Pastor Rick Warren, considered one of the most influential Evangelical Christians in the United States as leader of the Saddleback Church, has announced his successor when he retires in September.
He and wife Kay are stepping down after more than 40 years of ministry as of Sept. 12.
"Kay and I are thrilled to publicly announce our next Senior Pastor of Saddleback Church and his wife: Andy and Stacie Wood, who will be coming to lead Saddleback from their 14-year ministry at Echo Church in San Jose, California,"
"Like Kay and me, Andy and Stacie started a brand-new Purpose Driven Church with just a handful of people and they grew it to nearly 3,000 attendees on four campuses.
Warren will preach his final sermon series in August before Wood starts at Saddleback.
He authored the best-selling book, The Purpose Driven Life, and grew Saddleback Church from a small Bible study group back in 1980 to a 15-city megachurch today with over 20,000 people attending each week.
Warren is a fourth-generation Southern Baptist pastor.
CALIFORNIA BAPTIST COLLEGE
He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from California Baptist College, a Master of Divinity from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Wort, Texas, and a Doctor of Ministry from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif.
He turned down an offer to become pastor of a 5,000-member church in Texas during his last year in seminary, he and his family arrived in California's Saddleback Valley in January 1980 to establish a church, according to Britannica.com
He explained, "43 years ago this month, in June of 1979, while I was a student at Southwestern Seminary in Fort Worth, I had my Damascus Road experience. It was not a blinding light like Paul saw.
"Instead, it was with the dim light of a single 75-watt bulb hanging from the ceiling, on an old cord in a dusty storage room. It happened in the basement of nearby Texas Christian University Library where I had gone to research U.S. Census statistics on West Coast cities."
EYES FIXED ON SADDLEBACK
He said it was then his eyes had fixed on the Saddleback for the first time.
"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," Warren recalled in making his sucessor announement.
"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."
Andy and Stacie Wood were in a group of people who planted Echo Church in 2008 and had been leading it since. The couple helped the church grow and launch different campuses, attracting an average of 3,000 people to their services each week.
In a statement, the couple said: "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."