Charles Stanley - A Father's Guidance
Andy Stanley: So, I would like to begin our conversation talking about parenting. But before I talk about what a good dad you are and have been my whole life, I think it's important for people to know a little bit about your background because, you grew up without your father. So, can you catch people up on just your growing up years? And then I want to talk a little bit about what a great dad you were, and how in the world did you ever figure that out? So, you were born in Dry Fork, Virginia.
Dr. Charles Stanley: Dry Fork, Virginia. My father died when I was nine months of age. So, my mother had to go to work. And so, then I got shifted around from one person to the other, keeping me, while she worked. And that went on for a number of years. And then, of course, starting to school, I was very shy. And I think, how did I ever get through grammar school?
Andy Stanley: Yeah. Because in in some cases, I remember these stories as a kid. You know, when I thought I had it hard, you would talk about getting yourself up in the morning, fixing your own breakfast, because your Mom had already gone to work at the mill.
Dr. Charles Stanley: Well, it was difficult but, you know, my Mom taught me how to fry an egg, or scramble an egg, and toast. And then, of course after a while, I learned that well enough so I could just fix me maybe some other things. But, she taught me to be able to do whatever I needed to do and to trust God, that He would help me. And that's the thing that I kept hearing her, just trust the Lord. Just do what you know is right and trust the Lord. So, she drilled that into my head and that I could do whatever I needed to do if I would trust Him.
Andy Stanley: Wow! So, one of the mysteries to me that as a kid growing up I didn't appreciate. But now that I am a Dad, I've appreciated so much because so much of what I've done as a Father I learned from you. But you didn't have a father to learn from. So, you know, how in the world did you figure this out? Because I'm going to talk, tell some stories in a few minutes about the kinds of things you did. But I mean, you know, when I was born, when Becky was born, you didn't have a role model. How did you figure this out?
Dr. Charles Stanley: Well, my Mom taught me several things, and just drilled them in my head. To obey, to obey the Lord, to read the Scripture every day. Even though I didn't understand it, to read the Scripture every day. And to do what I knew was the right thing to do. She didn't take the Bible and say, "Well, memorize this verse or that verse". And the only time I remember her giving me a verse to remember is before I preached my first sermon. But I just saw her reading the Bible. I listened to her pray. And I watched how she related to people. So, I had a great respect for my Mom being a Godly woman.
Andy Stanley: So then, when you became a Dad, how did you figure out the dad part? I mean, you had seen your Mom be a good Mom, but you were such a great Dad! How did you figure that out?
Dr. Charles Stanley: Well, I treated y'all the way I wanted to be treated.
Andy Stanley: Wow!
Dr. Charles Stanley: I think that says it all to me because not having a father and thinking, what would I like for my father to have done? So, when I think of all the places we went, and I never worried about spending money on you all. Just have a good time. In other words, it just came natural for me because I knew that's what a good dad would do.
Andy Stanley: Well, I want to talk about a few things that you've taught me. I'm not even sure I've shared some of these with you. But one of the most important things you taught me was how to make good decisions. And the way he taught me, how to make good decisions was, my Dad refused to make decisions for me. In fact, there were so many incidents, and this began really young. I would say, "Dad, what do you think I should do in this situation"? And he would say, "Well, what would you do if I wasn't here to tell you"? And I would say, "But you are here to tell me, and I need you to tell me". But that habit or that tendency you had. Again, I don't know where you figured that out, forced me to do two things. It forced me to learn how to make good decisions early on. And then, the second thing was, you were, you did such a great job allowing Becky and I to face the consequences of our decisions. You never bailed us out. And I guess, because growing up, there wasn't anybody to bail you out when you made bad decisions, you had to face the consequences yourself. Right?
Dr. Charles Stanley: Right. And I realized all of that would drive you to God.
Andy Stanley: Yep.
Dr. Charles Stanley: And I wanted you to point yourself to Him. "What would God have me to do when my dad's not here"? What would God have me to do, because my father died when I was nine months of age. And I thought, you know, God could take me off the scene, but I wanted to be sure whenever He did, you knew what to do.
Andy Stanley: Well, early on, maybe too early, you just consistently said, "What would you do or how would you handle that, or how would you fix that if I wasn't here"? I remember my first traffic ticket, I'd like to say it was my one and only traffic ticket.
Dr. Charles Stanley: Ha, ha, ha.
Andy Stanley: But, I remember my first traffic tick... I had not had my driver's license very long. I got pulled over leaving school. I got home, and of course I was scared to death, like any teenager. "Oh no, what's my Dad going to do? Is he going to take away the car? Is he going to take away my license"? And you probably don't even remember this. So, I came in and, you know, apologetically, "Dad, I got pulled over by the police. He gave me a traffic ticket". And you didn't get mad. You said, "Well, now you'll have to handle that". And I'm like, "Well, what do I do"? And you said, "Well, just turn the ticket over. It has all the instructions on the back". And then you just left the room. And suddenly, instead of punishing me, you basically said, "If you're, you know, if you're responsible enough to have a driver's license, you are responsible enough to figure out what to do with a traffic ticket". And you didn't punish me. You let the law punish me. And then, again, you just put all the decision making right back in my lap. I don't even know if you remember that.
