Rick Warren

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Rick Warren
Rick Warren at Saddleback Church Buenos Aires (Argentina) in 2016
ChurchSaddleback Church
Personal details
Richard Duane Warren

(1954-01-28) January 28, 1954 (age 70)
SpouseKay Warren (m. 1975)
OccupationFounding pastor, author

Richard Duane Warren (born January 28, 1954) is an American Baptist evangelical Christian pastor and author.[1][2][3] He is the founder of Saddleback Church, an evangelical Baptist megachurch in Lake Forest, California. Since 2022, he is director of the Finishing the Task mission coalition.

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]

He studied at California Baptist University in Riverside, California and earned a Bachelor of Arts, then he studied at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas and earned a Master of Divinity in 1979. He also studied at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California and earned a Doctor of Ministry.[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, Warren 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 averages nearly 20,000 people in attendance each week.[12]

In 2005, during the Centenary Congress of the Baptist World Alliance, he affirmed that the withdrawal of the Southern Baptist Convention from the Alliance, was a mistake since theological differences should not prevent fellowship with other churches. [13]

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 Kennedy School, TED, and Time's Global Health Summit. He has been a member of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) since 2005.[14]

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.[15][16] 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.[17] 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.[18] 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.[19] He delivered the invocation at Obama's inauguration the next day, which was generally praised for its positive message.[20]

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.[21] 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.[22]

In 2010, Warren was chosen to lead a prayer at the inauguration ceremony of the President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame.[23] Since that date, he has been part of the latter's Presidential Advisory Council.[24][25]

In June 2021, Warren announced he would be retiring from the senior pastor position at Saddleback, but that he would stay on until his successor is appointed.[26] In January 2022, he became director of Finishing the Task, a mission coalition. [27] In August 2022, Warren stepped down as lead pastor while maintaining a founding pastor role.[28]

In May 2023, Warren was installed as the first honorary chancellor of Spurgeon's College.[29] The following month, during the annual Southern Baptist Convention, after Saddleback Church was excommunicated from the Convention for hiring a female pastor, he championed the ordination of women. [30]

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.[31] 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.[32] 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.

In 2004, more than 10,000 churches of various denominations attended a seminar or a conference led by Warren.[33]

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.[34][35]


In 2004, Warren was named one of the "leaders who mattered most in 2004" by Time.[36] In April 2005, Warren was named by Time as one of the "100 Most Influential People in the World".[37] Warren was named one of "America's Top 25 Leaders" in October 2005, by U.S. News & World Report.[6] In 2006, Warren was named by Newsweek one of "15 People Who Make America Great".[38]

In 2006, The Purpose Driven Life sold more than 30 million copies, making Warren a New York Times bestselling author.[39][40]

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.[41][42]

Warren's youngest son, Matthew, committed suicide on April 6, 2013, after 10 years of struggling with mental illness since childhood. He says that, after the event, more than 10,000 people wrote to him about their own struggles within the church. In March 2014, Warren launched a ministry to educate Saddleback on its role to help people struggling with mental illness at The Gathering on Mental Health and the Church.[43]

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."[44] Warren strongly denies this has been an indication of a shift in position on traditional evangelical issues, as some in the media have reported.[45]

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.[46]

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."[47]

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?"[48]

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,[49][50] a position consistent with the official position of his church's denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention.[49][51] After the measure passed, Warren's church and others were targeted by protesters.[52]

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.[53][54][55] 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.[56] 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".[57]

In a December 2012 interview, Warren publicly said that religious freedom will be the civil-rights issue of the next decade.[58] He publicly denounced President Obama's record on religious freedom, saying that Obama was "absolutely unfriendly" to religion.[59]

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."[60]


Strategy for church growth[edit]

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."[61]

Traditional view of marriage[edit]

In December 2008, when Warren was announced to lead a prayer at President Barack Obama's inauguration in January, media outlets criticized the choice, accusing Warren of hate speech because he had written in a letter to his church in October that he believed the biblical definition of marriage between one man and one woman should not be changed. [62] A few months earlier, in June 2008, he said that he had developed good relationships with several gay people because of the church's ministry for people living with HIV/AIDS, without having to compromise his biblical beliefs and agree on all subjects. [63] President Obama defended Warren, recalling that he had been invited to speak at Saddleback, despite his differing views on gay people, and that it was this kind of peaceful dialogue that he wanted to implement in inviting Warren.[64] On another side, some evangelical pastors have criticized Warren for not being militant enough against same-sex marriage and abortion.[65] To these critics, he replied that they put too much attention on the fight against gay marriage and abortion.

