We lost a giant of faith

Dear Saddleback Family,

It is with a broken heart and tears that I tell you Pastor John Baker died suddenly early this morning. We are all in shock because John had overcome the cancer he’d fought and it looked like God was giving him another season of ministry.

Please pray for sweet Cheryl, Johnny and Jeni, Laura and Brian Gibney, and all the rest of their wonderful family. John has been a pillar of Saddleback for decades. He served in so many areas: first as a volunteer, then as a staff member, then as a pastor, and finally for years as an elder.

And, of course, John was the co-founder of Celebrate Recovery. We would have never started it if he hadn’t brought his original idea to me. Now it is a world-wide movement that has transformed the lives of millions.

I am writing this in shock, with tears flooding down my face. John was one of my best friends. After coming to Christ, John dedicated his life to serving God’s Church. This morning, our elders gathered for prayer for all the Baker family, and it felt so sad to not have John’s “box” on our zoom call where he normally would be. We are all so brokenhearted.

Four words summarize what John’s life represented to me:

GRACE: John lived the grace of God. Because God had shown him grace, he was gracious to others, always offering them another chance when they stumbled.

GRATITUDE: John lived the attitude of gratitude. He never took for granted all the blessings God bestowed on him. In fact, the very last words that John said to me (yesterday) were “Thank you, thank you Rick” because I had helped him get vaccinated for COVID-19 because I was concerned about his lowered immunity from cancer. John and Cheryl have had a secret ministry of liberal generosity that only I knew about. We would rejoice together in the joy of giving. John’s gratitude expressed itself in generosity.

TRUTH: John was unafraid to speak the truth, but he always spoke it in love (Ephesians 4:15). Having done many different interventions with CR, John assisted me, more than any other person at Saddleback, when I had to deal with the most unpleasant and confrontational situations in our church family over the decades. Together we often had to lead people from stubborn denial to humble confession so that their healing could begin.

LOYAL: John was a 100% loyal staff member. John was well aware that no church is perfect, and every church and leader has its own weaknesses, but John chose to make a difference, and he never griped or grumbled. Why? Because of his grace, his gratitude, his truth, and his loyalty to Saddleback and me personally was driven by a far greater loyalty to his Lord and Savior who had saved him.

“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.” Psalm 116:15

Pastor Rick
Pastor Rick Warren
Saddleback Church
Purpose Driven Network
Global P.E.A.C.E. Initiative
Finishing the Task Coalition
Daily HOPE Broadcast

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