"The only way you can serve God is by serving other people." -- Rick Warren
Richard Duane "Rick" Warren (born January 28, 1954) is an American evangelical Christian minister and author. He is the founder and senior pastor of Saddleback Church, an evangelical megachurch located in Lake Forest, California, currently the eighth-largest church in the United States (this ranking includes multi-site churches). He is also a bestselling author of many Christian books, including his guide to church ministry and evangelism, The Purpose Driven Church, which has spawned a series of conferences on Christian ministry and evangelism. He is perhaps best known for the subsequent devotional, The Purpose Driven Life, which has sold over 30 million copies, making Warren a New York Times bestselling author.
Warren holds conservative theological views and holds traditional evangelical views on social issues such as abortion, same-sex marriage, and stem-cell research. Warren has called on churches worldwide to also focus their efforts on fighting poverty and disease, expanding educational opportunities for the marginalized, and caring for the environment. During the 2008 United States presidential election, Warren hosted the Civil Forum on The Presidency at his church with both presidential candidates, John McCain and Barack Obama. Obama later sparked controversy when he asked Warren to give the invocation at the presidential inauguration in January 2009.
"And you know, when you've experienced grace and you feel like you've been forgiven, you're a lot more forgiving of other people. You're a lot more gracious to others.""During the next 90 days, people are going to be more open to the Gospel than in years. It is God's responsibility to make people receptive; it is our responsibility to sow the seed.""Faithful servants never retire. You can retire from your career, but you will never retire from serving God.""God is looking for people to use, and if you can get usable, he will wear you out. The most dangerous prayer you can pray is this: 'Use me.'""Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it's thinking of yourself less.""If God only used perfect people, nothing would get done. God will use anybody if you're available.""If you're alive, there's a purpose for your life.""There are illegitimate parents, but I don't believe there are any illegitimate children.""We're a nation of laws, but the good thing about America, is that laws reside in the people and people can change the laws.""You never know God is all you need until God is all you have.""You were made by God and for God, and until you understand that, life will never make sense."
Warren was born in San Jose, California, the son of Jimmy and Dot Warren. His father was a Baptist minister, his mother a high school librarian. He was raised in Ukiah, California, and graduated from Ukiah High School in 1972, where he founded the first Christian club on the school's campus, The Fishers of Men Club. His sister Chaundel is married to Saddleback pastor Tom Holladay. His brother Jim C. Warren died in 2007.
Warren received a Bachelor of Arts degree from California Baptist University in Riverside, California; a Master of Divinity degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (1979) in Fort Worth, Texas; and a Doctor of Ministry degree from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California.
Warren has been married to Elizabeth K. Warren (Kay) for 30 years in 2009. They have three adult children (Amy, Josh, and Matthew) and four grandchildren. He considers Billy Graham, Peter Drucker and his own father to be among his mentors.
Due to the success of his book sales, in 2005 Warren returned his 25 years of salary to the church and discontinued taking a salary. He says he and his wife became "reverse tithers", giving away 90% of their income and living off 10%.
Warren says he was called to full-time ministry when he was a 19-year-old student at California Baptist University. In November 1973, he and a friend skipped classes and drove 350 miles to hear W.A. Criswell preach at the Jack Tar Hotel, in San Francisco. Warren waited afterwards to shake hands with Criswell who focused on Warren stating "I feel led to lay hands on you and pray for you!”
During his time at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Warren worked at the Texas Ranch for Christ, a ministry facility of Billie Hanks, Jr., where he began writing books. He co-wrote two books, The Victory Scripture Memory Series and the Twelve Dynamic Bible Study Methods for Laity, with Billi Hanks, Jr. and Wayne Watts.
In April 1980 Warren held Saddleback Church's first public service on Easter Sunday at the Laguna Hills High School Theater with 200 people in attendance. Warren's church growth methods led to rapid expansion with the church using nearly 80 different facilities in its 28-year history.
Saddleback did not build its first permanent building until it had 10,000 weekly attenders. When the current Lake Forest campus was purchased in the early 1990s, a 2,300-seat plastic tent was used for worship services for several years, with four services each weekend. In 1995, the current Worship Center was completed with a seating capacity of 3,500. A multi-million dollar children's ministry building and a staff office building were completed over the next few years. In June 2008, a $20 million student ministry facility called the "Refinery", was completed housing the "Wildside" middle school and "HSM" high school ministries, consisting of 1,500 students. Saddleback Church averages nearly 20,000 people in attendance each week and is currently the eighth-largest church in the United States.
Warren has been invited to speak at national and international forums including the United Nations, the World Economic Forum in Davos, the African Union, the Council on Foreign Relations, Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, TED, and Time’s Global Health Summit. He was an elected member of the Council on Foreign Relations between 2005 and 2006, and was named one of "America's Top 25 Leaders" in the October 31, 2005, issue of U.S. News and World Report. Warren was named by Time magazine as one of "15 World Leaders Who Mattered Most in 2004" and one of the "100 Most Influential People in the World" (2005). In 2006 Newsweek called him one of "15 People Who Make America Great".
In August 2008, Warren drew greater national attention by hosting the Civil Forum on the Presidency that featured senators John McCain and Barack Obama at Saddleback Church. Warren said the goal of the forum was to “restore civility in our civil discourse.” The forum marked McCain and Obama's first joint appearance as the presumptive Republican and Democratic presidential nominees and was broadcast live on national television. During the two-hour event, each candidate took the stage separately for about an hour to respond to Warren’s questions about faith and moral issues including abortion and human rights.
