America's New People's Pastor
These are heady times for Rick Warren. His book The Purpose Driven Life, which says that meaning in life comes through following God's purposes, has sold more than 20 million copies over the past two years and is the best-selling hardback in U.S. history. When he took the podium to pray on the final night of Billy Graham's Los Angeles crusade at the Rose Bowl in November, the 82,000 congregants cheered as if Warren had scored the winning touchdown. And on the eve of the presidential Inauguration, Warren, who pastors the 22,000-member Saddleback megachurch in Lake Forest, Calif., delivered the Invocation at the gala celebration. Later he met with 15 Senators, from both parties, who sought his advice and heard his plan to enlist Saddleback's global network of more than 40,000 churches in tackling such issues as poverty, disease and ignorance. And when 600 senior pastors were asked to name the people they thought had the greatest influence on church affairs in the country, Warren's name came in second only to Billy Graham's. Although Franklin Graham is heir to the throne of the Billy Graham organization, many believe that Warren, 51, is the successor to the elder Graham for the role of America's minister.