Dr. Charles Stanley: Well, see you kept loving me instead of the policeman.
Andy Stanley: Well see, this is another really important principle, because instead of inserting yourself into the equation, you took my position or you took my side to say, "You know what Andy? I think you're smart enough to figure this out. I think you'll figure out how to pay for the traffic ticket. It's right there on the back of the ticket, you know. Good luck"! And again, here I am all these years later, I can remember where we were standing in our house, in Tucker. So, early on, just putting the decision-making pressure, the appropriate pressure, on us was extraordinary, and I do think it was an overflow of the fact that you knew, you remember growing up. Hey! You had to learn those things early. And then, one other thing, and you just alluded to it. You did a great job intentionally, taking, you know, reminding my sister and I, Becky and I, that ultimately, we weren't accountable to you anyway. That ultimately, we were accountable to God.
Dr. Charles Stanley: That's right.
Andy Stanley: And the way you taught us that, again, we would ask you a question or, not advice, but a decision, you know, we had to make. And you would say, "Have you prayed about it? Have you prayed about it"? And, that's was so frustrating! Because I'm like, I don't need to pray about it, I just need you to help me make the decision. But you consistently said, "Ask God and, you know, whatever you feel like the Lord wants you do". Do you remember one particular occasion when you told me to pray about it and God told me the opposite of what God had told you?
Dr. Charles Stanley: Ha, ha, ha, ha.
Andy Stanley: You know what incident I'm talking about?
Dr. Charles Stanley: I did... was there only one?
Andy Stanley: But when the... Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha. No, there were actually several. But I was sixteen and my favorite recording artist was coming to town. It was a concert. Back then, there weren't many concerts. You did not particularly love my choice of music at the time.
Dr. Charles Stanley: Oh, that's right.
Andy Stanley: Yep. You remember that part. And so, this band was coming to Atlanta, and the concert was on Sunday night. Remember this?
Dr. Charles Stanley: Yes, I do.
Andy Stanley: And we had Sunday night Church, and on Sunday night, we went to Church. And so, I'm saying, "Dad, I want to go to a concert". You didn't really want me to go to the concert anyway. But now, I'm going to go on Sunday night. People will find out. You know, the preacher's kids went to the concert instead of going to church. And you said, "Well, why don't you pray about it". Remember that?
Dr. Charles Stanley: I do.
Andy Stanley: And I remember Mom was like. "No, no, no, no. Don't let him pray about it. We just need to tell him not to go"! And you were so consistent. It was, "Nope. If you think that's okay, you know, you pray about it". So, I did. Sixteen years old, and I didn't hear a voice, so I figured it was okay. Remember that? And you took a little bit of pressure at church. You know, "How can you let your son... He's being a bad example". And so, I went to that concert. And do you remember what you and Mom prayed while I was at the concert? You told me later that you prayed that we would have a miserable time.
Dr. Charles Stanley: Yes, that's right. Yes, we did.
Andy Stanley: Remember that. You prayed that we would have a miserable time and we would never want to go back. And God didn't answer that prayer either.
Dr. Charles Stanley: Ha, ha, ha, ha.
Andy Stanley: I grew up wanting to, you know, be a rock star. So, anyway. But the point being, even though, you know, when you put that much responsibility in a child's hands, you were wise enough to leave it there. You didn't take it back. You didn't say, "Well, God didn't answer your prayer the way I wanted Him to. I'm going to withdraw that". So, those lessons were so instrumental. And it's just always curious to me growing up without a father that, intuitively, you figured some of those things out.
Dr. Charles Stanley: Well, I would usually say, "Lord, now, in this given situation, what's the wisest thing to do"? And I knew that if I'd made all the decisions, and gave you all the answers, you'd never have to do it yourself. And at some point, and remember this, growing up I had nobody to ask, in other words, but my Mom. But a lot of situations, she wouldn't have the answer for us. So, I figured if I trusted God to give you wisdom, then I believed that you would listen to Him and do what he said do, and look at you now. You are not a rock star! You're much more important than a rock star.
Andy Stanley: Well, look at me now. It wasn't a straight line. In fact, I've heard you say before publicly that you... I don't... These are my words and not yours, so, you can correct me. Something like, "I never went to bed worrying about you and Becky or what you and Becky were up to". You just placed us in the hands of our capable Heavenly Father and...
Dr. Charles Stanley: Well, I knew that I had taught you the right thing to do in every situation that I knew about, and that I would trust God to either make you successful at that or make you so miserable, you wouldn't want to do it again, and it worked.
Andy Stanley: It did ultimately work. And I tried to do the same thing with my three kids. So, I appreciate that. The other thing that you taught me that became again, you appreciate when you're young but you really appreciate it when you're older. You never prioritized work over family.
Dr. Charles Stanley: No.
Andy Stanley: Now, that is challenging for anyone. But it seems to be especially challenging for pastors. So many pastors love the church and serve the church, and we've seen this happen, right? With pastors, especially men, who just for whatever reason neglect their kids. And I never felt like I was competing with work. Or specifically, I never felt like I was competing with the church. Again, do you remember your thought process in all that because we took long vacations. In fact, one time I can't even imagine this. We had an eighteen-foot travel trailer, eighteen-foot travel trailer. We went out west for five weeks. Okay, I love my children. I can't...
