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Rick Warren

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Rick Warren
Rick Warren at TED 2006.jpg
Rick Warren speaking at TED in 2006
Richard Duane Warren

(1954-01-28) January 28, 1954 (age 65)
OccupationPastor and author
Spouse(s)Kay Warren

Richard Duane Warren (born January 28, 1954) is an American evangelical Christian pastor and author.[1][2][3] He is the founder and senior pastor of Saddleback Church, an evangelical megachurch affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, in Lake Forest, California that is the sixth-largest megachurch in the United States (including multi-site churches).[4] 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. His subsequent book The Purpose Driven Life has sold more than 30 million copies, making Warren a New York Times bestselling author.[5][6]

Warren holds conservative theological views[7] 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.[8]

Early life and education[edit]

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.[9]

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.[10]


Warren with President George W. Bush in 2008

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.[11] 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!”[11]

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.[12]

In January 1980, he began a Bible study group, with seven people, and his wife, in their Saddleback Valley condo, in Orange County, California.[13] 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.[14][15] Warren's church growth methods led to rapid expansion, with the church using nearly 80 different facilities in its 35-year history.The church now averages nearly 20,000 people in attendance each week.[16]

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.[17]

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.[18][19] 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.

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.[20] 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.[21] 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.[22] On January 20, 2009, Warren delivered the invocation, which was generally praised for its positive message.[23]

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.[24] 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.[25]

Purpose Driven[edit]

Warren taught the material that would one day become the Purpose Driven philosophy of ministry to individual pastors who called or wrote him in Saddleback’s early days.

Warren gained experience teaching the material through his participation in the Institute for Evangelism and Church Growth, affiliated with Fuller Theological Seminary.

In 1995 Zondervan published Warren's best-selling book, The Purpose Driven Church, which distilled many of the lessons he had learned while starting Saddleback Church and honed during years of training other pastors.[26] After sharing the “Saddleback Story”, the book makes a case for building a church around five purposes (worship, fellowship, discipleship, ministry, and evangelism) through what Warren called a “crowd to core” method of church growth.[27] He encouraged churches to reach their community, bring in a crowd, turn attendees into members, develop those members to maturity, turn them into ministers, and send them out on a mission. (The Purpose Driven Church, table of contents)

In 2004, more than 10,000 churches of various denominations attended a seminar or a conference led by Warren.[28]

P.E.A.C.E. Plan[edit]

The P.E.A.C.E. Plan is an initiative begun by Saddleback Church. In 2002, Kay Warren became “seriously disturbed” by the global HIV epidemic through a Newsweek cover story.[29] In 2004 she began an HIV ministry at Saddleback. Through Saddleback's P.E.A.C.E. Plan, the Warrens have spoken up for those marginalized by the epidemic all around the world. The Warrens’ focus has been to mobilize local churches to combat the spread of the disease.

The Warrens’ plan centers around the C.H.U.R.C.H. acrostic. C stands for “Care for and support the sick.” H stands for “Handle HIV testing and counseling.” U stands for “Unleash a volunteer labor force.” R stands for “Remove the stigma.” C stands for “Champion healthy behavior.” H stands for “Help with HIV medications.” Warren's stated intention 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 tagline 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."[30]

By the end of 2010, Saddleback P.E.A.C.E. teams had participated in mission trips to every country in the world.[31] Warren has stated that Saddleback is the first church in the 2,000-year history of Christianity to do this.[32]

In 2004, Rwandan President Paul Kagame sent Warren a letter, explaining that he had read The Purpose Driven Life, and invited Warren and his team to help make his country the first “purpose driven nation.” Over the next several years, Saddleback Church sent a series of P.E.A.C.E. teams to the country.. As of 2014, 1,300 P.E.A.C.E. teams had served in Rwanda. On April 17, 2005, Saddleback Church celebrated the church's 25th anniversary with a special worship service at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, California, with more than 45,000 people in attendance. President Kagame was one of the service's special speakers.[citation needed]

Celebrate Recovery[edit]

Celebrate Recovery began at Saddleback Church when member John Baker, who calls himself “a believer who struggles with alcoholism,” wrote Warren a letter in 1991, sharing his story and his vision for a Christ-centered recovery program. Baker had felt uncomfortable with what he called the “vague higher power” in Alcoholics Anonymous. Warren famously affirmed Baker's vision and suggested he be the one to start the ministry.

