Charles Stanley revealed to pastors last week some of the secrets and practices that have helped him become one of the most influential and widely heard preachers in the world.
Above anything else, Stanley said he prioritizes his personal relationship with the Lord. "If that's not right, nothing else is going to be right," he said during a preachbettersermons.com webcast last Thursday.
"You have to be disciplined," he stressed, adding, "a man can preach no better than he prays."
Stanley has been preaching for 55 years and currently leads First Baptist Church in Atlanta as well as In Touch Ministries. His messages are broadcast around the world in more than 50 languages.
Though a "televangelist" in one sense, the long-time pastor does not ask for donations during the television and radio broadcasts. He explained in the webcast that in the 1980s while he was preparing for an Easter sermon, he realized that God could shut him down at any moment and that he'd have nothing to say.
"God said 'you must not ask for any money on air; you trust me; you listen to me. I'll decide how far this ministry goes," Stanley recalled.
As he reflected on the millions of people who have been hearing and continue to listen to his messages, the 79-year-old pastor shed tears over the global platform God has given him.
"It hits me the most when I'm studying and praying, thinking about all the people who are going to watch this, thinking about how responsible I am," he said tearfully.
Realizing his wide influence does not build pride in him, he noted. Rather, it makes him feel overwhelmed and responsible "because God has done something that I would never have dreamed of," he said.
Offering advice to thousands of pastors watching the online event that was led by Preaching Rocket, Stanley stressed the importance of obedience.
"You have to have courage to be obedient to God."
Here are some of the other lessons Stanley has learned and habits he has developed in his five decades of pastoring:
- Preach for impact, not to impress anybody
- "You cannot be thinking about yourself and impacting another person's life."
- When preparing for sermons, think about the one thing you want listeners to walk away with
- Spend time in prayer during preparation
- Stanley chooses not to reveal what he'll preach on ahead of time to his congregation
- Make sure everything you preach is clear so when you get to the conclusion, the listeners will be there with you
- "On Sunday morning, I'm not nervous ... I can't wait to tell what God wants me to say."
- Stanley preaches from an outline, not a manuscript and he does not memorize anything – "You have looked at it and looked at it and changed it ... by the time it's time to preach, I just have to glance at it. When time comes to deliver it, I'm full of it."
- Every trial that comes, see it as coming from God and not the people involved – that way, you won't get bitter but see it is all for a purpose
- "Every test, every trial, every heartache that's been significant, I can turn it over and see how God has turned it into good no matter what."
- There have been very few times in Stanley's life where he has had to change his sermon on a Saturday afternoon