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Rick Warren

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Rick Warren
Rick Warren (2016).jpg
Rick Warren at Saddleback Church Buenos Aires in 2016
Richard Duane Warren

(1954-01-28) January 28, 1954 (age 67)
OccupationPastor, author
Spouse(s)Kay Warren (m. 1975)

Richard Duane Warren (born January 28, 1954) is an American Baptist 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.

Early life and education[edit]

Warren was born in San Jose, California, the son of Jimmy and Dot Warren.[4] 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.[5]

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.[6]


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.[7] 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!"[7]

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 Hanks and Wayne Watts.[8]

In January 1980, he began a Bible study group, with seven people and his wife, at their Saddleback Valley condo, in Orange County, California.[9] 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.[10][11] 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.[12]

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.[13]

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.[14][15] 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.[16] 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.[17] 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.[18] On January 20, 2009, Warren delivered the invocation, which was generally praised for its positive message.[19]

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.[20] 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.[21]

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.[22] 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.[23] 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.[24]

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

In 2003, Saddleback Church, Kay and Rick Warren founded the P.E.A.C.E. Plan, a humanitarian development program for churches.[25][26]


In 2004, Warren was named one of the "leaders who mattered most in 2004" by Time.[27] In April 2005, Warren was named by Time as one of the "100 Most Influential People in the World".[28] Warren was named one of "America's Top 25 Leaders" in October 2005, by U.S. News and World Report.[6] In 2006, Warren was named by Newsweek one of "15 People Who Make America Great".[29]

In 2006, The Purpose Driven Life sold more than 30 million copies, making Warren a 'New York Times' bestselling author.[30][31]

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.

In 2006, after the success of his book The Purpose Driven Life, he claimed to have made the decision to "reverse the tithe", donating 90% of his income to three foundations and no longer receive a salary from the church.[32][33]

Warren's youngest son, Matthew, took his own life on April 6, 2013, after 10 years of struggling with mental illness. Warren says that, after the suicide, more than 10,000 people wrote to him about their struggles with mental illness within the church. About a year later, Warren launched a ministry to educate the church on its role to help people struggling with mental illness at The Gathering on Mental Health and the Church in March 2014.[34]

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.

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."[35] 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.[36]

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.[37]

In a 2005 Larry King Live interview, 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 elaborated on his concerns over the decision to remove her feeding tube: "I fear the day, that if we start saying, well, you don't have a right to live if you are mentally handicapped or you're physically handicapped or emotionally handicapped...we're just not going to feed you anymore. To me, that is an atrocity worthy of Nazism."[38]

On Hardball with Chris Matthews, after repeated questioning over why Michael Schiavo would want his wife's feeding tube removed, Warren responded, "I have no idea. Well, I don't know. There's a thousand reasons you could speculate. What if she came back out of the—out of this state and had something to say that he didn't want said?"[39]

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,[40][41] a position consistent with the official position of his church's denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention.[40][42] After the measure passed, Warren's church and others were targeted by protesters.[43]

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.[44][45][46] 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.[47] When Chelsea Clinton asked him about his views on same-sex marriage in December 2012, he said he recognized that it might become legal throughout the United States but added that, based on his belief in the Bible, he did not "approve" of it nor believe it was "right." He said that using the word "marriage" to describe same-sex partnerships amounted to a "redefinition" of the word, suggested that the word belonged to the dominant culture (to religious people or to straight people) because the word has been used for "a long time," and proposed that a term like "civil unions" would be more appropriate for same-sex couples.[48]

In a December 2012 interview, Warren publicly said that religious freedom will be the civil-rights issue of the next decade.[49] He publicly denounced President Obama's record on religious freedom, saying that Obama was "absolutely unfriendly" to religion.[50]

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."[51]


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."[52]

In 2008, some evangelical pastors have criticized Warren for not being conservative enough on topics like same-sex marriage and abortion, and for having connections with Muslim leaders.[53] To these critics, he replied that they put too much attention on the fight against gay marriage and abortion.

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.[54]


  • The Daniel Plan: 40 Days to a Healthier Life (ISBN 978-0310344292)
  • The Purpose Driven Church: Growth Without Compromising Your Message And Mission (ISBN 0-310-20106-3, 9780310201069)
  • The Purpose Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here For? (ISBN 031033750X, 978-0310337508)
  • 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)
  • Rick Warren's Bible Study Methods (Previously, "Personal Bible Study Methods") (ISBN 0-9660895-0-2)
  • The Purpose of Christmas (ISBN 978-1416559009)
  • Words To Love By (ISBN 0310752825, 978-0310752820)
  • God's Great Love for You (ISBN 0310752477, 978-0310752479)
  • God's Big Plans for Me (ISBN 0310750393, 978-0310750390)
  • The Lord's Prayer (ISBN 0310758505, 978-0310758501)
  • The Purpose Driven Life: 100 Illustrated Devotions for Children (ISBN 0310766745, 978-0310766742)

