Rick Warren is stepping down from his role as senior pastor of Saddleback Church, the end of a 40-year career at one of the most influential churches in the country.
“After almost 43 years of pastoring Saddleback Church, Kay and I are announcing that God is calling us to step aside for the next generation!” Warren announced on Twitter. “We feel deep love & humble gratitude for our church family. What a faith adventure it’s been!”
In an email to the church, the Warrens announced that they would be replaced by Andy and Stacie Wood of Echo Church in San Jose, California. Andy Wood has been serving as Echo Church’s lead pastor while his wife Stacie Wood has been the teaching pastor. They will serve in the same roles at Saddleback.
“This man is going to be my pastor now,” Warren said in a video introducing the couple.
“Kay and I believe so much in this couple,” said Warren in a statement. “We love them so much, and we are confident that God has prepared and chosen them to take up the baton and run the next leg of the Saddleback marathon.”
The Warrens planted Saddleback in 1980, pioneering a then-revolutionary method of starting a church that has since become the accepted model. He borrowed tricks from entrepreneurs and CEOs, using market research and census information to determine what a church specifically tailored to the needs of its community would look like. Saddleback exploded in popularity and went on to become one of the nation’s largest congregations. And Warren himself became hugely influential in mainstream circles after his 2002 book The Purpose Driven Life became a mega hit and the church that he founded became a model for a more relaxed, casual Sunday morning service.
Saddleback is more in the SBC than of it, as the church has avoided the culture wars and partisan politics that have become to define the convention. Warren made headlines for hosting a political summit during the 2008 presidential election, in which both Senator John McCain and former President Barack Obama sat with the pastor for discussions about religion and politics. Warren would go on to deliver the invocation at Obama’s first inauguration, ruffling some conservative feathers. In 2021, Saddleback defied Southern Baptist Convention rules and ordained three women as pastors, a first for the megachurch.
“For decades, we have admired and respected Pastor Rick and Kay Warren and their work through the Purpose Driven Church model has been critical,” Wood said in his own statement. “We’ve been so blessed by their friendship, and after months of prayer and seeking counsel from others, we believe that God has called us together to step into serving at Saddleback Church.”