EXCLUSIVE: Incoming Saddleback Pastor Has Predatory Pattern of Trying to Acquire Churches, Baptist Group Says

Por Julie Roys
Andy Wood Rick Warren Echo Saddleback
Andy Wood (right) appears in a video with Pastor Rick Warren, who's retiring. (Source: Video screengrab)

Andy Wood, the incoming pastor of Saddleback Church, has a predatory pattern of trying to acquire multi-million-dollar properties from small, aging congregations, leaders of a California Baptist association say.

Mike Stewart of the Great Commission Association of Southern Baptists Churches (GCA) told El Informe Roys (TRR) that Wood and Iglesia eco plotted in 2013 to acquire a $10- to $12-million building from an elderly congregation in Campbell, California. Echo Church is the multi-site megachurch in San Jose that Wood co-founded in 2008.

Stewart said the plan by Wood and Echo was foiled when upset congregants contacted Stewart about the proposed “partnership strategy,” and GCA blocked the deal. But the tactics Wood used were “unethical” and calculated to exclude GCA, Stewart told TRR.

“It was obvious to me that there was a coordinated plan,” Stewart said. “. . .  And that quickly formed in order to move from being without a pastor to becoming an Echo campus as soon as possible, and to exclude the association from becoming involved.”

Stewart said Wood exhibited similar behavior in 2018, when Echo joined GCA but then withdrew when Echo’s plan to acquire another small church was foiled.

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GCA Assistant Director of Missions Se J. Won confirmed Stewart’s account with TRR. Won said Wood exhibited a pattern of caring about the assets of small churches, but not the people.

“That’s kind of the repeated theme I saw,” Won said. “(Wood) was interested in getting relationally involved if there was something there. But if there wasn’t, then not.” He added that GCA wants to support “new works” at shrinking churches, “but not at the expense of stepping on, or driving out, older senior adults.”

andy wood successor
Andy Wood (Video screengrab)

TRR reached out to Wood for comment through his PR agent, Kristin Cole of A. Larry Ross Communications. Wood responded through Cole that “in the 14 years he served in the Bay Area, there were no allegations of unethical behavior against him or Echo Church related to the Great Commission Association.”

TRR also reached out for comment to Grace Tran, director of marketing and communications at Echo Church, but she did not respond.

These new allegations come on the heels of reports that Wood bullied and spiritually abused staff at Echo Church. Though a third-party investigation commissioned by Saddleback cleared Wood of the allegations, former Echo pastors say victims’ voices were minimized to protect Wood.

Wood also is facing criticism for interviewing disgraced pastor Mark Driscoll at a 2021 leadership conference, and then offering what critics say was a misleading apology.

Additionally, Wood has been accused of misrepresenting the nature of a 2020 merger between Crossroads Church in Fremont, California, and Echo Church.

According to Lance Hough, a former pastor at Crossroads—now Echo’s Fremont Campus—Echo presented the merger as a “marriage,” combining unique elements of both churches. But Hough says Echo replaced everything unique at Crossroads with Echo’s own brand and culture, and the “marriage merger” was more like a “hostile takeover.”

Over the past 15 years, Echo has grown to four campuses and a weekly attendance of around 3,000 people in part due to the merger with Crossroads and two other small, struggling congregations.

All three mergers—billed as “adoption,” “rebirth,” and “marriage” mergers—had been featured on Echo’s website.

echo church acquire
Echo Church website, as of June 1, 2022. (Screengrab)

However, sometime this summer, Echo removed the video and description of the Crossroads merger, and the page now features two mergers only

echo church acquire
Screenshot of Echo Church, current version (Screengrab)

TRR reached out to Echo for an explanation about why the Crossroads merger had been removed from its website, but the church did not respond.

Plan to acquire church in Campbell

Stewart said that in early 2013, he learned that South Bay Church (now called Echo Church) was trying to acquire First Baptist Church of Campbell (FBCC) and that FBCC congregants were upset.

Stewart said a church member called him and said that FBCC pastor Bruce Daniels had resigned suddenly, and that Don Fugate, pastor of neighboring Foxworthy Baptist Church, had assumed the role of interim pastor.

don fugate FBCC
Pastor Don Fugate (Photo via Facebook)

The congregant told Stewart that leadership from South Bay had begun showing up at FBCC services and that Fugate had arranged for South Bay to present a merger proposal to the congregation. The congregant reportedly expressed that the congregation—about 25 elderly people—felt like they had no voice. Instead, they felt Wood and other South Bay leaders were directing everything—and that Pastor Fugate and one FBCC deacon, Bob Duell, were acting in concert with South Bay, Stewart said.

