September 17th, 2013
10:24 AM ET

The five things you need to know about Rick Warren

By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Co-editor

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(CNN) - Best-selling author and megachurch pastor Rick Warren is one of the country's most influential Christian leaders.

But Warren and his wife, Kay, have nearly disappeared from public view since their son's suicide in April.

That changed Tuesday night, when Rick and Kay Warren spoke with CNN's Piers Morgan about the death of their son, how their faith has changed and their new mission in life.

Here are five things to know about the Warrens.

1. They lead the sixth largest church in the United States. 

Since its first public service on Easter in 1980, the Warrens' Saddleback Church has spread to eight campuses in Southern California - as well as four international satellites - and counts some 20,000 weekly worshippers.

That's makes it the sixth-largest in the United States, according to an annual tally kept by LifeWay Research, a Christian firm based in Nashville.

MORE ON CNN: Rick Warren speaks about his son's suicide

2. Warren's book, "The Purpose Driven Life," has sold more than 32 million copies and been translated into more than 50 languages. 

Published in 1992, Warren's spiritual self-help book has topped all four major best-seller lists, according to Warren's spokesman, making it one of the best-selling hardcover books in recent history.

The book reached national prominence in 2005, when hostage Ashley Smith convinced her captor to read portions of "Purpose Driven," after which he let her go.

"That really made Warren a household name," said Jeffery Sheler, author of the 2009 biography, "Prophet of Purpose: The Life of Rick Warren."

By 2005, nearly a quarter of Americans had read "The Purpose Driven Life," Christian researcher David Kinnaman told CNN last year. 

3. Warren is an evangelical.  

That means he falls on the conservative end of the spectrum, theologically.

Like other evangelicals, Warren believes he has a personal relationship with God, that Jesus is the only route to salvation, that the Bible is the inerrant word of God and that he has a duty to spread the gospel.

Warren also falls in line with most evangelical political beliefs, opposing same-sex marriage and abortion, for example. But he and Kay also encourage Christians to care about a broad range of causes, from fighting poverty to global warming.

4. Warren delivered the invocation at President Barack Obama's first inaugural. 

Obama took a lot of criticism for inviting Warren to pray at his first inaugural, mainly because Warren had encouraged his huge flock the year before to support Proposition 8, which outlawed same-sex marriage in California.

But Obama defended his selection of Warren, saying that "part of the magic of this country is that we are diverse and noisy and opinionated."

For what it's worth, Warren has also caught flak for inviting Obama to Saddleback Church, over the objections of conservative evangelicals.

5. Rick and Kay Warren are extremely active in lots of social justice causes.

AIDS, poverty,  gun control - it may actually be shorter to list causes that the Warrens have not dedicated time and energy to.

In 2005, Warren started traveling to Rwanda after an invitation from President Paul Kagame to help make the African nation become the first "purpose-driven country."

The pastor continues to visit Rwanda, preaching a message of reconciliation nearly a decade after the country's devastating genocide.

After his son's death, Warren has preached about using his pain and sorrow in service of others. He and Kay also say they have a new mission: shedding light on the toll of mental illness in the United States.

MORE ON CNN: Rick Warren returns to the spotlight


- CNN Religion Editor

Filed under: Baptist • Belief • Christianity • Faith • Faith & Health • Media

soundoff (202 Responses)
  1. Lionly Lamb

    GROW HEMP 4 FUEL – 95% Cleaner than Fossil Fuel / No C02 Emission


    September 18, 2013 at 5:05 pm |
  2. Lionly Lamb

    Hemp – What Are We Waiting For?...


    September 18, 2013 at 4:55 pm |
  3. Lionly Lamb

    Ever since the prohibition of Cannabis was enacted in the 1930s by our nation's first drug Czar Harry Anslinger all Americans have been drenched with legislative nightmares and televised propaganda portraying Cannabis in an unfriendly light... Before Cannabis was outlawed it was used in more ways then just smoking it... Nowadays Cannabis uses are being once again noticed for its curative enhancements for a myriad of sicknesses and illnesses years before the world went to an all out war against Cannabis usage...


    September 18, 2013 at 4:31 pm |
  4. Lionly Lamb

    Sorry bout the double post below... My bad...

    Hemp Cutting August 2010


    September 18, 2013 at 4:18 pm |
  5. Lionly Lamb

    The prohibition of marijuana was made a social nightmare and its continuing drug war is a losing proposition...


    September 18, 2013 at 4:09 pm |
  6. Lionly Lamb

    The prohibition of marijuana was made a social nightmare and its continuing drug war is a losing proposition...

