Charles, Andy, and millions yet unreached...
But flee from these things, you man of God... - 1Timothy 6:11a
Over and over I warn my sheep to run from the Mad Men of Christian marketing and the Bible peddlers they promote. Don't let them scratch your ears. If godliness is a means of profit, we're in the wrong religion. Rome and Apple do it much better.
Of all these men, few can compete with the tag-team of Charles and Andy Stanley. Charles has the pensioner crowd covered while Andy goes for the boomers and their children. Together they're so successful that church planters everywhere breathe the name "Andy Stanley" with the sort of reverence WWF men show when they snarl "Mark Driscoll."
Andy Stanley gives this summary of his entrepreneurial church planting skills:
I tell my staff everything has a season. One day we're not going to be the coolest church. Nothing is forever.
In Touch Ministries sits like a Greek temple on the crest of a hill overlooking the Atlanta skyline. A large American flag stands near its entrance, beside a row of gushing fountains. A mammoth portrait of a smiling Charles Stanley hangs just inside and bears the inscription: "Obey God and leave all the consequences to Him."
Consequences like Greek Temples perched on a hill overlooking Atlanta with a row of gushing fountains...
...when First Baptist opened its first satellite church on Easter Sunday 1992, (Charles) appointed Andy as its pastor... In Touch was no longer just a ministry; it was Andy's inheritance.... "I was the heir apparent," Andy says.
But there was a little matter that threatened the family dynasty:
The quiet exit of Anna Stanley from the pews went public in June 1993 when she filed for divorce. Her action caused a sensation in Southern Baptist circles, where divorce is considered a sin by some based on a literal reading of the Bible. Some pastors shunned Charles; others publicly demanded that he step down.
If anyone wanted proof of how brain-dead the Fourth Estate is every time they try to write about "religion," that sentence should do the trick. Two-thousand years of church history unified in condemning the sin of divorce; Protestants and Roman Catholics together on it; and this city rube relegates the sinfulness of divorce to some Southern Baptists who base their condemnation on a literal reading of the Bible. Is there any crime the chattering classes haven't normalized by relegating its condemnation to some Southern Baptists who base their condemnation on a literal reading of the Bible? Adultery? Fornication? Child-murder? Bestiality? Genocide? Sodomy?
[When Charles divorced, he] told opponents calling for his resignation that he answered to a higher authority.
"God said you keep doing what I called you to until I tell you to do something else," he says today. "I got that straight from the Lord. ... I was simply obeying God."
How do you argue with that? Is this a direct violation of the Third Commandment, "Thou shalt not take the Name of the Lord thy God in vain?" I think so, but no one's asking. No one's even thinking about the Third Commandment today. "God said this." "God told me that." "I was praying and I felt led to..." "Did you hear the one about Buddha, Joseph Smith, and..."
Charles recalls ...his son's church staff asked him to give them the satellite church's property... "They felt like they had their little nook," Charles says now. "They didn't have their little nook. Whose idea was it, No. 1, and who's paying for it, No. 2."
For those as confused as I was, King Charles is saying it was his idea and he was the one footing the bill. Wonderful working relationship between father and son. An eighty year old preacher of the Gospel telling CNN that his son's land and church had been his idea and he had been the one paying for it.
After hearing Hybels, Andy says, church made sense "for the first time in my life." Hybels became his hero. "They were more committed to progress instead of maintaining traditions."
Andy's "progress" includes this story he tells of the time gays and lesbians picketed his father's church:
"We're the church that sings 'Just as I Am' after the sermon, and here we are shunning this group of people because of a lifestyle we disagreed with," he says now.
Sodomy is just "a lifestyle we disagree with."
Is Andy a preacher or a pastor?
(Andy) is an introvert who struggles at times even to make conversation off-stage with members of his church.
And what about the feminist heresy?
(Charles) had defied Southern Baptist theology by saying women should be able to preach.
And now that he's eighty, what does Charles have to say about his divorce and possible remarriage?
"I couldn't be happier," (Charles) says. "I don't really need a wife. God has just filled my life with good things."
And about that pic at the top?
(Charles) recently celebrated his 80th birthday at First Baptist, and was presented with a large photograph depicting Jesus counseling him as he prepared a sermon. Charles painstakingly posed for the photographer, with a professional model playing Jesus.
Dad used to say Reader's Digest only had three articles: "Oh the horror of it!" "Oh the wonder of it!" And "Oh."
The pic and how it came to be?
"Oh the horror of it!"
Let me end with this: I'm proud that my dear wife wrote Charles at the time of his announcement that, despite his divorce, the show would go on. She reminded him he'd said in one of his sermons that he'd stop preaching if he ever got divorced. She told him to keep his promise, stop preaching, and seek to be reconciled to his wife.
Charles never responded.