Can One Know for Sure about the Elect?

Are You One of the Elect?

 

By Adrian Rogers

Adrian-Rogers pointing with handBIBLE MEDITATION:
“And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.” Revelation 22:17

DEVOTIONAL THOUGHT:
“…And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely…” You don’t have to pay one blessed cent for it. It’s there. Take it and drink it. You will never have your heart’s deepest thirst satisfied until you’re satisfied with Jesus. And if you are thirsty, come and drink. He will save you, I promise on the authority of the Word of God.

You say, “But Pastor Rogers, what if I’m not one of the elect?” Well, would it help? Could I be more sure if He said, “If Adrian Rogers will come and drink.” I could say, “Now wait a minute. There’s more than one Adrian Rogers in the world today.” What if Revelation 22:17 said, “Adrian Pierce Rogers”? There might be another Adrian Pierce Rogers. It might not refer to me.

What if it said, “Adrian Pierce Rogers, born in West Palm Beach, Florida”? Well, there could be another Adrian Pierce Rogers born in West Palm Beach, Florida. What if it said, “Adrian Pierce Rogers, born in West Palm Beach, Florida, who now lives in Shelby County, Tennessee? There might be another one born in West Palm Beach, Adrian. By now you’re saying, “You’re getting ridiculous.”

Let me just solve this thing. Let’s forget all that and just put one word in there: “whosoever.” Whosoever! That’s better than anybody’s name spelled out. Who are the elect? I can settle that in 30 seconds. The elect are the “whosoever wills.”

ACTION POINT:
If you want to be saved, come. Come to Jesus. He’s reaching out His nail-pierced hands to you and saying, “Come, come, come.” Jesus says come. The Spirit says come. The bride says come. The individual says come. You can come and drink.


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By Adrian Rogers


The Woman that Influenced Billy Graham & Bill Bright

Henrietta Cornelia Mears

By Richard J. Leyda

Henrietta MearsDr. Henrietta C. Mears (1890-1963), a Presbyterian Christian education director, had a profound influence on the way contemporary educational ministry is conducted. Her influence covered the breadth of the field, including church program development, teacher and leadership training, curriculum publishing, camps and conferences, and missions education. Her legacy endures through contemporary approaches to Bible study and Sunday school material, the ministries she founded, and the lives of outstanding Christian leaders who have impacted the world for Christ.

Biography

Early Life Influences, Education and Teaching

Henrietta Cornelia Mears was born in Fargo, North Dakota on October 23, 1890, the youngest of seven children by some eleven years. She came from a rich spiritual heritage that can be traced back at least five generations on her mother’s side; particularly influential were her maternal grandparents. Her grandfather, Dr. W. W. Everts, had been the prominent pastor of a number of churches, including the First Baptist Church of Chicago. Upon reading the biography of her grandmother, she said, “I’m amazed to see how many of my own policies and beliefs trace back to my grandmother. The same thinking, the same ideas and approach. She taught them to my mother, and I was almost unconsciously reared on these same precepts” (Powers, 1957, p. 83). Her father, E. Ashley Mears, had substantial wealth, owning more than twenty banks located in the Dakotas. He was known for his optimism, humor, clear sense of vision, and an extraordinary capacity to train people, traits that Henrietta acquired. Her mother, Margaret Everts Mears, though a slight woman physically, had a powerful intellect and great spiritual depth. She exuded enthusiasm and concern for others; if not involved in caring for her family, much of her endeavor concerned the poor and deeds of charity. Her disciplined devotional walk and effective presentation of the Gospel to salesmen and others visiting the Mears home gave young Henrietta a pattern of spiritual life she would later follow faithfully. Through the loss of two children in death and the severe illnesses of two others, including Henrietta, Margaret’s spiritual strength had been forged in the fire of personal trial.

After a brief relocation to Duluth, Minnesota, the Mears family moved to Minneapolis when Henrietta was in the second grade. Her home life provided a rich spiritual atmosphere, each day beginning with Bible reading, family prayer, and hymn singing. Since her other siblings were much older, she became the special focus of her mother’s attention, providing the young girl a strong foundation in the Christian faith. On Easter Sunday morning as a seven year old, she declared her desire to become a Christian and to join the church. Though young, it was clear that she was informed and serious about her faith and was baptized soon after. Her family belonged to the First Baptist Church of Minneapolis, and they would often entertain such renowned Christian leaders as W. Graham Scroggie, G. Campbell Morgan, and R. A. Torrey, who greatly influenced the young girl. Her pastor, W.B. Riley, was a leader in the Fundamentalist Movement, and his Dispensational understanding of theology and belief in the inerrancy of Scripture are consistent with Henrietta’s later teaching and writing. At age eleven, she taught her first class, a group of beginning Christians at a mission for the needy in Minneapolis, foreshadowing her ministry to come.

At twelve Henrietta was stricken with muscular rheumatism, which crippled her and left her in constant pain. Two years later, through the prayers of a family friend, she was miraculously healed and never again suffered from pain or debilitation due to this illness. From the time she began elementary school, she was plagued with poor eyesight that doctors predicted would lead to total blindness. Though she was not supernaturally healed from this condition, remarkably she was able to read and study throughout her whole life. She even claimed, “You know, I believe my greatest spiritual asset throughout my entire life has been my failing sight. It has kept me completely dependent upon God” (Powers, 1957, p. 101).

As a seventeen year old high school senior, responding to the challenge of Dr. Riley, Henrietta made a commitment to vocational Christian service, at first believing her call to be as a missionary to China. After some frustration and lack of confirmation on such a call, she entered the University of Minnesota where she studied chemistry. In spite of her poor eyesight, she did well because of her disciplined study habits. She served as the superintendent of a Sunday school junior department while a freshman, and during her junior and senior years, taught a popular women’s Bible class at the university. In 1910, when she was twenty, her mother died; this was particularly difficult for her since they had been so close. She pondered the words of Dr. Riley following the memorial service concerning the “spiritual mantle” of her mother passing to her, and she became increasingly focused on surrendering her life to Christ. At this time she experienced the power of the indwelling presence of God’s spirit in a new way; this formed the basis for all her future ministry. Her wholehearted commitment to Christ was exemplified when she cut off a serious romantic relationship because the young man was not of a like faith, in spite of her desire to be married and have a family. In 1913 with her bachelor’s degree, she accepted a position in North Branch, Minnesota, as a chemistry teacher and principal of the high school while also helping in the Sunday school and youth program of the local Methodist church. The following year she moved to Beardsley, Minnesota, where she again taught chemistry and took on high school principal duties. She began a Bible study for the young people; her enthusiastic spirituality was infectious-she had an overwhelmingly positive impact on that small community.

