Saddleback Church for the first time in its 33-year history will launch campuses outside of United States. The significance is that they will be planted in 12 strategic "Gateway Cities" around the world for their proximity to the final 3,800 people groups that still do not have a church.
"The ultimate goal is to finish the Great Commission by planting a body of Jesus (church), a Bible (portion of God's word) and a believer in the last unengaged people groups on Earth," Warren explained in a press release, according to The Christian Post. "Jesus said one day in heaven there will be people from every tribe and nation worshipping around God's throne. I intend to use all my influence in rallying the Global Church to do what Jesus commanded us 2000 years ago!"
Beginning this Sunday, Saddleback Hong Kong will be the first to launch, among the first three international campuses, on October 6, then Saddleback Berlin and Buenos Aires will follow suit in the subsequent Sundays, Oct. 13th and Oct. 20th. Over the next few years, campuses will open in other gateway cities including Accra, Amman, Bangalore, Johannesburg, London, Manilla, Mexico City, Moscow, and Tokyo.
The targeted "unengaged" groups are those "who have had little or no exposure to the Bible, Christian churches or missionaries," the Saddleback Church explained. These launches are fruits of their year-long work with the "12 Cities PEACE Plan"; they have worked toward strengthening local churches by providing pastors with Purpose Driven training, and meet the practical needs of the poor and marginalized in those cities.
Saddleback's PEACE Pastor Jimmie Davidson told The Christian Post that these global campuses, while headed by pastors already linked to local culture, will feature live worship and video or satellite-feed messages from Warren, the senior pastor of each congregation.
In Hong Kong, local church leaders are anticipating around 500-800 people to show up at Munsang College in Kowloon City at 2:30 p.m.
Stephen Lee, who will be pastoring the Hong Kong campus, first met Warren in 2006, because he has heard so much about him during his time working as the CEO of Peter Drucker Academy, the first private company registered in China as a charity organization. At the meeting, the two connected immediately because of their shared love of Warren's mentor, Drucker.
Since meeting Warren in 2006, Lee joined by his wife and their three children have hosted PEACE teams that went to Hong Kong and helped in the outreach to the region surrounding Munsang College located in Hong Kong's Kowloon City District.
Shortly after, Warren reached out to him with the invitation to lead the Hong Kong campus, but Lee had thought that he was the least likely candidate for a calling as great as pastoring Saddleback Hong Kong. However, during his years working at Peter Drucker Academy that teaches many of the same principles and values that Saddleback Church has, he consented.
"Ordinary people make a difference. Ordinary people do extraordinary things. It comes from Peter Drucker. I am able to agree to this in such short time and with only a month of training because I know Peter Drucker in-depth. Saddleback Church and Rick Warren stand for the same," he said, according to Saddleback news.
"Hong Kong has 4 percent population that is Christian [and who attend church]," the pastor told The Christian Post. "Not too many people go to church. It's only about 300,000 people attending church every week." So he hopes to reach the remaining 96 percent, which includes the estimated 80 percent who have dropped out of church entirely.
"We are not competing with local churches, no matter (if it is) English church or Chinese church," he added. "We really want to bring back the 16 percent to help (them) reconnect to God, and also the 80 percent who have never been in the church."
Of the nearly 7,000 unreached groups in the world (the U.S. and Canada have 541), the Global Research Department (GRD) of the International Mission Board estimates that 2,987 of these people groups living within populations that are less than 2 percent Evangelical Christian are "unengaged." These groups are considered "engaged" when a "church planting methodology consistent with Evangelical faith and practice" is implemented, according to The Christian Post.