Charles Stanley, a distinguished Southern Baptist pastor and author, dedicated 49 years of service as the senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Atlanta. He was the founder of In Touch Ministries, a global media ministry, and authored over 70 books on various Christian themes such as prayer, faith, grace, and obedience. His teachings were characterized by clarity and practicality, emphasizing a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. In this blog, we explore facets of his life, ministry, and the enduring legacy he has left behind.
Early Life and Education
Born on September 25, 1932, in Dry Fork, Virginia, Charles Stanley grew up under the care of his mother after losing his father at nine months old. Discovering his Christian faith at 12, he felt a calling to ministry by the age of 14. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Richmond in 1956 and pursued further studies at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, obtaining a Master of Divinity degree. Additional degrees, including a Master of Theology and a Doctor of Theology, were later earned from Luther Rice Seminary in Jacksonville, Florida.
Pastoral Ministry and Leadership
Joining the staff of First Baptist Church of Atlanta in 1969, Stanley ascended to the role of senior pastor in 1971. Under his leadership, the church experienced substantial growth, expanding from 4,000 to over 15,000 members. His tenure included the relocation of the church to a larger suburban campus and the establishment of various ministries, including a Christian school, counseling center, television studio, and prayer ministry. Transitioning to the role of pastor emeritus in 2020, Stanley concluded his tenure with a lasting impact.
As president of the Southern Baptist Convention from 1984 to 1986, Stanley addressed pivotal issues such as biblical inerrancy, the role of women in the church, and fostering cooperation among Baptist groups. His leadership and integrity earned him widespread respect within the Southern Baptist community.
Media Ministry and Writing
In 1977, Stanley founded In Touch Ministries with a mission to guide individuals worldwide into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ. Commencing with the television program “The Chapel Hour,” broadcast on the Christian Broadcasting Network, he expanded his media outreach to include radio, magazines, podcasts, and digital platforms. His teachings, translated into over 50 languages, reached millions globally. Stanley authored a multitude of resources, including devotionals, study guides, and podcasts, facilitating spiritual growth.
A prolific writer, Stanley penned over 70 books on Christian topics, garnering awards such as the Gold Medallion Book Award, the Christian Book Award, and the ECPA Platinum Book Award. Notable titles include “How to Listen to God,” “The Gift of Forgiveness,” and “The Wonderful Spirit-Filled Life.”
Personal Life and Death
Married to Anna Johnson Stanley from 1955 to 2000, the couple had two children, Becky Stanley Brodersen and Andy Stanley, a prominent pastor and author. After a divorce in 2000, Stanley remained dedicated to his ministry and family, living a single life. He passed away on April 18, 2023, at the age of 90, in Atlanta, Georgia, following a brief illness. Surrounded by family and friends, Stanley’s funeral at the First Baptist Church of Atlanta was broadcast live by In Touch Ministries, drawing tributes from Christian leaders and organizations.
Charles Stanley’s profound impact as a pastor, author, and leader resonates in the lives he touched. His commitment to a clear and practical understanding of the Bible and the pursuit of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ defines his legacy. Serving First Baptist Church for almost five decades and founding In Touch Ministries, Stanley’s influence extends beyond his passing, continuing to inspire millions worldwide.