As Warren and Baker made plans to launch the ministry, Warren developed a 10-part sermon series entitled “The Road to Recovery,” based on Jesus’ Beatitudes. Those messages were condensed into the eight principles that form the theological basis of the program. A small-group curriculum, developed by Baker, centers on the 12 Christ-centered steps, which were taken for the original 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous that make up the implementation of the program.

Over the past two decades, Celebrate Recovery has helped more than 500,000 people overcome alcoholism, drugs, overeating, anger, financial problems, physical and sexual abuse, and other issues. More than 20,000 churches have used the Celebrate Recovery program, and a typical meeting will attract more than 70 percent of its attendees from outside the host church. 85 percent of the people who go through the program stay with the church, and nearly half go on to serve as church volunteers.


In 2004, Warren was named one of the "leaders who mattered most in 2004" by Time.[33] In April 2005, Warren was named by Time as one of the "100 Most Influential People in the World".[34] Warren was named one of "America's Top 25 Leaders" in October 2005, by U.S. News and World Report.[10] In 2006, Warren was named by Newsweek one of "15 People Who Make America Great".[35]

Personal life[edit]

Warren has been married to Kay Warren since June 21, 1975. They have three adult children 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%.[36][37]

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.[38] 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.

Political and social views[edit]

Kay and Rick Warren (left of picture), President George W. Bush, with Laura Bush at his side, with the International Medal of Peace at the Saddleback Civil Forum on Global Health in Washington, D.C.

Warren has an initiative for global action and service, the "P.E.A.C.E. Plan". The letters in the acronym stand for the five points in the plan: Plant churches that promote reconciliation; Equip servant leaders; Assist the poor; Care for the sick; and Educate the next generation.[citation needed] In February 2006, he signed a statement backing a major initiative to combat global warming, thus breaking with a number of other high-profile conservative evangelical leaders.[39]

The combination of Warren's tone on political issues central to U.S. evangelicals and his concern for social issues has resulted in the characterization of Warren as one of a "new breed of evangelical leaders."[40] It has also been misunderstood by the media, according to Warren, as indicating a shift in position on traditional evangelical issues, a shift he strongly denies.[41]

In a conversation with atheist author Sam Harris in Newsweek magazine, Warren spoke out against evolution and in favor of creationism. He also said, when questioned on whether religion is beneficial to society, that brutal dictators such as Mao Zedong, Joseph Stalin, and Pol Pot were all atheists.[42] 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,"[43] and while speculating about Michael Schiavo's motives, he suggested that Schiavo wanted Terri to die because, if she regained consciousness, she might have "something to say that he didn’t want said."[44]

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 eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry,[45][46] a position consistent with the official position of his church's denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention.[45][47] After the measure passed, Warren's church and others were targeted by protesters.[48]

In an interview with Beliefnet in early December 2008, Warren again sparked controversy by appearing to equate same-sex marriages with marriages between siblings, marriages between multiple partners, and marriages between adults and minors.[49][50][51] He later released a video message explaining that he does not equate gay relationships with incest or pedophilia, but that he opposes the redefinition of marriage.[52]

In a December 2012 interview, Warren publicly said that religious freedom will be the civil-rights issue of the next decade.[53] He publicly denounced President Obama's record on religious freedom, saying that Obama was “absolutely unfriendly” to religion.[54]

In a May 2014 article in The Washington Post, Warren expressed his support for David and Barbara Green, the owners of Hobby Lobby, in the Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. case before the U.S. Supreme Court. The case centered on the company's request for a religious exemption to certain portions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act mandate that companies provide employee health insurance. Warren wrote, “The [A]dministration wants everyone to render unto Caesar not only what is Caesar’s but also what is God’s. If it wins, the first purpose on which the United States was founded would be severely damaged.”[55]