    1-step spring harvest of industrial hemp


    September 18, 2013 at 4:09 pm |
  7. Lionly Lamb

    I'd bet bottom dollar that Rick and Kay didn't even take into consideration their son using Cannabis to treat their son's mental disfigurement... I'm not saying that their son should use the psychoactive or THC enriched flowers but instead use the CBD enriched flowers with lowered THC molecules... Hell, their son 's need for an anti-psychoactive agent likened to Cannabis's CBD laced flowers or buds could have been implemented as an oil based medicine taking away Rick and Ann Warren's thoughts of Cannabis being used just by people wanting to get high thru smoking it...

    So Rick and Kay Warren, "Did you truly try 'everything available' to help your son in your state of California which has given the go-ahead for Cannabis to be medically used.?"

    September 18, 2013 at 3:26 pm |
    • Lionly Lamb

      Hell, their son 's need for an anti-psychoactive agent likened to Cannabis's CBD laced flowers or buds could have been implemented as an oil based medicine taking away Rick and Kay Warren's anti-thoughts of Cannabis being used just by people wanting to get high thru smoking it...

      September 18, 2013 at 3:31 pm |
  8. Lionly Lamb

    Roses for mama

    (For me and my bro; our mother's birthday is coming in October)


    September 18, 2013 at 3:17 pm |
  9. Lionly Lamb

    In memories for Rick and Kay Warren's son...


    September 18, 2013 at 2:40 pm |
  10. Song of Joy

    Thank you Rick and Ann Warren for sharing your family's story and helping people to understand mental illness. Mental illnesses are disorders of the brain and should be treated as any other physical illness. It is our job as Christians and decent human beings to have compassion on anyone who is sick and help heal them through compassion, prayer and promoting medical research for treatments and cures. We must also do what we can to remove the stigma attached to mental illness by educating others about these disorders.

    My brother suffered from schizoaffective disorder and died in April from a drug over dose. He was a Christian and ordained minister, me a Christian and mental health clinician. I know what you are going through as my family spent many years trying to help my brother. My heart, thoughts and prayers go out to you on the loss of your beloved son.

    September 18, 2013 at 12:58 pm |
    • Lionly Lamb

      Quit it already in sucking up with being politically correct... I'd bet bottom dollar that Rick and Ann didn't even take into consideration their son using Cannabis to treat their son's mental disfigurement... I'm not saying that their son should use the psychoactive or THC enriched flowers but instead use the CBD laced flowers with lowered THC molecules... Hell, their son 's need for an anti-psychoactive agent likened to Cannabis's CBD laced flowers or buds could have been implemented as an oil based medicine taking away Rick and Ann Warren's thoughts of Cannabis being used just by people wanting to get high...

      So Rick and Ann Warren, "Did you truly try 'everything available' to help your son in your state of California which has given the go-ahead for Cannabis to be medically used.?"

      September 18, 2013 at 1:59 pm |
      • Centra

        Who's Ann??

        September 18, 2013 at 2:02 pm |
        • Lionly Lamb

          Sorry Centra and all...

          I meant Kay... I am still working on my coffee... 😳

          September 18, 2013 at 2:11 pm |
        • Song of Joy

          Thanks. Correction Kay. Working on my almond milk:)

          September 18, 2013 at 2:16 pm |
        • Lionly Lamb

          Sired Centra...

          Song of Joy wrote, "Thank you Rick and Ann Warren" and I just went with it...

          September 18, 2013 at 2:13 pm |
        • Centra

          @LL-Enjoy your morning 'cup of joy'!!!

          September 18, 2013 at 2:15 pm |
      • K-switch

        HOLY F-ING SHYT! Is LL speaking in plain english?

        September 18, 2013 at 2:21 pm |
        • Lionly Lamb

          Sired K-switch...

          Sometimes one gets the bear and sometimes the bear gets you... It's those bulls that always get to me... Their horns always seem to knock at my doors...

          September 18, 2013 at 2:36 pm |
      • okay

        what a jerk

        September 18, 2013 at 10:19 pm |
      • okay

        what a jerk! lol

        September 18, 2013 at 10:25 pm |
  11. Meredith S.

    He commanded the winds and the waves to be still and they obeyed him. The disciples were frightened. Who is this man, they wondered, that even the sea obeys him?

    September 18, 2013 at 12:26 pm |
    • Up Your Rear Admiral

      Meredith, I'll see you in the Rapture Capsule with the unicorns. Don't forget to wear your nose ring – the big steel one that I padlocked the chain onto when we were practising for the Uplifting.