At the time of the proposed merger, Don Fugate’s son, Dave Fugate, was serving as the worship pastor at FBCC. And according to a presentation by South Bay shown at a May 2013 meeting at FBCC, South Bay pledged to hire Dave Fugate “for a minimum of three years” should the merger go through.

South Bay also proposed that FBCC donate its assets—a multi-million-dollar building at 400 Llewellyn Ave. in Campbell—to South Bay and that FBCC become a South Bay campus. In return, South Bay pledged to invest $1.2 million renovating FBCC’s building and to host “a traditional worship service, as needed.” (South Bay’s services were contemporary, but FBCC’s services were more traditional.)

This proposal and process completely bypassed GCA.

Yet according to Stewart, FBCC’s bylaws included a protection clause, naming GCA as the recipient of FBCC’s assets should the church dissolve or cease to function as a cooperating Southern Baptist church.

Unlike South Bay, which was not a GCA member though it had some Southern Baptist ties, FBCC had been a member of GCA for more than 50 years. And Stewart said protection clauses like FBCC’s had become increasingly necessary due to skyrocketing property values and opportunists seeking to prey on vulnerable churches.

“So, you can’t just let the church dissolve,” Stewart said. “If that happens, then . . . you can’t get it from us, especially if you’re not a member church. You’re not going to get access to the facility and you’re certainly not going to get the deed.”

church acquire FBCC
The building at  400 Llewellyn Ave. in Campbell, California, owned by First Baptist Church Campbell. (Photo via Google Maps)

Despite this protection clause, neither South Bay nor Pastor Fugate contacted GCA at the beginning of the 2013 crisis, Stewart said. Instead, Stewart said the first he heard of the proposed merger was when the FBCC congregant called him.

Soon, more congregants began calling GCA, Stewart said, expressing similar concerns that they were being excluded from the process.

“They felt like they were not getting a chance to be heard,” Stewart added.

Claims of “unethical” incentive

Soon after hearing from the congregant, Stewart said he and Se J. Won arranged to meet with Wood and two other South Bay pastors—Filipe Santos and his father, Renan Santos. (Filipe Santos is now acting lead pastor at Echo and Renan Santos is Echo expansion pastor.)

According to Stewart and Won, Wood claimed in the meeting that the merger with FBCC would help reach the “lost.” Wood reportedly added that South Bay could send 300 people to attend the proposed campus in Campbell, which would free up space at South Bay’s North San Jose campus.

“It had a spiritual ring to it,” Stewart said. But Stewart added that when he suggested that South Bay instead allow FBCC to remain independent and send 100 people from South Bay to help the struggling church, South Bay’s leaders were not interested.

“They said that wasn’t possible to do because FBCC would not be their brand,” Stewart said.

GCA mike stewart church acquire
Mike Stewart (Photo via GCA)

Wood then proposed that if GCA would step aside, it could be very good for the association, both Stewart and Won said. Specifically, Wood suggested that GCA would benefit financially from the merger because South Bay would direct many of its young families to a preschool GCA co-owned with FBCC.

Stewart and Won told TRR that GCA’s job was to represent the best interests of FBCC’s congregation, not GCA’s. Stewart said he viewed Wood’s suggestion as “unethical,” adding: “I told them that’s the wrong road to take with me, and that the only (organization) that I was there to represent was the member church that had been with us 50 years.”

After meeting with South Bay leaders, Stewart said GCA then sought to meet with FBCC congregants without South Bay leaders present. However, Pastor Fugate and Deacon Bob Duell canceled the meeting at the last minute, Stewart said.

TRR reached out via email to both Don Fugate and his son, Dave Fugate, for comment. Only Don Fugate responded, stating, he was “not interested in being interviewed about Andy Wood.”

Stewart said Don Fugate has since apologized to him for Fugate’s involvement in South Bay’s “takeover attempt” and “this wound has healed.”

TRR also reached out to Bob Duell. Because Duell now reportedly suffers from dementia, we’re not including any information from our interview.

