Who are some of the first Christian leaders you remember? Many of you who are at least my age would probably say Billy Graham. The one who sticks out in my mind is Charles Stanley, a man who has remained true to his calling.
Charles Stanley sticks out in my mind for many reasons. My grandparents LOVED to watch him on TV and encouraged me to do so, so I remember watching his sermons at the age of 9 every Sunday night at 9:00 p.m. Not long after that, I began reading his books. As a child, I didn’t fully grasp what he was preaching or mentioning in his books, but I was mesmerized by his photography. It wasn’t until I was older that I began to study the depth of who this pastor is.
Dr. Stanley was a kind but firm voice when the Southern Baptist Convention was leaning in a liberal direction. He is one of the past presidents who was known as a strong voice in what they call the “Conservative Resurgence”. While I am thankful for that, I am even more thankful that he stayed in the game when many said he shouldn’t. You may ask, “Why would many want Charles Stanley to step out of ministry?” The answer is simple – In 2000, Charles Stanley became a divorced man.
Many churches today still do not know how to handle the subject of divorce. First Baptist Church of Atlanta overwhelmingly supported the continuation of Dr. Stanley’s ministry. Imagine what could have happened had Charles Stanley agreed with the naysayers and said, “I’m divorced, I’m old, and I’m done. Now I’ll just sit over here and collect dust until I die or Christ returns.” An untold number of people may have never come to Christ or been helped in their Christian walk had he sat down and quit. Honestly, I may have been one of those who would have given up on ministry if not for the example of perseverance set forth by Charles Stanley.
When I knew I was going to be a divorced man in 2013, I was ready to throw in the towel and accept that I had done all I could for Jesus. I’m thankful that most everyone I knew, even the most conservative people, told me I wasn’t done. Furthermore, I’m thankful I didn’t listen to the devil and give up.
Today, Charles Stanley publicly announced that he is stepping down as Pastor of First Baptist Church of Atlanta, Georgia. He made it clear he is not retiring. He will be 88 years old this month and plans to continue the ministry of In Touch. Thank you, Dr. Stanley for being unwavering in your commitment to the message and call of Christ!