US Pastor and best-selling author, Rick Warren has announced he will be stepping down from leading his church in California.
"This isn't going to be the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. It's the beginning of the beginning. But we're going to start looking for the next generation pastor who will replace me and lead our family into the future." Warren told congregants at Saddleback Church on Sunday.
He said an official process to find his successor will be launched this week and that, while a new lead pastor is found, he will continue to head the church. When the next lead pastor is found, Warren will then transition to a "less visible position" as founding pastor.
"For 42 years, Kay and I have known that this time, this day would eventually arrive. And we've been waiting on God's perfect timing to begin the process of finding our next lead pastor," Warren continued.
"Now, this is such a significant decision because I'm the only lead pastor our church family has ever had."
The 67-year-old pastor founded Saddleback church in California in 1980 which has now become one of the largest churches in the US with campuses and congregations across the world.
According to LifeWay Research, Saddleback Church had a weekly attendance of 23,000 people during 2020.
Warren explained he and his wife Kay had made a commitment to lead the church for 40 years. They reached this milestone in 2020 and after a prayer retreat, they felt that God was calling them to start the process of seeking a replacement.
He went on to explain that they have no one "in mind" as a potential candidate for the role but they will be looking for someone "both inside our church and our staff" that has "biblical qualifications" and is already doing "some purpose-driven ministry".
He said that although he does not know what God has for him next, he is looking forward to having more time for encouraging the leaders at each of the campuses: "I can travel around if I'm not doing all the preaching, I can be at different campuses all the time," he added.
Warren concluded: "It's been the greatest privilege in the world and regardless of whatever new roles God has for me, I'm never going to stop loving you. I'm never going to stop praying for you. I'm never going to stop serving you."