After more than 40 years behind the pulpit at Saddleback Church in California, Rick Warren says a search for his successor is underway.

The pastor and author made the announcement to his congregation on Sunday, saying the search for the next lead pastor will officially begin this week as he plans to retire.

Warren and his wife Kay founded the church 42 years ago, and since then have seen it grow to 14 locations in southern California, as well as four international locations in Hong Kong, Germany, the Philippines, and Argentina.

“For 42 years, Kay and I have known this day would eventually arrive and we’ve been waiting for God’s perfect timing,” he told the congregation on Sunday, according to The Orange County Register.

Warren, 67, is well known for his many books, which includes The Purpose Driven Life, which has now sold over 40 million copies.

He says he and Kay took a prayer retreat in February 2020 to discern their retirement but felt it wasn't time to step aside. 

“Now, looking back, I can see the wisdom of why God didn’t want me to step down three weeks before the pandemic happened,” Warren told church members as he outlined a bit of the future process.

“It would have been practically impossible for a new pastor to hold our church family together without being able to hold public worship services for over a year,” he said. “As we began to see the light at the end of the tunnel of the COVID pandemic, we felt God was saying now was the time to start the process.”

The OCR reports that there is no timeline for the search which will look at candidates from within the church and outside.

“You don’t have to see the ultimate goal to take the first step. Just take the first step in faith,” he said in his announcement. “It is time for a new chapter for a younger leader with a new vision."