One year later, sensing that she needed to be in Minneapolis with her sister Margaret, she moved there hoping to teach chemistry. Accepting a position at Central High School, Henrietta continued in that capacity for ten years. Her Fidelis Class, comprised of young women at the First Baptist Church, grew to an enrollment of three thousand attendees at the end of ten years. Such growth was based on a system of small groups comprised of five girls including a leader; when groups reached ten girls, one girl left to start a new group of her own. She also started the highly successful Dorcas Group, designed for young married women. While she had earlier seen her call as a foreign missionary, she now came to the realization that her ministry role was to nurture spiritual growth and leadership and to train others to take the Gospel throughout the world.

In March of 1926, she met Dr. Stewart P. MacLennan, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood, California, who had come to preach in her church. He was so impressed with her in their brief time together that he tried to persuade her to come work in his church. During a sabbatical leave from teaching duties in 1927, Margaret and she traveled to Europe, the first of eleven such tours she would take. At the end of that trip she came to California to visit the Hollywood church. She found an exciting ministry there with great potential; she finally sensed God’s call and accepted the position of Director of Christian Education in the fall of 1928. She held this position for thirty-five years, and it served as the platform from which a multitude of people believed in Christ, learned the Scripture, were trained in leadership, and founded a plethora of ministries.

Under her direction, the Sunday School grew from 450 to more than 6000 in 1933, and later to 6500-the largest Presbyterian Sunday school of its time in the world. “Teacher,” as her students called her, built the church education program on a strong foundation of prayer, hard work, a high degree of organization, and a commitment to Christ-honoring excellence. Among the goals that she achieved for the program were to have a department for every age grouping and a separate class for every age, to maintain a complete curriculum at all levels, and to develop teachers of the quality found in public schools of the time. The teacher-training program was a key ingredient to the success of the church school. She viewed thorough preparation and planning as a key ingredient to teaching or any other enterprise. Prayer and hard work was the means to such excellence. While the clear message of the Gospel was to remain the same, teaching methods might vary widely, and she used the newest technology or educational psychology at her disposal. The Sunday school quickly outgrew the facilities and more classrooms were built; three educational buildings were erected over the course of her ministry.

Consistent with her call to strategic service, Mears chose to teach the College Department with the avowed aim of winning young men and women to Christ and developing leadership for the church worldwide. Practicing a one-on-one evangelistic approach as her mother had done, she personally led thousands of individuals, many of them young people, to saving faith in Christ. She modeled the disciplined effort that she called for from her college students. It is said that in the beginning of this teaching ministry, she spent twenty hours per week in lesson preparation for thirty minutes of teaching. The college group grew to well over six hundred; its success was attributed to solid biblical teaching, faithful prayer, and the relevance of the message to their life needs and problems, all in an enthusiastic and caring environment. Over the course of her ministry, from this college group emerged over four hundred church and ministry leaders.

She was unusually gifted in the ability to identify potential in young people, challenge them with the Great Commission, and train them for the work. Sometimes accused of being partial to young men-those leading in the College Department were referred to as “Miss Mears’ Boys”-she frankly admitted that the church needed strong male leadership, and where that was present, young women would follow. While organizationally she was under the Pastor of Christian Education, she operated on the same level as the pastors, practically speaking. She continued to serve during the pastorates of Dr. Louis H. Evans, who came in 1941, and Dr. Raymond I. Linquist, who began in 1953.

Surveying the Sunday school materials currently being used as well as curriculum from other publishers, she found that nothing was adequate to meet the needs of students. Though many materials had a biblical focus, they were not closely graded to match students’ abilities and interests and often were poorly organized. After she and her fellow Christian educators agreed on learning outcomes for each of the levels, she began to write materials by herself at first, and later was assisted by associates. The demand for these lessons grew to such an extent that they were requested by churches throughout the country. Mears and three colleagues founded Gospel Light Press-later Gospel Light Publications-in 1933 in an attempt to meet this demand and sales soared. Shortly after, the firm began producing books and other church school materials. Publications were known for their quality, student appeal, and emphasis on life application. They were biblically focused and Christ-centered, yet also took into account current educational understanding about how students best learned.

Beginning in 1938, from the platform she was acquiring as a nationally known curriculum writer and authority in training of teachers, Mears responded to requests for leadership development by teaching the Christian Education Training Course in the Los Angeles area. She was at the vanguard of a renewal movement, for soon rallies, conferences, and conventions of Sunday schools were springing up around the country, breathing new life into an Evangelical institution that many thought outdated under the challenge of theological liberalism. A co-founder of the National Sunday School Association, she spoke widely about the Sunday school around the United States and Canada and greatly encouraged its proponents across denominational lines

Convinced of the value of Christian camping to transform lives, Mears sought for a conference center that could further the goals of the church education program, which had used a variety of camp facilities previously. Divinely appointed opportunity came for the purchase of a resort in the San Bernardino Mountains of Southern California at an astoundingly low price, and Forest Home Christian Conference Center was founded in 1938 with Mears as one of its five-member non-profit board. Attendees came from Hollywood Presbyterian Church as well as from other churches and denominations around southern California-Mears saw God’s work as crossing denominational lines. Over the years, hundreds of decisions of commitment to Christ were recorded by her in the Book of Remembrance kept at the conference center. Forest Home and Mears had a major part to play in a ministry to college students in the post-war years. The College Briefing Conferences in the summers of 1947 and 1949 produced revivals earthshaking in their impact on church and parachurch leaders, greatly influencing the course of evangelism and missions in the latter half of the Twentieth Century.

Her vision also included reaching those in the film industry for Christ; she was instrumental in forming the Hollywood Christian Group as a means to this end, reaching a number of well-recognized members of that industry. This effort was a precursor to a number of ministries currently active in Southern California within the film and entertainment industry.

She was awarded an honorary Doctor of Humanities degree by Bob Jones University in 1949 on the basis of her outstanding contributions to Christian education. Believing international missions and evangelism to be of the utmost importance and urgency, Mears founded GLINT, originally Gospel Literature in National Tongues and later renamed Gospel Literature International, in 1961 to translate Gospel Light literature. This was her last major endeavor though she was still active on ministry boards and in personal service until her passing. Vital to the very night of her death, she peacefully went to join her Lord sometime before dawn, March 20, 1963. In testimony to the many lives she touched, nearly two thousand people attended her triumphant memorial service at the First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood.

The following four works are biographical resources on Mears’ life that were used extensively in the previous section. Much of their content covers similar material, so individual sources were not cited, unless quoted, to facilitate the flow of the narrative.

Biographical Sources

  • Baldwin, E. M. & Benson, D. V. (1966). Henrietta Mears and how she did it. Ventura, CA: Regal Books.
  • Madden, A. V. B. (1997). Henrietta C. Mears: 1890-1963, Her life and influence. Unpublished masters thesis. Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary, South Hamilton, MA. (Available Theological Research Exchange Network [TREN] microfiche.)
  • Powers, B. H. (1957). The Henrietta Mears story. Westwood, N.J.: Fleming H. Revell Company.
  • Roe, E. O. (Ed.). (1990). Dream big: The Henrietta Mears story. Ventura, CA: Regal Books.

