Saddleback Church on Thursday announced San Jose pastor Andy Wood as the successor to founding pastor Rick Warren, who launched the congregation with his wife Kay in 1980 out of their home and watched it grow to 40,000 members.
Wood, 40, will come to Saddleback from San Jose’s Echo Church, which he led for 14 years. He and his wife, Stacie, launched it with only a few attendees. Today, Echo Church has nearly 3,000 attendees on four campuses. Warren is the author of the best-selling book The Purpose Driven Life.
Saddleback Church has 19 campuses on four continents.
One year ago, Warren announced he would be stepping down as senior pastor to become the leader of the Finishing the Task global coalition, which has nearly 1,600 denominations and ministries.
Kay & I are thrilled to share that @andywood— Rick Warren (@RickWarren) June 2, 2022
and @stacie_wood of https://t.co/G9jRA2VKLi, San Jose have been called to lead Saddleback! Andy will be installed as our Pastor in September. https://t.co/7887TJTAGf pic.twitter.com/4W8qx1lhzf
“Kay and I believe so much in this couple,” Warren said. “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. We truly, deeply, confidently and unreservedly endorse this couple to take our church to the next level of growth and impact.”
The Saddleback elder board unanimously affirmed Wood.
“Like Paul, we can say, ‘I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. And I have kept the faith!’ 2 Timothy 4:7 (NIV). Now it is time for us to pass the torch on to a new generation who will love, lead, and pastor our church family in the decades ahead,” Warren wrote in a letter to the congregation.
Saddleback was launched in January 1980 out of the Warrens’ apartment, months after Rick Warren had what he called a “Damascus Road experience” while a student at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
“Pouring over census charts that summer afternoon, my eyes fixed on a word I’d never seen before: Saddleback,” Warren wrote in his letter to the church. “I had no idea how that single word, Saddleback, would shape and direct the rest of my life. I felt my gaze strangely frozen on that word. I couldn’t take my eyes off it! The word Saddleback captivated my heart, and I felt electric excitement running through my body. At that moment, God whispered, ‘That’s where I want you to invest your life growing a new church.’ I started sobbing. That was my calling to serve you. From that moment on, for the next 43 years, every single day of my life would be dominated by that word, Saddleback.”
Warren, on Twitter, said he was searching for a successor who filled five qualifications: “1 A purpose-driven pastor using Jesus’ disciple-making process; 2 Young enough to serve 20 yrs; 3 A couple serving as a team; 4 A deep love for unbelievers; 5 Experienced in growing a megachurch from zero.”
Besides Bible qualifications for leading (1 Tim & Titus) we wanted:— Rick Warren (@RickWarren) June 3, 2022
1 A purpose-driven pastor using Jesus’ disciple-making process
2 Young enough to serve 20 yrs
3 A couple serving as a team
4 A deep love for unbelievers
5 Experienced in growing a megachurch from zero@andywood pic.twitter.com/qaDXmk3Wcd
Wood’s first day at Saddleback will be Sept. 12.
Photo courtesy: ©Saddleback Church
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.