      This time, though, close your mouth when the swirling starts and your head goes down, so the floaters don't get in like they did in our last practice.

      September 18, 2013 at 12:29 pm |
      • Meredith S.

        When u finish donkey punching all your girlfriends, your but will be ready for the 12 gauge spray in the face, point being, agreed, so, I wish u luck as u burn forever. 4ever and ever, bye bye

        September 18, 2013 at 12:37 pm |
        • Austin

          faith, is that me?

          September 18, 2013 at 12:40 pm |
        • Just the Facts Ma'am...

          Thanks for once again confirming how vulgar, uneducated and delusional you are Mere dith.

          September 18, 2013 at 12:52 pm |
  12. Reality # 2

    Why Rick Warren and others like him are not worth listening to:

    Putting the kibosh on all religion in less than ten seconds: Priceless !!!

    • As far as one knows or can tell, there was no Abraham i.e. the foundations of Judaism, Christianity and Islam are non-existent.

    • As far as one knows or can tell, there was no Moses i.e the pillars of Judaism, Christianity and Islam have no strength of purpose.

    • There was no Gabriel i.e. Islam fails as a religion. Christianity partially fails.

    • There was no Easter i.e. Christianity completely fails as a religion.

    • There was no Moroni i.e. Mormonism is nothing more than a business cult.

    • Sacred/revered cows, monkey gods, castes, reincarnations and therefore Hinduism fails as a religion.

    • Fat Buddhas here, skinny Buddhas there, reincarnated/reborn Buddhas everywhere makes for a no on Buddhism.

    • A constant cycle of reincarnation until enlightenment is reached and belief that various beings (angels?, tinkerbells? etc) exist that we, as mortals, cannot comprehend makes for a no on Sikhism.

    Added details available upon written request.

    A quick search will put the kibosh on any other groups calling themselves a religion.

    e.g. Taoism

    "The origins of Taoism are unclear. Traditionally, Lao-tzu who lived in the sixth century is regarded as its founder. Its early philosophic foundations and its later beliefs and rituals are two completely different ways of life. Today (1982) Taoism claims 31,286,000 followers.

    Legend says that Lao-tzu was immaculately conceived by a shooting star; carried in his mother's womb for eighty-two years; and born a full grown wise old man. "

    September 18, 2013 at 7:24 am |
  13. Gwen

    I was evangelical from 1974 to 2005 until they threw me out. Rick, I bear you no hard feelings. Eventually, evangelicals will have to begin to search their souls for better solutions to these problems than the constant condemnation that you gave me and others.

    September 18, 2013 at 3:38 am |
    • Meredith S.

      I was an atheist 4 4 days in July 1989. Thank heavens I got straightened out. O. Almost forgot. I was a commie for 27 days and 9 hours and 47 minutes when I was 5.

      September 18, 2013 at 5:10 am |
  14. maria

    This people is SICK this "mother" is talking about telling her son "son I can't help you to take your life " what? this is outrageous I never ever hear a mother talking about this tragedy in such cold manner ,I am devastated here and I don't even know this people this crazy people and this woman is talking about this tragedy like talking about shopping outrageous! it this for REAL?

    September 18, 2013 at 12:19 am |
    • Meredith S.

      Alice Cooper attends church there

      September 18, 2013 at 12:38 am |
      • JustaQuestion

        No he attends at North Phoenix Baptist Church, in Phoenix AZ

        September 18, 2013 at 9:25 am |
        • Meredith S.

          He loves the Lord. He is a nice guy. Has he hooked up with the Korn man, I wonder?

          September 18, 2013 at 12:28 pm |
  15. maria

    And why we need to know 5 things about Warren? like we care? we know he is a mega millionaire with a mega church ,taking people's money indeed! we also know he can help his son but his son was gay and he was pretty happy with the idea! he was too busy making millions he can stop his death indeed, call the authorities ,put him in a hospital be there for him, depression needs family united not making millions in a church ,his son should be his priority .....and he is a HYPOCRITE I hope he reads this messages !

    September 18, 2013 at 12:13 am |
    • katcot

      Rick Warren does NOT take a salary from Saddleback Church. His money comes from book sales, of which he donates a hefty portion.

      September 18, 2013 at 12:55 am |
    • Postmaster23

      If you didn't want to know 5 things about Rick Warren, why did you read it? You act like a know-it-all. Your comment is ugly and unneccessary.

