Saddleback Megachurch Pastor Rick Warren to Retire, Announces Successor

Saddleback Megachurch Pastor Rick Warren to Retire, Announces Successor
Saddleback Church Pastor Rick Warren, author of "The Purpose Driven Life," speaks during the White House Roundtable on Faith-Based and Community Solutions to Combat HIV/AIDS in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, DC, on Dec. 12, 2007. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Micaela Ricaforte
6/3/2022
Updated:
6/3/2022
0:00

Pastor Rick Warren announced on June 2 that Pastor Andy Wood will take over leadership of Saddleback Church, a Lake Forest, California, congregation with more than 30,000 weekly attendees. Warren, 68, who founded the evangelical Baptist church with his wife Kay in 1980, announced plans to retire and search for a successor last year.

Wood, 40, who has led Echo.Church in San Jose with his wife Stacie for 14 years, was selected from more than 100 “potential, purpose-driven pastoral candidates, interviews and countless prayers,” Warren said in a video message on June 2.

Warren passes on a ministry with a global and local impact that has touched thousands of lives.

In his 43 years of ministry, Warren built the church with more than 40,000 total global members across 20 campuses—including campuses in Argentina, Germany, Philippines, and Hong Kong and 16 in Southern California—and led the church’s involvement in addressing issues such as HIV/AIDS, mental health, and suicide.

Named one of the “100 Most Influential People in the World” by Time Magazine in 2005, Warren published two best-selling books, including “Purpose Driven Church,” a leadership guide used to train over 1 million pastors worldwide.

Warren hosted a presidential candidate forum in 2008 with then-candidates John McCain and Barack Obama at Saddleback Church and gave the invocation at Obama’s January 2009 inauguration at the president’s request.

Locally, the Warrens were recently awarded the first annual Sandra Hutchens Interfaith Community Service Award by Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes, who commended the Warrens for their community work, specifically with Saddleback’s Celebrate Recovery, a faith-based 12-step intervention program.

As he searched for someone to carry on his ministry, Warren said he looked for “a proven leader” who could not only lead a high-impact church such as Saddleback, but also take the church to the next level.

“I don’t want Saddleback to be a one-generation church like most churches end up being,” Warren said. “I believe our best days will always, always be in the future if we have the right leadership.”

Volunteers at Saddleback Church contribute to the operation of Orange County's largest food distribution center, The Saddleback Church Food Pantry, in Lake Forest, Calif., on Aug 17, 2020. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)
Volunteers at Saddleback Church contribute to the operation of Orange County's largest food distribution center, The Saddleback Church Food Pantry, in Lake Forest, Calif., on Aug 17, 2020. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Even as he searched, Warren said he did not worry about finding the successor.

“I’ve never spent a single moment worrying who would be the next pastor after me,” Warren said. “I knew God had already chosen who would replace me as the next pastor long before he chose me to start Saddleback almost 43 years ago.”

Wood said that long before he met Warren, he was inspired to plant a church when he read “Purpose Driven Church.”

“When I read the book, I was struck by the love that Pastor Rick and Kay have for [their congregation] ... and in addition to that is this passion to get the love of Jesus to the ends of the earth,” Wood said in the video.

Wood said those two elements have been the “heartbeat” and foundation that inspired him to found Echo.Church in 2008.

Fourteen years later, Echo.Church has grown into a congregation of about 3,000 with three campuses across the San Francisco Bay area.

Wood said that he had expected to stay with Echo.Church indefinitely but began to feel called to Saddleback when Warren began a conversation about taking over the church in March.

“We didn’t come [to visit Saddleback] with the intent that God would call us into this role, but it became clear God was calling us to move in this direction,” Wood said.

Wood, along with his wife and three children, will move to Orange County and take over for Warren at the beginning of September.

When he announced his intention to retire last year, Warren said he will step back into a less visible position as a founding pastor but will remain part of Saddleback.

A spokesperson for Saddleback Church did not respond to a request for comment by press deadline.

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