Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church to Celebrate 35 Years of Ministry at Angel Stadium on Sunday

Rick and Kay Warren stand in front of the Saddleback Church Worship Center. Their church has grown into a global ministry. (PAUL RODRIGUEZ)
Rick and Kay Warren stand in front of the Saddleback Church Worship Center. Their church has grown into a global ministry. (PAUL RODRIGUEZ)

As a Baptist seminary student in Fort Worth, Texas, Rick Warren launched an idea that, years later, would propel a seven-person Bible group in a Laguna Hills condo into one of the nation’s largest megachurches.

Saturday, Saddleback Church celebrates its 35th anniversary, in front of an expected crowd of 50,000 at Angel Stadium.

Over the decades, Saddleback has grown to include 10 Southern California campuses averaging 27,000 weekly worshippers and 7,500 small groups meeting in homes, according to church statistics. Saddleback members can be found in Berlin; Buenos Aires, Argentina; Hong Kong; and South Manila, Philippines.

Warren, 60, has written eight books, including “The Purpose Driven Life,” the most popular nonfiction hardback in history, selling nearly 40 million copies in English, according to Publisher’s Weekly. It is also the second-most translated book after the Bible.

In 2005, Time magazine named Warren one of the “100 Most Influential People in the World.”

Warren created Saddleback Church for those who weren’t interested in religion.

“We wanted to capture people who had given up,” said Kay Warren, Rick’s wife of nearly 40 years.

“Busy, yuppie, O.C. couples who didn’t see any need for church.”


By 1978, the Rev. Robert Schuller and his Crystal Cathedral were entrenched in Garden Grove. Chuck Smith ran Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa.

That same year, Kay and Rick Warren drove from Texas to Orange County to attend a conference conducted by Schuller.

Kay Warren, still working as a receptionist at Acme Brick while Rick Warren completed seminary school, supported his plan to start out with his own church instead of working as a pastor in an established congregation.

“On our drive back, we chattered like magpies to map out what our church would be like,” she said. “We crafted and laid out a road map.”

Rick Warren believed the most successful churches served areas with fast-growing populations and longtime pastors. His plan: Begin a church in south Orange County and stay as pastor for 40 years.

Kay Warren still laughs at how her husband stretched maps of the U.S. across the walls of their small Fort Worth home. He marked an X where the 405 and 5 freeways merge.

“I figured that new communities would need new churches. Kay and I prayed about it,” Rick Warren said. “We moved here with no members, no money and only a dream.”

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SOURCE: Orange County Register
Erika Ritchie

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