Monday, June 12, 2017

Remembering Wendell Burton

Wendell Burton
I'm thinking about our dear friend of over 40 years, Wendell Burton. He made his voyage to heaven two days ago. Dan and I became great friends with Wendell in the early days of the very first Vineyard Christian Fellowship, becoming even closer as our families grew. We shared kids' birthday parties, Christmas parties, even a couple of vacations with Wendell and his family. We also shared our call to Jesus Music. Dan produced Wendell's first two albums and I got to sing backup for him. Wendell was Antony in my parents' production of 'Antshillvania,' (the story of the prodigal ant). Wendell had one of my favorite voices in the world, so genuine and soothing. I even recorded a couple of his songs on my own records. He was a brilliant, creative guy, full of integrity and faith... just a delight. Wendell spent his past 20 years or so encouraging the lives and art of others. He was deeply loved and is already greatly missed. Still hard to believe... hard to imagine the joy and freedom he is experiencing now after a long, difficult illness. I'm so grateful for his rich friendship all these years. Praying for Linda, Haven, Adam, and Hazel. Precious in the sight of the Lord...

-Jamie Owens-Collins
June 1, 2017

Wendell Burton has gone Home. He passed away at his home in Houston on May 30, 2017 from brain cancer. He was 69.

He was born Wendell Ray Burton on July 21, 1947 and passed from this life on May 30, 2017. He was an actor, best known for his co-starring role with Liza Minnelli in the 1969 movie The Sterile Cuckoo. But he was also a singer and a musician who recorded a handful of CCM albums in the 1970s and 80s. 

If you're unfamiliar with Burton's life and music, here's the bio from his website:

Wendell Burton would be the first to tell you that he has led a very blessed life. Given his natural affinity for variety, Wendell considers himself fortunate to have had such a wide-ranging vocational path. Over the years he’s worked as an actor, director, singer-songwriter, acting coach, author, television executive, worship leader and ordained minister.

Originally from Texas, Wendell’s family moved to California. When he was in his teens. It was there he got his first big break in the San Francisco production of a new musical called, You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, while still attending college. And shortly thereafter, he auditioned for and won the part of Jerry Payne, opposite Liza Minnelli’s Oscar nominated role of Pookie, in the romantic classic, The Sterile Cuckoo. So, figuring that he was evidently destined to become rich and famous, he made the move to Hollywood where he managed to achieve neither–at least to the degree he had imagined. Although, along the way, he did get to star and guest-star in a number of other films, television movies and series episodes, including MGM’s Fortune and Men’s Eyes, the television versions of The Red Badge of Courage, Go Ask Alice, East of Eden, and the Hallmark Hall of Fame production of You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown. His last feature role was in Heat, with Burt Reynolds. As he tells his friends in LA, “If you took everything I did over twenty years and crammed into four or five… I’d have been really hot!” 

In his twenties, Wendell’s life took an interesting turn as the ups and downs the film and television industries provoked a period of spiritual self-discovery that took him through a wide array of eastern religions and new-age sects, culminating in a sojourn to India. Hoping to find the answers to all the questions he was struggling with, he toured the sub-continent with a small band of fellow “seekers”, meeting many different teachers, gurus, swamis, lamas and even an “avatar”, worshiped by millions world wide as “God incarnate.” To his great disappointment, he returned to Hollywood no closer to his goal of self-discovery than when he left. Nevertheless, through a small Bible study in the Hollywood Hills, the truth he had been seeking was finally revealed to him and his life changed forever. All of this is chronicled in his book, Godsmacked, A Souljourner’s Guide to the Heart of God.

Shortly afterward, he co-founded the Hollywood Free Theater, a Christian organization dedicated to providing professional entertainment and theatre training free to the public, and also embarked on a musical career. His debut album, titled Wendell, was released on Lamb & Lion Records in 1978 and featured ten of his original compositions. Three more albums (Shinin’ Thru the Rain, Closer and Heart of Eternity) followed over the next seven years as he toured the country ministering in churches, universities and other venues and acting in occasional television and film roles.