Contributions to Christian Education

As a Church Educational Ministry Professional

Henrietta Mears was a pioneer in the conduct of Christian education within the church from a number of perspectives. She was an innovator in Sunday school curriculum, having designed, written, and produced a curriculum that brought sound teaching-learning theory to the serious study of the Bible. One of her objectives was to put the “school” back in Sunday school. To honor Christ and to remain true to the Scriptures were core values of her philosophy of education from which she never wavered. Her expressed goal for the program was to “teach the Word clearly and correctly to the end that people may come to know Christ as Savior and Lord and to grow spiritually, faithful in every good work” (Hosier, 2000, p. 168). The Bible was the text and message of Christian education; it also gave principles as to the conduct of an educational ministry (Baldwin and Benson, 1966). Methods and procedures could change, she contended, and must be rethought based on the changing condition of the world and human need (Cox, 1961). Possessing both training and experience as a public school teacher, she integrated much of the contemporary educational thought of John Dewey and others regarding student needs and learning process with the timeless content of Scripture. These materials were closely age-graded to attend to the developmental needs and interests of the child. An assessment of this curriculum in the Sunday School Times (“Fundamental Sunday School Lessons,” May 5, 1934) hailed it as a noteworthy response to the secularized content of the public schools-attractive, interesting for pupil and teacher alike, Christ-centered, and true to Scripture. While it was originally written and published to meet the needs of only her own church, the demand for such materials, both nationally and even internationally, necessitated the founding of Gospel Light, which remains one of the major Evangelical houses publishing Bible study curriculum.

Mears also provided a model for the conduct of religious education. She directed one of the most successful church education programs of her time, both in quality and quantity, having built the Sunday school from 500 students to well over 6000 at its height. Extensive programs within the Hollywood church impacted all age levels and included groups having particular needs and interests (Cox, 1961). A major element in the growth of the educational program was a comprehensive program of teacher training. With the far-reaching demand for the Gospel Light curriculum came a need to train teachers in how to use it and how to conduct a successful church education program. Teacher training was therefore extended beyond the Hollywood Church to meet this demand, and she conducted teacher training programs at various sites around the country. This exposure led to her role as one of the catalysts for the renewal of the Sunday school, an institution which appeared to be waning because of the liberal theology of her day. She was in great demand as a speaker, traveling nationally and internationally to hold up the banner of the Sunday school movement, encouraging and giving a new sense of dignity to participants and challenging its detractors. As a co-founder of the National Sunday School Association in 1945, Mears was among those who championed a return to the biblical foundations of the movement and pushed for a more focused evangelistic outreach as a primary purpose of religious education (McAllister, 1990).

As a Trainer of Leadership and Developer of Organizations

If one were to single out her greatest legacy, it was the leadership whom Dr. Mears challenged, motivated, and trained for the cause of Christ worldwide. Through this avenue, she put an indelible stamp on much of the church-based Christian education ministry of the mid-twentieth century as well as upon many of the missions and para-church ministries that were developing during this time. As stated previously, she was directly responsible for influencing over four hundred young people toward vocational Christian service. The United Presbyterian denomination was greatly impacted through her “boys”, many of whom attended Princeton Seminary and went on to important pastoral or other leadership roles (Powers, 1957). At a fairly early age she discovered her life’s purpose of “challenging young people into leadership and developing that leadership” (Clinton, 1995, p. 355), and she was consistently true to this vision. This singleness of purpose led her in many directions, ministry-wise, yet all to one end. Collegians were strategic in her view of leadership development, and she structured her college class to develop them. Her travels to post-war Europe convinced her that capturing the college campuses of the world was key to developing leadership for world revival (Madden, 1997).

Mears studied the means by which God shaped leaders and sought to put these principles to work (Powers, 1957). Her mentoring method with these young people was highly effective. As Bill Bright recalled, “She trained by her life, which is the most powerful way” (Madden,1997, p. 54). “You teach a little by what you say. You teach most by what you are,” Mears instructed (Roe 1990, p. 18). She was a powerful and authoritative teacher, yet she well knew the limitation of words alone. For example, formal teaching on how to evangelize was not a part of the training. Instead, her pupils learned by watching her share Christ with others and doing as she did (Madden, 1997). In her training design she utilized the full range of learning taxonomies. While her cognitive input was strong, she understood the power of the affective and volitional domains, and stressed the experiential as well (Clinton, 1995). Clearly, her philosophy of leadership development was to challenge her pupils to take over her responsibilities. This allowed them to grow and experience the realities of ministry; at the same time it gave her the opportunity for travel on numerous sabbatical tours that refreshed her as well as renewed and extended her vision for service (Clinton, 1995).

Her connection with her students was characterized by balance. As Powers (1957) states, she was “a hard taskmaster” yet she never lost sight of the individual; she made every student feel like “the most important person in the whole world” (p. 160). As a unique blend of visionary and realist, she challenged them to serve a great God, but helped them to find a niche and use their giftedness (Hosier, 2000). Mears had an uncanny ability to see leadership potential in students as well as to help them develop it. She was confident and quite direct in her communication; yet, in wanting her students to put their trust in the Lord, she encouraged them to seek Him in prayer rather than making decisions for them (Roe, 1990).

A number of qualities made her an excellent mentor of young leaders. Her Bible study, prayer life, and dependent relationship with Christ communicated in compelling ways to draw her students into this same way of life. Powers (1957) contended “her spiritual power, either in speaking, teaching, or in personal counsel, came from her intimate fellowship with her indwelling Lord” (p. 164). Her commitment to excellence including disciplined study and hard work was based on her single-minded focus on pleasing Christ. She was always enthusiastic and took a very positive view of what God could do. Her warmth, love for students, and wonderful sense of humor-including the ability to laugh at herself-made her highly attractive to young people. A constant encourager with seemingly boundless energy, she willingly spent long hours in individual counseling. Her openness about her personal struggles, including her failing eyesight, caused people to identify with and relate to her (A. Kerr, personal communication, June 20, 2002). A defining trait, according to one of her students, was “her ability to go directly to the heart of the problem or to the problem of the heart, whichever proved to be the case” (Powers, 1957, p. 47).

Her imprint on the lives and ministries of many of the outstanding Christian leaders of this century is well documented. The words of some of the more notable among these give clear testimony. Dr. Billy Graham claims that his evangelistic ministry was transformed through Mears and events surrounding the College Briefing Conference of 1949 at Forest Home. Concerning her, he states, “She has had a remarkable influence, both directly and indirectly, on my life. In fact, I doubt if any other woman outside of my wife and mother has had such a marked influence. Her gracious spirit, her devotional life, her steadfastness for the simple gospel, and her knowledge of the Bible have been a continual inspiration and amazement to me. She is certainly one of the greatest Christians I have ever known!” (Powers, 1957, p. 7). Bill Bright, who along with his wife founded Campus Crusade for Christ, says of her, “Dr. Henrietta Mears was truly one of the great women of the twentieth century and one of the greatest influences of my life… She directly discipled hundreds of young men and women whom God led into full-time Christian ministry. Today, no doubt, thousands of additional disciples whom they influenced are, in turn, introducing millions of other people to Christ” (Roe, 1990, p. 5). Another renowned leader of a major parachurch movement, Jim Rayburn, founder of Young Life, said of her, “She was my teacher long before she ever heard of me. When I began my work among young people in 1933, I read everything she wrote and listened to everyone who could tell me about her. I tried my best to do things the way she would want them done” (Roe, 1990, p. 6). Elsewhere, he stated, “… she has had a great deal to do with shaping the progress and ministry of the Young Life Campaign” (Baldwin & Benson, 1966, p. 248). Scores of other individuals in strategic positions have shared similar stories of her influence.

