Rick Warren, The Circus Tent, & My Imaginary Friend

I remember when my dad first told me about his friend Rick who started this really cool church that met in a tent.
At that point I was a wide eyed brown kid with a Gary Coleman afro parted down the left side.  Maybe 7?
I remember the look in my dad’s eyes as he talked about you guys.
It was a look of pride.
Not the bad kind…The good kind.
The kind that says…”Look at that guy.  Can you believe it?  Wow.” That Look.
He would talk about you often.
Even when we were living in Atlanta you guys were always in conversations around our house.
I almost felt like…”Why does my dad talk about Rick like they are best friends when I’ve never even met this Rick man?”
When I was 13 an we were in So Cal for Christmas my dad said…
“Carlitos. ¿Quieres ir a la iglesia de Rick mañana?”
I responded…”You mean your imaginary friend’s church? YES!!!”
He muttered something in Spanish and simply smiled.

I think maybe it was a prayer for my teenage salvation.
We walked into the tent. And it was a tent, no qualms about it…
There was Muchow, shaking his arms and jumping around.
I was like… This place is NOTHING like anything I’d seen before.
We sat down in those plastic chairs and I watched as you walked up on stage.
From the second I saw my dad’s imaginary friend, you had this look of joy on your face.
Joy seems like such a small word for what my 13 year old mind recognized.
It was a countenance of overwhelming glee.
You preached…I payed attention to a sermon for the first time in my entire life…and half way through the sermon I looked over at my dad’s face and there it was again…
That look.
That look of pride.
After the service we were walking out of the building…
“Dad? Are you gonna say hi to Rick?”
“Oh son. Rick is a very important man. He has another sermon to preach and lots of people to attend to.”
I shrugged my shoulders and we walked towards the circus tent doors…
It was that voice.
The one filled with unrestricted glee.
We turned around and you were almost running towards him.
“Fermin. Hello my dear friend.” you said to him.
And you hugged him like a friend.
Full force cheek to cheek.
Then you looked at me and said, and I remember clear as day…
“Carlos. Carlos right? Or are you Eddie?”
“Um. I’m Carlos sir”
“Carlos. Your father. This man next to me. He is a good man. He is a very good man and a dear man. You listen to him ok? Do what he says. And then convince him to move back to California so you can be a part of Saddleback.”
You laughed a deep laugh and hugged us all before sprinting back to where you were obviously supposed to be.
Rick Warren…
From that moment to this moment you have been nothing but Jesus to me and my family.
Every time you see me you tell me to come be a part of your church.
Every time you see me you give me a bear hug.

And every time I see you I remember the look on my dad’s face as we walked away from that Sunday circus tent…
It was a look that only touching something or someone near Jesus can produce.
And that someone was you.
Be brave my friend…
Cause when I talk about you to my kids now…
I have that same look on my face…


Author loswhit

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  • I have tears. This was beautifully written. What an awesome story…thank you for sharing it.

    • ragamuffinsoul

      You are welcome

      • lesliemartinyoung

        ditto…um…again. real tears. real sweetness…

    • Carrie Schmidt

      ditto to Chrissy.

  • HeatherEV

    Wow. That man has so much to deal with in this moment. It’s beyond comprehension.

  • Michelle Woodman

    You’re right — this is the only thing I need to read about Rick and Kay Warren today.

  • That’s beautiful Los!

  • Jake Schwein

    Good words!! Thanks for sharing and using your influence to encourage people and a family that have encouraged so many!

  • Wally Grant

    Thank you for sharing this Los, having spent 5 years on staff at Saddleback I can tell you know the same Rick I know

  • CIndy


  • Beautiful. And all people need to know about this grieving family. They love Jesus. The teach Jesus. The LIVE Jesus.

  • This is really great! Thanks for sharing!

  • touching memory…a great legacy of Jesus!

  • Christi Hamilton

    I’ve been a member at Saddleback for 20+ years. My three babies (who are now 11, 12, and 14) have all been there within a week of their births. Rick has touched the hearts of all 5 of us more times than I can count. My heart has been shattered for their sweet family. Thank you for your words. I’ve wanted to draw my sword for my pastor this past week…stuff that has been said. But instead I am praying. Love your blog…been a lurker for quite a while. Blessings to you and your family.

  • Wow. Thanks for sharing that. It reminds me to remember that behind every public persona is a real person, and no public Christian leader is everything that’s said about them. I really appreciate this.

  • Pingback: Rick Warren, The Circus Tent, & My Imaginary Friend | Pastor Leaders()

  • Aw, Carlos– I love this so much. My husband Russ just met Rick for the first time last month. He smiled that smile you just described, and spent 10 minutes (he did not have time for) telling Russ how much he has appreciated and followed his music over the years–naming specific songs, asking lots of questions, listening to the answers. Russ was completely surprised and greatly touched. The news about his son hit us so hard, having just experienced Rick Warren’s open heart and generosity towards a total stranger. Thank you for this.

  • That’s beautiful. Thank you for encouraging Pastor Warren. God bless you both.

  • amersons

    YES! As a former Saddleback staff member, I loved every word that I just read. The Warrens LIVE to make Jesus’ name known around the world. Pastor Rick is one of the most genuine guys I’ve ever known. So happy to hear so many people sharing encouragement & praying for their family right now. We love you Pastor Rick!!!

  • Troy Burbank

    It’s hard not to question the legitimacy of someone in the spotlight that Pastor Rick Warren receives. But even before you wrote this, I knew without a doubt that the man truly loves Jesus. Awesome man. Enough can’t be said about him or his family. I wish them all the best, and I’m praying for them.

