truly, this was accomplished thorough this association. But he also realizes how important it is to be a mentor himself: “I have learned through the years, the fastest way to [be] a spiritual father—like Paul was to Timothy—is to focus on pouring into the Timothys you can find all around you” (page 170). He learned well.

In one of the last chapters, he lists a few of the mantles that were thrown over his shoulder by the departing mentor: he always listened to God, he was pliable in God’s hands, he was a faithful steward of his giftings, he was willing to admit his mistakes publicly, he deliberately took himself off our pedestals, etc. (Chapter 13).

I was especially interested in reading the account of Pastor Dave’s life because, although not in any way equaling the relationship between Simpson and Pastor Wilkerson, my life has also somehow followed a thread with that “country preacher.” Growing up in New York City and living in Brooklyn and the Bronx, being a part of the early ministry of Pastor Dave when his ministry at time was known as Teenage Evangelism, and later being on the staff of his Bible School in Pennsylvania, I had moments of nostalgia as I recalled so many of the incidents cited in this journal. I believe Simpson caught the essence of his mentor quite vividly and fairly.

Charles Simpson is presently the Campus Pastor at Brooklyn Teen Challenge and the Director of its School of Ministry. I recommend that everyone in leadership should read his account and evaluate whether mentorship is a priority and part of their own ministry responsibilities.

Reviewed by Nat J. Saginario

 

About the Reviewer: Nat J. Saginario, M.Ed. (R.I. College), has served the body of Christ around the world by teaching at various Christian Bible Colleges in the USA, as pastor and assistant pastor, as short-term missions team leader and with Barnabas leadership training teams to over 85 countries. His association with David Wilkerson began in 1958 as director of the Teenage Evangelism Youth Choir from churches around the NYC Metropolitan area that ministered on the Teen Challenge (the eventual name of Wilkerson’s ministry) TV weekly program. He later went on to serve as a member of the faculty and administrative staff of Mt. Zion, later Summit International School of Ministry, the school in PA founded by Wilkerson and now the Bible School of Times Square Church.

 

Further Reading:

Charles Simpson, “The Cross and the Screwdriver” DestinyImage.com (July 28, 2018).

 

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Category: Ministry, Winter 2021

About the Author: Nat J. Saginario, M.Ed. (R.I. College), has served the body of Christ around the world by teaching at various Christian Bible Colleges in the USA (Zion Bible Institute, Valley Forge Christian College, Summit International School of Ministry), as pastor and assistant pastor, and as short-term missions team leader and with Barnabas leadership training teams to over 85 countries.

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