The internationally renowned pastor Dr Charles Stanley has died at the age of 90. In a world where many try to be politically correct, Dr Stanley stood firm on the gospel, says Franklin Graham
I had the privilege of preaching for Dr Charles Stanley at First Baptist Church Atlanta in 2009, the church he pastored since the early 1970s.
When he asked me to speak for him, honestly, I was intimidated. Who could ever fill a pulpit like his? The church had grown so large, and thousands of people came to his church every Sunday to hear some of the greatest Bible teaching in the world. For many years, you had to stand in line just like you would at a movie theater or a sports event to get into his church.
People didn’t go to hear what Dr Stanley had to say, they wanted to hear what God had to say. This is what I appreciated most about Dr Stanley—he unashamedly preached the word of God.
Behind closed doors, Dr Stanley was easy to be with. He was known as a man of prayer who was kind and gentle, but he was incredibly strong when it came to upholding the truth of scripture. Dr Stanley never wavered or compromised on God’s word. He preached from the Bible with power and authority.
From his church in Atlanta, Dr Stanley shared the hope of Jesus Christ with the world. His messages were televised by In Touch Ministries, and when people couldn’t attend their own churches during the Covid-19 lockdowns, Dr Stanley’s sermons inspired and strengthened millions of us spiritually. I thank God for Dr Stanley and I’m grateful to have known him - he will be deeply missed.
So many people today are compromising on scripture, but Dr Stanley never did
My father, Billy Graham, also had great respect and appreciation for Dr Stanley. Due to their schedules, they mainly communicated through letters, but they were together on several occasions. My father had a heart for pastors, and he respected Dr Stanley’s dedication to his church.
When Dr Stanley had the opportunity to visit my father at his home in North Carolina in 2007, my father thanked Dr Stanley for preaching the gospel faithfully. He was an excellent nature photographer, and when he came to see my father, he brought a large picture of a rainbow that he had taken. Dr Stanley said he was concerned it might have been somewhat brazen to offer a gift like that, but my father was proud to hang the photo on the wall of his home.
There’s no question, Dr Stanley was a man of God, and a man of principle who had an impact on generations. Perhaps one of his greatest legacies is helping the largest Protestant denomination in the US, the Southern Baptist Convention, stand firm on the authority of the Bible.
When there was a push within the denomination to drift away from the sufficiency of scripture in the 1970s and 80s, Dr Stanley fought against these dangerous efforts to undermine God’s word, and he was elected president of the convention in 1984 and 1985. When the theological battle reached a boiling point prior to his re-election bid for a second term, my father sent a telegram to Dr Stanley, thanking him for staying the course and expressing his support. The telegram was leaked to the press without my father’s awareness, and I’m grateful it was, because it helped build support for Dr Stanley’s re-election. He won his second term as president in that tumultuous and decisive year. I am thankful Dr Stanley used this critical time to lead the denomination to reaffirm its allegiance to the unshakable authority of God’s word.
We can best honour Dr Stanley’s legacy by following his example. So many people today are compromising on scripture, but Dr Stanley never did. He was a man who held the line. He didn’t waver or water down the truth of the Bible. In a world where so many people are trying to be politically correct, Dr Stanley stood firm on the gospel. I challenge another generation of pastors and followers of Jesus Christ around the world to do the same.