In December 2008, President-elect Obama chose Warren to give the invocation at his inauguration ceremony. The decision angered pro-choice and LGBT advocates and led to criticism of both Obama and Warren. Obama defended his choice of Warren, saying that although he disagreed with the minister's positions on abortion and same-sex marriage, there should be room for dialogue on such difficult social issues. More controversy ensued when it was announced that Warren would be the keynote speaker at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Annual Commemorative Service on January 19, 2009, the day prior to the inauguration. On Jan. 20, 2009, Warren delivered the Invocation, which was generally praised for its positive message.
In January 2009, Warren and the Readers Digest Association partnered in the launch of the Purpose Driven Connection, a quarterly publication sold as part of a bundle of multimedia products. In November 2009, the partners announced that the magazine had not drawn enough paying members and would cease after publication of the fourth issue that month.
Warren has been invited to speak at John Piper's Desiring God Conference 2010 in Minneapolis, MN.
Warren and his wife are directors of the following non-profit organizations:
Acts of Mercy
RKW Legacy Partners
Equipping the Church
Purpose Driven comes from the teaching of Warren, and came into use as a paradigm taught to pastors and other Christian leaders worldwide to help them be more effective in leading their churches. The teaching is embodied in Warren’s best-selling book, The Purpose Driven Church, first published in 1995. Over 400,000 pastors and church leaders from around the world have attended a seminar or conference led by Warren and other pastors who seek to be more effective in fulfilling the Biblical Great Commission and Great Commandment. Purpose Driven refers to these pastors' attempts to balance the five "purposes"; worship, fellowship, discipleship, ministry, and evangelism in their churches.
Christian leaders in 162 countries have used materials which stem from this movement. Warren says his organizations have trained 400,000 pastors worldwide. Some 189,000 church leaders subscribe to Ministry Toolbox, the weekly newsletter.
Others express concern over what is described as the divisive nature of Warren's techniques. Wall Street Journal writer Suzanne Sataline cited examples of congregations who have split over the growth strategies and congregations that have expelled members who fought changes. She wrote, "Warren acknowledges that splits occur in congregations that adopt his ideas, though he says he opposes efforts to expel church members."
The P E A C E Plan is an initiative begun by Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California. Senior pastor Rick Warren's stated intention in launching the P E A C E (or PEACE) Plan is to involve every Christian and every church in every nation in the task of serving people in the areas of the greatest global needs. The tag-line is 'Ordinary people empowered by God making a difference together wherever they are'. P.E.A.C.E. is an acronym for the stated methodology for achieving the plan: "Promote reconciliation - Equip servant leaders - Assist the poor - Care for the sick - Educate the next generation."
Warren has worked to shift the evangelical movement away from an exclusive focus on traditional evangelical social issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage (regarding the latter, he called divorce a greater threat to the American family), to broader social action. Warren's five-point plan for global action, the P.E.A.C.E. Plan , calls for church-led efforts to tackle global poverty and disease, including the spread of HIV/AIDS, and to support literacy and education efforts around the world. In February 2006, he signed a controversial statement backing a major initiative to combat global warming, thus breaking with other conservative, high-profile evangelical leaders, who had opposed such a move. This decision by Warren remains one of his most controversial and criticized moves.
Warren's softer tone on political issues once central to U.S. evangelicals and his concern for issues more commonly associated with the political left have resulted in the characterization of Warren as one of a "new breed of evangelical leaders." But it has also been misunderstood by the media, according to Warren, as indicating a shift in position on traditional evangelical issues.
In a conversation with atheist author Sam Harris in Newsweek magazine, Warren spoke out against evolution and in favor of creationism. He also said that brutal dictators such as Mao, Stalin, and Pol Pot were all atheists, when questioned on whether religion is beneficial to society. In 2005, during the Terri Schiavo controversy, Warren stated that withholding feeding to Schiavo, a woman in a persistent vegetative state, was "not a right to die issue". He then called Michael Schiavo's decision to remove her feeding tube, "an atrocity worthy of Nazism", and while speculating about Michael Schiavo's motives, put forward the idea that Schiavo wanted Terri to die because, if she regained consciousness, she might have "something to say that he didn‘t want said."
Two weeks before the 2008 U.S. general election, Warren issued a statement to his congregation endorsing California Proposition 8, which would amend the California Constitution to say "only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California," thereby eliminating the right of same-sex couples to marry. Warren's position was consistent with the official position of his church's denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention, and reflected his belief that this definition of marriage "has been supported by every single culture, and every single religion for 5,000 years." Warren stated that the measure was necessary because the Supreme Court of California "threw out the will of the people" in May 2008 when it found, in the In Re Marriage Cases decision, that the previous statutory ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional. After the measure passed, Warren's church and others were targeted by protesters.
In an interview with Beliefnet in early December, Warren again sparked controversy by appearing to equate same-sex marriages to marriages of siblings, multiple partners, and adults and minors. He later released a video message saying that he does not equate gay relationships with incest or pedophilia, and that, as he had stated during the Beliefnet interview, he opposes the redefinition of marriage.