|Rick Warren's son Matthew|
committed suicide on Friday at the age
of 27, after a long battle with depression
- Matthew Warren suffered from mental illness from a young age
- Evangelical pastor Rick Warren founded Saddleback Church in 1980, the 7th largest congregation in the U.S. with an average attendance of 20,000
- The spiritual leader authored The Purpose Driven Life in 2002, that has sold over 32 million copies
- Dr Warren, 59, delivered the invocation at Obama's 2009 inauguration
- He is married to Kay and the couple are also parents to Amy and Joshua
Megachurch pastor and popular Christian author Rick Warren posted a message on Twitter Sunday saying he was "overwhelmed" by the love and support offered after the apparent suicide of the youngest of his three children.
"Kay and I are overwhelmed by your love, prayers, and kind words," Warren tweeted to his nearly one million followers two days after Matthew Warren, 27, was found dead. "You are all encouraging our (hash)brokenhearts." The pastor posted the same message on his Facebook page.
Warren did not attend Sunday services at his Saddleback Church in Orange County, where worshippers openedthe meeting with a prayer for the family.
Family: Kay and Rick Warren have two other adult children, Amy and Joshua. Kay Warren is active in her husband's ministry
Tom Holladay, teaching pastor at Saddleback and Matthew Warren's uncle, opened the 9 a.m. worship service by saying the congregation would face the tragedy together, "as a church family."
Holladay led a prayer for Warren and his wife, Kay, and their surviving son and daughter.
The Warrens said in an email to church staff Saturday that Matthew Warren had taken his own life in a "momentary wave of despair." It said he had long struggled to control his emotional pain despite years of prayers and the best available treatment.
"Matthew was an incredibly kind, gentle and compassionate young man whose sweet spirit was encouragement and comfort to many," the email said. "Unfortunately, he also suffered from mental illness resulting in deep depression and suicidal thoughts."
Tragedy: The youngest son of Rick Warren, the evangelical pastor pictured delivering the invocation at Obama's 2009 inauguration, has committed suicide at the age of 27
Allison O'Neal, a supervising deputy coroner for Orange County, declined to release the cause and manner of death pending an autopsy planned for Tuesday.
The elder Warren founded Saddleback Church in 1980, according to his biography on the church website, and watched it grow to 20,000 members and several campuses beyond its home base of Lake Forest.
Already well-known among evangelical Christians, he became a national celebrity in 2002 with the publication of the multimillion-selling book "The Purpose Driven Life," whose popularity reached far beyond the usual religious readers.
Politics: Rick Warren hosted the Civil Forum on The Presidency, attended by both Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and then Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) at Saddleback Church in August 2008 during the 2008 presidential election
Christian right: President George W. Bush, with his wife Laura in 2008, receives the International Medal of PEACE from Warren at the Saddleback Civil Forum on Global Health at the Newseum in Washington, DC
Scores of tributes poured in on social media, with supporters posting words of encouragement and prayers to the Saddleback Facebook page.
'Our hearts ache for you. We love you and are holding you close in our prayers. God bless you and give you strength,' one mourner wrote, with another adding, 'Matthew is home, free of all the pain he felt.'
'All I can think is that he wants his parents to have a happy last memory. He's with God and he is whole again.'
Megachurch pastor Greg Laurie lost his 33-year-old son in a car crash in 2008 and offered his condolences to the Warren family.
'At times like these, there really are no words, but there is the Word. There is no manual, but there is Emmanuel,' he said in a statement on the Gospel Coalition website.
Grieving: Pastor Warren posted this message to his more than 900,000 Twitter followers on Saturday
Warren, 59, is one of the leading voices in the evangelical movement in America.
His church, located in Orange County, is ranked the seventh largest congregation in the U.S. with an average weekly attendance of 20,000.
The Southern Baptist pastor authored the Purpose Driven Life, a devotional study book, that was published in 2002 and became a New York Times bestseller, selling over 32 million copies as it exploded as a popular trend among conservative Christians.
He has taken an active role in promoting social justice and even hosted the Civil Forum on The Presidency, attended by both Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and then Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) during the 2008 presidential election.
Pastor Warren was also selected to deliver the invocation at President Obama's 2009 inauguration.
Kay Warren helped her husband establish the evangelical church in 1980.
Congregation: Kay and Rick Warren founded the church in 1980 and it has grown into a megachurch, with an average weekly attendance of 20,000
She has openly discussed her personal struggle with depression and overcoming sexual abuse in her childhood.
Though the spiritual leaders never publicly detailed their youngest son's struggle, Kay did tell Christianity Today in an interview last April that 'a loved one was struggling with a mental illness' on the same day that Rick Warren delivered his prayer at Obama's inauguration in 2009.
She authored a book about overcoming adversity, Choose Joy: Because Happiness Isn't Enough, about finding victory over despair through faith in Christ.
'Suffering does give one an appreciation for joy,' she told the Christian magazine in 2012.
'Those who have suffered have been given the opportunity to recognize the limitations of ourselves and to know God in our darkest days.'