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Rick Warren

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Rick Warren
Born Richard Duane Warren
(1954-01-28) January 28, 1954 (age 61)
San Jose, California, U.S.
Nationality American
Occupation Pastor, Author
Religion Southern Baptist, Evangelical
Spouse(s) Kay Warren

Richard Duane "Rick" 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 in Lake Forest, California, that is the eighth-largest church 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. 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.[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, The Fishers of Men Club.[9] 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.[10]


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%.[11]

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 with a Mental Illness and the Church Gathering in March 2014.[12] 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.[13] 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!”[13]

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.[14]

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 "Wildside" middle school and "HSM" high school ministries, consisting of 1,500 students. Saddleback Church averages nearly 20,000 people in attendance each week.[15]

Rick Warren speaking at TED in 2006

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.[16]

Warren was named one of "America's Top 25 Leaders" in the October 31, 2005, issue of U.S. News and World Report.[10] 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).[17] In 2006 Newsweek called him one of "15 People Who Make America Great".[18]

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.[19] Warren said the goal of the forum was to “restore civility in our civil discourse.”[20] 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.[21] 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.[22] 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.[23] On January 20, 2009, Warren delivered the invocation, which was generally praised for its positive message.[24]

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.[25] 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.[26]

Innovations in ministry[edit]

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.[citation needed]


Warren and his wife are directors of the following non-profit organizations:

Purpose Driven[edit]

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. 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.[citation needed]

Warren gained experience teaching the material through his participation in the Institute for Evangelism and Church Growth, affiliated with Fuller Theological Seminary. The Christian and Missionary Alliance, influenced by Warren’s teaching at the institute, launched an ambitious plan to start 100 churches by Easter of their centennial year of 1987. When they surpassed their goal with 101 new churches (94 of them were still flourishing a year later), Warren began to realize that the lessons he had learned starting Saddleback Church were truly transferrable in a variety of contexts. The next year the church hosted its first pastors training conference. (Prophet of Purpose, page 158)

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. 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. 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)

More than 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. (The Purpose Driven Church, page 103) “Purpose driven” refers to these pastors' attempts to balance the five purposes in their churches. Warren says his organizations have trained 400,000 pastors worldwide.

Others express concern over what they describe as the divisive nature of Warren's techniques. 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." [27]

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

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. 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 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."[28]

By the end of 2010, Saddleback P.E.A.C.E. teams had participated in mission trips to every country in the world.[29] Warren has stated that Saddleback is the first church in the 2,000-year history of Christianity to do this.[30]

In 2004, Rwandan President Paul Kagame sent Warren a letter, explaining that he had read The Purpose Driven Life, and he 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, turning it into a laboratory for the P.E.A.C.E. Plan. 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.

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 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.

HIV/AIDS ministry[edit]

In 2002, Kay Warren became “seriously disturbed” by the global HIV epidemic through a Newsweek cover story. That moment began a journey of discovery for the couple about the ravages of the disease around the world. In 2004 Kay 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.”

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.[31]

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."[32] 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.[33]

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.[34] 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,"[35] 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." [36]

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 include the clause "only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California".[37][38] 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."[37][39] 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.[37] After the measure passed, Warren's church and others were targeted by protesters.[40]

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.[41][42][43] He later released a video message explaining that he does not equate gay relationships with incest or pedophilia, but that, as he had stated during the Beliefnet interview, he opposes the redefinition of marriage.[44]

In a December 2012 interview, Warren publicly said that religious freedom will be the civil-rights issue of the next decade.[45] He publicly denounced President Obama’s record on religious freedom, saying that Obama was “absolutely unfriendly” to religion.[46]

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 spoke out for the Greens, arguing that the case was about religious freedom. 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.” [47]

Warren has not only criticized the Obama Administration for its record on religious freedom; he has also criticized American Christianity 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.[48]