Warren has also criticized American Christianity generally for not standing up for the religious freedoms of religious minorities. Among religious freedoms, he includes the freedom to worship, to practice beliefs and values, and to convert.[56]


In 2006, Wall Street Journal writer Suzanne Sataline cited examples of congregations that 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."[57]


  • The Daniel Plan: 40 Days to a Healthier Life (ISBN 978-0310344292)
  • The Purpose Driven Church (ISBN 0-310-20106-3)
  • The Purpose Driven Life (ISBN 0-310-20571-9)
  • Answers to Life's Difficult Questions (ISBN 0-9660895-2-9)
  • The Power to Change Your Life (ISBN 0-9660895-1-0)
  • What on Earth Am I Here For? Booklet (ISBN 0-310-26483-9)
  • Personal Bible Study Methods (ISBN 0-9660895-0-2)
  • The Purpose of Christmas (ISBN 978-1416559009)[58]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Date of birth found on the California Birth Index 1905-1995, under Warren, Richard Duane, on 28 January 1954 in Santa Clara County.
  2. ^ "TIME 100: Rick Warren". Time. April 18, 2005. Retrieved May 22, 2010.
  3. ^ "25 Most Influential Evangelicals Photo Essay". Time. July 2, 2005. Retrieved May 22, 2010.
  4. ^ And is commonly known as one of the top Christian pastors in the United States. The Outreach Magazine Top 100 Largest Churches
  5. ^ "Rick Warren: Purpose-Driven Strife".
  6. ^ Goldman, Lea (December 8, 2006). "By The Numbers: Top-Earning Authors". Retrieved January 10, 2009.
  7. ^[dead link]
  8. ^ Mooney, Alexander (December 18, 2008). "Obama's inaugural choice sparks outrage". CNN. Retrieved 2009-01-05.
  9. ^ Mair (2005), pp. 34.
  10. ^ a b Jeffery L. Sheler, Preacher With A Purpose,, USA, October 31, 2005
  11. ^ a b "Interview with a Missions Leader". Woman's Missionary Union Website. Archived from the original on 2007-12-14. Retrieved 2007-12-18.
  12. ^ Mair (2005), pp. 59-60.
  13. ^ Robert D. Putnam, Lewis Feldstein, Better Together: Restoring the American Community, Simon and Schuster, USA, 2009, p. 119
  14. ^ Justin G. Wilford, Sacred Subdivisions: The Postsuburban Transformation of American Evangelicalism, NYU Press, USA, 2012, p. 9
  15. ^ ERIKA I. RITCHIE, Megachurch megaplanners: Rick and Kay Warren set out with a road map and a dream 35 years ago,, USA, March 21, 2015
  16. ^ "The Outreach Magazine Top 100 Largest Churches"
  17. ^ "CFR Members". Archived from the original on 2010-04-13.
  18. ^ Reston, Maeve; Mehta, Seema (17 August 2008). "Contrasting styles, views in sharp focus". Los Angeles Timees. Retrieved 15 February 2014.
  19. ^ Chan, Kenneth (August 17, 2008). "Church-Hosted Forum Reveals Hearts, Minds of White House Hopefuls". The Christian Post. Retrieved 2008-10-24.
  20. ^ Paulson, Michael (December 17, 2008). "Obama taps evangelical for inauguration". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 2008-12-31.
  21. ^ Salmon, Jacqueline L.; Slevin, Peter (December 19, 2008). "Obama Defends Call on Invocation". Washington Post.
  22. ^ Quinn, Christopher (December 23, 2008). "King Day speaker's gay marriage stance attacked". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Archived from the original on December 27, 2008. Retrieved 2009-01-01.
  23. ^ OC Register "Warren's invocation praised but some still call the choice inappropriate" Archived 2009-06-03 at the Wayback Machine
  24. ^ Adams, Russell (January 27, 2009). "Top-Selling Pastor Goes Quarterly". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2008-01-22.