Social work with Muslims[edit]

In 2009 and 2012, evangelical pastors also criticized him for attending Islamic conferences and wanting to work with Muslims to solve global problems.[66] To these criticisms, he responded that he sought to be a friend to all such as Jesus Christ. [67]


  • The Daniel Plan: 40 Days to a Healthier Life (ISBN 978-0310344292)
  • The Purpose Driven Church: Growth Without Compromising Your Message And Mission (ISBN 978-0310201069)
  • The Purpose Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here For? (ISBN 978-0310337508)
  • Answers to Life's Difficult Questions (ISBN 0966089529)
  • The Power to Change Your Life (ISBN 0966089510)
  • What on Earth Am I Here For? Booklet (ISBN 0310264839)
  • Rick Warren's Bible Study Methods (Previously, "Personal Bible Study Methods") (ISBN 0966089502)
  • The Purpose of Christmas (ISBN 978-1416559009)
  • Words To Love By (ISBN 978-0310752820)
  • God's Great Love for You (ISBN 978-0310752479)
  • God's Big Plans for Me (ISBN 978-0310750390)
  • The Lord's Prayer (ISBN 978-0310758501)
  • The Purpose Driven Life: 100 Illustrated Devotions for Children (ISBN 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, britannica.com, USA, retrieved June 27, 2020
  5. ^ Mair (2005), pp. 34.
  6. ^ a b Jeffery L. Sheler, Preacher With A Purpose, usnews.com, 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. ^ Ritchie, Erika I. (March 21, 2015). "Megachurch megaplanners: Rick and Kay Warren set out with a road map and a dream 35 years ago". The Orange County Register. Retrieved February 8, 2022.
  12. ^ "The Outreach Magazine Top 100 Largest Churches"
  13. ^ Associated Baptist Press, SBC’s withdrawal from BWA a ‘silly’ mistake, says Warren, baptistnews.com, USA, August 8, 2005
  14. ^ "CFR Members". stopthenorthamericanunion.com. Archived from the original on 2010-04-13.
  15. ^ Reston, Maeve; Mehta, Seema (17 August 2008). "Contrasting styles, views in sharp focus". Los Angeles Timees. Retrieved 15 February 2014.
  16. ^ Chan, Kenneth (August 17, 2008). "Church-Hosted Forum Reveals Hearts, Minds of White House Hopefuls". The Christian Post. Retrieved 2008-10-24.
  17. ^ Paulson, Michael (December 17, 2008). "Obama taps evangelical for inauguration". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 2008-12-31.
  18. ^ Salmon, Jacqueline L.; Slevin, Peter (December 19, 2008). "Obama Defends Call on Invocation". The Washington Post.
  19. ^ 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.
  20. ^ OC Register "Warren's invocation praised but some still call the choice inappropriate" Archived 2009-06-03 at the Wayback Machine
  21. ^ Adams, Russell (January 27, 2009). "Top-Selling Pastor Goes Quarterly". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2008-01-22.
  22. ^ Pérez-Peña, Richard (November 4, 2009). "Reader's Digest Closes Rick Warren Magazine". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-11-07.
  23. ^ Pierre Boisselet, Rwanda : l’Église évangélique attire toujours plus de fidèles, jeuneafrique.com, France, January 28, 2014
  24. ^ Theogene Rudasingwa, Who are Kagame’s Friends abroad?, rwandinfo.com, Rwanda, May 26, 2011
  25. ^ Dan Gilgoff, Short Takes: Gauging the impact of 'Purpose Driven Life,' 10 years on, cnn.com, USA, November 29, 2012
  26. ^ "Rick Warren retiring as lead pastor at California megachurch". ABC News.
  27. ^ Gabriel Ong, Rick Warren wants you to join #HACK2022, the largest Christian hackathon yet, thirst.sg, Singapore, 11 October 2022
  28. ^ Salvador Hernandez, Pastor Rick Warren’s final Saddleback Church sermon is a lot like his first one in 1980, latimes.com, USA, August 29, 2022
  29. ^ Leah MarieAnn Klett, Rick Warren appointed first-ever chancellor of Spurgeon's College in London: 'Deep, personal connection', christianpost.com, USA, May 15, 2023
  30. ^ Kate Shellnutt, Southern Baptists Reject Rick Warren’s Saddleback Appeal, christianitytoday.com, USA, June 14, 2023
  31. ^ Dr Alan Rathe, Evangelicals, Worship and Participation: Taking a Twenty-First Century Reading, Ashgate Publishing, USA, 2014, p. 149
