Saddleback Church Says Goodbye to Its Worship Leader of 24 Years

Saddleback Church lead pastor Rick Warren and his congregation said goodbye to their worship music leader for the last 24 years during church services this past weekend at the megachurch's main campus in Lake Forest, Calif.

Worship Pastor Rick Muchow's departure comes at a time when Saddleback is transitioning to a less centralized form of leadership and making room for the next generation of leaders, Warren explained. Although having no plans to retire from worship music ministry work, Muchow is leaving after declining a more administrative-type lead position under the church's newly formed worship team structure.

While addressing his congregation during a tribute to Muchow before services, Warren said it took nearly three years to find and recruit a person having the professional flexibility needed to "keep up" with him. Muchow was able to "go with the flow" on countless occasions when changes to the worship plans were made shortly before and even during church services and functions, he said.

"Personally, this is the most bittersweet moment I've had in 32 years as your pastor," wrote Warren in an email to his congregation sent before the weekend tribute to Muchow. "I know it is the right thing to do, but it is at great personal grief to me.

"Rick Muchow is simply one of my closest and deepest friends. No one else has experienced with me as many Saddleback service high points. We have watched God do miracles before our eyes and the team of 'Rick and Rick' has been inseparable for 24 years. So understand me, this organizational change is not what's most comfortable for either Rick Muchow or me personally… but it is what our church needs next."

Warren explained in the email that the church's elders have been prayerfully "discussing, strategizing, and thinking through the long range plans" for Saddleback. The leadership team realized that the church's transition toward a "new generation of Saddleback leaders" needed to be planned years in advance.

Last year, Muchow began training a new generation of "Pastors of Worship" as the result of church expansion over the last few years to include eight regional campuses, each having their own worship team, Warren said.

Within the next few years, the number of worship teams will increase to 20 as Saddleback plans to plant 12 churches in major international cities.

"The era of a single worship pastor, just like the era of a single preaching pastor, is over," stated Warren. "We concluded that the reorganized and decentralized worship team would need a new team leader whose primary gifts are management and supervision rather than being gifted as a musician, artist, and songwriter. What is needed now is not a single outstanding on-stage worship leader and musician but someone gifted at behind-the-scenes coordination of 20 young worship leaders rotating through Saddleback."

The worship team administrative position was offered to Muchow and he declined, Warren said.

Warren's wife, Kay, who also spoke during the emotional tribute to Muchow, said that she had calculated that over the 24 years, he had led the worship music portion of church services during 1,248 weekends, that came to 4,992 individual services (the 20,000-member church has had anywhere from three to six services per weekend over the years).

She told The Christian Post that the numbers she gave do not "even begin to include the band, orchestra and choir rehearsals for those services, concerts, seminars, retreats, weddings, funerals, conferences, or camps – an almost incalculable number of hours over 24-plus years."

Muchow, who has produced many albums and songs that are sung at churches throughout the world, said that although he wants to continue to be a worship leader, he has no immediate ministry plans and wants to spend more time with his family.

He is quoted on the church's Website as saying, "No other worship leader [had] the opportunity to be mentored by Pastor Rick Warren for 25 years like I have been. I plan to be a good steward of that gift."

"I know I want to be a worship leader," Muchow added. "I want to write music. I want to mentor and coach other church leaders."

More on Muchow can be found on the Web:

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