DEVELOPING STORY: Dr. Charles Stanley, the longtime pastor of the First Baptist Church in Atlanta and a revered leader within the Southern Baptist Convention, has died. He was 90.
“Dr. Charles F. Stanley, beloved Pastor Emeritus of First Baptist Atlanta, passed away peacefully this morning at home,” the church said in a statement. “We are forever grateful for his enduring legacy of faithful leadership and spiritual guidance as Senior Pastor of First Baptist of Atlanta for over 50 years.”
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He also founded “In Touch Ministries,” one of the world’s largest and most respected Christian teaching ministries.
Following, is an obituary published by In Touch.
Known to audiences around the world through his wide-reaching TV and radio broadcasts, Stanley modeled his 65 years of ministry after the apostle Paul’s message in Acts 20:24: “Life is worth nothing unless I use it for doing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the Good News about God’s mighty kindness and love.”
Born Sept. 25, 1932, at the height of the Great Depression, in Dry Fork, Virginia, Stanley was raised by a single mother after his father died when Stanley was only nine months old.
After receiving a call to ministry at the age of 14, Stanley earned a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Richmond in Richmond, Virginia, and a Bachelor of Divinity at Southwestern Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. He later went on to earn the distinctions of Master and Doctor of Theology from Luther Rice Seminary in Atlanta.
It was 1971 when Stanley assumed his longtime role as senior pastor of First Baptist Atlanta. The following year, he launched his foray into broadcast ministry with a 30-minute program, The Chapel Hour, on Atlanta-area TV stations WXIA and WANX (now WGCL).
The Chapel Hour—renamed In Touch with Dr. Charles Stanley—went nationwide in 1978 after the Christian Broadcasting Network contacted Stanley, looking for a practical, Bible-teaching program for its new satellite distribution network. At no cost to First Baptist Atlanta, the broadcast grew from 16,000 local viewers to a nationwide audience in just one week. Stanley was the country’s longest-serving pastor with a continuous weekly broadcast program.
By 1982, In Touch Ministries was incorporated and the In Touch radio broadcast entered syndication. During the 1980s, the In Touch program penetrated almost every major market in the United States, reaching more than 1 million households. At the time of his death, Stanley’s messages were heard in more than 127 languages around the world via radio, shortwave, the Messenger Lab project, or TV broadcasts.
Believing, as he often said, that people are to “obey God and leave all the consequences to Him,” Stanley focused his preaching on practical, Christ-centered, biblically based principles for everyday life. Many of his messages incorporated the 30 Life Principles that guided his life and helped him grow in his knowledge, service, and love of God. Other messages tackled such topics as parenting, finances, personal crises, emotions and relationships, prayer, and the character of God. Not having sought out the public spotlight, Stanley was a pastor who happened to be on TV, focused on teaching others how to seek and obey God through adversity and personal hardships.
Notable organizations and publishers honored Stanley throughout his long ministry. Stanley served two terms as president of the Southern Baptist Convention in 1985 and 1986. In 1988, he was inducted into the National Religious Broadcasters Hall of Fame for the consistent excellence of his broadcast, and leadership in the realm of Christian TV and radio. Religious Heritage of America named him Clergyman of the Year in 1989, an award that recognizes pastors who strive to make Judeo-Christian principles part of America’s daily life. In 1993, the NRB honored In Touch with the Television Producer of the Year award, and in 1999, with the Radio Program of the Year award. Most recently, Stanley was recognized for selling more than 10 million copies of his more than 70 books, the latest of which was published in 2023.
He was known, too, for his love of photography. Stanley’s images from his personal travels fill the walls of In Touch Ministries’ Atlanta headquarters and inspire program viewers to explore the beauty of God’s creation.
In September 2020, Stanley transitioned to the role of pastor emeritus of First Baptist Atlanta after serving 50 years as senior pastor.
Stanley is survived by his son Andy Stanley, founding and senior pastor of North Point Ministries; daughter Becky Stanley Broderson; six grandchildren; two great-grandchildren; and half-sister Susie Cox. His former wife, Anna Johnson Stanley, preceded him in death. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to In Touch Ministries.