  • Tanya M.

    Wow Carlitos! That was awesome and beautiful. Such a special memory you’ve captured here. Made me think back to how much I loved going to church in your dad’s imaginary friend’s circus tent too. Thanks for sharing your heart with us.

  • Holly

    That is beautifully written. I was a member of Saddleback when we met in the high school. The day we moved to the tent we all marched the few blocks down the street from the high school to the tent and I felt so proud. My daughter was about nine years old. The church was big even then, but one day he was coming out of Carl’s Jr. and he waved to me and my daughter, though he didn’t know our names. Those were rough years as a working single Mom and his sermons got me through the hard times. I would pin the sermon notes in front of my desk, in my cubicle. I will always love and be grateful to Rick and Kay Warren. God Bless you and comfort you. I cry and grieve for you. Holly

  • Tearing up. Beautiful post, Los.

  • My husband’s grandparents know the Warrens, too. I’ve seen that look! And they are truly heartbroken for their friends. God bless.

  • Thanks for this Carlos.

  • Diane

    Thank you for your story… so many of us are maturing in our faith today because of the Godly man that Rick Warren is. He has not allowed us to just sit and listen, but has through the faithfulness and leadership of our Lord, inspired us to be active in a hurting world, so that others might desire what we have too… HOPE!

  • Bobberhawk

    Very nice. Thank you so much.

  • Gerald Hinson

    Carlos. Dude. This…. Is….. Beautiful.

    Thank you.

  • Gerald Hinson

    Carlos. Dude. This…. Is….. Beautiful.

    Thank you.

  • Thank you for this story from one who has also been touched by the blessings of Rick, Kay and Saddleback Church!

  • karen garwood

    What he did for your relationship with your dad. In tears.

  • jviola79

    Just beautiful! May God continue to use Rick in greater power!

  • Love this. Sounds like a saint… Saint Rick.

  • LincolnSaint

    Love, love, LOVE this! Grace and peace to you…and especially to your Dad’s imaginary friend.

  • Pat

    Carlos, you said it just right.

  • You are a class act Carlos.

  • Deborah

    I love your story! Thank you for sharing 🙂

  • Clare Gajdo

    Oh. my. goodness! How beautifully written! How captivating! I cried! That’s the same way I felt when I watched Pastor Rick Warren on tv! God bless you, Carlos, and your gift of words.

  • Beautiful, thank you so much for sharing that with us Pastor Rick.

  • I was lucky enough to volunteer at Pastor Rick’s church offices in the early 90’s.Pastor Rick always had time to listen to anyone who had problems, wanted to start a new ministry, or just to talk. A true Man of God with a huge heart.

    When I lived in Kuwait, my next door neighbours were Max and Barbara McDougall. They were always telling me about Pastor Rick and his church, and had the tapes of his sermons sent to them every week. I moved back to the States in 89, and went to visit my dear friends Max and Barbara in So. Cal. We all went to Saddleback church that Sunday, it was still in the High School then. I was so inspired by the service, I’d never heard such a good sermon before. I moved to So. Cal in October 1993 and was saved at Saddleback Church. We were in the tent by then. When it came to collecting for the new church building I was there. It didn’t take long.

    Pastor Rick and Max and Barbara McDougall helped me so much over the next three years with their loving kindness and Christianity. TRUE CHRISTIANITY!!!! I will never forget what they did for me, and I will be eternally grateful for everything. You saved my life, more than once.. I am still a Christian because of the wonderful role models in my life..

    I had to return to England to care for my elderly mother, but I still get the Saddleback Church updates, and I still hear from my good friends Max and Barbara. God bless you always for being there for me when I needed you the most, I could never have done it without you……

    Numbers 6:24-26

    Love in Him

    Georgina Taylor

  • Daniel Bustos

    I have never heard Rick preach and only know him as the mega church author of the Purpose Driven Life and from the Presidential debates. This was a truly humbling piece that brought me to tears repentance for minimalizing his pain. Thank you for sharing this insight. P.S. I love your parent’s sense of joy and passion. It seems the same as your description of Warren’s.

  • Anita_Mathias

    Gosh, if Rick Warren has you to write him a reference letter at the pearly gates, he’s set.
    How wonderful to read such a lovely tribute to a servant to Christ!

  • Aaron cook

    Beautiful piece. Thanks 🙂

  • Usted es un hombre generoso y lleno de gracia

  • Chaundel

    Wonderful post, Carlos. We love your family!

  • Aaron D

    Classy, classy, classy. Grateful for you and others (Driscoll) willing to stick your necks out to love the Warrens and influence your followers. Thanks, Carlos.

    My sister works at Saddleback and when I met Rick a few years back (when he was taking time he didn’t have to care about people he didn’t know) I mentioned her name. His eyes locked right to mine and he told me how much he loved her. It was the most sincere, least fake moment I’ve encountered in a public figure. He’s the real deal.

  • We know this man too and his hug and his face! Thank you for taking time to write this and to encourage him like he did you that day so long ago. How this must be making Jesus smile!

  • Ashlyine Brooke

    Why exactly is it not advisable or feasible to warm a tent. Robert Nguyen your humoristic way is amusing, continue the good work!

  • wow! What a wonderful experience. You are absolutely right… this is the only thing I need to read about Rick and also Kay Warren, now a days. Thanks to sharing us. Visit my camping tent site.