      September 18, 2013 at 10:00 am |
    • Juanito

      Maria, I haven't seen his ledger or tax returns, but I have yet to see charities from athiest, Agnostic, Muslim or Hindu groups that have helped people in Haiti, Africa, China, India, South and Central America, Malaysia, etc.

      You complain about this man, but have you given anything: money, food, your time, or just an ear, to anyone who is in need?

      How about Hurricane Sandy, here in the US? It's a little more closer to home for you.

      As we are all human, and are in this world, I have no doubt the temptation is great to steal from coffers, and am quite certain there were those who did.

      I will pray for them, but it won't stop me or many others from trying to help anyone in physical or spiritual need of comfort.

      September 19, 2013 at 2:52 am |
  16. Lionly Lamb

    What will happen if Cannabis were made legally available to the masses..?

    1. There would be a noticeable reduction in physical ailments leading to less doctor/pharmacologist visits reducing the payload for most people seeking pharmacologically endorsed carcinogenic drugs to relieve them of the physical pains…

    2. Crime would see a reduction of arrests due to drug prohibition policies being that which nowadays are… Psycho social humanists will ever be a partitioning of social “differentialisms”…

    3. After all, are not most of today’s doctors nothing more than pharmacologists or medicinal pill pushers for the major pharmaceutical pill makers..? Instead of the major pharmaceutical companies manufacturing chemically manufactured pill knock-offs of the real drugs; why not let mankind’s social fabric regulate itself when it comes to self-medicating via the uses of THC lowered and CBD raised Cannabinoids in the Cannabis Herbs..?

    4. For today’s doctors are nothing more than highly paid pharmacologists all working for big Pharmaceutical companies… Such doctors are receiving kickbacks from big pharmaceutical manufacturers and these doctors or pharmacologists should begin following along with an ever growing number of states which are now regulating the smoking of Cannabis and Hemp Oils and Tinctures not to mention Cannabis Beverages…

    5. With THC being the psychoactive ingredient and CBD being non-psychoactive molecule of the Cannabis Plant, its medicinal uses are now being used to treat such forms of epilepsies, multiple sclerosis and many other sicknesses via the uses of adding nature’s Cannabinoids into our body’s Receptive Endocannabinoid System…

    6. One can see that smoking the flowering part of the Cannabis plant may be of somewhat beneficial usages yet it should be of greater interests to the pharmacologists/family physician in their ways of regulating Cannabis Medicines for more ways than just smoking it… Many states here in the USA have legalized Cannabis usages for medicinal purposes and are just beginning to amass a pharmacological understanding of Cannabis’s percentile uses in high to low percentage rates of THC and CBD for pharmacological treatments to their clientele or patients…

    7. Cannabis in weighed and measured dosages of percentage amounts in known variations of Cannabinoids’ percentiles of THC and CBD could benefit many people with many ailments of physical and even mental abnormalities… One could almost wipe out our nation’s plague of alcoholism by replacing it with moderated grade levels of cannabis to be smoked by adults in order to relieve today’s alcoholic of his physically emotional dilemma created thru their abusiveness of alcoholic beverages… Many alcoholics I know who smoke Cannabis would say they’d most likely quit drinking if Cannabis were made legal or even medically regulated to stem the tide of today’s alcoholism addictions…

    8. As Cannabis becomes ever more useful for medicinal purposes, one should consider its beneficial uses outside of its pharmacological usages… I’ll start with the young seedling of Cannabis just a few days old which could be used much like the soybean youngling in many food effective ways such as for a grounded food additive in breads and cakes to increase its nutritional values… Science knows full well the beneficial nutrient levels in Cannabis seeds and its uses of a youngling cannabis plant…

    9. The farmers would also benefit in growing Cannabis… Part of their crop could be used to feed their livestock which would be not only beneficial to the livestock’s healthiness; it would mean that we who eat the meats would gain better health and possibly a longer life with less sickness… Cannabis instead of the non-nutritious bales of hay is the farmers’ better way…

    10. I can foresee a day to come where Cannabis Feed for all mankind’s Livestock Herds would greatly benefit civilization for feeding their livestock with Cannabis is not only nutritious for the farmer’s herds but for all the people who eat of the cannabis fed herd’s meat…

    11. Even within the construction industries; the uses of the Cannabis Plants could benefit the cement industries thru their using ground up varying grades of the Cannabis plants stalks in the making of concrete and all manner of blocks from concrete/cement blocks to all forms of bricks… In order for construction grade Cannabis to be harvested, the farmers could utilize a low THC based cannabis plant with a high grade of CBD plants thereby easing the potential abusers of Cannabis from getting high by raiding and looting the farmer’s fields…

    12. Even today’s fiberglass industries could benefit from its using Cannabis fibers from the stalks to replace the high costs of the glass fibers not to mention replacing the fiberglass resin with a resin made from cannabis extracts giving the final product a much stronger product and even a longer lifespan… If automotive engineers could replace all the body parts with cannabis fiber parts, the lifespan of any automobile could be greatly increased.

