LAKE FOREST, Calif. – Pastor Rick Warren ended his 11-week sermon series, "Daring Faith," by announcing that members of his Southern California-based megachurch had pledged a historic $70 million toward a fundraising campaign by the same name.
"I have said this over and over, and you need to believe me," said Warren during the May 30th evening worship service at the 20,000-member church in Lake Forest, California. "There is no more generous church than Saddleback Church. This is the most unselfish giving church on the planet earth. Nobody gives more to help the poor. Nobody gives more to care for the sick, to reach the lost than this church."
The announcement was made by Warren as large "light cubes" representing $1 million each were stacked on top of each other to help illustrate the magnitude of the financial giving.
The $70 million offering is double the amount the congregation gave during its "Decade of Destiny" campaign launched five years ago and $22 million above its highest giving total ever that helped build a state-of-the-art student structure and launch the church's PEACE plan. The ongoing global initiative has helped combat social problems such as poverty, sickness, and lack of education beginning ten years ago.
"Nobody can explain it, nobody can rationalize it away, [however,] in Southern California which is typically known as the most materialistic part on the planet, God found an oasis of generosity called the people of the family of God, called Saddleback Church," Warren continued. "In an age when people are spending their money on everything [and] on themselves, the people of this church family said, 'You know what, there's something more important than us.' It is the kingdom of God. It is that the lost be found, and that the least be brought in, and that the hungry be fed, and that the sick be cared for, and that the poor be clothed, and that the word of God be spread all around the world."
The best-selling author of The Purpose Driven Life (What On Earth am I Here For?) said the church made history with its offering.
"Every time we give it breaks the grip of materialism on our lives," he said. Warren congratulated those who gave and said the $70 million was raised "without any bingo parties, without any raffles, without any fundraising per se like putting thermometers on the wall and saying 'we're this far behind' and selling things, and gimmicks and gizmos. We didn't do [that]. All we did for 11 weeks was talk about faith and sacrifice. We said that if you want to be like Jesus Christ you need to learn how to be a giver."
Warren told the congregation that the amount of money given was irrelevant and what was important was that one's faith be stretched, and that generosity and sacrifice was learned to a greater degree.
"This church is not about buildings. We are the only church in America that grew to 10,000 without a building," said Warren, in reference to the church's early days in South Orange County when services were held in high school gyms and tents. "We are much more interested in building people than buildings."
Saddleback Church was founded by Warren and his wife, Kay, who moved from Texas to southern California in late 1979. After meeting in their condo for several weeks for Bible study, Saddleback's first service was held on Palm Sunday, March 30, 1980 with 40 people in attendance at a high school theater. The next week on Easter Sunday, just 12 weeks after the Warrens had moved to Orange County, 240 people were in attendance.
In use worldwide, The Purpose Driven Church curriculum and Celebrate Recovery program were founded at Saddleback Church. Several years ago, Warren said he did not set out to appear on television, but because of media requests fueled by the astronomical success of his book, The Purpose Driven Life, he could no longer avoid the spotlight. He asked for prayer from the men at his church specifically for this new phase in his ministry and soon after, became "America's pastor." His appearances included giving the opening prayer during President Barack Obama's first inauguration ceremony.