  32. ^ Randall Herbert Balmer, Encyclopedia of Evangelicalism: Revised and expanded edition, Baylor University Press, USA, 2004, p. 721-722
  33. ^ Steptoe, Sonja (March 21, 2004). "The Man With The Purpose". Time. Retrieved February 8, 2022.
  34. ^ Menzie, Nicola (August 29, 2013). "Saddleback Pastor Rick Warren Visits Rwanda to Advance PEACE Plan". The Christian Post. Retrieved February 7, 2022.
  35. ^ Justin G. Wilford, Sacred Subdivisions: The Postsuburban Transformation of American Evangelicalism, NYU Press, USA, 2012, p. 115
  36. ^ TIME Staff, Person of the Year 2004 - Rick Warren, time.com, USA, December 19, 2004
  37. ^ Sonja Steptoe, The 2005 TIME 100 - Rick Warren, time.com, USA, April 18, 2005
  38. ^ Briscoe, Daren (July 2, 2006). "The giving Back Awards: 15 People Who Make America Great". Newsweek. Retrieved February 7, 2022.
  39. ^ "Rick Warren: Purpose-Driven Strife". go.com.
  40. ^ Goldman, Lea (December 8, 2006). "By The Numbers: Top-Earning Authors". Forbes.com. Retrieved January 10, 2009.
  41. ^ Joseph Liu, The Future of Evangelicals: A Conversation with Pastor Rick Warren, pewforum.org, USA, November 13, 2009
  42. ^ 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.
  43. ^ 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.
  44. ^ Luo, Michael; Goodstein, Laurie (May 21, 2007). "Emphasis Shifts for New Breed of Evangelicals". The New York Times. Retrieved February 7, 2022.
  45. ^ Schaefer Riley, Naomi (August 23, 2008). "What Saddleback's Pastor Really Thinks About Politics". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved February 7, 2022.
  46. ^ "The God Debate". Newsweek. Retrieved January 10, 2009.
  47. ^ "Larry King Live: Interview With Rick Warren (transcript)". CNN. March 22, 2005. Retrieved January 10, 2009.
  48. ^ "Hardball with Chris Matthews (transcript)". NBC News. March 23, 2005. Retrieved January 10, 2009.
  49. ^ a b Warren's Video Message to Saddleback Church on October 23, 2008
  50. ^ "Official Title and Summary, Prop 8". Official Voter Information Guide, California General Election, November 4, 2008.
  51. ^ SBC Position Statement on sexuality Archived 2013-10-03 at the Wayback Machine
  52. ^ "In California, Protests Over Gay Marriage Vote". The New York Times. November 9, 2008. Retrieved February 7, 2022.
  53. ^ Beliefnet, "Rick Warren Interview: On Gay Marriage and Divorce"
  54. ^ Fox News "Pastor Rick Warren defends invite to inauguration" Archived 2009-09-01 at the Wayback Machine
  55. ^ Beliefnet, "Steven Waldman Interviews Rick Warren"
  56. ^ Rick Warren Insists He's Not Anti-Gay CBS News; December 24, 2008
  57. ^ Clinton, Chelsea (20 December 2012). "Rick Warren on the same-sex marriage debate". NBC News. Retrieved 2021-03-14.
  58. ^ David Ward (2 December 2012). "Rick Warren: Religious liberty the civil rights issue of the next decade". DeseretNews.com.
  59. ^ Kaleem, Jaweed (November 28, 2012). "Rick Warren, Saddleback Pastor: Obama Has 'Infringed' Upon Religious Liberties". The Huffington Post. Retrieved February 7, 2022.
  60. ^ Rick Warren (21 March 2014). "Religious liberty is America's First Freedom". The Washington Post.
  61. ^ Sataline, Suzanne (September 5, 2006). "Strategy for church growth splits congregants". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved 2008-10-24.
  62. ^ Alexander Mooney, Obama's inaugural choice sparks outrage, cnn.com, USA, December 17, 2008
  63. ^ Alejandra Molina, Gays seek dialogue with Saddleback Church, ocregister.com, USA, June 13, 2008
  64. ^ Linton Weeks, What Obama's Choice Of Rick Warren Really Means, npr.org, USA, December 18, 2008
  65. ^ Zoll, Rachel (December 26, 2008). "Rick Warren's biggest critics: other evangelicals". chron.com. Retrieved February 7, 2022.
  66. ^ Associated Press, /wbna31741969 Evangelist Warren to Muslims: Let's partner, nbcnews.com, USA, July 5, 2009
  67. ^ Alex Murashko, EXCLUSIVE Rick Warren: 'Flat Out Wrong' That Muslims, Christians View God the Same, christianpost.com, USA, March 02, 2012


External links[edit]