Megachurch Asks for Nearly $1M in 48 Hours

The clock is ticking for members of pastor Rick Warren's California megachurch after the evangelical leader posted an "urgent" letter on his Web site Wednesday calling on congregants to donate a total of $900,000 before the New Year to make up for a massive holiday giving deficit.

"This is an urgent letter unlike any I've written in 30 years," the blog post said. "I have some thrilling news to share with you below but first, some seriously bad news."

Warren said that despite the recession, Saddleback Church managed to stay on budget all year until last weekend when "the bottom dropped out."

"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," the post said.

The church's usual non-holiday Sunday offering is estimated at $600,000 coming from more than 80,000 members at five different church locations, according to a 2009 Reader's Digest profile on Warren.

The letter, signed "Pastor Rick," goes on to detail the church's accomplishments including its food pantry, homeless shelter and financial coaching, despite 10 percent of the congregation being jobless.

"It's basically having to do more with less," church spokesman A. Larry Ross told The Associated Press. "The seasonal Christmas offering was down significantly and, commensurately, the need for services the church is expected to provide is up."

Warren and spokespersons for Saddleback Church did not immediately respond to interview requests from ABCNews.com.

Members 'Confident' in Church Support

Members Kim Offhaus and her husband said they were happy to help out.

"I know that many people are affected by job loss and that Saddleback Church is not immune," Offhaus told the Orange County Register. "I'm confident we'll support the church. It's there to meet the needs of the people spiritually, physically and emotionally."

It's not the first time Saddleback's members have mobilized to raise large sums in a hurry.

According to the church's Web site, members raised $1.7 million for victims of Katrina in the Gulf Coast in 2005 and $1.6 million for victims of the 2004 tsunami in the Pacific islands.

Offhaus said the funds for the tsunami were raised "in one offering."

"People at Saddleback are very generous," she told the Register.

Warren, who rocketed to stardom with his best-selling book "The Purpose Driven Life," became a focus of controversy in January when Barack Obama chose him to deliver the invocation at Obama's inauguration. Warren had come under fire from critics for his anti-gay views in the weeks leading up to the inauguration.

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