HolyCoast: After 24 Years Saddleback Church Will Get a New Music Pastor

Monday, February 13, 2012

After 24 Years Saddleback Church Will Get a New Music Pastor

After 24 years of service to Saddleback Church, Pastor Rick Muchow will be stepping down.  Rick's a good friend and a guy who gave me a lot of opportunities to sing on that big stage in front of thousands of people, and I'll miss him.  Pastor Rick Warren offered this information about the change:
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.

Me too. That photo was taken some years ago following one of our Christmas concerts. From 1997-2000 I had the opportunity to sing in every Christmas Eve service we did during those four years (39 in all) plus a bunch of Christmas concerts, July 4th services, weekend specials, and a number of other events over the years since then.

The last Christmas performance I did with Rick was in 2010 when we did "A King is Born", a song which featured the dancing shepherds.  That's Rick in the brown on the left and me on the right:

We had some good times singing that song. Always a crowd favorite and I still get stopped on the street by people who want to know if I'm the guy with the low voice.

There nothing quite like walking out onto the Saddleback Church stage in front of 3,200 people plus however many more are watching the feed from other locations.  And Rick was the guy who made that all possible.

All the performance stuff is fun, but there is another thing for which I'll always be grateful to Rick - the kindness he showed me and my family when my father passed away.  Rick volunteered to lead worship at the graveside service.  I didn't know he was going to do that - he was just there at the grave with his guitar when we got there.  Unforgettable.

Thanks, Buddy!  God bless you in the next stage of your music ministry.

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