Henrietta Mears had a direct or indirect influence on a vast number of Christian organizations. Her most direct impact was on those organizations such as Gospel Light and Forest Home, which she founded. These organizations came into existence to meet the needs of her church and the wider Christian community; their purpose was an integral part of her philosophy of Christian education. Those students who came under her teaching were involved in the starting of approximately fifty other ministries. She was involved to some degree in the leadership of some of these, having served, for example, on the board of directors of Campus Crusade for Christ. It would be hard to measure the indirect effects her life and ministry have had around the world, but these are undoubtedly extensive. Campus Crusade alone has impacted hundreds of thousands of collegians and the world at large through mission outreaches, including the Jesus Film, purportedly seen by over 4.5 billion people as of the year 2000.

As a Woman in Ministry

Henrietta Mears as an influential woman in ministry was something of an anomaly-a woman far ahead of her time. When one searches for contemporary examples of conservative Christians who have changed the way people view women in Christian service, she leaps to the forefront. The scope of her ministry and the variety of leadership positions she assumed was remarkable, given the fact that vocational ministry opportunities for women were fairly limited during her lifetime. It might be fair to say that she has broken ground and raised the consciousness of those of both genders concerning options open to women within and outside the church.

Her theological understanding regarding gender appeared to be that of male headship, and she clearly believed that men should be the leaders in the church. Yet she did not understand this to mean male domination. Though she subordinated herself to the pastors, practically speaking she functioned as an equal. She most likely would not have accepted ordination had it been offered to her and did not preach from the pulpit, believing her ministry to be that of teaching and mentoring under the authority of the pastor (Madden, 1997). Aware that certain opportunities were denied her because of her gender, she never made this an issue because of her clear sense of calling and her confidence in God and what He was leading her to do. This gave her a strong sense of authority, and Vonette Bright noted “she could be impatient with a person who did not give her an opportunity to do what she had been called to do” (Madden, 1997, p. 111).

As a woman surrounded by men, her manner was a model of effective interaction. Highly competent and successful at what she did, she went out of her way to help the men she worked with to succeed as well; they appreciated this and esteemed her highly for it. She could be insistent if a situation called for it, yet she would often refrain from pressing a point at other times with a wonderful sense of tact and diplomacy (W. T. Greig, II, personal communication, June 13, 2002). Her respectful attitude, enthusiastic spirit, winsome personality, and disarming sense of humor seemed to render questions concerning gender inconsequential (Madden, 1997). In this as well as on many other issues, because of her consuming passion for God’s work, she was above the pettiness to which even Christian leaders sometimes fall prey (W. T. Greig, II, personal communication, June 13, 2002).

Summary

As a practitioner of Christian education, Henrietta C. Mears had possibly the most far-reaching impact on the conduct of ministry of any woman of the twentieth century. The scope of her work has extended worldwide and her influence continues today, two generations after her passing. One writer in Christianity Today (Zoba, 1996) called her “the grandmother of us all”, since her vision of the Christian life so greatly inspired the young people of her day who in turn passed this vision on to contemporary Evangelicals. Touching virtually the whole range of potential Christian education ministry, Henrietta Mears provided a comprehensive and integrated model of religious education within the local church, the parachurch, and the Church around the world. Traditional areas of religious education such as program administration, curriculum, teaching, teacher training and leadership development, camping, and missions education each underwent innovations and change through her influence. Her life is a compelling study in Christ-like character, dependence on God, and the training of leaders for evangelism and ministry.

The Garden of Gethsemane

The Garden of the ‘Olive Press’

Garden of Gethsemane  By the Editor   Here in Gethsemane, the blood, sweat, and tears freely flow; here Jesus is praying in the greatest of agony.  The name Gethsemane has a   meaningful definition…it means “olive press.” In this beautiful little garden, as the name implies, the spiritual ‘wine press’ of God squeezes the life blood from Jesus as he is face down to the ground, His sweat, as great drops of blood, began to ooze out of Him and onto the ground, staining his clothes.   His life forces are escaping through his veins as his prayers are the most earnest ever prayed, The Sinless One was ‘a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.’ Surely in this garden the New Testament has its beginning as the first blood of Jesus is shed before any soldier puts a whip to Him.  God sent one Man into this old sin cursed world…One Man without sin, but none without sorrow.

    Neath The Old Olive Trees (1934)

             By Baylus Benjamin McKinney

‘Neath the stars of the night
Walked the Savior of light,
In the garden of dew-ladened breeze;
Where no light could be found,
Jesus knelt on the ground,
There He prayed ‘neath the old olive trees.

 ‘Neath the old olive trees,
‘Neath the old olive trees,
Went the Savior alone on His knees:
“Not My will, Thine be done,”
Cried the Father’s own Son,
As He knelt ‘neath the old olive trees.

 All the sin of the world
On the Savior was hurled,
As He knelt in the garden alone;
Hear His soul-burdened plea,
Let this cup pass from Me,
“Even so, not My will, Thine be done.”

 May my song ever be
Of the love proffered me,
By my Lord all alone on His knees:
Praise His wonderful name,
He who bore all my blame,

As He knelt ‘neath the old olive trees.

Dear reader you have here the account of Jesus in the Garden praying in agony to His Father.  He asked that He might be excused from drinking this ‘Cup of Sin.’  He who knew no sin was now to become sin so that we might become righteousness of Christ.  There was no escaping …there was no other way…Jesus had to become sin…our sin and so He did.  What Jesus dreaded most in this ordeal was His Father would turn His back on His Son.  It was not death…but the separation of God, His Father, from Him.  Satan and his legion of wicked angels could not kill Jesus in that garden…nor could 10,000 Roman soldiers snuff out His life…Jesus would have to willingly lay down His life for the sins of the world.  And this He did.  You are reading this…how do you stand before God”  Are you saved and on your wat to Heaven?  Are you lost and on your way to Hell?  Now is the time for you, the individual, to honestly face the matter.  If you are saved…you should rejoice.  If you are lost…you should at once cry out to God and accept the death of Jesus on the cross…where He took your place…bore your sins….died your death…Want you trust Him right now?  God help you to make that crucial decision right now.  I hope you will write us and let us rejoice with you. 