Dr. Charles Stanley: Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha.
Andy Stanley: I can't imagine a five-week vacation pulling an eighteen-foot travel trailer. But that's the way you prioritized us. So, what was your thinking in all of that?
Dr. Charles Stanley: Well, first of all, I wanted to go.
Andy Stanley: Ha, ha ha, ha, ha.
Dr. Charles Stanley: And secondly...
Andy Stanley: That might have had something to do with it.
Dr. Charles Stanley: Yeah, it did. And secondly, I wanted to share what I loved, the outdoors, and the woods, and the forest, and the glaciers, and everything. I wanted to share that with you all. And so, as far as the church was concerned, it was more important to me, for us to be together, regardless of what people thought. And so, I enjoyed it. And what I tried to do is to give y'all the experiences that I wish I'd had when, if I'd had a father, and to go all the places we went. And if you think of all the things that we did. And the one thing I loved about the travel trailer was, we were all together.
Andy Stanley: We were very close together. It was just eighteen feet.
Dr. Charles Stanley: But remember this, when we went to Naples, we had the whole beach. That's before they got built up. Police would drive up and down the beach about once a day. We had that whole beach to ourselves. Travel trailer, we'd cook outside, we had a fantastic time. I loved every minute of it, and I figured y'all would never forget it. And we happen to be there at the season that the sand dollars came in.
Andy Stanley: Yep. That was the year.
Dr. Charles Stanley: And we were picking up very small ones, large ones. And those are times in my life that I enjoyed them just as much you all did. And at that point, I didn't care what people thought. Well, you should have done this and you should have done that. You know what? You only have one life. These kids are only going to be yours at this age. We're going to live it up in order to enjoy one another. And you have not forgotten it.
Andy Stanley: No. And again, those kinds of things left an impression in terms of priorities and values and obviously it wasn't a dig at church or something to undermine our faith. It just showed the priority that you gave. Well, your priorities were where they needed to be.
Dr. Charles Stanley: Well, I wanted you all to feel like you had me, not me and the church. You had me for thirty days or whatever it might be.
Andy Stanley: five weeks.
Dr. Charles Stanley: And I just wanted it to be unforgettable times so that one of these days you could look back, as you are, and say, "What an awesome time we had". Not calling this... For example, if they would call me from church, sometimes I would call them back, sometimes I wouldn't. Now, we didn't have cell phones then. So, I could say, "Well, you called me"?
Andy Stanley: Yeah. There was no way to get, really when we would travel, when we would camp, we again sometimes, we went to trailer parks, you know. But a lot of time, we would literally, back then, we would just find a spot in the woods or on the beach and we were completely unplugged.
Dr. Charles Stanley: That's right.
Andy Stanley: One other incident, and you alluded to this principal, when Louie Giglio and I, we... Louie Giglio, many of you know, how we grew up together. He grew up at my Dad's church. In fact, his family was at First Baptist Atlanta before we got there. And so, Louie and I became close friends through Middle School and High School, and we used to skip church quite frequently. We would go to Sunday School because that's where the girls were. And then, instead of going to church, we would walk down the street and there was a big restaurant, The Varsity, if you've ever been to Atlanta. And my Dad was on live television, on channel five, I believe. And so, we would literally stand up on a chair, change the channel to find the sermon. And then, we would just talk and eat hot dogs and listen to just enough of the sermon so that I could get in the car after church and say, "You know Dad, the story about the dog, or the thing I"... You know? So he would think I'd been in church. Very deceitful. So, on one occasion, I know you remember this, somebody went to your, we called them secretaries back then, to your administrative assistant and said she had seen me and Louie headed down to The Varsity to skip church. Do you remember this incident?
Dr. Charles Stanley: Yes, I do.
Andy Stanley: So, here's how it happened. So, I'm in the back seat. There's just the two of us. We're driving home after church. And so, I can't see his face. So, I'm seating right behind him. I remember this. And you said, "Andy, someone saw you and Louie leaving the church property, and looked like you were headed toward The Varsity instead of coming to church". So, of course, I'm thinking, "Oh no"! You know, it's like the traffic ticket thing. "Oh no, I'm in big trouble". But you didn't punish me. You didn't expect more of me than other parents expected of their kids. But again, here I am all these years later because it said to me that I was a priority and that you again, you didn't feel like your reputation as a pastor hinged on my behavior or on Becky's behavior. And that's a good thing. Because there were some rough years for some of us. Anyway, so again, just so grateful for the way that you were a father, even though you didn't have a father to learn from. And that is a guiding principle for all the single parents out there who wonder. Because you turned out great by the way. So, for all the single parents, it's challenging. And when Sandra and I talk to parents, the first thing we say is, even though, you know, we're going to talk about parenting from the standpoint of a two-parent home, neither my father nor Sandra's father grew up with their biological father in the home. And yet, they turned out to be fabulous fathers. So, in that way, you were such a great example for even more people than maybe you might have imagined. Now, I want to change the subject if that's okay. You grew up poor. I think that's a fair statement. But you have always been generous. I mean some of the earliest lessons you taught us had to do with money. So, how in the world is someone who is raised with very, very, very little... In fact, some of my favorite stories that you told me growing up about growing up were just how little you had. Christmas stories, I mean, birthday stories where you, it was kind of heart breaking honestly, and yet your whole life you've been generous. How did you learn to be generous having grown up with so little? Because so many people, they go the opposite direction.
