The Rev. Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Valley Community Church, leads Christmas Eve services. (Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times / December 24, 2008)

The youngest son of Pastor Rick Warren, a world-famous Orange County evangelical pastor, has committed suicide, according to a statement sent by Warren and his wife to his congregation.

Matthew Warren, 27, the son of the leader of Saddleback Valley Community Church in Lake Forest, died after battling depression for much of his life, the statement said.

Matthew was an “incredibly kind, gentle and compassionate man. He had a brilliant intellect and a gift for sensing who was most in pain or most uncomfortable in a room. He’d then make a beeline to that person to engage and encourage them,” the statement said.

The statement said that the suicide followed an evening spent with Warren and his wife, Kay.

“Kay and I’ve been privileged to hold your hands as you faced a crisis or loss,” the statement said. “Today we need your prayers for us.”