The Christian community lost a hero of faith Dec. 19, when Pastor Wendell Smith entered eternity, ending a six-year cancer battle with family by his side. He was only 60 years old.
Pastor Wendell is known in recent years, along with his wife, Gini, as founding pastors of The City Church in Kirkland, Wash. They started with a strong vision and support of a few families in 1992. Last year, they passed the pastoral baton to their son, Judah Smith, with a multisite church of approximately 7,000. But the story didn’t start in 1992.
For 20 years prior to pioneering The City Church, Wendell and Gini lived and started their family in Portland. They were members of Bible Temple, now called City Bible Church, and poured their lives out in service as elders, youth pastors, teachers at the Bible College, and friends to thousands. As told in The City Church Story, “In the mid-1980s, they invested five years of ministry to over 100,000 youth across the nation in their Dragonslayer Seminar.”
Wendell’s younger brother, Tim Smith of Worship Without Borders in Portland, Oregon, composed a “Dragonslayer Song” that complimented Wendell’s youth seminar. He reflects on life with his brother:
“Wendell was the eternal optimist and visionary. He got me to do things I would never think to do on my own. We wrote a few songs together and he was my inspiration for many others. G-G-H-H-O-Y (God’s Got His Hand on You) was his sermon that I made into a song for a youth choir tour. Twenty-five years later some of them are still singing it!”
Tim knew his brother to be “fearless and focused in everything he did.” He remembers traveling with Wendell and a youth team to Romania right after the revolution in 1990 and seeing his brother be the very first person to preach the gospel from the pulpit of fallen dictator, Ceausescu. Tim recounts, “Two hundred people accepted Christ that night.”
Even in his death, Pastor Wendell evoked response. He was beloved and connected in a myriad of ways to all kinds of people. A wave of reflection swept Portland at word of his death via @judahsmith and other family members. Social network sites lit up with fond thoughts, memories, and condolences to the Smith family.
Wendell leaves a powerful legacy for Gini and their family: daughter, Wendy and her husband, Benny Perez; son, Judah Smith and his wife, Chelsea; and six grandchildren. But it doesn’t stop there. Wendell’s influence and spiritual legacy, reaching from Portland to Kirkland and around the world, will far outlast the 60 years he spent forging it.
A service in memory of Pastor Wendell will be held January 7th at The City Church Kirkland campus.