  25. ^ Pérez-Peña, Richard (November 4, 2009). "Reader's Digest Closes Rick Warren Magazine". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-11-07.
  26. ^ Dr Alan Rathe, Evangelicals, Worship and Participation: Taking a Twenty-First Century Reading, Ashgate Publishing, USA, 2014, p. 149
  27. ^ Randall Herbert Balmer, Encyclopedia of Evangelicalism: Revised and expanded edition, Baylor University Press, USA, 2004, p. 721-722
  28. ^ Sonja Steptoe, The Man With The Purpose,, USA, March 21, 2004
  29. ^ Michelle A. Vu, Church, HIV/AIDS Conference: Global P.E.A.C.E. Plan Presented,, USA, December 2, 2005
  30. ^ The PEACE Plan Saddleback Church - The PEACE Plan, retrieved 8/22/2010.
  31. ^ "Saddleback Church: The Slice of Life Blog: To Every Nation".
  32. ^ 009/11/13/the-future-of-evangelicals-a-conversation-with-pastor-rick-warren/[permanent dead link]
  33. ^ TIME Staff, Person of the Year 2004 - Rick Warren,, USA, December 19, 2004
  34. ^ Sonja Steptoe, The 2005 TIME 100 - Rick Warren,, USA, April 18, 2005
  36. ^ Nussbaum, Paul (January 26, 2006). "A Global Ministry of 'Muscular Christianity': 'Purpose Driven Life' Author Taking On Poverty, Disease". The Washington Post. Knight Ridder Newspapers. Retrieved February 19, 2018.
  37. ^ Céline Hoyeau, Dix voix qui comptent sur la planète évangélique,, France, October 8, 2010
  38. ^ Flaccus, Gillian (February 25, 2014). "Rick Warren To Host The Gathering on Mental Health and the Church A Year After Son's Suicide". The Huffington Post. Archived from the original on March 2, 2014.
  39. ^ Goodstein, Laurie (February 8, 2006). "Evangelical Leaders Join Global Warming Initiative". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-10-24.
  40. ^ New York Times, "Emphasis Shifts for New Breed of Evangelicals"
  41. ^ Wall Street Journal
  42. ^ "The God Debate". Newsweek. Retrieved January 10, 2009.
  43. ^ "Larry King Live: Interview With Rick Warren (transcript)". CNN. March 22, 2005. Retrieved January 10, 2009.
  44. ^ "Hardball with Chris Matthews (transcript)". MSNBC. March 23, 2005. Retrieved January 10, 2009.
  45. ^ a b Warren's Video Message to Saddleback Church on October 23, 2008
  46. ^ "Official Title and Summary, Prop 8". Official Voter Information Guide, California General Election, November 4, 2008.
  47. ^ SBC Position Statement on sexuality
  48. ^ New York Times "In California, Protests Over Gay Marriage Vote"
  49. ^ Beliefnet, "Rick Warren Interview: On Gay Marriage and Divorce"
  50. ^ Fox News "Pastor Rick Warren defends invite to inauguration" Archived 2009-09-01 at the Wayback Machine
  51. ^ Beliefnet, "Steven Waldman Interviews Rick Warren"
  52. ^ Rick Warren Insists He's Not Anti-Gay CBS News; December 24, 2008
  53. ^ David Ward (2 December 2012). "Rick Warren: Religious liberty the civil rights issue of the next decade".
  54. ^ "Rick Warren, Saddleback Pastor: Obama Has 'Infringed' Upon Religious Liberties". The Huffington Post.
  55. ^ Rick Warren (21 March 2014). "Religious liberty is America's First Freedom". Washington Post.
  56. ^ "Rick Warren advocates religious liberty for all". Baptist Press.
  57. ^ Sataline, Suzanne (September 5, 2006). "Strategy for church growth splits congregants". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved 2008-10-24.
  58. ^ "The Purpose of Christmas: Rick Warren: 9781416559009: Books".


External links[edit]