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Chuck Smith and Mike MacIntosh pay tribute to Syd Wakeling

Dan Wooding with Pastor Chuck Smith during a previous interview for Wooding's Front Page Radio program

Pastor Chuck Smith, father of the “Jesus People Movement” in Southern California, and Mike MacIntosh, the senior pastor of Horizon Christian Fellowship in San Diego, California, have both paid tribute to Syd Wakeling, who passed away recently at the age of 80 in Laguna Hills, California.

Syd Wakeling died on June 20, 2010, after suffering for some time with multiple myeloma, a cancer of the plasma cells in bone marrow, and his life was honored at a special memorial service on Friday, July 2, 2010, at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa, where he had been a board member for many years.

Sydney (Syd) T. Wakeling, a fellow Brit who was born on September 5, 1929, in East Ham, London, and later lived in the Essex town of Southend-on-Sea, eventually moved to the United States where he met his wife Florence and also found Jesus Christ as his personal savior.

He was a co-founder of a large accounting firm in Southern California called Balser, Horowitz, Frank & Wakeling, and was on the board of many ministries including the Long Beach Rescue Mission and our own ASSIST Ministries.

During the memorial service, Chuck Smith, senior pastor of Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa, California, talked about how Syd Wakeling had been instrumental in starting “The Word for Today” radio program which is now carried thousands of times a day on stations around the world and features Smith’s through the Bible teaching.

“Syd was on our Calvary Chapel board for many, many years,” 82-year-old Smith said. “We were blessed by having a man who was so discerning and so wise in financial matters. Syd helped to guide the church in those days.”

Chuck Smith went on to say, “I can remember, as the Lord was blessing the church and we began to have a surplus of finances — which is sort of unusual for churches — the Board was discussing what we should do with our surplus funds. It was Syd that spoke up and asked, ‘What is it that has drawn us here? What is it that has caused the church to grow as it has?’ Syd then answered his own question by saying,. ‘It’s the teaching of the Word of God. So why don’t we take what God has used to bless us here and begin to spread it around the country. Let’s go on the radio.’

“So we inquired from radio stations and we got prices and so forth and the board selected fifty of the major markets in the United States and decided we would go on the radio to do the teaching of the Word of God across the country. That was Syd’s idea and it was again a excellent idea because God began to use His Word being taught over radio and gradually we found out that Bible studies were starting all over the country and Calvary Chapel churches began to spring up all over America.

“So today there are over fifteen-hundred Calvary Chapels across the United States. God honors His Word and has blessed His Word and certainly He blessed us with the wise counsel of Syd. And what a blessing he has been to the church throughout the years.”

After the memorial service, which was attended by many of Syd Wakeling’s many friends as well as his family, I was able to talk with Chuck Smith about his late friend.

I first asked him when he had first met Syd and he replied, “It was when we were still in our little chapel, so it was in the seventies. I asked him to join our board because he was just a very wise man and so that’s the kind of person we were looking for. He was someone who was committed to Christ but also had a lot of worldly wisdom and so we asked him to come on the board very early in the history of Calvary.”

Smith said that is around 1975 when Syd Wakeling made the suggestion about launching the new radio program.

“I’m not certain about how many stations we are now on, but it seems like wherever we went on the radio then that’s where a church would spring up,” he said.

What did he learn from Syd’s life that had blessed him?

Pastor Smith replied, “I think it was wisdom in finances. While he was on the board, he was always very careful with funds and the church’s expenditures. I learned from Syd how important is is to use God’s money wisely.”

One of the early converts of Calvary Chapel after it grown so quickly and had then set up a huge tent on the grounds at where it’s present sanctuary is located, was Mike MacIntosh, who was not a hippie, but had suffered from drug problems and was later miraculously healed of those troubles. He had been divorced by his wife, Sandy, but after she too found Christ, they re-married and the service was conducted by Chuck Smith.

MacIntosh then went on to run Maranatha! Music, which was born out of the hippie revival at the church. The label was founded in 1971 by Smith to promote the “Jesus Music” that his young hippie followers were writing and singing up and down the California coast. Back then, these songs were on the fringe of what the established church felt was appropriate for church music but they were being sung by millions of young people around the world.

Mike MacIntosh told me, “Syd Wakeling helped me with Maranatha! Music and also my personal income tax which I have just found from my 1972 return that he did for me was a whopping $5,000.00 total for the year.

“He helped shape and form my early thinking concerning accountability and stewardship both personal and ministry wise. I would also like to pay tribute to his wife, Florence, who was a treasure and so supportive of the work of Jesus — just like Syd.”

Syd Wakeling was a man of great integrity who loved God with all his heart and will be sorely missed by his many friends and family. He is survived by his wife, Florence; daughter, Debi Lerma (Rich); son, Dave (Julianna); grandchildren, Ashlie Raymer (Danny) and Brendan and Logan Wakeling. Syd was preceded in death by his grandson, Garrett Lerma.

Dan Wooding, ANS

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