Rick Warren, California megachurch founder, author of the bestselling The Purpose Driven Life, and one of the most prominent evangelical Christian leaders in the nation, has announced his retirement. Saddleback Church will begin looking for his successor this week, Warren told the congregation Sunday, the Orange County Register reports. Warren said he and his wife, Kay, will remain connected to Saddleback, though his successor will be the church leader while he assumes the title of founding pastor. He said his goal has always been "to serve God’s purpose in my generation," Warren said. In Saddleback's first service, on Easter Sunday in 1980, Warren told his first 200 congregants that he would lead the church for 40 years, per the Los Angeles Times. "For 42 years, Kay and I have known this day would eventually arrive," he said.
Warren acknowledged that delivering six sermons per Sunday is especially difficult, given his health. He has a rare version of spinal myoclonus that public speaking aggravates. "When adrenaline hits my brain, adrenaline is like poison, and it makes me shake like Parkinson's," Warren said. His vision also blurs. The Warrens took time off after their son, Matthew, killed himself in 2013, and began working on mental health issues when they returned. The popularity of Warren and Saddleback have grown by almost any measure. There are 14 locations in Southern California, and four others around the world. Weekly attendance averages 30,000, while 7,000 small groups watch from homes. Saddleback crossed 50,000 members in 2018. The Purpose Driven Life, the most successful of Warren's eight books, has sold almost 40 million copies in English. (More Rick Warren stories.)