Two preaching giants and the ‘betrayal’ that tore them apart

Two Preaching Giants Stanley

  The Churches of Charles and Andy Stanley

One of the most important stories in church history took place in Alpharetta near Atlanta, Georgia, between a father and son, Charles Stanley and his son, Andy. Because of their high profile in religious circles and national television, it could not be kept private, nor should it. I encourage you to read this, because in some ways the manner it was handled between them is so remarkable it will scare you, bless you, and enrich your spiritual life. This article brought me to tears more than once. Ordinarily I would never publish an article like this about two men I respect and appreciate. But the way they handled this conflict that could have been terribly explosive and forever damaging is so telling that it should be required reading. The two men and their families navigated this mine field with godly care, loving frankness and tough grace resulting in both ministries growing stronger and perhaps leaving a testimony that will be far reaching and long remembered. Don’t dare scan this story…read it all. Look at the pictures. I have not read any story in church history comparable. Please read it prayerfully.

Alpharetta, Georgia (CNN) — Andy Stanley walked into his pastor’s office, filled with dread.

 The minister sat in a massive chair behind an enormous desk. He spread his arms across the desk as if he were bracing for battle. His secretary scurried out of the office when she saw Andy coming.   The pastor had baptized Andy when he was 6, and groomed him to be his successor. But a private trauma had gone public. And Andy felt compelled to speak.

 The minister stared in silence as Andy gave him the news. The “unspoken dream” both men shared was over.  After Andy finished, the pastor looked at him as tears welled up.  “Andy,” he said, “you have joined my enemies, and I’m your father.”  ‘I understand drive-by shootings’  He won’t wear a suit or a tie in the pulpit. There’s no special parking space reserved for him at his church. Everyone calls him “Andy.”

 As a teenager, Andy decided he was going to be a rock star after seeing Elton John perform live. Today he has found fame, and infamy, on another stage.

 

Andy Stanley is the founder of North Point Ministries, one of the largest Christian organizations in the nation. A lanky man with close-cropped hair and an “aw-shucks” demeanor, he is alone as he steps out of his office to greet a visitor to his ministry’s sprawling office complex in suburban Atlanta.  At least 33,000 people attend one of Andy’s seven churches each Sunday. Fans watch him on television or flock to his leadership seminars; pastors study his DVDs for preaching tips; his ministries’ website gets at least a million downloads per month.

“I tell my staff everything has a season,” he says, leaning back in an office chair while wearing a flannel shirt, faded jeans and tan hiking boots. “One day we’re not going to be the coolest church. Nothing is forever. As soon as somebody thinks forever, that’s when they close their hand,” he says, slowly clenching his fist. “Now they have to control, maintain and protect it. … Things get weird.”

 At 54, Andy knows something about weirdness. He was swept up in a struggle against another famous televangelist — his father, the Rev. Charles Stanley, a Southern Baptist megachurch pastor and founder of In Touch Ministries, a global evangelistic organization. The experience enraged Andy so much it scared him:  “I understand drive-by shootings,” he told his wife one day. “I was so angry at my dad. I was trying to do the right thing.”

 A new challenge for Andy Stanley

 The experience wounded his father as well.  “I felt like this was a huge battle, and if Andy had been in a huge battle … you’d have to crawl over me to get to him,” Charles Stanley, now 80, says.” I would have stood by him, no matter what. I didn’t feel like he did that.”   There’s no father-son preaching duo quite like the Stanleys. Imagine if Steve Jobs had a son, who created a company that rivaled Apple in size and innovation — and they barely spoke to one another.  That was the Stanleys. Neither man has ever fully explained the events that tore them apart 19 years ago — until now.

 ‘I was the heir apparent’

 Charles Stanley remembers the first time he heard his son preach.   “I was tickled pink,” he says. “I instantly knew that God could use him.”  Charles knows something about preaching. Millions of people around the globe grew up with the sound of his sermons ringing in their ears.

Andy Stanley in his own words
In “Deep & Wide: Creating Churches Unchurched People Love to Attend,” Andy Stanley talks about his relationship with his father and the evolution of his ministry.More info »

 He has preached from the pulpit of First Baptist Church Atlanta for 40 years. Tall and lean, he delivers homespun sermons in a rich baritone while holding his black leather Bible aloft for emphasis. He’s written at least 40 books.

 

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.”  It’s an impressive sight, but it’s not the type of life Andy envisioned for himself growing up. His father never raised him to be a pastor.

 “My dad was great. He didn’t pressure me. I never heard that talk, ‘You’re the pastor’s son and you need to be an example.’ “What Andy remembers most about growing up with his father is not his fame, but his resolve. He tells this story in “Deep and Wide,” his new book about his father and the evolution of his own ministry:  When he was in the eighth grade, his father waged a bruising battle to become senior pastor of First Baptist. The battle inflamed tensions so much that his family received nasty, anonymous letters and deacons warned his father that he would never pastor again.

 Andy Stanley and his father, the Rev. Charles Stanley, embrace at First Baptist Church Atlanta.

Andy Stanley and his father, the Rev. Charles Stanley, embrace at First Baptist Church Atlanta.

Raymond McCrea Jones/CNN

 One night, during a tense church meeting, a man cursed aloud and slugged Charles in the jaw. Andy says his father didn’t flinch, nor did he retaliate. He kept fighting and eventually became senior pastor of First Baptist.  “I saw my dad turn the other cheek,” Andy later wrote about that night, “but he never turned tail and ran.”  His dad was his first hero.  But another church incident taught him a different lesson.   Andy was raised as a Southern Baptist, a conservative denomination that teaches the Bible is infallible and that women shouldn’t preach. His father was twice elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention.  “We were Southern Baptists and everyone else was wrong,” Andy says. “I grew up believing that we were the true Christians.”

 One Sunday, a gay pride group planned to march past his father’s church. Leaders of the congregation, warned in advance, dismissed church early to avoid contact with the group. But organizers of the march changed the schedule. Andy watched as First Baptist members filed out of the church and gawked at gay and lesbian marchers streaming by. Then he noticed a Methodist church across the street whose members held out cups of water for marchers and signs that said, “Everybody welcome! Come worship with us!”  “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.  The pull of the pulpit, though, was stronger than any reservations he had about church. Andy enrolled in college to become a journalist. But he abandoned those plans after a youth minister’s position opened up at his father’s church.

 Those who heard Andy’s first sermons say his talent was evident from the start. He had a knack for saying things that stuck in a listener’s mind. He was funny, insightful, took on hard questions, and he nudged people to look at familiar biblical passages in a new way. I would have stood by him no matter what. I didn’t feel like he did that.The Rev. Charles Stanley, founder of In Touch Ministries, on his son, Andy

Charles started televising his son’s sermons on In Touch’s broadcasts, and picked him to preach in his place when he was traveling. And when First Baptist opened its first satellite church on Easter Sunday 1992, he appointed Andy as its pastor.  Within three weeks, Andy’s congregation was turning people away at the door because they had no more room.  Within two months, Andy’s satellite church swelled to 2,000 members.