South Bay’s new proposal

Soon after meeting with Stewart and Won, South Bay presented a new proposal to FBCC, which Stewart claimed was another attempt to bypass GCA.

According to South Bay’s proposed lease agreement obtenido por TRR, FBCC would remain a separate church and retain title for its property at 400 Llewellyn Ave. South Bay then would lease the property from FBCC for 17 years for an undisclosed amount and be allowed to make improvements to the property.

This theoretically would prevent FBCC from dissolving or ceasing to function as a cooperating Southern Baptist Church and avoid triggering the “protection clause” in FBCC’s bylaws reverting the property to GCA.

South Bay also proposed that FBCC agree to the terms of a “Shared Services Agreement,” also obtained by TRR.

This agreement allowed South Bay to host two Sunday services in FBCC’s building—at 9:30 a.m. and 11 a.m.—and to provide any “staffing necessary.” All FBCC staff salaries and job descriptions would be subject to approval by South Bay. And donations collected at the two Sunday services, and “any additional service added by (South Bay),” would be directed toward South Bay.

FBCC would be allowed to continue a “traditional service” at an undisclosed time, the agreement stated, adding that donations collected during the traditional service would go to FBCC.

Echo Church Andy Wood
Founded in 2008 as South Bay Church, Echo Church now has four campuses, including this one in North San Jose, California.

Firm warns of “de facto” merger

When GCA learned of South Bay’s proposal, it commissioned a law firm to assess the legal consequences of South Bay’s actions and to suggest options available to GCA (then the Central Coast Baptist Association).

en un analysis letter, obtained by TRR, Smithers Law Firm stated that South Bay’s proposed “Shared Services Agreement” gave South Bay “broad rights to determine how FBCC should ‘function’” and had many signs of being a “‘de facto’ merger.” This jeopardized compliance with FBCC’s bylaws, which stated that FBCC “is subject to the control of no other ecclesiastical body,” the analysis stated.

As examples of the “de facto merger,” Smithers noted that the Shared Services Agreement required FBCC to obtain “written approval” by South Bay to enter into “any new agreement, obtain any new liability, or purchase any fixed asset.” The agreement also gave South Bay an “equal say in the nomination and choosing of a Senior Pastor.”

Smithers also warned that South Bay would likely obtain a loan to improve FBCC’s property, which would involve “encumbering the FBCC property as security.” Smithers also noted that South Bay could terminate its lease without obligation on relatively short notice. (The lease agreement stipulated 180 days’ notice, but the Shared Services Agreement stipulated only 30 days’ notice.)

“This ‘early termination’ provision poses the potential for South Bay to mortgage the property, and then vacate the premises on very short notice,” Smithers stated. “In other words, the proposed tenancy by South Bay for 17 years is illusory; South Bay can terminate the lease on short notice with or without cause. FBCC would be left without South Bay as a tenant—but still obligated to make the mortgage payments initiated by South Bay.”

Stewart said the legal analysis confirmed his suspicions that South Bay’s proposal was not a good faith offer in the best interests of FBCC’s congregation, but an attempt to work around the protection clause in FBCC’s bylaws.

“It was an attempt to try and get (FBCC) to be okay with Echo (South Bay) basically taking over operational control,” Stewart said. “. . . It was not righteous.”

Smithers’ analysis concluded that GCA had a legal right to protect its “reversionary interest” in FBCC’s assets and to request a hearing between GCA’s Executive Board and FBCC.

The purpose of the hearing would be to determine if FBCC had ceased to function as a self-governing Southern Baptist Church. If that were determined to be the case, GCA could enact the provision in the protection clause and assume control of FBCC’s assets.

Contentious deliberations precede hearing

Stewart told TRR that Wood requested that South Bay leaders be allowed to attend GCA’s hearing with FBCC. Stewart said he denied Wood’s request because South Bay was not a member of GCA.

Similarly, FBCC Deacon Bob Duell and Pastor Don Fugate, whom Stewart said were acting as “puppets” of South Bay, also requested that Fugate be allowed to attend the hearing. Stewart said he denied the request because Fugate was not a member of FBCC, and Fugate’s church, Foxworthy Baptist Church, was not a cooperating GCA church.