Dr. Charles Stanley: I think I have to give my mother credit for that. For example, every once in a while, back in those days, some little boy or a couple of little kids would come up and ask and knock on the door and ask, "Do you all have any bread"? My mom always gave them something. And sometimes, I'd look and I'd say, "Well, we're not going to have any left I don't think". She said "No, we're going to give them this". My mom taught me to be generous, to be kind. And I knew she made nine dollars and ten cents a week for forty hours in the cotton mill.
Andy Stanley: Wow!
Dr. Charles Stanley: And she was always generous, she didn't give much, but there was something about her, she had to give something. And so, I think I saw that in her. So, when it came time to talk about tithing income, I never had a problem with that. And I have been blessed, and blessed, and blessed, and blessed, and blessed. And I would have to say watching her give a little bit of what we didn't have much of said something to me deep down inside, because I noticed that afterwards we'd always seem to have enough.
Andy Stanley: And again, this was her faith in action in terms of just trusting God to provide for the two of you.
Dr. Charles Stanley: Right.
Andy Stanley: Yeah. So, what's the connection between your generosity and the local church? Because that's always been a passion for you.
Dr. Charles Stanley: Right. So, I just realized that pretty early, I couldn't out give God. How much I gave, what the motivation was, I couldn't out give him. He always blessed me over and over and over again. So, I wanted to help other people, and I want to be sure when I stood up and preached to other people about giving, that I knew in my heart I gave it the best God wanted me to give, ever how much it was. So, you know, it's not been hard for me to give. Giving is just part of being who I am, and I think about how God's blessed me. He said, "Give and it shall be given to you, good measure, pressed down, shaken together". I believed that. And I can look back in about over all these years and realize, He's blessed me far more than I deserve.
Andy Stanley: That phrase that you just said, I grew up hearing my whole life. "You can't out give God. You can't out give God. You can't out give God". I remember, I'm not going to go into detail because it's so personal, but I remember an incident, I was a freshman in college when there was an incident and you basically had a choice. And this happened two or three times to where you could give what you felt God had impressed on your heart to give. But it was going to be actual a sacrificial gift. And this is one of the great things about you as well. You would talk about this with the family. You would say, this, "I feel like God wants us to do this for this organization", or you know, something that's going on at church, "And if we give this much money, here's what we're going to have to do as a family". And we would pray about those things. And, you know, I can remember as a college freshman thinking, that's a lot of money and you know what's that... Again, you lead through your generosity. And again, you can't out give God. You can't out give God. And so, you taught me to tithe. And like you, giving the first dime of every dollar I've ever made, my whole life has been easy. And it has been easy for me to stand up in front of our church and to teach percentage giving because you taught me that as a child. And because, I've again... It was a habit we formed so early. Like you say, you never miss the money that you give. And you never regret what you've done with the money that you give. So, switching gears again. Unless there is something else you want to say about it.
Dr. Charles Stanley: Ah, that's fine.
Andy Stanley: Growing up, you know, you would lay down with us at night and we would always want you to tell us stories about growing up. And so, I would like to ask you to share two specific stories. And then, I'm going to share a story. So, let me think, the first story I want you to talk about, this kind of relates to money. Talk a little bit about your paper route, because people kid about, "Oh in the old days, you know, I had to walk so many miles in the snow, uphill both ways", but you literally, that was a literal story for you. So, your Mom is having to work, she's making about ten dollars a week. So, you had to go to work early. So, I think the story of how you developed your paper route is fascinating. And we don't really have paper boys any more like we used to. But that was a, talk a little bit about that because that's part of what transitioned you to the next season of your life.
Dr. Charles Stanley: We had two newspapers. One of them was just on Monday morning, since we didn't have a regular paper on Monday morning. And one of them was on Thursday. And so, I kept praying for God to show me something to do. And so...
Andy Stanley: To have some income.
Dr. Charles Stanley: To make some money, Yeah. So, I found out I could possibly get a paper route. I only made about four something, four dollars or something like that. But that was for two days a week. And it was a long route and I had a lot of papers. But I said, "Okay God, this is what I'll do". And then I kept that for a year. And I watched this fellow who had the large paper route, morning and evening, every day, except Sunday afternoon and Monday morning.
Andy Stanley: And you were walking, right?
Dr. Charles Stanley: Yeah, walking. And it just so happened that all the streets I had were all downhill. And, but it was okay. So, I saw this fellow who had paper routes and made about twenty dollars a week. Or it was sixteen to twenty something.
Andy Stanley: A week.
Dr. Charles Stanley: A week. And so, I said, "Well, if you ever give up your paper route, I'd like to have it". So, he said, "Well, what are you willing to give me for it"? And that was not proper. You didn't buy paper.
Andy Stanley: You didn't sell paper routes, right.