Andy says his father was delighted. He started joking that the Stanleys would become a preaching dynasty. And both men began to share an “unspoken dream”: that Andy would take the helm after his father’s retirement. In Touch was no longer just a ministry; it was Andy’s inheritance.   “I was the heir apparent,” Andy says. “I know that he desired it.”  Something, however, would drive father and son apart.  ‘I got that straight from the Lord’  Andy didn’t know his parents’ marriage was in trouble until he was in the 10th grade. Before then, he never saw his father or his mother argue or even disagree. Charles and Anna Stanley seemed to have the perfect relationship.

 A year after his father appointed him to pastor a satellite church, he knew his parents’ marriage was disintegrating. They had been to every counselor and doctor imaginable. Eventually, his mother moved out and stopped attending church with his father.  “People got used to it, and they quit asking about it,” he says. “It happened so gradually.”  Anna Stanley had made her own mark on the church — and on her son.  “No matter what I did, I could come home and tell her,” he says. “She never freaked out, never overreacted. She was always a very safe place.”

 The Rev. Louie Giglio, one of Andy’s best friends growing up, still remembers some of the lessons Andy’s mother taught at summer Bible camp.  “All of Andy’s wisdom doesn’t come from his dad,” says Giglio, now senior pastor of Passion City Church in Atlanta and a founder of the Passion Movement, a popular outreach effort for young evangelicals. “She was incredibly insightful.”  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. The scandal dragged on for years as the couple attempted to reconcile.

 In 1995, Anna Stanley explained why she wanted a divorce in a letter to her husband’s church that was excerpted in the local newspaper, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, in an article titled “Torn Asunder.”  She said she had experienced “many years of discouraging disappointments and marital conflict. … Charles, in effect, abandoned our marriage. He chose his priorities, and I have not been one of them.”  The impending divorce didn’t just threaten Charles’ family; it jeopardized his ministry.  He had always preached unquestioning obedience to the Word of God. And wasn’t Jesus clear about divorce in Gospel passages such as Luke 16:18: “Every one who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery.”

New Testament passages such as those had prompted First Baptist to institute a policy that prevented divorced men from serving as pastors or deacons. What would the church do when its celebrity pastor — the man who packed the pews and beamed First Baptist’s name across the globe — got a divorce?  Charles treated the calls for him to step down like he treated the punch in the jaw so long ago — he didn’t flinch. He said he would gladly work on his marriage but he wouldn’t resign as pastor.

A choir performs during a service for the Rev. Charles Stanley at First Baptist Church Atlanta.
A choir performs during a service for the Rev. Charles Stanley at First Baptist Church Atlanta.

Raymond McCrea Jones/CNN

 Gayle White, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution religion writer at the time, dug up a quote from the embattled pastor that explained his rationale and used it in her “Torn Asunder” article:  “You see, into my ministry I brought the survival spirit. You do or die. You do whatever is necessary to win. It doesn’t make any difference what it is.”  That survival spirit was second nature for Charles, whose father died when he was 9 months old and who grew up so poor that he learned about Santa Claus the Christmas morning he discovered in his stocking the orange that had been in the refrigerator the night before. He lived in 17 homes by his 8th birthday.   His mother, Rebecca, worked two jobs and was often away from home. But she’d leave her son notes, reminding him of chores, giving him advice or simply to say, “Charles, I love you.”  At night, she’d kneel beside her only child and pray, “God bless Charles here for whatever it may be.”

 Just as his mother protected him, Charles shielded her. She married an abusive alcoholic who told his stepson he would never amount to anything and sometimes tried to attack Rebecca.  Charles would intervene.  “You come after my mom,” he’d say, “you come after me.”   So it was really no surprise that, decades later, Charles would refuse to back down. 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.”  Besides, what could he do — make someone not divorce him?  “If somebody doesn’t love you and doesn’t want to live with you, you can’t — nowhere in the Scripture does it say that you’re to preach the gospel until someone does this or that,” he says.

 Charles, though, wasn’t the only one in his family with a strong will. His son had other ideas about divorce. When can I give up on my relationship with my dad?  Andy Stanley, founder of North Point Ministries

Showdown

 The tension between Andy and his father had been building even before the divorce.  They were partners in ministry, but they were becoming rivals.  As Andy’s congregation started outdrawing his father’s, people told Charles that his son was becoming a prima donna who wanted to take over the entire church.   Those rumors seemed to be validated, Charles recalls, when 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.”  The distance between father and son was also philosophical. They had different ideas about church leadership.

 Andy had discovered another preaching mentor, the Rev. Bill Hybels, an unassuming, genial pastor — the kind who travels alone without an entourage. He helped pioneer “seeker churches” while leading Willow Creek Community Church in Chicago.  People tend to focus on the cosmetic innovations of seeker churches: incorporating contemporary Christian music in worship, injecting clever skits and colorful stage props into services. But Andy was also drawn to Willow Creek’s primary mission: reaching “irreligious people” who had been turned off by traditional church.  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 incorporated some of Hybels’ innovations into his father’s satellite church. He stopped wearing suits in the pulpit as his father had insisted. The church grew even more. But so did the tension with his father.  Was he competing with his father?  Almost 20 years later, Andy pauses before he answers:  “Not intentionally, but I felt like what we were doing was better.”  All the tensions converged one day when Andy’s father called him into the office to discuss the divorce.

 Churchgoers crowd around a picture of the Rev. Charles Stanley given to him at a service.

Churchgoers crowd around a picture of the Rev. Charles Stanley given to him at a service.

Raymond McCrea Jones/CNN

“Dad, you never asked me what I think you should do,” Andy said.   His father smiled and asked him what he thought.   Walk into church the next Sunday morning and read a letter of resignation, Andy said. Tell them that you want to continue as their pastor, and will preach as long as they want.   “Daddy, your church is not going to leave you,” Andy said. “They need the opportunity to choose to have you as pastor if you divorce. If you do this, it all ends. Let them choose.”  Andy says his father didn’t hear anything after the word “resign.” All the rumors seemed to be true. His son had joined the church faction trying to get rid of him.  His son had betrayed him.   Andy says it was after that exchange that he started popping up in his father’s sermons, not as the heir apparent, but as the Old Testament villain, Absalom. Absalom was the charismatic but treacherous son of David who tried to snatch his father’s kingdom away from him through war.

 “My dad at the time fashioned me as an Absalom who had rebelled against him,” Andy says. But Andy himself felt betrayed.  He wondered why his father didn’t denounce from the pulpit those people who questioned Andy’s loyalty. He told his father, I’m your most loyal staffer, but you can’t see it.   “I never felt I should replace my dad. I didn’t feel like I was at war with my dad.”  It consumes you. As soon as he got home, we were talking about it all the time.Sandra Stanley, wife of Andy Stanley  The conflict could not have come at a worse time for Andy. He had recently married; a baby was on its way. He had a steady job, health benefits, his congregation was booming. But his relationship with his father was crumbling. It was like being trapped in a soap opera.   “It consumes you,” says Sandra Stanley, Andy’s wife. “As soon as he got home, we were talking about it all the time. There was always something new happening, some new comment.”  Andy had to act, but how? His answer came in the form a slim book he happened to pick up one day, “A Tale of Three Kings” by Gene Edwards.