Stewart said Duell also asked that Douglas Griffin, an attorney with the California Baptist Foundation, be included in the hearing to represent FBCC. Stewart said he would allow an attorney to attend the hearing if the attorney was legitimately hired by FBCC, not just Duell. Stewart told TRR that the other FBCC officers opposed the merger with South Bay.

en un 2013 email thread shared with TRR, Stewart wrote Baptist polity expert Dewey Squyres, asking for advice. Squyers responded that Duell could not hire an attorney to represent FBCC on his own.

Squyres added, “It would be HIGHLY inappropriate for an attorney employed by the California Baptist Foundation (CBF) to become involved in this case. The CBF serves all California Southern Baptists and should not insinuate itself into a matter such as this . . .”

Andy Wood Echo
Andy Wood teaches at Echo Church (Source: Video screengrab)

On July 20, 2013— the day of the hearing—Wood sent an email to then-CBF President Philip Kell and CBF Attorney Douglas Griffin complaining about Stewart’s “tactics.” (The email also went to Se J. Won, Deacon Bob Duell, Don Fugate, and several others.)

“Not allowing South Bay to be in this meeting to represent herself considering the accusations that are being made is concerning,” Wood wrote, adding that Stewart had also denied FBCC from having “any legal representation” at the hearing. “I would ask yourself today if this is a just procedure that is pleasing to God.”

Wood wrote he would like to meet with the recipients of the email but had decided with his attorney and Duell that “it would not be wise to lower ourselves by fighting Mike (Stewart) to be in this meeting.”

TRR reached out to CBF Attorney Griffin and Kell, asking about their response to Wood in 2013, but neither responded.

At the hearing on July 20, 2013, GCA’s executive board voted 21 to zero in favor of sending a letter to FBCC strongly warning against the merger with South Bay, Stewart and Won said.

“All ‘partnership’ considerations with South Bay Church currently being considered should be discontinued immediately,” the board stated in its letter to FBCC. “This is an impossible arrangement. If the proposed ‘partnership’ were to be implemented, it would result in the virtual disappearance of FBC Campbell and the transference of its property to (GCA).”

According to Stewart, the letter was read to FBCC’s congregation the following week, and all but two or three members were “ecstatic.”

South Bay then withdrew its attempt to partner with FBCC, Stewart and Won said.

The next year (2014), GCA brought in John Wallace to pastor FBCC—a role Wallace still holds today. FBCC (now called True Hope) remains an autonomous church and is in the process of merging with another small Baptist church, Eden Church.

Wallace told TRR that the merger has been a “very positive,” organic process that started two years ago, when Eden lost its meeting place due to COVID and began meeting in FBCC’s building. Wallace said Eden’s pastor, Daniel Atondo, loved and embraced FBCC’s congregation, which has been reciprocated.

When the merger is complete, Atondo will take over the combined congregation of about 130 people as lead pastor. Wallace will continue as teaching pastor and will lead the smaller of two services at the church.

Angry meeting with Andy Wood

In 2013, about two weeks after GCA’s hearing, Stewart said he sent Wood an invitation to meet with him and Won to “clear the air.”

Wood came to the meeting with Filipe and Renan Santos and was upset and angry, Stewart said.

“They felt like I had gotten in the way of something great that God wanted to do,” Stewart said. “And after about 40 minutes of talking about how God was going to judge me . . . I told them, ‘Look, I get it. You’re upset. But I have a Savior and I’ve tried to do what he’s led me to do. . . . And I don’t actually answer to you guys.’”

se won
Se J. Won (Photo via GCA)

Won said Wood was “very angry” and disrespectful in the meeting.

“I have never seen a pastor, young pastor, do and speak like that to any other pastor or leader, or somebody older,” Won said. “If you’re frustrated, you’re still talking to a brother in Christ, who serves the Lord. We could disagree, but . . . the tone, the way of pointing the fingers—that wasn’t right.”

About a year later, Wood apologized to Stewart for the way he behaved, Stewart said. But the saga with Andy Wood and South Bay (Echo Church) was not over.

In 2018, Echo seemed eager to make amends with GCA and applied for membership in the association—but there reportedly was a catch. Echo again was seeking to acquire a small, struggling GCA church. And according to Stewart, when Echo was rebuffed, Wood retaliated.

We tell that story in part two of this report.

