Famed Pastor Rick Warren celebrated a “historic” milestone at his church last weekend: The 45,000th person in the church’s 36 years of ministry was baptized on the premises.
Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, and author of mega-hit book, “The Purpose Driven Life,” spoke out about the monumental event last weekend, preaching to his congregation on the importance of baptism.
“Baptisms are an amazing moment in the life of the church,” he said. “They are a public sign of new life in the believer, of new beginnings for all those involved, and they encourage everyone watching to renew their own commitment to Christ.”
And he would know. After all, Saddleback sees scores of people getting baptized at the church each weekend, with 792 people making a decision to do so last weekend, alone, as The Christian Post reported.
Warren informed the congregation that Saddleback would see its 45,000th person make that commitment — a development he openly praised.
“This weekend is a historic weekend for our church because somebody in this group is going to be the 45,000th baptism of Saddleback Church,” he said.
Warren also expressed his gratitude to God for bringing so many people through the church’s doors over the years and prayed that Saddleback would be part of “many, many more” baptisms “in the coming months and years,” as the Post reported.
Warren and his Saddleback Church have become known for their ministry activities both inside and outside of the church. From launching a mental health ministry to helping pastors across the world better engage their congregations, Warren is involved in no shortage of biblical projects.
In recent months, much of his focus has shifted back to helping the Christian church in America.
Over the summer, Warren held a three-day conference titled, “New Hope for Your Church” — an effort by the pastor to “renew churches in the United States,” as a press release noted at the time. Warren continues to help pastors and churches by providing trainings and growth opportunities aimed at making congregations flourish.
“God has shifted my focus from church planting to church renewal, beginning in America,” Warren said at the time. “We must help plateaued churches and discouraged pastors, and we must train a whole new generation to embrace God’s five purposes for the church: fellowship, discipleship, worship, ministry and evangelism.”
He continued, “We need to introduce a new generation to the paradigm all together, and we need to introduce our old friends to what we’ve learned in the last ten years.”
The announcements about baptisms and Warren’s newfound focus on American churches come as surveys show a decrease in the proportion of Americans who say they are “Christian,” among other troubling indicators showing that faith — at least nominally speaking — could be on the decline in the U.S.
The Pew Research Center found that the proportion of described Christians in America decreased from 78.4 percent in 2007 to 70.6 percent in 2014. Additionally, those saying they are “nones” (either atheists, agnostics or people unaffiliated with a specific faith cohort) increased during the same time from 16.1 percent to 22.8 percent.
Still, Pew has also estimated that secularism worldwide will actually decline as a share of the world’s population by 2050, growing from 16.4 percent in 2010 to a projected 13.2 percent in 2050, as Deseret News recently reported.