I spent this past weekend in New York celebrating my mother’s 80th birthday.  (Don’t tell anybody how old she is, it’s a secret)  Manhatten is a fabulous city.  More shops, restaurants, skyscrapers and theaters than you can see anywhere in the world.  18,000 yellow taxis on an island that is only 2 miles wide and 13 miles long and teeming crowds of people in the streets literally 24 hours a day.  Times Square is one of the busiest and most exciting places that I have ever visited.  City by-laws require that at least 20% of every building MUST be covered with illuminated signs.

There is one hot spot that you won’t read about in the tourist brochures – Times Square Church.  The church was founded in 1987 by David Wilkerson.  If that name rings a bell, it should.  Wilkerson is best known for his book The Cross and the Switchblade.  In 1958 he came to New York specifically to try to share the gospel with 7 youths accused of murder.  It’s an incredible story detailed in his book. If you haven’t read it you should.

God used him tremendously in those early years and eventually he founded Teen Challenge, arguably one of the most effective drug and alcohol program of all time.  Today there are 550 centers around the world.  In 1987 Times Square was not the popular tourist spot it is today.  The economy was struggling and the area was shabby and dangerous having been overrun with pimps, prostitutes, drug dealers and X-rated theaters.  Wilkerson felt led by the Spirit to establish a spiritual presence in the area and founded Times Square Church.

In 1991 he purchased the Mark Hellinger Theater for $17 million.  It is right in the heart of Times Square and is one of the biggest and most prestigious theaters on Broadway.  The arts community was appalled at the time having lost their flagship venue and has been trying to buy the theater back now that Broadway is back in vogue.  The latest offer was $50 million.  The church is not selling, they are still on a mission.

On Sunday morning I took my mother to the 10 AM service and the place was standing room only.  There was 1600 people in the theater and another 1600 in the annex next door watching it on video screens.  Although in general, the service was a little traditional for my tastes, I was wholly impressed with what they are doing.  They have 3 packed out services every single Sunday.  The worship band was as good as any other band on Broadway and the 100 person choir brought tears to my eyes as I realised that God was being praised in a city where most people worship the almighty dollar.

Unlike many places in the new world, New York was not founded by people seeking religous freedom.  It was a established as a Dutch colony by people looking to make money.  To this day you can literally feel the presence of a spirit of greed.  It is a very expensive place to visit (or live) and eventually you just become numb to how often you have to open your wallet and part with your money.  Time Square Church was the one place I felt like I wasn’t spending my money but investing it.   A great missionary once said, Don’t give me a little cabin in the corner of glory-land, but an outpost at the gates of hell.”  I pray that  more and more churches, like Times Square Church, would see that as our mission.

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  1. Christie Braun says:

    Thanks for the history lesson – now I will read that book, where previously, I turned it aside.

  2. Joy says:

    I visited New York City over 50 years ago and was blown away with all the things to see and do . I often watch Times Square Church on-line and have their monthly newsletter sent to our home.
    I love Carter Conlin, the senior pastor, messages. There is a video posted on the website entitled: “For the Glory of God and the Souls of Men” which contains an overview of the international outreaches undertaken by this church. It begins with the heart of God for the poor by Pastor David Wilkerson and ends in prayer in the square in New York City. It is worth watching and will rekindle your faith.
    I am happy you were able to attend and especially proud that you honour your mother, Mark. She is truly blessed! What a way to spend your 80th!

  3. Carmen says:

    I read the book years ago, but had never seen pictures of the church. Three packed out services every Sunday is awesome!!! It sure is gorgeous inside!

  4. Steve says:

    God loves these gangsters out there and he loves the poor as well. I love the cross and the switchblade story. If this kind of love moves throughout Winnipeg, who knows what will happen here. Jesus is not afraid to go into the darkest places.

  5. Betty says:

    That is very interesting, Pastor Mark.
    Books like that are even more meaningful, when a person has been there personally, and that reminds me of a story, that I read shortly after 9-11, where this Pastor [who had a passion to help people, that live in run down areas,] was talking about his church attendance to his friend and so much crime going on so close to the church,[in Manhatten area], then his friend asked him, why dont you move the church to a more safer place? This Pastor answered and said:I am not moving the church, Jesus shines the brightes in the most darkest places and He loves these people, then after 9-11, the church building got so full that many had to stand and the number of people that took Jesus into their hearts as their Lord and Saviour, was continuing to grow.

    What a beautiful building that is and the best part is, that these people get to Worship and Praise God in it every sunday.
    My husband and I, enjoyed singing in a choir for a number of years but our choir’s have not been so big.