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. Archived from the original on January 11, 2007. Retrieved May 22, 2010.
  3. ^ "25 Most Influential Evangelicals Photo Essay". Time. July 2, 2005. Archived from the original on February 3, 2005. Retrieved May 22, 2010.
  4. ^ Encyclopaedia Britannica, Rick Warren,, USA, retrieved June 27, 2020
  5. ^ Mair (2005), pp. 34.
  6. ^ a b Jeffery L. Sheler, Preacher With A Purpose,, USA, October 31, 2005
  7. ^ a b "Interview with a Missions Leader". Woman's Missionary Union Website. Archived from the original on 2007-12-14. Retrieved 2007-12-18.
  8. ^ Mair (2005), pp. 59-60.
  9. ^ Robert D. Putnam, Lewis Feldstein, Better Together: Restoring the American Community, Simon and Schuster, USA, 2009, p. 119.
  10. ^ Justin G. Wilford, Sacred Subdivisions: The Postsuburban Transformation of American Evangelicalism, NYU Press, USA, 2012, p. 9
  11. ^ 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.
  12. ^ "The Outreach Magazine Top 100 Largest Churches"
  13. ^ "CFR Members". Archived from the original on 2010-04-13.
  14. ^ Reston, Maeve; Mehta, Seema (17 August 2008). "Contrasting styles, views in sharp focus". Los Angeles Timees. Retrieved 15 February 2014.
  15. ^ Chan, Kenneth (August 17, 2008). "Church-Hosted Forum Reveals Hearts, Minds of White House Hopefuls". The Christian Post. Retrieved 2008-10-24.
  16. ^ Paulson, Michael (December 17, 2008). "Obama taps evangelical for inauguration". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 2008-12-31.
  17. ^ Salmon, Jacqueline L.; Slevin, Peter (December 19, 2008). "Obama Defends Call on Invocation". Washington Post.
  18. ^ 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.
  19. ^ OC Register "Warren's invocation praised but some still call the choice inappropriate" Archived 2009-06-03 at the Wayback Machine
  20. ^ Adams, Russell (January 27, 2009). "Top-Selling Pastor Goes Quarterly". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2008-01-22.
  21. ^ Pérez-Peña, Richard (November 4, 2009). "Reader's Digest Closes Rick Warren Magazine". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-11-07.
  22. ^ Dr Alan Rathe, Evangelicals, Worship and Participation: Taking a Twenty-First Century Reading, Ashgate Publishing, USA, 2014, p. 149
  23. ^ Randall Herbert Balmer, Encyclopedia of Evangelicalism: Revised and expanded edition, Baylor University Press, USA, 2004, p. 721-722
  24. ^ Sonja Steptoe, The Man With The Purpose,, USA, March 21, 2004
  25. ^ Nicola Menzie, Saddleback Pastor Rick Warren Visits Rwanda to Advance PEACE Plan,, USA, August 29, 2013
  26. ^ Justin G. Wilford, Sacred Subdivisions: The Postsuburban Transformation of American Evangelicalism, NYU Press, USA, 2012, p. 115
  27. ^ TIME Staff, Person of the Year 2004 - Rick Warren,, USA, December 19, 2004
  28. ^ Sonja Steptoe, The 2005 TIME 100 - Rick Warren,, USA, April 18, 2005
  30. ^ "Rick Warren: Purpose-Driven Strife".
  31. ^ Goldman, Lea (December 8, 2006). "By The Numbers: Top-Earning Authors". Retrieved January 10, 2009.
  32. ^ Joseph Liu, The Future of Evangelicals: A Conversation with Pastor Rick Warren,, USA, November 13, 2009
  33. ^ 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.
  34. ^ 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.
  35. ^ New York Times, "Emphasis Shifts for New Breed of Evangelicals"
  36. ^ Wall Street Journal
  37. ^ "The God Debate". Newsweek. Retrieved January 10, 2009.
  38. ^ "Larry King Live: Interview With Rick Warren (transcript)". CNN. March 22, 2005. Retrieved January 10, 2009.
  39. ^ "Hardball with Chris Matthews (transcript)". NBC News. March 23, 2005. Retrieved January 10, 2009.
  40. ^ a b Warren's Video Message to Saddleback Church on October 23, 2008
  41. ^ "Official Title and Summary, Prop 8". Official Voter Information Guide, California General Election, November 4, 2008.
  42. ^ SBC Position Statement on sexuality
  43. ^ New York Times "In California, Protests Over Gay Marriage Vote"
  44. ^ Beliefnet, "Rick Warren Interview: On Gay Marriage and Divorce"
  45. ^ Fox News "Pastor Rick Warren defends invite to inauguration" Archived 2009-09-01 at the Wayback Machine
  46. ^ Beliefnet, "Steven Waldman Interviews Rick Warren"
  47. ^ Rick Warren Insists He's Not Anti-Gay CBS News; December 24, 2008
  48. ^ Clinton, Chelsea (20 December 2012). "Rick Warren on the same-sex marriage debate". NBC News. Retrieved 2021-03-14.
  49. ^ David Ward (2 December 2012). "Rick Warren: Religious liberty the civil rights issue of the next decade".
  50. ^ "Rick Warren, Saddleback Pastor: Obama Has 'Infringed' Upon Religious Liberties". The Huffington Post.
  51. ^ Rick Warren (21 March 2014). "Religious liberty is America's First Freedom". The Washington Post.
  52. ^ Sataline, Suzanne (September 5, 2006). "Strategy for church growth splits congregants". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved 2008-10-24.
  53. ^ Rachel Zoll, Rick Warren's biggest critics: other evangelicals,, USA, December 26, 2008
  54. ^ Mooney, Alexander (December 18, 2008). "Obama's inaugural choice sparks outrage". CNN. Retrieved 2009-01-05.


External links[edit]