Dr. Charles Stanley: So, he said, "Well, I will sell to you for a hundred and twenty-five dollars". So, I figured that out. A hundred and twenty-five dollars, I'd make that back before too long. But my stepfather went to the bank with me and I borrowed a hundred and twenty-five dollars. The only time I ever borrowed any money. And so, I bought the route. I started delivering newspapers. I had one long street.
Andy Stanley: I remember you driving me down this street when we would go visit my Grandmother. And you say it was downhill. There was nothing flat in Danville, Virginia. Everything was a hill. But anyway.
Dr. Charles Stanley: Anyway, and so, what, first thing I did was make sure I tithed how much money I made. And so, I took papers for about, well until I went to college.
Andy Stanley: Yeah.
Dr. Charles Stanley: And I saw how God had prospered me and helped me, and I could buy some of my own clothes for a change. And I had a little extra money. So, then of course, I came to the whole situation of, "How am I going to go to college, making sixteen dollars a week"? It wouldn't get you in college. But I watched God always provide in ways that I couldn't figure out. In other words, I could never have figured out how to go to college making that kind of money. And so...
Andy Stanley: And this was the second story I wanted you to tell about how you got to college. Because, the point of this is your confidence in God, and your faith in God was not passive. And this is one of the things you taught me. You don't sit back and ask God to do something and then just wait. Your work ethic has always been extraordinary. At the same time, carving out the right amount of time for family. Somehow you figured all that out on your own. So, you have always modeled, you work as hard as you can possibly work, and then you trust God to honor your hard work. And so, once again, this is what happened with the paper route. And then, that leads us to this next story as you're trying to figure out, how in the world are you going to go to college. So...
Dr. Charles Stanley: Well, because I look at sixteen to twenty dollars a week and I think, "God, I can't even get to Richmond, Virginia, let alone go to college". And so, one night my friend and I were standing on the street corner just talking, and the pastor of the Baptist Church came by, and I'd only been a member of that church probably about a year and he didn't know me very well. And so, when he was coming down the street, my friend Julian said, "Mr. Hammick, come over here just a moment". And so, he telling him what I was doing, and want to go to school. And the Lord had called me to preach, and I didn't have any money. "Could you help me"? And he didn't know me, I had been going to church but not very long at that particular church. So, he said, "Well, go by to see me". So, I went by to see him. And we talked for probably an hour or so. To make a long story short, I got a four-year scholarship to the University of Richmond with no explanation. I couldn't... In other words...
Andy Stanley: Well, he made a few calls and got you into college on that scholarship. But again, there it is again. You do what you know to do. God brings the right person along. And when I hear you tell that story, I've heard it so many times, little did he know, little did he know that he was the connector between, you know, this kid, you know, who has a paper route, who had just finished High School, who didn't have any money. He was the connector between that unknown kid. And if I could just, you know, brag a bit, Dr. Charles F. Stanley, who's preached the Gospel all over the world. And at some point, years ago, you were through short wave radio, radio and television, you were in every single major city in the world, every single day of the week. And when I think about what hung in the balance, potentially, of his decision to look at this kid, and apparently, there was some sort of internal prompting. I mean, how many kids in Danville, Virginia, needed a scholarship to college? A lot, right? And yet for some reason, he took the time to give you the time, and then, after that conversation, leveraged his connections to give you that opportunity. And what an extraordinary role he played in your life.
Dr. Charles Stanley: Certainly.
Andy Stanley: And He had, he had no idea. And I have seen you do that for so many people through the years. Again, you can't do everything for everybody. But as I say, you know, do for one what you wish you could do for everyone. And he did for one what I'm sure he wished he could do for everyone. And you have done that as well. And it always makes me stop and think when somebody asks for something specific, or something I don't really have the time or resources to do. I think, we have no idea who God brings into our lives, but to be sensitive to that still small voice, and to do for one, what of course, we can't do for everyone. Okay, now I want to tell a story. This is my, maybe my favorite story about my Dad, and it was such a defining, really, a defining moment for me. So, you had been nominated to be the president of the Southern Baptist Convention. This was the first year. And there were some people who did not want you to be the president of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Dr. Charles Stanley: Forty-nine percent didn't.
Andy Stanley: Yeah. Forty-nine percent of about forty thousand delegates I think that showed up that year.
Dr. Charles Stanley: Yeah.
Andy Stanley: And so, we were at a particular school and the president of that school was one of the people who really did not want my Dad. He didn't think my Dad was qualified to lead the Southern Baptist Convention. So, they had a press conference. And we were in a big board room. It was packed full of the press. I mean this was like a big deal. We were in Fort Worth, and I snuck in the back and stood against the wall. Because I lived in Dallas, and I'd driven over. And you were on one side of the table and this gentleman, was on the other side of the table. And he lit into you. I mean, it was hard for me to not want to come across the table, you know, and ring his neck. He was so critical of you. It was cruel. And there's all these microphones, and you know, people leaning in. And I remember standing there thinking.... Also, I was across where I could see your face. And your face was so passive, you were so calm. I remember thinking, is he even listening? Because this guy was literally red in the face, and you were just standing there, sitting there just, I mean it was amazing. So, when he finished, Peggy Wehmeyer, I still remember her name, channel eight news in Dallas, leaned across the table with a microphone and she asked this question, because the election was the next day, I believe. She said, "Dr. Stanley, do you think you will win tomorrow"? And you said, and it's still emotional, with this extraordinary peaceful look on your face, you said, "If I win, I win, and if I lose, I win, because my responsibility is to obey God and to trust Him with the consequences". And you could have heard a pin drop. And of course, your opponent had no response to that. Because you had entrusted yourself as you have done your entire life, into the hands of your Heavenly Father. "If I win tomorrow, I win, but if I lose I still win, because the reason I'm running is because I feel like this is what God has called me to do". You want to comment on that a little bit? Because I know you remember that moment.
