Dear Saddleback Family,
Life is bittersweet.
It is bittersweet because nothing stays the same forever on earth. Anytime an experience or relationship is going great, we want it to never end. But even if we try, we cannot keep change from happening. Everything changes with time.
I’ll never forget when I moved off to college, feeling the loss both my parents and I felt, yet knowing I couldn’t live at home forever. It was bittersweet.
I’ll never forget officiating at my daughter Amy’s wedding, knowing that her allegiance to me as “the man in her life” was now transferring to her husband. It was good thing, and the right thing to do, but it was bittersweet.
I’ll never forget when Glen Kreun told me it was time for someone else to take his place of leadership after serving faithfully by my side for decades. That was bittersweet, too.
While all of us want to grow, we don’t like the ‘letting go of the familiar’ part of growth. But the truth is, there is no growth without change, there is no change without loss, and there is no loss without pain and grief. That’s what makes life bittersweet.
For the past three years, our Elders – the men who have served longest with me at Saddleback Church – have been prayerfully discussing, strategizing, and thinking through the long range plans for our church family. We’ve struggled with the goals for Decade of Destiny, what it means to make room for a new generation of Saddleback leaders, how we should hand over authority to new leaders, and what our church might look like after we’ve all passed from the scene. We knew we needed to start planning the transition years in advance.
A verse that we’ve thought a lot about is John 16:7 where Jesus told the young leaders he had trained, “I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you.” Jesus knew that, as long as he was present, the disciples would never take on the leadership he had been training them for. Young leaders rarely step up until older leaders step aside.
My longest serving pastors – Glen Kreun, Rick Muchow, Doug Fields, Tom Holladay, Steve Rutenbar, and John Baker – have joked for years that we all intended to step aside for new, younger leaders on the same date. Then we’d all travel the world together, training other churches. But we eventually realized that if we all transitioned out of pastoring Saddleback at the same time, it would leave such a sudden leadership vacuum that our church family might not recover from the shock. We knew the transition to the next generation had to be more measured. So here was our plan:
First, I built a preaching team to share the preaching responsibility. For years, I was the only one who preached, and Rick Muchow was the only worship leader. Those days are long gone. Last year, Pastors Tom, Buddy, Kurt, Kenny, Tommy, and Gerald all shared in preaching at Lake Forest, and our Campus Pastors spoke at our other campuses. As the church grew, the number of preachers needed to grow.
Next, about three years ago, we moved seven of my original pastors (including myself) off of our Pastor’s Management Team in order to make room for our younger pastors to start leading the church. I also created a larger Leadership Team of women and men from our staff to coordinate the many programs of our church. These risky organizational changes proved incredibly successful, giving us our three greatest years of health and development since then. My original eight pastors moved out of decision-making to become advisors and mentors to the younger pastors who replaced us in managing the church. But, the Pastor of Worship role (held by Rick Muchow) on the Pastor’s Management Team was left empty for three years. We kept waiting for the right person to fill Rick’s role.
Next, Pastor Glen came to me and said, “I need to move off the scene as Executive Pastor in order for the younger guys to blossom.” Well, when Glen left staff, we discovered that his job had grown so much that it took four people to replace him as we divided up his responsibilities. Saddleback had grown too large for one administrator, and the day of a single Executive Pastor was over.
A full year later, Pastor Doug Fields told me, “The guys I’ve trained are ready to take over in leading our Student Ministry, and I’m ready to let them lead.” So Doug retired from Saddleback staff and began a new ministry to youth leaders worldwide.
Then, this past year, in 2011, Pastor Rick Muchow began raising up a new generation of Pastors of Worship who could take our church into the future. With eight campuses, Saddleback now needed eight worship leaders, not just one. Thanks to Rick’s mentoring, we now have a team of outstanding worship pastors that he has been rotating at the Lake Forest services.
But now, as we launch 12 more Saddlebacks in international cities, our team of worship pastors will need to grow to at least 20! The era of a single worship pastor, just like the era of a single preaching pastor, is over.
For the past year, we’ve been talking about what kind of new organization, and what kind of new leadership skills, will be needed in our worship team which will bear such a huge responsibility in planting our PEACE outpost churches. We concluded that the reorganized and decentralized worship team would need a new team leader whose primary gifts are management and supervision rather than being gifted as a musician, artist, and songwriter. What is needed now is not a single outstanding on-stage worship leader and musician but someone gifted at behind–the-scenes coordination of 20 young worship leaders rotating through Saddleback. I asked Rick Muchow if he wanted this new role and he declined. Rick, as we all know, excels in leading services, funerals, and weddings. He’s a true pastor, with a pastor’s heart, but he would tell you he is not an administrator. So the search began.
My first preference was to look for a new team leader inside our existing staff instead of bringing in a stranger from the outside. I quickly thought of John Cassetto, who had 14 years of experience in administering a worship team in a purpose driven church near Boston before joining our PEACE staff. So I asked Rick Muchow if he thought John could take his role as the new Pastor of Worship and Team Leader. Rick told me “John is exactly the guy I would choose”.
Based on that confirmation, last year we quietly began the process of preparing for another major transition in our church from one generation to the next - the transition from Rick Muchow to John Cassetto, much in the same way we did with the transitions of Glen and Doug Fields.
I told Rick Muchow that I didn’t want to do 40 Days in the Word without my trusted friend and coworker helping me, so I didn’t want to make the leadership transition until after the campaign was completed. But now we are only three weeks away from the end of 40 Days in the Word. So, I’m writing to tell you that, as we’ve been planning since last year, Rick Muchow will be stepping down from his historic 24-year ministry at Saddleback, and John Cassetto will become the leader of a more decentralized, international, and more complex worship team that will support and administer all our worship leaders in 20 locations around the world.
Personally, this is the most bittersweet moment I’ve had in 32 years as your pastor.
I know it is the right thing to do, but it is at great personal grief to me. Rick Muchow is simply one of my closest and deepest friends. No one else has experienced with me as many Saddleback service high points. We have watched God do miracles before our eyes and the team of “Rick and Rick” has been inseparable for 24 years. So understand me, this organizational change is not what’s most comfortable for either Rick Muchow or me personally… but it is what our church needs next.
Saddleback owes an enormous debt to Rick Muchow. So for the next three weeks we will be preparing to celebrate “RICK MUCHOW WEEKEND” at Saddleback on February 25 and 26, just as we did with Pastor Glen’s transition. On that weekend, the final weekend of 40 Days in the Word, we will honor our great friend Rick Muchow in many ways. One of the ways will be to present to him a book of testimonies of how his music, his songs, and his worship leading have transformed your life. I URGE you to go to this link and share your story.
I intend to write another full News & Views on the legacy of Rick Muchow, a giant in contemporary worship. There is simply no one like him on this planet. I will also introduce you to John Cassetto’s new role as Saddleback’s next generation Pastor of Worship.
The first question people always ask is, ‘Is there more to the story? Was there a problem or conflict?’ Let me state the answer as clearly and emphatically as I can: NO! No way! Absolutely not! This new organizational change has been under consideration for three years and is part of our Decade of Destiny renewal.
Rick will continue being our lifelong friend, just like Glen and Doug and so many others who’ve transitioned off staff to make way for younger leadership. The second question we usually ask is ‘What will Rick Muchow do now?’ The honest answer is whatever God wants him to do! Rick belongs to God, not Saddleback. Rick is calling his next ministry phase “Act III” since Saddleback was his Act II ministry. But the first thing I want my friend to do is to enjoy his success! In 24 years, Rick has never had an extended time off at all – so we are honoring him with the financial support so he and Laura can take their time to discern whatever God calls them to do next. I guarantee you this: you haven’t heard the last of him!!!
During these next three weeks, as we prepare for Rick Muchow Weekend, please take time to tell us your story and what this man of God means to your life. And, send him an email, or stop him in the grocery store, and tell him how much he has changed you and the world.