'Tis the season to give and one Southern California church proved it this past week when their pastor put out a plea on their Web site, and they responded big time.
Now it's not just any pastor. We are talking about Rick Warren; famed author of "The Purpose Driven Life."
Warren of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest told his congregation he needed $900,000 by year's end to make up for a shortfall in donations, and they responded with more than $2.4 million in contributions, according to the Orange County Register.
The church was full and worshippers cheered when Warren made the announcement at the 4:30 p.m. Saturday service.
Last week, Warren said the church got into financial trouble when Christmas donations were below expectations.
"On the last weekend of 2009, our total offerings were less than half of what we normally receive -- leaving us $900,000 in the red for the year, unless you help make up the difference today and tomorrow," Warren wrote on his Web site. "With 10 percent of our church family out of work due to the recession our expenses in caring for our community in 2009 rose dramatically while our income stagnated."
Warren called the response to his letter miraculous.
"This is pretty amazing," he said. "That's a record. I don't think any church has gotten a cash offering like that off a letter. We're starting the new decade with a surplus."
People went to the church with so many donations that security guards emptied the donation boxes every half hour, the newspaper reported.
Friday, Warren put another statement on the church's Web site, saying the contributions were "history-making" and urged his 22,000-member congregation not to miss the weekend services.
"I can't wait to share with you what happened this week," Warren wrote. "It speaks volumes about you, the depth of commitment in this fellowship, and where God is taking us in 2010 -- our 30th Anniversary year. I'm simply calling this week's message 'The Miracle.' "
The money will help pay for the church's ministries, including providing food for more than 200,000 families.
Warren closed his service by praying, "Thank you Lord that you take ordinary people and do ordinary miracles," the Register reported.
Later this week, the Church could receive even more money via the mail carrier. The $2.4 million total does not include mailed donations.
Warren founded Saddleback Church in 1980 in Lake Forest, about 65 miles southeast of Los Angeles.