    13. Cannabis fibers could even be made to be as soft as silk giving the clothes manufacturers a long lasting product but not that long as to be forever… Cardboard boxes could be made out of the cannabis stalks as well along with all forms of paper products… I can only hope that all the many knowable and yet unknown products for the lowly Cannabis Plants will someday overcome all marijuana’s unsavory past and present day prohibitionists who seem to nowadays be losing their provocative wars on a plant with unlimited potentials…

    September 18, 2013 at 12:08 am |
    • Does Rick Warren Use Cannabis?

      You forgot #14.
      Its very green. If you make clothes and boxes out of it, then when you're done with them you can eat them so it saves the planet by recycling. After that your digestive system can be further processed into ..... well you get the picture if you're up till all hours of the night writing treatises on cannabis.

      BTW, what does this have to do with Rick Warren?

      September 18, 2013 at 6:29 am |
      • Lionly Lamb

        If Rick Warren would have tried Cannabis's low THC and High in CBD molecules for his son's chemically molecular imbalance the Pastor Warren could say he's tried everything but as it now stands Rick W. did NOT try everything...

        September 18, 2013 at 1:36 pm |
        • Song of Joy

          Have read about how Cannabis low THC high CBD is helping people with many types of chronic illnesses. Unfortunately most are bred for High THC. The high CBD are difficult to find, have waiting lists for them and still hard to legally obtain in most states, but hopefully will become more and more a viable option as our legislators consider its medicinal properties and benefits.

          September 18, 2013 at 2:01 pm |
        • Lionly Lamb

          Sired Song of Joy...

          There is a group of brothers that have been growing high grade CBD Cannabis Plants and they have given the plant a name... They have called it "Charlottes Web"...


          Charlotte's Web – CBD for Epilepsy

          September 18, 2013 at 2:30 pm |
        • Song of Joy

          Saw an interview with the brothers recently. There is currently a waiting list for Charlotte"s Web. Need more high CBD breed growers.

          September 18, 2013 at 2:43 pm |
        • Lionly Lamb

          Sired Joyful Song...

          Here's a thought... Allow cattle farmers to rights to grow fields and fields of low grade THC enriched with High grade CBD Cannabis plants and we could solve the problems of not having enough high grade CBD Cannabis buds to relieve our nation's medicinal woes... The farmers could collect many of the buds and give them freely to Cannabis factories that make the needed oils and tinctures to help alleviate many sickened and ill people... The rest of the plant being it leaves and stalks could be used to feed the farmer's cattle thereby enriching the meatiness with nutritional benefits that would be passed on to meat consumers be it beef or chickens or even pigs, the 3 main meat crops...

          September 18, 2013 at 3:03 pm |
        • Lionly Lamb

          The rest of the plant being its leaves and stalks could be used to feed the farmer's cattle thereby enriching the meatiness with nutritional benefits that would be passed on to meat consumers be it beef or chickens or even pigs, the 3 main meat crops...

          September 18, 2013 at 3:05 pm |
  17. The ghost of Jim jones

    Here is the sixth thing I would like to know about Rick warren: how he sleeps at night knowing he has fleased millions out of their hard earned money.

    September 17, 2013 at 10:21 pm |
    • Dippy

      Fleeced, not fleased.

      September 18, 2013 at 2:46 am |
  18. James

    There are three things you need to know about atheists:
    1. Queers
    2. Queers
    3. Queers

    To hell with 'em!

    September 17, 2013 at 9:27 pm |
    • billy wingartenson

      thats what hitler thought – he sent about 50,000 to the death camps. Seig heil to you.

      BTW WARrens son's suicide reminds me of an early live blog 20 years ago when kids were trying to prevent another kid from committing suicide

      Tne kid then said "my fathers a baptist minister, and disappearred from the conversation. your type effectively mass murderes about 4000 of the 8000 kids who commit suicide every year

      The local fire department will direct you to a hell proof suit.

      September 26, 2013 at 1:07 am |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.