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54 pensamientos sobre “EXCLUSIVE: Incoming Saddleback Pastor Has Predatory Pattern of Trying to Acquire Churches, Baptist Group Says”

  1. Mr. Wood wrote, “… it would not be wise to lower ourselves by fighting Mike (Stewart) to be in this meeting.”

    Jesus said his disciples should always seek out the lowest place.

  2. “Your sins will find you out…” I was attending CalBaptist in Riverside, Ca and working for Conferences&Events on campus. While working an even on a Saturday morning I heard an old Baptist preacher yell at the top of his lungs, “your sins will find you out”. This statement has not only stayed with me but wrung true enough times to know, you can’t run from your past!

    Mr. Andy Wood has put himself under a microscope and his sins are finding him out. Some may call it “spiritual attacks” and I’ve manipulated scripture to cover up my stuff too!

    I know this, facing the truth is hard. Especially, for those who have made the decision to put this young man and his family in the position. But even harder for Andy Wood if he has the mental ability to look at himself in the mirror and realize he is the person that’s behind these accusations.

  3. The problem isn’t Andy Wood, it’s his facilitator, Rock (Star) Warren, who believes and practices all of the things that Wood does and has, merely with “nice” clothing. Wood is his baby; he is his hand-picked successor, because he stands for what he does, and will carry on his legacy. This isn’t rocket-science, brethren.

    The vast majority of the worldly relevance/hipness/seeker craze infecting the very bones of contemporary mainstream evangelicalism can be traced to three men: Warren, Osteen, and Hybels. God promised us we would be DESPISED and REVILED by the culture, not idolized by it. A “pastor” that claims anything else is not a pastor, but a Pied Piper.

    It’s far, far, far past time for the professional discernment community to start holding a critical focus on the first two of those names, particularly the first one.

    1. Brian, you have me lost….

      You reference “Despised” and Reviled – BUT the common people heard Jesus gladly – and he was accused of being a drunkard/glutton..

      The people that despised Him and His followers were the white American evangelicals of the day….

      This whining of persecution is a complete mis-reading of the text. I get along great with the people who are unsaved – because I act like Jesus. On the other hand religious people do not like me – because I identify their sin – as I am called to do – and as Jesus did – AND as I quickly receive in return from them.

      1. Greg Logan,

        Repeating the mainstream narrative often enough, doesn’t make it true. Yes, a lot of the peasantry flocked to Jesus in the flesh for a time… only to scatter as soon as the real persecution came, or they realized he wasn’t going to be a vehicle for their earthly dreams (liberation from Rome).

        Preaching that God wants you to be happy, healthy, rich, actualized, fulfilled, live your best life/purpose-filled life, etc. now isn’t the same as preaching that you are dead in sin and bound for hell, and that every minute of life you are redeemed from that is an incalculably precious gift. It’s the complete opposite. This isn’t hard to understand.

        But, to directly answer you, most American professing Christians are not what you derisively refer to as “white evangelicals”–they are mainliners, Catholics, or various ethnic denoms, etc. that are either about traditionalism and carrying on whatever their parents taught, or slapping Christ’s name onto some kind of secular social-justice mission. And, I hate to break it to you, but a lot of minority evangelicals are anything but liberal.

      2. cristobal hanley

        Greg, I am a “white evangelical” separate from my late parents(whom I love). I’m also a hereditary bipolar and a victim of homosexual child rape from the age of age 6. I’m sorry you can’t accept my race. I hope you can avoid rejecting my biological heritage and my unavoidable past. Some Christians cant.

    2. brian-
      It seems you are doing anything and everything you can to make sure people share in your hatred of Rick Warren. I really pray for you on that.
      Can you show me where Saddleback was participating in the same “predatory” behavior shown in this article? Can you show me proof of where Rick Warren was coaching and teaching Andy Wood to do this? If not, I caution you to be careful not to be SO blinded by your hatred of Rick Warren that you start slandering. Let’s stick to the issue at hand, please.

  4. Roberto Simpson

    Thank you for this reporting. I would like to see some interviews with the members of FBCC/True Hope Church about this series of events.

  5. I finally understand how God works. In a meeting If my ego is bigger than yours than God is on my side. Got it. Way to go Mr. Won when you said (I don’t actually answer to you guys). Perfect answer. Not what they wanted to hear but hey, what the heck.

