Pastor Rick Warren sent a letter of appreciation via his newsletter over the weekend to everyone that prayed for his family in the aftershock of the suicide of his 27-year-old son Matthew a little more than a week ago.
A private memorial service was held last week for Matthew Warren, who died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound on April 5. He had struggled with mental illness since birth, said Warren, who is the lead pastor at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California.
During the week, the response to the Warren family tragedy not only garnered sympathy and condolences from around the world, but also online vitriol from the well-known pastor's detractors.
Warren posted through Facebook and Twitter: "Grieving is hard. Grieving as public figures, harder. Grieving while haters celebrate your pain, hardest. Your notes sustained us."
In his "News & Views" blog post that was also sent out by email, Warren writes, "Dear friends, please help us get this word to your pastor and the leaders of all churches that prayed for our family last week ... in worship services, in groups or classes, and as individuals. We hope it can be read aloud on Sunday to express our deepest appreciation."
Scheduled to take Warren's place at the pulpit this weekend is Christian psychologist and leadership consultant Dr John Townsend. Next weekend, evangelist and Harvest Fellowship Church Pastor Greg Laurie is scheduled to give the message during worship services.
The letter of appreciation can be read below.
A WORD OF THANKS
TO CHURCHES WHO'VE PRAYED FOR US
From Rick and Kay Warren, their extended families,
and the Saddleback Church family
Sunday, April 14, 2013
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Kay and I want you to know how much we depended on your faithful prayers for us this past week in the aftershock of the suicide of our precious 27-year old son Matthew, who struggled with mental illness since birth.
We felt your love and we received strength from your prayers during the most painful week of our 40 years of public ministry for Christ.
Because you prayed for us, we were overwhelmed with the Holy Spirit's comfort, were able to share the Gospel of Hope in Jesus with many unbelievers around the world, and God was glorified through our personal tragedy. So we cannot thank you enough!
Also, the members of Saddleback Church, your sister church in Southern California, asked that we send thanks to you, your pastor, and all your church family on their behalf. Together we have shared what St Paul called "the fellowship of suffering". When one part of the body hurts, all the other parts hurt too, and you can count on the Saddleback family to pray for you too. We are God's family and we are in this together!
Finally, if you'd like to help us raise the awareness and lower the stigma of mental illness, we'd love to add your voice to our petition. Just visit Saddleback.com or Facebook.com/PastorRickWarren to add your name to your voice.
We end the note of thanks with the promise of Hebrews 6:10 "God will not forget the work you did, and the love you've showed for him by helping other Christians." May God bless your church family greatly!