Pastor Rick Warren Focuses on Keeping Saddleback Church Relevant as He Prepares to Preach His 40th Easter Sermon

Pastor Rick Warren preaches to a group of 205 worshippers during his first Easter service in a Laguna Hills High School classroom in 1980. (Photo courtesy of Saddleback Church)

On Sunday, Saddleback Church Pastor Rick Warren will preach his 40th Easter service.

The milestone is one he and his wife, Kay, vowed to keep when the couple selected the Saddleback Valley as the place to start their church in 1980.

“Kay and I made this crazy promise when we were 25 years old that we would give 40 years to one location, that we wouldn’t move and that we wouldn’t be tempted to go to another church,” Warren said Thursday, April 18. “I’ve been offered all kinds of different jobs with Christian organizations, seminaries and denominations. I’ve never moved and as I stood up at the first service this year, I’m thinking we did it, we kept our promise, we gave 40 years to one place and I’ve loved these people.”

What the next decade may bring is hard to say — Warren is focusing on this year right now, he said.

As he takes the pulpit for three services on Easter Sunday, Warren will preach to an audience of about 35,000 congregants in Lake Forest, 35,000 more watching at 17 affiliated venues and another 30,000 streaming the services live online.

It’s dramatically different from the 205 people he addressed in a Laguna Hills High School classroom in 1980.

“When I started the church, I was so inexperienced,” said Warren, 65. “I’d never been a pastor. I’d never led a church. Now, having 40 years experience, that’s a big difference. I’m a lot more confident but I’m a lot more forgiving, understanding and patient.”

But even though he’s now a megachurch pastor, Warren’s message of hope and purpose remains the same as when he started.

“A lot of people look at what will change in the future,” he said. “I look at what’s not going to change. People will still have marriage problems, they’re still going to be lonely, they’re still going to want to know the purpose of life, they still have problems with depression, fear, bitterness, jealousy. They’re human problems. If you’re dealing with personal lives of people you’re always relevant.”

That said, much has changed for the church — and Warren — in four decades.

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SOURCE: Orange County Register, Erika I. Ritchie