Dr. Charles Stanley: Right. Well, it was a tumultuous time in the convention and largest convention in history. And these, all the newspapers, The Baptist papers were writing and...
Andy Stanley: And the secular press, they were all into it back then. Yeah.
Dr. Charles Stanley: And they found that I'd had been a Pentecostal, hadn't always been a Southern Baptist, and on and on and on they went. And I wouldn't answer anybody's criticism, and I just kept quiet. And so, I took out a four by six card and I folded it, and I wrote on it, "Wait".
Andy Stanley: You had with you in that meeting?
Dr. Charles Stanley: Yeah.
Andy Stanley: I never heard that.
Dr. Charles Stanley: I just sat that in front of me.
Andy Stanley: On the table?
Dr. Charles Stanley: Yeah. So that whatever they ask me, don't give them a quick answer, just wait. And so, they were just giving me a hard time telling me why I couldn't be the president. Well, the truth is, I didn't want to be.
Andy Stanley: Well, that's the other part of the story. He really didn't want to be.
Dr. Charles Stanley: No.
Andy Stanley: I mean, this was just going to be a big hassle. You had a big church, you had a lot going on, and yeah. This wasn't something you had an ambition toward.
Dr. Charles Stanley: So, I put on there, "Wait", so that whatever they asked me, don't give them a quick answer. Just wait. And so, they asked me, "Well, suppose you lose". I said I can't lose. Well, they laughed and shoved each other, you know. And so, they asked, "Oh, what do you mean you can't lose"? I said well, "If I win, I win, and if I lose, I still win, because my goal is to obey God, not to be the president". Dead silence.
Andy Stanley: Yep, that was it. That was the moment. And again, I was in graduate school. And again, I'd heard you say those things, teach those things, but to watch you apply it with all of that pressure and with all the energy in the room. It really was, it was just, it really, really was a defining moment I think for me in my Faith, and just in terms of how I've chosen to lead, so. That was me...
Dr. Charles Stanley: And I did win. Ha!
Andy Stanley: And you did win! And they were not happy!
Dr. Charles Stanley: No. They weren't happy.
Andy Stanley: Right.
Dr. Charles Stanley: And it didn't matter to me because I had one goal, obey God and leave all the consequences to Him.
Andy Stanley: Yeah. And that leads us to another topic. I want to talk a little bit about your grandfather. So, your Father died when you were nine months old. Your grandfather lived in Siler City, North Carolina, and you had an opportunity to spend some time with him. He was also a pastor or a preacher. And he had a tremendous influence on you. Can you talk a little bit about that, that time with him? Because, again, it's one of those defining moments that we don't know it's happening. But he sensed something in you and decided to invest in you. Those were some interesting conversations you had with him.
Dr. Charles Stanley: I had only seen him twice before. I was getting ready to go to college, and I thought, I'm going to go see my Granddad who's been a pastor all these years. So, he and I would sit on his back porch, screened-in back porch, in a swing. And I just wanted to hear him talk. He talked about the Bible and characters in the body and sermons, and on and on he went. And one of the things he said was, we were talking about being obedient to God. And he said, "If God tells you to run your head through a brick wall, when you get there, God will make a hole for it". Which is his way of saying, he didn't interpret that, but the way I understood it was, "Well, God'll assume responsibility for whatever I do that's obedient to Him".
Andy Stanley: Yep
Dr. Charles Stanley: So, I walked away. And I remember riding on one of those old Trailway buses home and thinking in my mind, "Obey God and not"... You know, I had all kind of thoughts then. "Obey God and leave all the consequences to Him". I thought, "Well, you can't lose that way. Obey God and leave all the consequences to Him". And so, I would have to say, that is the statement that has governed my life. Haven't been perfect of course, governed my life all these years. From big decision to little decisions, obey Him and leave the consequences to Him. You can't lose.
Andy Stanley: Right. That is the win. It's to go. This is what you taught me, to be able to go to bed at night and look up at the ceiling with a clear conscience, and to know that things are good between me and my Heavenly Father. That's the win.
Dr. Charles Stanley: That's right.
Andy Stanley: That's the goal. Because we can't control outcomes anyway. And every time we try to control outcomes, we just mess it up and make things more complicated. So, and again, here is the gentleman who in that, you know, just a few days, I think you were about seventeen years old you told me, when this happened. You had four or five days with him, and he left his fingerprints...
Dr. Charles Stanley: Yes.
Andy Stanley: All over your life. His name, you're going to think I'm making this up, but I have a witness. His name was George Washington Stanley, right?