  6. Of the many disturbing pieces of information in this article, the one that stands out the most to me, for some reason, is the fact that Woods has a PR agent that speaks on his behalf. I’m sure many other celebrity pastors have the same. But it seems really backwards to me given that Jesus was among crowds of people very often and not only allowed, but encouraged people to have access to him. Yes, he needed time for rest as we all do. But he wasn’t avoiding people to hide or cover up his actions. Why is this acceptable now? People can only have access through a PR agent? Why is being a celebrity pastor acceptable at all? Just asking for a friend.

    1. come on Brian we have discussed this. The campus is at the corner of El toro and Portola parkway in lake forest. And it’s nice but not some palatial palace. Play nice.

        1. Bill Philbin, that seems to be true of little First Baptist Church of Campbell, too. The increase in property values in California over the last few decades isn’t the responsibility of either congregation.

        2. We might differ on the definition of “lavish”, but prime land in South Orange County was never, ever cheap.

          But I was specifically speaking of the buildings, themselves. Go and drive by it, I gave coordinates in another thread or you can just use Google Maps, decide for yourself.

        3. Hey Bill, I’m from lake forest. He bought the land when it was in the boonies and no developer wanted it including the Irvine company. Please do your homework before you pass judgment. In 1981 my condo in lake forest was $25,000. It’s now worth $490,000.00. Welcome to Orange County California. People if you’re not from Orange County please do not judge land or home value. Nobody in OC in the eighties would have ever guessed real estate would skyrocket in the 21st century. Areas that were acres of open fields in the eighties are now overpriced housing tracts of the 21st century.

        4. Gary Weigel,

          I am a near-lifelong So Cal’er. I know OC in general and South Orange County specifically, too, like the back of my hand. It’s true that everywhere, the price of land/housing has skyrocketed well out of the pace of normal inflation–but nobody ever would have considered SOC “affordable”, period.

          You’d never, ever have thought of Newport, Laguna, Coto de Caza etc. as being bastions of affordable rent for the working class. Let’s get that straight right now.

        5. Marcos Gunderson

          Brian, it kind of sounds like you’re passing judgment on people simply for living in South Orange County.

          Would it make you feel better if there were no believers or churches there at all?

    2. Unfortunately Cynthia, I think you are correct. I believe some of them use our Savior as a way to promote their “brand” and in doing so, THEY gain the glory and the riches that come along with it. It is really sad. They are blind men heading towards a ditch, and leading many people to the same place. And they do not even have the spiritual discernment to realize it.

  7. Mergers and acquisitions. PR agents. This is just another entertainment business. It’s time to start taxing the evangelical industry. These evangelical churches contribute nothing to their communities. It’s time they pay up.

  8. This is certainly an interesting piece of the puzzle and I would like to read the second part of the story before drawing conclusions. One oft-leveled criticism since Wood was announced relates to the use of a PR representative. In my estimation, we may be overcooking this criticism a bit. We have to remember that Warren’s stature coupled with the enormous size of Saddleback makes the naming of a successor international news. Having pastored a church of 1,000 and served in churches of 5,000 plus, I can tell you how quickly one runs out of personal margin. It sounds like we are expecting Wood to provide leadership and oversight to the staff of Echo, to transition effectively into Saddleback, to preach biblically based and compelling messages that both reach the lost and nourish believers, to maintain a high level of personal evangelism and moral integrity, to keep himself spiritually, emotionally, and physically healthy, to respond to the needs of the congregation, and to do so while maintaining healthy family dynamics and a strong marriage. Are we also saying that we want him to personally respond to every question a journalist or blogger has about his new role? Is that really a fair expectation here? I understand the optics of having a PR firm respond for you, but using that to paint Wood negatively seems like fault-finding pettiness and not a matter requiring Biblical correction.

    1. I understand that pastors of megachurches have limited time. However, these are serious, well-documented allegations. Rather than responding with a blanket statement through a third party, I would expect someone in Wood’s position to respond to these detailed allegations with thorough explanations. To date, that has not happened.

      1. Wow Brian you need to relax. And how many evangelicals were kissing the robe of trump. No problem with that? come on Brian play nice.

        1. Gary Weigel,

          “And how many evangelicals were kissing the robe of trump. No problem with that? come on Brian play nice.”

