Author of bestselling book The Purpose Driven Life, Rick Warren, has announced he will retire as senior pastor of Saddleback Church, following 40 years at the helm of one of America’s most influential churches.
Warren will step down from his role in September, when he will hand over the reins to his successor, Andy Wood – who is currently lead pastor of Echo Church in San Jose, California. Andy’s wife Stacie Wood, currently teaching pastor at Echo Church, will take up the same role at Saddleback.
In announcing the transition on Twitter on June 2, Warren commended Andy Wood for his experience in “growing a megachurch from zero” during his 14 years at Echo Church, as well as his biblical character qualities.
68-year-old Warren and his wife Kay planted Saddleback in 1980 (when they were both only 25) in Lake Forest, California, as part of the Southern Baptist Convention. Over the years, the church has grown to over 30,000 weekly attendees across 16 locations, including four international campuses and an online campus. Saddleback Church has built an outreach of more than 300 community ministries. Based on Rick Warren’s bestseller The Purpose Driven Life, published in 2002, its training resources for pastors have been used by over 1.1 million pastors in 165 countries.
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In a video, Warren explained that he and the Saddleback elders had considered almost 100 applicants in the search for his successor – a search that began in June 2021, after Warren had steered the church through the height of the COVID pandemic.
“Saddleback is an incredibly complex church, with campuses on four continents,” said Warren. “In fact, the publisher of Forbes magazine once said about Saddleback, were it a business, Saddleback would be compared to Dell, Google or Starbucks.
“Now pastors aren’t typically asked to speak to the United Nations or TED or Davos. But people listen to Saddleback, and this is a heavy responsibility for the new leader. And I knew that with our size and our Purpose Driven system and our Saddleback style, it was going to take someone really unique to lead our unique church …
“In many miraculous ways, God confirmed his choice for our next pastor,” he said.
Warren described his decision to “step aside for the next generation” as “a very satisfying and emotional moment for Kay and me.”
“We are filled with love and gratitude for YOU!” wrote Warren to the “Saddleback Family”. “Like Paul, we can say ‘I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. And I have kept the faith!’ 2 Timothy 4:7 (NIV) Now it is time for us to pass the torch on to a new generation who will love, lead, and pastor our church family in the decades ahead.”
As for what’s next for Warren, he has hinted at being involved in “2 new ministries”. In another tweet, he has clarified that he is being “reassigned” rather than retiring. No doubt more details will soon be revealed.