ANAHEIM, Calif. – More than 45,000 people over the weekend joined in the celebration of Saddleback Church's 30th anniversary, filling up the seats at Anaheim's Angel Stadium Saturday night and Sunday morning.
Combined, the two Easter services drew crowds over 200 times larger than the 205 that the now-prominent megachurch had drawn to its first service.
The services also officially marked the start of a new era for the Southern California church, which began with ten years of local ministry, moved into ten years of national ministry in the 1990s, and took off with ten years of global ministry after the turn of the millennium.
"Now we're going to go intergalactic. We start out mission to Mars and to Venus next February," joked founding and senior pastor Rick Warren on Sunday.
Actually, as part of its "Decade of Destiny," Saddleback will initially focus on enhancing Saddleback's campus programs and operations, expanding its campuses and groups, and extending its reach through its P.E.A.C.E. Plan, among other areas. Locally, Saddleback intends to mobilize their 4,000 small groups across Southern California to launch a Saddleback church campus in every Orange County city.
"It's going to be a great next ten years," Warren said Sunday without elaborating.
The next ten years will also be the last ten needed to fulfill the promise that Warren made to his congregation when Saddleback held its first public service inside a high school gymnasium on Easter morning 1980.
"When we started Saddleback 30 years ago, I made a 40-year commitment to this church. I was 25 years old and I stood up at the first service and I said, 'I intend to give 40 years of my life to this church.' I publicly made that commitment," Warren recalled Sunday.
"And I wondered, 'How do you stay in a church 40 years without getting bored – so that there's always something to do?' Well, little did I know it would never, ever one second be boring."
After 30 years, Saddleback today has around 4,000 small groups – at least one in every city in Southern California – that meet as far as 100 miles away from the main campus in Lake Forest, Calif.
About 30,000 people – more than attend weekend services – meet in the small groups each week and many serve the church and community through Saddleback's more than 200 ministries.
Globally, the church family has people working in 164 countries as part of its P.E.A.C.E. Plan – a massive effort to mobilize one billion Christians to attack what Warren considers to be the five global, evil giants of today (spiritual emptiness, self-centered leadership, extreme poverty, pandemic disease and illiteracy/education).
In addition, more than 200,000 church leaders from around the world have been trained in Saddleback's purpose-driven philosophy, which is highlighted in Warren's best-selling book, The Purpose Driven Life.
Though not the largest, Saddleback is one of the most well known churches in America and in many parts of the world.
To celebrate Saddleback's 30th anniversary, Warren called in the wholesome yet highly popular Jonas Brothers as well as GMA 2010 New Artist of the Year nominee Kari Jobe, who performed in between Warren's messages on Sunday. The Jonas Brothers, all outspoken believers, performed at the end to wrap up the service.
Warren said Sunday that the Jonas Brothers were "very gracious" about attending Saddleback's anniversary event and had volunteered to perform for free after being invited to participate. Warren was told by their father that the whole Jonas family had not only read The Purpose-Driven Life, but also The Purpose Driven Church, a book designed for pastors.
"They said 'Oh, we want to do this,'" Warren recalled hearing.
Following Warren's hope-centered message and the performances Sunday, throngs lined up outside Angel Stadium to be baptized by Warren and other Saddleback pastors. According to A. Larry Ross Communications, the PR agency that represents Warren, nearly 500 people were baptized following services at the stadium and the main Lake Forest campus.
Next month, the church celebrates the 7th anniversary of its P.E.A.C.E. Plan.