Dr. Charles Stanley: That's right.
Andy Stanley: So, your grandfather is George Washington Stanley, and little did he know that that little bit of investment in his grandson's life, here we are, all these years later telling these stories and quoting him. So again, we never know who God's going to bring along. And when there's that internal nudge to give this person a little extra attention, give this person some of your time. Again, we never know how God's going to use that.
Dr. Charles Stanley: No.
Andy Stanley: And once again. So, switching gears a couple more times. I want to talk about perseverance. This has been one of the themes in your life, not because you chose it, but because you didn't have, well, you did have a choice, but you were oftentimes left with two options: Give up or persevere. You've been through church splits, betrayal, you've had some health challenges. And as you know, I've had a front row seat to all of this, going all the way back to Miami, you know, to moving to Bartow, Florida, where we lived for eighteen months, the challenge of coming to Atlanta. When my Dad came to the First Baptist Church of Atlanta, he came as the Associate Pastor, not the Pastor. And see if I get this right. And when they showed him his office, you sat down and you went to open the drawer to the desk and...
Dr. Charles Stanley: All the drawers were locked and no key.
Andy Stanley: All the drawers were locked, no key, and it was like, "Hey, welcome to the church". And so, there, you know, there are so many stories related to that difficult transition. But you've always persevered. You've always gotten back up. You've always leaned in and just kept putting one foot in front of the other through extraordinary challenges that we don't even have time to talk about. And some cases, they're really nobody's business. But talk just a little bit about perseverance, because there are people watching, people listening who especially in this season are going through some really, really difficult times. And you just feel like, "Hey, you know, I never get a break. It never goes my way. What's the point in praying? God's not listening. What's the point in remaining faithful? God's not responding to my faith". What, do you say to that person? And where did you find the energy or the confidence to just keep getting back up and moving forward?
Dr. Charles Stanley: Well, because I believed with all my heart, if I obey God, He'd help me through whatever that was, and I won't get into all those stories, but time after time after time, I watched God answer my prayers. Sometimes I thought Lord, "You are late, You're getting late". But He always came through at the right time no matter what the situation was. And I've got lots of those illustrations. And one thing also that helped me was, I was excited to see what God was going to do next. In other words...
Andy Stanley: Even in the down times?
Dr. Charles Stanley: In the down times, I think, "Okay Lord. I've come this far. I've done what you told me to do. It doesn't look very good, but I'm going to trust you, and I'm going to see what happens". And without fail, God always brought me through every difficult situation. Some of them looked absolutely impossible, but I thought, "God, You're who You say You are. I'm going to trust You to prove it".
Andy Stanley: Wow! Can you, or will you tell the story? And this is a little bit off subject, about the Easter message that you didn't have the night before Easter?
Dr. Charles Stanley: Ha, ha, ha, ha.
Andy Stanley: Now, for some of you this isn't going to be very relevant. But for those of us in ministry, this is a terrifying story. And the context was you, I guess you had just begun a media ministry. In Touch had just launched. And, you know, broadcast ministry is very expensive. And there were multiple people doing broadcast ministries. And they spent a good portion of their time on the air asking for money. And so, In Touch began to grow, and you were at that place where, "Okay, we need resources if this is going to work". And then, it was Easter.
Dr. Charles Stanley: Easter coming. Well, usually by Thursday, I'll have an outline.
Andy Stanley: For the following Sunday?
Dr. Charles Stanley: Yeah. So, the Thursday came and I didn't have anything. It's like God shut up everything.
Andy Stanley: And this was Easter Sunday?
Dr. Charles Stanley: Easter Sunday coming.
Andy Stanley: This is the Super Bowl for us, right?
Dr. Charles Stanley: Yeah. And Friday, no sermon. Saturday morning, no sermon. "Lord, now what, Heavenly Father"? I'm stumbling around trying to figure out what am I going to do next. And Saturday morning, Saturday afternoon, Saturday night. I'm on my face on the floor saying, "God, I'm going to be horribly embarrassed". I don't, you know that I could pull up an old sermon but you won't let me do that. So finally, I got on the floor and stretched out and just said God, "Okay, I don't know what you're saying, but please say it"!
Andy Stanley: Quick!
Dr. Charles Stanley: Quick. And I wasn't even thinking about this. It's like the Lord said to me, "You must never ask for one penny on the television or radio at all. You must never, never spend any time asking for money. You trust me, and I'll determine how far this ministry goes". So, I struggled with that a little bit and I thought, "Okay, God. You have always answered my prayers in some fashion. I commit myself right now never to ask for a penny, and I'll just see what You do". Well, I've never asked for a penny. And I don't have to tell anybody how far and wide it's gone.
Andy Stanley: Yeah. But the pastors who are watching this are thinking, "But what happened Easter". So, what happened after you made that decision?
Dr. Charles Stanley: And the next morning, I was all fired up!
Andy Stanley: Wow! Okay, we're about to wrap this up. I want to just talk about something fun for a moment. You have a hobby that you are so passionate about that I think at times it rivals your love for ministry. So, talk a little bit about the hobby that God has used to fuel you and to energize you, reenergize you and allow you to see the world.