          I’ve seen more fruits of the Spirit (meaning, defined as actions, rather than words) out of Trump while he was in office, than out of Wood and Warren and Osteen and clan. You brought Trump up in an irrelevant topic, so there you go, I answered back with Trump.

      2. Sorry Brian, nobody owes you an explanation on anything. If not happy with Saddleback, then wash them from your life. Sorry it isn’t about you.

      3. I agree that Wood needs to respond to the allegations. I don’t think his utilization of a PR rep automatically indicates some deficiency in his character. I have read enough comments in the continuing series of articles about Saddleback that specifically highlight the presence of a PR rep as automatically indicative of a character flaw in Wood or Warren. I think that criticism is weak and lessens the seriousness of the other allegations.

        1. It does, however, indicate a deficiency in the larger evangelical church, in my opinion. My experience has overwhelmingly been that PR agents cause more harm to the church than good. They almost always obscure the truth, bolster the wrongdoer, and attack the victims. Their job is to protect the client, not uphold what’s true and good. The church would be in an infinitely better place if instead of hiring PR agents, these pastors would try something radical–honesty and sincerity. I highly recommend listening to what Wade Mullen has to say on the subject on this podcast: https://julieroys.com/podcast/wade-mullen-the-power-of-truth-sincerity/

          1. julie roys,

            “It does, however, indicate a deficiency in the larger evangelical church, in my opinion. My experience has overwhelmingly been that PR agents cause more harm to the church than good.”

            Yes. If your church has a PR team or advertising team, a permanently standing legal team, NDAs, and the like–it’s not a church, it’s a Fortune 500 corporation–and, as Tim Olsen commented above, ought to be taxed and regulated as such.

    2. “It sounds like we are expecting Wood to …”

      I expect nothing of Mr. Wood, but if the list that follows is honestly what “we” – some group including Jon Stevens – expect, I think that’s awfully unrealistic. Maybe people shouldn’t expect massively more of their pastor than they expect from themselves or give their pastor authority and power that they couldn’t handle themselves.

      1. Cynthia Wright,

        Maybe a pastor wasn’t meant to attempt to shepherd 25,000 people at a time. Maybe that’s not the Biblical model of a church, to begin with.

        As I have said before–even the best-intentioned megachurch pastors find their values and matrix compromised by the reality of what running a flock the size of a mid-sized Midwestern city entails. But, the vast majority of them, in my strong opinion, never began with benevolent intentions to begin with.

        1. Mr. Patrick, I don’t think a person could herd 250 people, if “herding” included the long list offered by Mr. Stevens. I’m also not sure why all those people would want all that herding. Where’s their personal agency?

        2. Brian and Cynthia –
          I do understand your points. In scripture, we do see how Moses was advised to separate the Israelites into more manageable group sizes AND delegate oversight of each group. It was just too much for him to shepherd them alone.
          This is why I am understanding of churches that have pastoral staffs, with each assigned to lead a specific group.
          One person can only do so much shepherding.

          1. Good points, Marin Heiskell.

            Moses’s deputies were assigned particularly to judge disputes among the people, not to be their intermediary with God.

      2. I wholeheartedly agree with you. It is far too much for a pastor to take on. But I can assure you that the list I gave is exactly what people in the church expect from their pastor. Which item is optional? Which do you let slip? Something has to give. There is a reason why I have not pastored in 3 years and I am so grateful to be out.

  9. This sounds a lot like how Fellowship Church does things. Acquire an existing congregation (Miami — as previously reported here — or South Biscayne (North Port FL) or Norman) then close it and sell the building with the proceeds going to Texas. Being a now former member all this happened long after I left but definitely factored in my friend and my decision not to return and go elsewhere.

    1. In the UK a Mr. Barry King from the USA has invented an organisation called ‘Grace Baptist Partnership’, coined to suggest that it is part of the Grace Baptist Association (it isn’t, although they seem to condone his operations). Mr. King is cannibalising increasing numbers of struggling churches here, and putting his acolytes in as pastors, including his own 3 sons. He frequently begs for money on social media. Any challenge to his motives/operations results in no response and the blocking of the questioner. He is revered by the naive……

    1. cristobal hanley

      No, actually one doesn’t wonder why such thing. One either rejects the notion or is firmly convinced of it, depending on “ones” preconceived notions. But thanks for almost asking.

