By Bob Allen
Southern Baptist megachurch pastor and Purpose Driven Life author Rick Warren sent a letter April 6 informing church members his youngest son had committed suicide.
The pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., said 27-year-old Matthew Warren struggled his whole life with mental illness, depression and suicidal thoughts. After spending a fun evening with his parents Friday night, the son ended his life at home “in a momentary wave of despair.”
“No words can express the anguished grief we feel right now,” Warren wrote. He described his son as “an incredibly kind, gentle and compassionate man.”
“He had a brilliant intellect and a gift for sensing who was most in pain or most uncomfortable in a room,” Warren wrote. “He’d then make a bee-line to that person to engage and encourage them.”
On Sunday, Warren thanked his Twitter followers for their support. “Kay and I are overwhelmed by your love, prayers and kind words,” he wrote. You all are encouraging our broken hearts.”
The son of a Baptist preacher, Warren, 59, is a graduate of California Baptist University who received his M.Div. from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1979 and a D.Min. from Fuller Theological Seminary.
In April 1980, Warren held Saddleback Church’s first public service in a high school theater with about 200 people attending. Today, it is the eighth largest church in America, with more than 19,000 members.
In 1995, he shared his church-growth philosophy in The Purpose Driven Church. His 2002 devotional book, The Purpose Driven Life, sold more than 30 million copies and remained on the New York Times best-seller list of advice books for one of the longest periods in history.