Editor’s note: This article has been updated.
Charles Stanley, Atlanta megachurch pastor and popular author, has told his congregation that he is stepping down as their leader and handing the reins to his former assistant.
The First Baptist Church in Atlanta received surprising news from Dr. Charles Stanley at a board meeting earlier this month, where he announced his retirement.
Contrary to his belief in retirement, Stanley has taken the bold step to step down and let another pastor take over while he focuses on In Touch Ministries, which he founded in 1981. Stanley who turns 88 on September 25, has served as the pastor of First Baptist Church of Atlanta for more than 50 years. He said he believes that “the season has come to an end.”
Stanley became a born-again Christian at the age of 12 and he started ministerial works at age 14. He has written close to 45 books over the years and has received five awards. He became the senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Atlanta in 1971 and founded In Touch Ministries in 1981.
In Touch Ministries was established with the sole mission of becoming a medium “to lead people worldwide into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ and to strengthen the local church.” Stanley named the ministry after a Living Bible he owned. Stanley also served as a two-term president of the Southern Baptist Convention from 1984-1986.
The leader, who has said that he doesn’t believe in retirement, plans to continue spreading the gospel through In Touch Ministries.
“As you know, I don’t believe in retirement. I will continue to preach the gospel as long as God allows. My goal remains the same, to get the truth of the gospel to as many people as possible in the power of the Holy Spirit to the glory of God,” he said.
Stanley made the information public on September 13, 2020, through a video announcement shared during the church’s morning live stream service. That service was Stanley’s last as senior pastor and his transitioning to pastor emeritus.
Stanley joined the church as an associate pastor in 1969 and was named pastor two years later. In his early years at First Baptist Atlanta, the church experienced an enormous increase in membership and this caused them to change their location and expand. In the church’s words:
“Although the church had enjoyed outstanding leadership from its pastors through the years, one pastor, in particular, would lead the church to achieve unprecedented growth and worldwide impact.
“In 1971, the church elected Dr. Charles Stanley as senior pastor. Within a few years, the church’s growth was so explosive that, in order to accommodate the growing attendance, the church began purchasing every adjacent piece of property that became available. In the midst of this growth, in 1982, Dr Stanley founded In Touch Ministries to broaden the reach of his pulpit ministry through media and to satisfy the growing demand for his messages across the country.
“The In Touch program penetrated almost every major market in the United States during the 1980s, reaching more than 1 million households with Dr Stanley’s unique, principle-based preaching of the Bible. Through God’s blessing at the church and through In Touch, Dr Stanley can now be heard in every nation on earth via radio, shortwave or television broadcasts and through the In Touch website.”
One can say Dr. Stanley had planned to retire this year because, on December 10, 2017, he suggested that the church have a pastoral succession plan. It was at this succession event that Dr. Anthony George, who would later be named the pastor of the church, was designated as the associate pastor. The church agreed to this decision by giving a unanimous affirmative vote.
Watch the video of Dr. Stanley’s announcement about his pastoral transition.