(Courtesy of In Touch Ministries)
Dr. Charles Stanley is considered by many to be one of the most influential pastors and Bible teachers in America today. The senior pastor of First Baptist Church Atlanta since 1971 and founder of In Touch Ministries in 1977, Stanley's global ministry continues to grow in scope and impact across the U.S. and around the world, with his programs broadcast to over 2,800 radio and television outlets in more than 50 languages.
Stanley turned 80-years-old last September, and a series of celebrations were held honoring his 55 years in ministry and commemorating the 35th anniversary of In Touch Ministries. Hundreds of long-time friends, supporters, and church members attended a weekend of unique and inspiring events in Atlanta that ranged from an old-fashioned barbeque to a black tie gala.
Of all the individuals who offered testimonies and tributes to this giant of the Christian faith, undoubtedly the most memorable and powerful remarks came from those who know him best: his two children. Andy Stanley, senior pastor of North Point Community Church and founder of North Point Ministries, delivered a deeply personal message titled "Life Lessons With Dad," where he recounted his experiences growing up as a pastor's kid and shared how his father's example of faith and obedience still impacts him today. "Those of you who have been at this church for a long time, you have had essentially a weekend seat to listen to my dad, but I've had a ringside seat. You've got to listen, while I've had the opportunity to watch," Andy Stanley told the FBA congregation. "The reason that both of his children are so excited about this celebration and love to be part of it, is because we just don't see a gap between who my dad claims to be and who he really is… and a lot of preacher's kids can't say that."
But Andy Stanley – who preaches to an estimated 33,000 people every Sunday at NPM's five metro-Atlanta campuses – wasn't the only one speaking about Dr. Stanley's impact as a father. Becky Stanley Brodersen, Dr. Stanley's daughter who now resides in Dallas, Texas, also shared a heartfelt testimony of his love and support over the years and emphasized how he taught her to pray and listen to God as a young child. "My dad is one of my best friends," she said. "Even now, I call him and say, 'Dad, will you just pray with me over the phone about this?' I always feel better when Dad is praying for me."
For Father's Day, we asked Becky a few questions about her relationship with her dad, what it was like to grow up as a pastor's kid, and Dr. Stanley's role as a grandfather to her children:
CP: What is the most important lesson you have learned from your dad?
Brodersen: The most important lesson I have learned from Dad is to pray about everything and trust God to answer my prayers. Considering God's way and perspective was always an important part of our family dialogue and our thought process, and Dad never considered anything too small to pray about.
I have many memories of watching and listening to Dad pray over the years. When I was a little girl, we had a tool shed in the backyard where he prayed. When I woke up in the mornings, I always knew where to find Dad. I would run back to the shed in my nightgown, and he'd be down on his face praying.
CP: What was the most challenging aspect of growing up as a pastor's kid?
Brodersen: The biggest challenge of growing up as a pastor's kid was sharing my parents' time and attention with so many other people. My parents made a big effort to be with Andy and me, but the demand upon them, especially Dad, was great.
I do have fond memories of Friday nights together. Dad grilled hamburgers and we got to have a soda (usually Coke)! It was a time when the Friday night movie was a film that the whole family could watch and enjoy. Friday nights were our sacred family moments for many years, and I appreciate that our mom and dad spent them with us.
We also went camping a lot as a family growing up. My brother and I loved it, because it felt as if we had our parents all to ourselves. Thank goodness there were no cell phones back then!
CP: As you reflect on your relationship with your dad over the years, what stands out most to you? Maybe something you think people would be surprised to learn about him?
Brodersen: Dad's humility is what stands out most to me. He is not too good for household chores. He is a good dishwasher and we have had many great conversations over a sink full of dirty dishes.
Also, we did not have much when Andy and I were growing up, but we did not know it. We knew we served a big God, and according to Dad, anything was possible. He encouraged us to set goals early in life and trust God to help us accomplish them. I still have stacks of 3x5 cards with goals and Bible verses on them. I learned that from Dad.
Most importantly, Dad lived his faith by example which was probably the strongest testimony to my brother and me.
CP: Can you share insights on Dr. Stanley's role as a grandfather to your children?
Brodersen: John and I moved from Atlanta to the West Coast when our oldest child, Jonathan, was almost three, Annie had just turned one, and Matthew was on the way. I appreciate the effort Dad made to visit us wherever we moved. Whenever he comes to visit, he is just called "Gips," the name Jonathan gave him when he learned to talk (Dad originally wanted to be called "Gramps," but Jonathan could not say it. So Jonathan called him "Gips" and it stuck). Dad did whatever we did, and sometimes that meant sitting on the floor making a train track with the boys. And, as you can imagine, since Dad is an avid photographer I have hundreds of pictures of my children thanks to him!
As my children have grown, Dad has been a great sounding board and source of wisdom to me. I have called him at all hours regarding all sorts of parenting challenges. He never judges and is never critical. He has listened patiently and prayed with me over the phone on countless occasions.
I keep reminding God that my children are Dad's "children's children," and therefore all those promises in scripture apply!
CP: Any memorable encounters from when people recognized Dr. Stanley or realized you were his daughter?
Brodersen: When Dad visited us in California, I suggested that he wear a hat and sunglasses because people would stop us on the sidewalk to talk to him. Then one day, someone in a photography shop recognized his voice. I gave up! Dad is always patient and gracious when this happens.
CP: What encouragement or advice can you offer adult kids on maintaining close relationships with their parents?
Brodersen: A long time ago I got into the habit of calling Dad on Saturdays. I guess it was because I know where he usually is on Saturdays and what he is doing – studying! In recent years I have called him more often. Sometimes I ask him to pray about something, sometimes it's just to visit, and sometimes it's just to hear his reassuring voice. I think making the effort to keep in touch is important and very rewarding!