Saddleback Church pastor Rick Warren alerts his resignation by searching for a successor

(RNS) – Saddleback Church Pastor Rick Warren announced on Sunday June 6th that the church will begin the official search for his successor, signaling that he will retire after 40 years in his pulpit .

“It’s a big deal,” Warren said in a moment of characteristic understatement. Saddleback Community Church, which Warren founded in 1980, is the second largest church in the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Protestant denomination in the United States.

“This is such an important decision because I am the only senior pastor our church family has ever had,” said Warren.

A best-selling author who regards clergy of all stripes as the best experts in the country on new church planting, Warren is one of the most famous and influential pastors in the country.

“Kay and I have known that day would come for 42 years and we waited for God’s perfect timing,” added Warren.

Warren said announcing the search would enable him to move into a less visible role as a founding pastor.

“This isn’t the end, it’s not even the beginning of the end, it’s the beginning of the beginning,” Warren said in a video on Sunday. “We will look for the next generation pastor to replace me and lead our family into the future.”

This story will be updated.

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