Dr. Charles Stanley: Well, it has allowed me to see the world, if photography is my hobby. And I think one of the primary reasons is, I'm always looking through the camera lens and seeing what God's done. I've been places from the South Pole to, you name it. And I'm always looking through the lens, and I'm always thinking, "Wow, God"! Whether it's fall leaves, or snow-covered mountains, or beautiful creeks and rivers, and all the places I've been. What it's done, it has given me the breaks that I needed. And when I go somewhere to take a break, I don't look back. I don't think about, "I wonder what's happening here or there, and so forth". So, I'm very, very grateful to God that He has made that a part of my life, and it's just been, it's been like nourishment to my soul. I see God. In other words, it isn't photography over here and preaching over here. I just see God in all of that. And so, I couldn't be more grateful for all the places I've been, things I've seen.
Andy Stanley: And you are really, really good at it. And many people have seen some of your photography, but if you've ever visited In Touch where he has some of his favorite photographs displayed, they're spectacular. And of course, you've done the calendar year after year after year, and it really is intimidating. You know, you're so good at it. And every once in a while, he'd say "Hey, I want to take you on a photography trip. We'll go on a short one, ten days". I'm like, "Wait! You're the five-week vacation Dad. It's a short", ten days isn't a short trip, but it's been amazing. We have your pictures hanging around in our home, and so many other people do as well. So, it's just great that you've had that and it really has not just been an outlet, but it really has become part of the ministry as you've been able to share those pictures and talk about some of the stories behind some of those pictures.
Dr. Charles Stanley: And see, it's really not separate, because here's a sermon over here that God's given, and here's a view of something that people had passed by and never see that I see.
Andy Stanley: Yep.
Dr. Charles Stanley: So, it's all part of the same story.
Andy Stanley: Alright, let's wrap up with this. One of the other statements I grew up with is this. "Andy, the most important thing in the world, the most important thing in the world is your personal relationship with Jesus Christ".
Dr. Charles Stanley: That's right.
Andy Stanley: "Andy, no matter what else happens, no matter what else is going on, you know, good or bad, the most important thing in the world, the most important thing in your life is your personal relationship with Jesus Christ". Now, many people when they hear that, they think about a moment in time that they put their faith in Christ and became a Christian. But that's not what you're talking about. You're talking about this on-going intimacy with God, that it is the most important thing in our lives. So, as we wrap up, would you talk just a little bit about that? And I think your story, your story growing up gives us context for why that's always been important to you. But, what do you say to the person who they don't think in terms of a relationship with God or intimacy with Christ? What do you mean when you say that the most important thing in your life is your personal relationship with Jesus Christ?
Dr. Charles Stanley: Well, I mean exactly what that says. That is, we all have relationships with different people. And having a personal relationship with God means, I'm connected twenty-four hours a day to the Creator, to the Savior, to the Lord, the Master, the one Who walks with me, provides my needs, gives me joy, gives me strength to deal with issues in life. In other words, a personal relationship with Him isn't something that comes and goes when you go to church. You wake up with Him. You go to sleep with Him, talking to Him. You wake up talking to Him. All during the day You see Him in this, see Him in that. You're interpreting life from the view point that God has taught you to look at things, and that viewpoint is going to be always scriptural. He'll never tell you to do something that's unscriptural. So, what that does is, it makes it possible for you to be happy in difficult times and feeling confident and bold, and whatever is going on, you're going to make it. You'll get through with it. So, it provides the foundation for my happiness, my joy. And I am a happy man. I am a joyous person. And so, I just see all that as a part of God building something in me, teaching me how to understand Him better and I come home excited about something I'm going to show you that God's made, that God has done. So, I'm happy.
Andy Stanley: Yep. It's the most important thing in your life is your personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
Dr. Charles Stanley: Is your personal relationship is Jesus Christ.
Andy Stanley: Well, Dad, as we close, I would love for you to pray for us, and I received so many things from you. One of the things I didn't get is your voice. People love your voice, and I love your voice. And so, I would love for you to close by using that fabulous voice to close us in prayer. Would you do that?
Dr. Charles Stanley: Well, thank you for giving me this time with you and with all the folks at In Touch, and thank you for growing up and being who you are. And I couldn't be more proud of you and Beck and how God has used both of you all in the most wonderful way. And so, when I look back and think, "Well, Lord, I must have made a lot of mistakes, but you must have overlooked them, Lord, because look what you've done". So, I want to say thank you for being Andy.
Andy Stanley: Well, I appreciate that. It's my honor. I don't know who else to be. Will you pray for us?
Dr. Charles Stanley: Yeah.
Father, how grateful we are that you never change. Awesome God that you are. Everything Your Word promises You are. You demonstrate it day after day after day. Would you bless this time that we've had together? May it be an awesome encouragement to parents and people, Lord, who are raising their kids in difficult situations. And people who are just trying to decide Lord, what kind of God You are, I pray that all that we've talked about will help them to be able to realize You're an Awesome God, gracious, good, loving God, willing to take us through difficulty, hardship and pain, willing to always bring us through. Blessed, blessed by Your graciousness and kindness toward us. Thank you, Father, for this time together, in Jesus' name, amen.