 The book explored the story of a biblical soap opera, the relationship between David and King Saul, Israel’s first king. Saul descended into jealousy and paranoia because he was threatened by David. David eventually left King Saul’s kingdom and abandoned the spoils that came with it.  Andy’s eyes stopped on one line in the book:  “Beginning empty handed and alone frightens the best of men. It also speaks volumes of just how sure they are that God is with them.”  That line clinched it for Andy. He would walk away from his father empty-handed — no church, no salary, no health benefits.   He would turn his back on the unspoken dream.   Now he had to relay that message to his father.   That day remains vivid. He drove to his father’s office filled with anxiety. When he saw his father sitting behind his massive desk, he knew he wasn’t going to take it well.  “He was in his stern, commando mode,” Andy says.  His father reacted by staring at him in silence. Then he accused him of joining his enemies.   He finally rose slowly from his desk, walked over and embraced him.   Both men cried before regaining their composure.  “It was really bad. It was horrible. But you know what? I had perfect peace,” Andy says. “I’ve never been so sure of a decision even when the whole world blew up all around us.”

 Andy says he could not have stayed at his father’s church, no matter how much money or fame he stood to gain.   “My dad taught me to be better than that,” he says. “Seeing him get punched when I was in the eighth grade — all that was clear to me. You trust God with all the consequences.”  News of Andy’s resignation spread.  Reggie Joiner was on First Baptist’s staff at the time. He would later help found North Point and now runs Orange, a nonprofit that teaches churches how to reach and keep young people. He remembers meeting with Charles after his son resigned.   “I sat in his office for two hours and he talked about Andy being his legacy,” Joiner recalls.

 Chairs replace pews and bands replace choirs and organs at North Point Community Church.

Chairs replace pews and bands replace choirs and organs at North Point Community Church.

Raymond McCrea Jones/CNN

 Later, he called another leader at First Baptist to tell him that Andy had resigned. The stunned church leader said he had never heard of a young pastor walking away from such a prominent ministry.  The man paused before finally telling Joiner:  “I think I could follow that guy anywhere.”

Communion over chips and salsa

 Charles Stanley was alone. His marriage was ending. Pastors were publicly calling for him to step down. People within his church were trying to get rid of him.   His enemies were coming after him, and his son wasn’t stepping in front of his father to meet the blows.  That’s how Charles saw it. He says his son could have prevented some of that pain. He was the one person who could have stopped the congregation from calling for his resignation because he had earned so much respect.  “I forgave him. I couldn’t understand it. I would have never done that,” Charles says.  The church drama lasted seven years. The divorce became final in 2000, and First Baptist eventually voted to retain Charles as its pastor. He 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.  “Every Sunday I had to preach, no matter what,” Charles says of those days when he was going through the divorce. “I couldn’t get up and say I had a horrible day yesterday. It kept me in the Word of God — praying, trusting God, watching people saved and watching the church grow.”  Few would question Charles’ toughness, but during that time he revealed another side. He stopped treating Andy as his enemy.  He started treating him as his only son.  Charles fought for his relationship with his son as hard as he fought to stay in the pulpit. Maybe harder. He did it with chips and salsa. He kept inviting his son to lunch at Mexican restaurants.   And Andy kept accepting.  The meals were excruciating. Both men were still angry; they weren’t good at chitchat. But it was a way to keep talking. The meals became a ritual, like communion.  Charles then went public with his support for his son.  In 1995, Andy formed North Point Community Church with a group of friends. When Charles heard the news, he interrupted his regular order of service one Sunday morning to tell his congregation.   “And he has my blessing,” he said.  Charles did something else that some pastors shy from: He sought professional help. He asked his son to join him in seeing a counselor.  It was just another way in which Charles refused to fit the caricature of a simple “Bible thumper.” He had defied Southern Baptist theology by saying women should be able to preach. He installed 12 Step programs in his church and an orchestra. He was a techno-geek who loved computers and photography.

 The counseling sessions between father and son were at times explosive.  Emotions spilled out in the open.  One night, Andy invited his father over to his house to see his wife and children. The night ended with both men yelling at each other “like middle-school girls” in the driveway, Andy recalls.  Still, they kept going.  “They weren’t too smart, too spiritual or too proud to allow somebody to come in and help them navigate all of that anger,” says Andy’s wife, Sandra. “Their relationship with one another was more important than their pride.”   A pivotal moment came one day when Charles called his son with a request: “Hey, can you preach for me this Sunday?”  Twelve years after he left the church as his father’s enemy, Andy returned as his son. His sermon title: “The Cost of Following Christ.”

 Afterward, Charles invited his son into In Touch’s television studio to talk about the sermon. His face lit up with joy as he bragged about his son’s church. He told Andy on camera that he didn’t have a father growing up so he didn’t know how to be a father at times.  He leaned forward in his chair and looked at Andy with a huge smile before saying, “I’m absolutely delighted to have Andy with me again.”  Andy sat upright in his chair with his hands folded in his lap. His smile was tight and strained.

 Original artwork lines the walls of North Point Community Church in Alpharetta, Georgia.
Original artwork lines the walls of North Point Community Church in Alpharetta, Georgia.
Raymond McCrea Jones/CNN

“It’s great to be back,” he said.  Asked today whether he would have ever cut off his son, Charles quickly shakes his head.  “It was the wise thing to do. I loved him and I knew he had great potential for God. I wouldn’t have cut off communication under any circumstances.”   The same was not true for Andy.

A sobering realization

Critics accuse Andy of being too accommodating. He won’t draw theological lines in the sand. His sermons are too self-help, too Christian-lite. Charles Stanley in his own words

In “The Ultimate Conversation: Talking With God Through Prayer,” Charles Stanley looks back on 55 years of ministry and explains how he learned to fight his battles through prayer.More info »

He is an introvert who struggles at times even to make conversation off-stage with members of his church. But he will still invite listeners who disagree with his sermons to contact him afterward. People who have written him scathing letters are sometimes shocked to hear his voice on the other end of their phone line. He was criticized recently for preaching a sermon that mentioned gay people but no explicit condemnation of homosexuality.  “I’m always trying to look for ways to affirm everything, maybe to a fault,” Andy says.   Yet there is a toughness about him that’s reminiscent of his father.  He has called members of his church to demand that they stop attending when people complained that they were harassing other members. He preaches that people who divorce and remarry are committing adultery even though many in the contemporary church reject that teaching.   He wouldn’t allow CNN to photograph him preaching at North Point — too distracting — or just hanging out with his staff on an ordinary day. (“It singles me out as being of greater significance.”)  That toughness hardened into self-righteousness as he tried to reconcile with his father.  He became judgmental. He was angry at his parents, and at people who questioned his integrity. Mr. Accommodation was becoming a Pharisee.   He realized that the battle wasn’t just with his father — it was with himself.  “I saw the dark side of myself, and I realized that I’m no better than anyone else.”  A turning point came during an individual counseling session. He told his counselor that he felt like he bent again and again, but his dad wasn’t changing.  “When can I give up on my relationship with my dad?” he asked his counselor.  The counselor’s reply:  “When your heavenly father gives up on his relationship with you.”