But after a decade or so of traveling ministry, Wendell decided to give up the road for a steady gig. And was blessed to join the Christian Broadcasting Network, which later became The Family Channel. Starting as an account executive, he soon became the director of the west coast sales team, where he enjoyed learning about the business side of the industry.

In 1997, a mutual friend connected him with a young man named Joel Osteen, who was building a new full power television station in Houston, Texas. Wendell moved to Houston to help with the effort, serving as Director of Programming and National Sales. After Joel’s father, Pastor John Osteen, passed away in 1999, Wendell  served at the station for another two years before transitioning to the pastoral staff at Lakewood Church. Serving with the entire Osteen family and the dedicated members of the church staff has been one of the great honors of his life.

Wendell lives in Houston with his beautiful, talented and amazing bride, Linda. His two grown children, Adam and Haven, along with son-in-law Denny and grandson, Hudson are a constant source of joy to him. And even better, the closest of friends.

God is good.

My tribute;

Wendell Burton was a man of God.

A man of:









I guess you could say he "crossed his t's & dotted his i's.

He lived a vocational life of adventure & diversity.

Actor, director, screen writer, he achieved what few who dream of Hollywood ever will.

He would joke, "If you crammed all I did into 5 years - I'd have been pretty hot!"

To his family & friends - he was!

(Working w/the likes of Liza Minnelli & Burt Reynolds - hello!?)

He helped pioneer the "Jesus Movement/Contemporary music revolution!" 3 albums, & performances around the country, writing & co-writing songs, including co-writing the classic "He'll Take Care of the Rest" w/Keith Green.

He would eventually team up w/ @JoelOsteen in building a successful high power station in Houston.

Then, what he would no doubt describe as his greatest role;
serving as an ordained minister along side the Osteen family & @LakewoodChurch.

From drama, worship leader, young adults, there wasn't much Pastor Wendell didn't serve in & make better at Lakewood.

When the vision of Joel & Victoria to start a network of churches helping connect the millions of people they were influencing to local churches - Wendell was the man!

He sacrificially laid the foundation for the Champions Network of Churches that has connected over one million households to CN churches.

One of Wendell motto's was, "I don't have to have my way - just my say!"

Fair enough.

But having his say was more than one pitch.
He would say his say, then say what he said, then say it one more time - that day!

Upon working closer together after our transitioning from SoCal, I'd discover Wendell's real motivation.

Wendell was always looking out for others.
Those not in the room, the underdog, the not-the-largest-or-most-popular pastor. 

He was beyond fair. He was ruled by a inward integrity GPS.

My fondest memory was in his final 6 months, his last road trip w/our CN team.
He took me aside & spoke passionately to me.

His words so personal, so meaningful, I'll never forget.
He defined my calling, framed my heart's desire & boosted my morale.

Well done Champion!

-Phil Munsey

As of this writing, all of the songs from Wendell Burton's Lamb & Lion albums can be downloaded free. "Thanks to Pat Boone, who owns the label, for giving me the option," Burton wrote. "When you are prompted for payment after clicking the download link, just put in 0 for the dollar amount...  OR, if you’d like to donate to this effort, please feel free to do so. Thanks!"

He announced that he hoped to be adding an 'EP' of some new songs he'd written over the last few years but never recorded. Sadly, we may just have to wait a while to hear those songs. 

Please remember the Burton family in your prayers.


  1. What can I say.... you nailed it .... My brother was all this an more. Thank you so much for your words and understanding of Wendell. I got to live my whole life with this guy and you so beautifully described his essence. He will be greatly missed by our brother Kenny and myself.... the only consolation is WE STILL HAVE JESUS.

  2. Thank you for the post.
    He is one of a handful of artists whose music brought particular scriptures to life at a time when I was young and ripe.
    His music led me to the Word and enabled it to be planted in the heart through song.

    His Closer album is a top 20 of mine.

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