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 n 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”, worshipped 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.