Rick Warren Mastered the Formula for Suburban Church Growth

Why the “Purpose Driven” pastor connected with Southern Californians.

After more than 40 years leading Saddleback Church, Rick Warren has announced his retirement.

“This is not the end of my ministry,” Warren told his congregants on Sunday. “It’s not even the beginning of the end. … We’re going to take one step at a time in the timing of God. … God has already blessed me more than I could ever possibly imagine. I don’t deserve any of it, and so this next transition in my life is something I am anticipating with zero regrets, zero fears, zero worries.”

The Southern California-based megachurch has begun looking for Warren’s successor.

Warren’s ministry has had national and international significance. He is the author of the best-selling The Purpose Driven Life. He championed evangelicals fighting AIDS overseas. After his son died of suicide in 2013, he and his wife Kay began a mental health ministry.

Overall, Warren’s ministry has not been as polemical as many of his fellow Southern Baptist church leaders. But he faced controversy after praying at Obama’s 2008 inauguration after he campaigned against same sex marriage that same election cycle. Several months ago, he apologized for Saddleback’s children’s Sunday school curriculum video which used Asian culture stereotypes to teach kids about the Bible. Last month, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary president Al Mohler criticized Saddleback after it ordained three women as pastors.

Gerardo Martí is professor of sociology at Davidson College and the author of numerous well regarded books, including The Deconstructed Church, American Blindspot, and The Glass Church.

Martí joined global media manager Morgan Lee and news editor Daniel Silliman to …

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