  6. Linda says:

    David Wilkerson’s A Call to Anguish is on YouTube. Inspiring. Memorable. Good to hear. This church may not be an obvious stop on one’s itinerary for the big Apple, but it should be. Thanks for sharing some of the history and the photos as well. I hope your mom had a phenomenal time!

  7. Sophie G says:

    Will have to read that book. Was just in New York 2 months ago myself. I know what you mean, the dollar is king over there. Many say that NYC is the modern day Babylon. What is your view on this?

  8. Victoria says:

    Hey Pastor Mark, I have to touch base with my fellow bloggers,as I have been unable to. Money is tight and we have no internet,but by the grace of God,my neighbor that has moved in next door, has offered the use of her computer.
    New York is definately a place that has many dark corners,but is renouned for the support of fine arts. Dance, theatre, music and acting. I will definately be taking my 3 boys there someday, but for now, I will keep them safe dans le petite ville. Its true there is a lot to see and alot of Christian work to be done in this world, but we must teach our children first, to put on Gods armour and prepare themselves for the evils that may cross their paths.
    I am currently reading a book, Mark, that you may find intersting- its called` The devil at Noon Day`. I am realizing we should be more informed about what we think are `coincidences`or` bad luck` and realize that there indeed, is a reason to fight for the right to experiance good in our life, on a daily basis.
    Check out the title and tell me what you think…you probably already read the book, your so educated and worldly!
    On that note…God Bless you all.

  9. Evelyn Bennett says:

    Thanks for the highlights. Your style of descriptive writing is improving alot, Pastor Mark. You started with the blessing, your mother and worked up to the sermon like you always do.

  10. Mark Hughes says:

    Sophie G
    If you read the references to Babylon in the book of Revelation you will properly see it as the world’s economic system. NYC is clearly part of it, but not Babylon itself. One of the great truths of scripture is that God loves cities. I have preached on it many times and it is startling when you research cities in the bible, that God’s heart is for cities. Most of the prophets were sent to cities; Nineveh, Sidon, Tyre, etc. In the NT the gospel marched from city to city. Now when I travel I try to see a city from God’s point of view.

  11. Sophie G says:

    Hi Mark,

    I see what you’re saying, however firstly I recall that God doesn’t love all cities, infact Sodom and Gomorrah rings a bell here. Secondly I have been researching this topic for about a decade now, and it seems that Babylon is “that great city which rules over the kings of the earth”. It’s pretty clear to me in reading Rev chapters 17 and 18, that it is speaking of one city and this city is the economic nerve center of the world. There is a great warning for God’s people to come out of ‘her’ because in one hour she is to be destroyed by a coalition of 10 kings who despise her. She is a great port city and all the merchants weep and mourn over her when they see the smoke of her burning (nuclear?) because world trade will be completely erradicated. God uses the 10 kings to fulfill His will and destroy her…so he’s not a big fan. I was brought up believing that it was Rome, however it could not possibly be Rome after studying it thoroughly. It looks to me that there is only one city that fits this bill….Winnipeg, because the Ukranians are definately corrupting the world with their perogies. Just kidding.

  12. Kendra says:

    That book was amazing!!

  13. Victoria says:

    Sophie G
    You are soooo funny!
    Don`t you realize the city they were referring to was NYC and not Rome! I believe it was the 911 attack on the world trade centers….I will never forget that day, we were watching it live on the news from our living room in Edmonton, AB. My husband, who is American and served in the military, dropped to his knees and wept.
    To see a grown man break down and fall, helplessly watching the terrible destruction before his eyes was heartbreaking.
    Now that was a prophecy that came true, and I am absolutely terrified to read Revelations, as I know that it will contain things that I know will cause me great worry…
    British Columbia is starting to erode and my husband always said that it will eventually fall in the ocean, he seems to usually be correct about these things.
    Winnipeg, however, is safe from natural disaster.I lived there for 17 years, I left there at 27 yrs with my 1st child and husband.
    But you might want to do some research on the fact that it was built on ancient indian burial grounds and is powered with a great supernatural energy. Talk to the Aboriginal Center in the old train station there in Winnipeg, They will know.
    It would be intersting to see what they believe about this.
    Happy reading!

  14. Sophie G says:


    My reference to Winnipeg being Babylon was purely a joke. I do in fact firmly believe with CONVICTION that it is New York City, however the attacks on the Twin Towers is not by any means a fullfillment of the prophecy in Revelations. What is going to happen to New York is going to be something a thousand times worse than 911. Babylon will never rise again after her destruction. It will be total devastation to global consumerism. The attacks on the world trade center was terrible and a big setback to the Western World, but not the complete destruction as described in Revelations.

  15. Victoria says:

    Sophie G: I stand corrected:)

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