A Christmas gift from Dad

Andy and his father still seem to be following the counselor’s advice. They haven’t given up on one another.  When his father celebrated his 80th birthday at First Baptist, Andy was there to pay tribute. He called his father his hero, and paused to gather his emotions several times.  Charles took off his glasses and wiped tears from his eyes.  One person who was not there was Anna Stanley.  Andy says his mother is his biggest fan. She watches DVDs of his sermons throughout the day, and insists her caregivers join her.  He says his parents rarely talk anymore.  “There is no animosity,” he says. “She’ll ask about him: ‘How’s Charles?’ She watches him on television.”  He’s heard the rumors about his parents’ divorce — that his father was unfaithful. But he insists they are false — that his father did everything he could to save the marriage.  Andy is vague about his mother’s condition. He says she is under 24-hour care and he visits her often.

North Point Community Church staff members review the previous Sunday's services.
North Point Community Church staff members review the previous Sunday’s services.
Raymond McCrea Jones/CNN

 

Only he and his sister, Becky, know the truth, he says. (Becky declined to talk after initially agreeing.)  “I love my mom. In her prime, she was an incredible woman,” Andy says. “Something just caught up with her, and my dad took all the grief for her.”  Charles doesn’t seem to spend a lot of time reflecting on that grief. He’s still preaching and traveling the world. One of his favorite pastimes is going to bookstores to sign copies of his book. (His latest, “The Ultimate Conversation: Talking With God Through Prayer” was just released.)  He says he won’t marry again as long as his ex-wife is alive because the Scriptures say that a divorced man who remarries commits adultery.  “I couldn’t be happier,” he says. “I don’t really need a wife. God has just filled my life with good things.”  Sitting in his cavernous office at In Touch Ministries, he pauses at times to dab tears from his eyes as he recalls his ordeal.  “Instead of destroying me, it flung the doors open for me,” he says of his divorce. “People used to say, ‘I couldn’t watch you. What do you know about hurt, pain, and loneliness? Now I can watch.’ I look back now and realized that God used that all for good.”  Would that good, though, include the end of the “unspoken dream” — the expectation that his son would follow him at First Baptist and In Touch?

 That is the question that hangs over father and son now. Charles has built a global religious empire, and he has a gifted son who is renowned as a leader.  Wouldn’t it be better to pass it all to Andy one day? Every Sunday, I had to preach, no matter what. I couldn’t get up and say I had a horrible day yesterday.The Rev. Charles Stanley, founder of In Touch Ministries Charles sighs before answering:  “I look back now and say God was in all of this. If we had stayed together, we could only be so large.”  Instead, two world-renown megachurches stand in Atlanta, each headed by a Stanley.  “He tells people he’s proud of me,” Andy says. “He ends our conversations that way: ‘Andy, I’m proud of you.’ ” Still, his father reserves one critique for his son’s pulpit performance.  “He still wants me to wear a suit.”  The two now visit each other’s churches. One visit, captured on film, reveals how far their relationship has come.  North Point’s staff was planning an informal Christmas communion service last December when someone suggested that Andy call his father to see if he would lead the service.  Andy texted the request to his father and within five minutes, his father texted back: “I would be happy to!”

 When his father arrived at North Point, Andy stepped onto the stage to introduce him. He wore a sober, dark suit coat over jeans.  “When people tell me that they enjoy my preaching, I always have the same answer: ‘You know what, I got it all from God and my dad, in that order,” he said.  Andy smiled and looked at his dad seated in the audience.  “I’m extraordinarily blessed, extraordinarily grateful, and I’m thrilled Dad that you are here to talk to us and lead us through communion.”  North Point’s staff clapped as Charles walked up to the stage. He wore a suit coat, but no tie.  Andy gently placed his hand on his father’s shoulder and helped him adjust a microphone.  “You got it?” he said.  His father nodded. “OK. Thank you.”

 Charles sat down before his new congregation with a huge grin. Fat gift boxes wrapped with red and green ribbons were stacked behind him. Charles’ velvet baritone echoed through the hushed sanctuary.  Christmas is about memories, he said, and one of his best memories came when he was 5 years old. That was when he got his first electric train set, which he kept until he finished college.   “I couldn’t wait for Andy to grow up a little bit so I could buy him one,” Charles said.  That moment arrived on Andy’s fourth Christmas. As Charles assembled the train set, he explained to his son how the engine worked.

Andy, then about 4, with his father, the Rev. Charles Stanley, during Christmas.
Andy, then about 4, with his father, the Rev. Charles Stanley, during Christmas.
Courtesy of Charles Stanley

 “We were putting the tracks together and Andy said, ‘Daddy, did Santa Claus bring you this train or did he bring it to me?’ ”  The congregation erupted in laughter, and Charles laughed so hard that he momentarily choked over his next words.   “So, we’re both enjoying it immensely, believe me,” he finally added.  Charles finished his story, then asked the congregation to bow their heads and close their eyes as he led them in prayer. He quoted a passage from the Gospel account of Jesus’ Last Supper with his disciples.  It’s a familiar passage for many Christians: Jesus opened his Last Supper with a warning that someone close would betray him, and ended it by extending his forgiveness.

 Charles and Andy bowed their heads to pray, and then father and son broke bread together.

 

Just How Much is One Soul Worth?

Billy Graham preaching with hand outOtis Hill and a Team of Loving Mission Workers from First Baptist Church of Pooler, GA near Savannah were burdened for the little nation of Honduras.  They went, they worked and they witnessed.  On this trip they witnessed to this dear lady, but were unable to win her.  Not giving up they urged her to attend the mission meeting that night.  To their great delight she attended.  This time after the service she responded to the invitation and trusted Christ.  She was so happy and blessed.  When we returned the next year we were anxious to find her and see how she was doing in her new walk.  We learned that sweet, lady had died.  Brother Otis Hill said to me, with tears, what if we had not gone?…what if our supporters had not given?…what if we had not witnessed?   “Oh,” he said, “Missions are so important.”  Yes, Brother Hill…you are right.  Here is a picture of that sweet lady.

New Convert now in Heaven

 

 

New Convert in Honduras and now in Heaven.  Thanks, in part, for the Otis Hill and FBC of Pooler and Team for being obedient to God’s call.  Just how much is one soul worth.  Click on the following link and watch the video message of Billy Graham.  It is a powerful message that seems God inspired to accompany this story.  http://salvationlinks.com/bible-messages/ 

Visit my friend’s website…Brother Otis Hill at www.biblepathwaytovictory.com otis hill pix