Commentary: A Loss For The American Church

The American Church lost a great leader and innovator earlier this month. Dr. Charles Stanley passed away on April 18, 2023. Dr. Stanley was the founder of In Touch Ministries, the author of over 70 New York Times best-selling books, and the senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Atlanta for 49 years.

Dr. Charles Frazier Stanley (1932-2023)

Dr. Charles Frazier Stanley (1932-2023)

Along with Rev. Billy Graham and Rev. Chuck Swindoll, Dr. Stanley pioneered the use of television and radio communication in the 20th century to spread the word of God. And these new avenues of communication were very successful. Discovering new avenues by which to preach the Gospel has had a long tradition since the Reformation. Martin Luther pioneered the use of woodcut pictures in broadsheets, Rev. John Wesley pioneered the use of tracts produced by printing presses, and Rev. George Whitefield pioneered outdoor spaces for communion. In a similar manner, Revs. Graham, Swindoll, and Stanley innovated and incorporated new technologies to reach more people than ever thought possible, all to bring souls to a new and better life with Christ.

He will be best remembered for his charity, In Touch Ministries, which was founded in 1972. Over the years it has grown, and its content is now broadcast across 1,159 television stations and 1,542 radio stations within 137 countries and in 127 languages. The charity continues to innovate beyond its initial technological successes, and it has pioneered new communication channels. For those living in remote areas of the globe and in prisons, In Touch created a solar powered/battery device loaded with Scripture, sermons, and FM radio which it offers for free in over 100 languages. For those living under repressive or hostile governments, the charity issues discreet USBs and concealable Micro SDs containing Scripture and sermons. The charity also publishes magazines and makes use of the internet to spread its message of hope.

Dr. Stanley was born in Dry Fork, Virginia, in 1932 and was led to the ministry by his mother. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Richmond in 1956. Following his graduation and subsequent ordination in Danville, Virginia, he pursued his Bachelor of Divinity degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He later earned his master’s and doctorate degrees in Theology from Luther Rice Seminary.

Dr. Stanley married Anna "Annie" Margaret Johnson on August 6, 1955. They eventually would have two children together, Andy and Becky. Andy Stanley is now the senior pastor of North Point Community Church in Alpharetta, Georgia. He lives with his wife Sandy and their three children in Milton, Georgia. His daughter Becky lives with her husband John in Dallas, Texas, and together they have three children. His marriage to Annie ended in 2000, and Dr. Stanley remained single until his death.

Throughout his career, he was a preacher and a pastor. His theology was marked by a belief in a personal relationship with God, in the innate inestimable value of each person, and in the radical power of the transcendent grace of Christ. Rather than preaching the Bible to people, Dr Stanley taught people about the Bible. By so doing, Dr Stanley alleviated the anxiety, troubles, and stress of modern life by bringing his listeners to understand the wonder-working power of God. Dr. Stanley put God at the center of his life and showed others how to do that as well. If you haven’t listened to one of his sermons, go online and find one. You may be surprised.

Given his prolific writing, Dr. Stanley generated new ways of looking at things, some of which have become condensed into well-known quotes. Many may strike you to be true, others will make you think. Some favorites are below:

* Behavior is the substance of religion. Belief is the substance of relationship.

* It is not the trials in your life that develop or destroy you, but rather your response to those hardships.

* From the world’s perspective, there are many places you can go to find comfort. But there is only one place you will find a hand to catch your tears and a heart to listen to your every longing. True peace comes only from God.

* Often times God demonstrates His faithfulness in adversity by providing for us what we need to survive. He does not change our painful circumstances. He sustains us through them.

* As you walk through the valley of the unknown, you will find the footprints of Jesus both in front of you and beside you.

* The blood that poured from Christ's wounds bought your salvation. If you want to truly value what He did, think of Him hanging on that cross just for you. With that thought in your mind, consider how you should live. He gave Himself freely for you; are you giving yourself fully to Him?

* An unschooled man who knows how to meditate upon the Lord has learned far more than the man with the highest education who does not know how to meditate.

* The gate is small because truth guards the entrance. The way is narrow because the Lord protects us with wise boundaries.

* Too many Christians have a commitment of convenience. They'll stay faithful as long as it's safe and doesn't involve risk, rejection, or criticism. Instead of standing alone in the face of challenge or temptation, they check to see which way their friends are going.

* People don't like the idea of consequences. They want to be able to live their life freely and do what they want to do without any consequences. And we know that's just not the way life is. 

* A Christian has no right being in a fight unless it's a spiritual fight. 

* Helen Keller was blind and deaf when she graduated from college with honors. So what's your problem?

* Fear stifles our thinking and actions. It creates indecisiveness that results in stagnation. I have known talented people who procrastinate indefinitely rather than risk failure. Lost opportunities cause erosion of confidence, and the downward spiral begins.

* Hope founded upon a human being, a man-made philosophy or any institution is always misplaced... because these things are unreliable and fleeting.

* Nobody else can make us discouraged; it is a choice that we alone make when facing disappointments.

Thank you, Dr. Stanley, for all your work and ministry. You brought the Gospel into all the world. You will be greatly missed. Requiescat In Pace.


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