  10. Wood and the rest of his brood of vipers do not follow Christ. They follow self. A narcissist alpha male and his group of beta males who have no love, no ethics. The character of Satan in a false cloak of light. “You will know them by their deeds.” I suspect such are popular because their congregations also do not actually follow Christ’s teachings. They want an alt-Jesus who is carnal like they are. Such saves no one.

    1. Mr. Ralph Jesperson,

      They are a gamma horde in alpha/beta positions, not alphas followed by betas. It is the same with TD Jakes/JMD/Osteen/Driscol, they are the secret kings unto themselves. A true alpha leads by example, not words that do not match their character, and do not hide when they make a mistake or someone on their team harms the group.

  11. The small, 1960s(?) building in Campbell, is certainly a far cry from the ‘big box’ retailer premises of Echo church. Maybe that tells us something
    The Campbell building looks like it was made by a community of Christians for a community of Christians hoping to serve each other and make disciples. I could be wrong of course. But there’s something quite sweet and unpretentious about those simple 60s buildings.

  12. My longish comment about similar ‘take-over’ strategies migrating from America to the UK has not appeared here for some reason,

    Please google Grace Baptist ‘Partnership’ in the UK, and its head honcho, Barry King.

    1. Mark Lynn,

      “Perfect example of how the business of the church has supplanted the PURPOSE of the Church.”

      I wonder how many Christians drowning in medical debt the sales of Purpose Driven Life alone could have rescued… or prospective missionaries sent to Bible college, or disaster victims relieved.

      1. Porque raíz de todos los males es el amor al dinero, el cual codiciando algunos, se extraviaron de la fe, y fueron traspasados de muchos dolores.

        The megachurch movement worships money as its god and leads millions to their eternal damnation.

        1. Mark S. Lynn,

          “The megachurch movement worships money as its god and leads millions to their eternal damnation.”

          I could not have wrote it better myself if my life depended on it. You nailed it.

          The Saddleback defenders don’t tend to say a whole lot when I ask whether southern California in general/South Orange County in particular are more culturally conformed to Christianity now, or at the time Saddleback began its operations. I don’t think this is a difficult or unreasonable question, considering what a massive and influential church this is, that has had such high media visibility for so long–certainly in OC, but also nationally.

          What do you think the answer to my question is, Mark?

          1. Speaking for myself, I don’t say much because I believe that is a question a lot of us would have a tough time answering about our respective churches.
            The church as a collective whole has very high visibility across this nation, but are we seeing a culture that is culturally conformed to Christianity?
            I’m in Chicago, and while I have attended 2 different churches while living here (one small, one “mega”) – and have been discipled and blessed at both – I cannot say that the culture of Chicago is conforming to Christianity.
            So I’d be a hypocrite to hold Saddleback alone to this standard. That and I have limited knowledge of Saddleback church, which I do separate from Rick Warren (I am familiar with his works as an author). Conflating a church with its pastor is very iffy territory, regardless of if there are 200 members or 2000.

  13. I have a very sincere and I hope a wise question: given all of the “Stuff” that keeps coming out on this new Pastor slated to take over for Rick Warren, why don’t they do a second review of this young man before they turn the Church over to him? I don’t believe that everyone is lying on him! Rick Warren should do his due diligence and do a second run on this guy because he has worked too hard to build a good name for himself, and his Church is well respected. I wouldn’t step down after hearing all of these allegations since the supposedly background check. Maybe I would ask the Leadership to get a second background check going by a different organization. I think they may very well regret it if you tune everybody out!

    1. Wayne Cooper,

      “Rick Warren should do his due diligence and do a second run on this guy because he has worked too hard to build a good name for himself, and his Church is well respected.”

      This demonstrates not true absence of scandal, but that the discernment/whistleblowing community has been too seduced by the “niceness” of leaders like Warren and Osteen to properly scrutinize them and their activities. It’s easier to go after overt bullies like Driscoll and MacArthur than “kind” pastors everyone loves.

  14. For all you still confused about Rick warrens motives. Listen to todays sermon at saddleback. It’s okay to fast forward through the announcements and music. It will be his last but was actually his first sermon in front of sixty people way back when. Listen to what he says God wants his church to be. Then ask yourself if God hasn’t had a hand in the churches growth.

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