Richard Duane “Rick” Warren (born January 28, 1954) is an American evangelical Christian pastor and author. He is the founder and senior pastor of Saddleback Church, an evangelical megachurch in Lake Forest, California, that is the eighth-largest church in the United States (including 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 book The Purpose Driven Life which has sold more than 30 million copies, making Warren a New York Times bestselling author.
Warren holds conservative theological views[dead link] and traditional evangelical views on social issues such as abortion, same-sex marriage, abstinence-only education over the use of condoms to prevent HIV/AIDS, and embryonic stem-cell research.
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.
Early life and education
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.[clarification needed] 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 Kay Warren since June 21, 1975. 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.
Because of 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’s youngest son, Matthew, took his own life April 6, 2013, after years of struggling with mental illness. Almost a year after his son’s suicide, Warren launched a ministry to educate the Church on its role to help people struggling with mental illness and the Church Gathering in March 2014. In the year following the suicide, Warren says that more than 10,000 people wrote to him about their struggles with mental illness within the Church.
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 Twelve Dynamic Bible Study Methods for Laity with Billie 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 35-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 multimillion-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 “JHM” (previously known as “Wildside”) middle school and “HSM” high school ministries, consisting of 1,500 students. Saddleback Church averages nearly 20,000 people in attendance each week.
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 has been a member of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) since 2005.
Warren 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, featuring 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 January 20, 2009, Warren delivered the invocation, which was generally praised for its positive message.
In January 2009, Warren and the Reader’s 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.
Innovations in ministry
Throughout his 35 years as the pastor of Saddleback Church, the congregation has been on the forefront of a number of ministry innovations. Much of these stem from Warren’s commitment to become a “teaching church”, in which Warren and his staff create and develop ministries that become models for other churches worldwide. In his book The Purpose Driven Church, Warren suggested that the church’s youth and lack of previous traditions have allowed it to experiment more than most. Many of these innovations have centered upon Warren’s long-standing belief that the local church should be the vehicle for personal and community transformation. These innovations (or improvements upon the innovations of others) have included Saddleback’s Celebrate Recovery ministry, the P.E.A.C.E. Plan, its SHAPE process for identifying and deploying lay volunteers, orphan care, and the C.L.A.S.S. structure of church assimilation.
Warren and his wife are directors of the following non-profit organizations: