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Easter weekend at Saddleback yields 2,000-plus for Christ

LAKE FOREST, Calif. (BP)–It’s never been about numbers at Saddleback, but this Easter was another record-breaker at one of the largest Southern Baptist churches in the country.

During five weekend services, 2,082 people accepted Christ at Saddleback Community Church in Lake Forest, Calif., marking the fourth year in a row the church has recorded more than 1,000 decisions to accept Christ during the Easter weekend.

Easter has been an important event at Saddleback ever since its first service on Easter morning in 1980. But the significance of Easter goes beyond Saddleback’s birthday.

“Easter is always our best evangelistic service, where people give their lives to Christ,” said pastor Rick Warren, founding pastor of Saddleback. “It’s a great time of seeing lives changed.”

Saddleback squeezed more than 32,000 people into seven services over the Easter weekend. The church averages about 15,000 in five weekly services during a normal week.

This year’s Easter total of 2,082 people coming to Christ at Saddleback almost doubled the 1,100 new believers during the Easter services in 1998. Much of Saddleback’s Easter success lies in a month-long push before the holiday weekend to encourage members to bring their friends to the weekend services. The church tries to offer a non-threatening venue for those friends to hear the gospel.

“[Pastor Rick] has a refreshing and relaxing way of communicating,” said Kathleen Pyle, who attended Saddleback for the first time during Easter. “That meant a lot to me. That will bring me back.”

Nearly 2,000 volunteers helped make this Easter Saddleback’s most effective to date. From the greeters, ushers and musicians to those who work the Fresh Start with God table and take photos, volunteers were indispensable to Saddleback’s Easter festivities.

“I really appreciate each of the volunteers,” Warren said. “Their labor isn’t in vain — lives have been changed.”

Much of the weekend’s excitement centered on the Fresh Start with God table (Saddleback’s ministry to new believers), where hundreds of people picked up a Bible and began a new relationship with Jesus.

Sergio Palayo worked at the Fresh Start with God table after each of the seven services last weekend. As he prayed with new believers and gave them Bibles, he saw God change lives.

“Whenever we talk to people, we often don’t realize what we are saying,” Sergio said. “That is because it is God talking through us.”

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  • Tobin Perry