Rick Warren announces successor ahead of retirement in September

Pastor Rick Warren has led Saddleback for over 40 years.Facebook

Andy Wood will be taking over the reins of Rick Warren's California megachurch when he retires this September. 

Warren announced his retirement plans this week after a year-long search to find his successor.

He and wife Kay are stepping down after more than 40 years of ministry that have included his best-selling book, The Purpose Driven Life, and growing 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.

His successor, Wood, currently serves as lead pastor of Echo.Church in the San Francisco Bay Area with his wife Stacie.

Warren said that "God is calling us to step aside for the next generation" and that he was delighted they were coming to lead Saddleback.

"Kay and I believe so much in this couple," he 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."

Warren said it had always been his intention to lead the church for 40 years and then step down in 2020 but God had him stay on a little longer than planned.

"In the final months of 2019, I had this uneasy feeling that it still wasn't the right time to resign," he said.

"I had no idea why I should keep serving cause there wasn't any unfinished business that I felt compelled to do. But it became crystal clear six weeks after our church's 40th anniversary when the COVID pandemic hit and all of our services got shut down for 14 months." 

Warren will preach his final sermon series in August before Wood starts at Saddleback on 12 September.

Wood and his wife said they were looking forward to leading Saddleback.

"For the past several months, we have been praying about what we sensed was an invitation God. For decades, Pastor Rick and Kay Warren of Saddleback Church in Orange County have been our ministry mentors — and much of their work through their Purpose Driven Church model has been critical for helping us start Echo.Church," they said.

"We've been so blessed by their friendship, and they're now transitioning into retirement. After months of prayer and seeking counsel from others — we believe that God has called us together to step into serving at Saddleback Church."