Rick Warren preached his final sermon as pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, on Sunday, Aug. 28. Warren closed over 40 years as Saddleback’s pastor by re-delivering the first sermon he preached when the church began in March of 1980.
“You’re going to make me cry. Have I told you lately that I love you?” Warren said after he came on stage to preach his final sermon amid applause from his congregation. “It’s been my privilege to love you, pray for you, serve you, encourage you.”
Rick Warren’s Last Sermon As Saddleback’s Pastor
Rick Warren said his message that morning would illustrate one of Saddleback’s “purpose-driven values,” that is, to “begin with the end in mind.” When Warren delivered his first sermon in 1980 to the group of people who would become Saddleback Church, he did so in a very different setting.
The pastor had sent a letter to the community, inviting people to church the week before Easter, and around 50 to 60 had gathered at Laguna Hills High School. Saddleback did not yet exist, and the people who showed up that morning were strangers to one another.
Warren asked his Aug. 28 congregation to use their imaginations to put themselves in the situation the crowd was in when they heard his message for the first time over four decades ago. The pastor then launched into his sermon, addressing those present as though they were part of that original group that was just starting a new church. “Today is the beginning of a miracle,” he said, “and you are not here by accident.”
The title of Warren’s sermon was “5 Reasons This Church Is Guaranteed to Succeed.” It is good for churches to pursue success, said Warren, adding, “God doesn’t sponsor flops.” After all, the church is Christ’s body and it is God’s will for every church to grow.
Warren explained, “Success is not size. Success is changed lives. You’ll hear me say that a thousand times in the years ahead.” He emphasized the priority of church health over growth, saying that healthy churches grow.