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. ^ 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. ^
  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 Sheler, Jeffery L. (October 31, 2005). "Preacher With A Purpose". U.S. News & World Report. Retrieved 2008-10-24. 
  11. ^ Nussbaum, Paul (January 26, 2006). "New purpose drives evangelical Warren". Knight Ridder News Service. Retrieved 2009-02-24. 
  12. ^ "Rick Warren To Host The Gathering on Mental Health and the Church A Year After Son's Suicide". The Huffington Post. 
  13. ^ a b "Interview with a Missions Leader". Woman's Missionary Union Website. Archived from the original on 2007-12-14. Retrieved 2007-12-18. 
  14. ^ Mair (2005), pp. 59-60.
  15. ^ "The Outreach Magazine Top 100 Largest Churches"
  16. ^ "CFR Members". 
  17. ^ Steptoe, Sonja (April 18, 2005). "Rick Warren: A Pastor with a Purpose". Time Magazine. Retrieved 2008-10-24. 
  18. ^ Adler, Jerry; Karen Breslau, Sean Smith, A. Christian Jean, Lisa Miller, Catharine Skipp, Arian Campo-Flores, Jonathan Darman, Barbara Kantrowitz, Keith Naughton, Daniel McGinn, Debra Rosenberg, Daren Briscoe, Claudia Kalb, Peg Tyre, Matthew Philips (July 3, 2006). "The giving Back Awards: 15 People Who Make America Great". Newsweek. Retrieved 2008-10-24. 
  19. ^ Reston, Maeve; Mehta, Seema (17 August 2008). "Contrasting styles, views in sharp focus". Los Angeles Timees. Retrieved 15 February 2014. 
  20. ^ Chan, Kenneth (August 17, 2008). "Church-Hosted Forum Reveals Hearts, Minds of White House Hopefuls". The Christian Post. Retrieved 2008-10-24. 
  21. ^ Paulson, Michael (December 17, 2008). "Obama taps evangelical for inauguration". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 2008-12-31. 
  22. ^ Salmon, Jacqueline L.; Slevin, Peter (December 19, 2008). "Obama Defends Call on Invocation". Washington Post. 
  23. ^ Quinn, Christopher (December 23, 2008). "King Day speaker’s gay marriage stance attacked". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Retrieved 2009-01-01. 
  24. ^ OC Register "Warren's invocation praised but some still call the choice inappropriate"
  25. ^ Adams, Russell (January 27, 2009). "Top-Selling Pastor Goes Quarterly". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2008-01-22. 
  26. ^ Pérez-Peña, Richard (November 4, 2009). "Reader’s Digest Closes Rick Warren Magazine". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-11-07. 
  27. ^ Sataline, Suzanne (September 5, 2006). "Strategy for church growth splits congregants". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved 2008-10-24. 
  28. ^ The PEACE Plan Saddleback Church - The PEACE Plan, retrieved 8/22/2010.
  29. ^ "Saddleback Church: The Slice of Life Blog: To Every Nation". 
  30. ^ 009/11/13/the-future-of-evangelicals-a-conversation-with-pastor-rick-warren/
  31. ^ Goodstein, Laurie (February 8, 2006). "Evangelical Leaders Join Global Warming Initiative". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-10-24. 
  32. ^ New York Times, "Emphasis Shifts for New Breed of Evangelicals"
  33. ^ Wall Street Journal,
  34. ^ "The God Debate". Newsweek. Retrieved January 10, 2009. 
  35. ^ "Larry King Live: Interview With Rick Warren (transcript)". CNN. March 22, 2005. Retrieved January 10, 2009. 
  36. ^ "Hardball with Chris Matthews (transcript)". MSNBC. March 23, 2005. Retrieved January 10, 2009. 
  37. ^ a b c Warren's Video Message to Saddleback Church on October 23, 2008
  38. ^ Proposition 8 - Title and Summary - Voter Information Guide 2008
  39. ^ SBC Position Statement on sexuality
  40. ^ New York Times "In California, Protests Over Gay Marriage Vote"
  41. ^ Beliefnet, "Rick Warren Interview: On Gay Marriage and Divorce"
  42. ^ Fox News "Pastor Rick Warren defends invite to inauguration"
  43. ^ Beliefnet, "Steven Waldman Interviews Rick Warren"
  44. ^ Rick Warren Insists He's Not Anti-Gay CBS News; December 24, 2008
  45. ^ David Ward (2 December 2012). "Rick Warren: Religious liberty the civil rights issue of the next decade". 
  46. ^ "Rick Warren, Saddleback Pastor: Obama Has 'Infringed' Upon Religious Liberties". The Huffington Post. 
  47. ^ Rick Warren (21 March 2014). "Religious liberty is America’s First Freedom". Washington Post. 
  48. ^ "Rick Warren advocates religious liberty for all". Baptist Press. 
  49. ^ "The Purpose of Christmas: Rick Warren: 9781416559009: Books". 


  • Mair, George (2005). A Life With Purpose. New York: Berkley Books. ISBN 0-425-20174-0. 

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