CP: Speaking of a personal emotional issue, last November CNN ran a story on its website about your relationship with your son, Pastor Andy Stanley of North Point Community Church in Alpharetta, Ga. How did you feel about opening up so personally about your relationship? Did it have any kind of impact with your congregation?
Stanley: I have no problem with that because it was never a secret. When somebody has that kind of a situation, which he and I worked through, it was really very very helpful to many people who saw us being willing to deal with it and willing to be open about it and honest about it, it encouraged them to do the same thing.
CP: Some of the wisdom you share in Emotions isn't just meant for the reader's own personal encouragement. You also take some time out to give examples of ways Christians should and ought to "perform loving acts that meet the spiritual and practical needs of those who cross our paths." Why is that important?
Stanley: Whatever God teaches us, He teaches us in order to apply to our life to make changes necessary, but He also does the same thing in order to help other people. Paul makes that crystal clear in the first chapter of 2 Corinthians. He says that God blesses us in order that we might also bless others.
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Editor's Note: Below is CP's previously unpublished exchange with Dr. Stanley conducted via email in September 2012.
CP: Congratulations on turning 80 and sustaining In Touch Ministries for 35 years. How long have you been in ministry altogether?
Stanley: I was ordained on August 19, 1956 at Moffett Memorial Baptist Church in Danville, Va., and I have been preaching a little more than 55 years.
CP: What do you consider some of your proudest achievements?
Stanley: When I think about achievements, I don't think about one particular event or moment. Instead, I am awed by all that God has done and still is doing. I never had any expectations of what ministry would look like or be, so as the Lord continues to open up doors to spread the gospel, I am more and more humbled to be a part of what is happening.
CP: What would you say were some of your low points?
Stanley: Again, no one moment comes to mind. The truth is, when a person asks the Lord to use him to spread the gospel, Satan is going to come after him to try and stop him from speaking the truth. What I do know is that, during difficult times, I learned the only way to get through these situations was to fight all my battles through prayer. When I came to the Father and sought Him continually, I always saw His hand at work in my life. To be honest, I would say there were times I wasn't as quick to seek Him as I should have been. However, once I did, I knew I was facing an obstacle with the right spirit.
CP: What are some of your hopes for the future of your church and ministry?
Stanley: First Baptist Atlanta will continue carry out its calling — to be a church that strengthens families, reaches the city of Atlanta, and trains up disciples of Christ.
In Touch will also continue in its mission to get the gospel out to as many people as possible, as quickly as possible, and as clearly as possible to the glory of God. We've never wavered from that goal, and the Father has been with us, supporting us and making everything possible.
CP: What kind of legacy do you hope to leave once you retire? Have you seriously considered retirement and potential successors?
Stanley: I honestly don't think too much about it. When I take a look around and see all of the ways ministries can deliver the gospel and disciple people all around the world, I'm encouraged to keep on working for the kingdom. I have learned that the awareness of God's presences energizes us for the work He has prepared for us. That's why I wake up each day with an eager anticipation for what the Lord is going to do.
CP: What advice would you give to ministers beginning their pastoral work?
Stanley: I would say that prayer should be a priority for every servant of God. It is life's greatest time-saver and is essential to a ministry leader's personal life, leadership, teaching, and relationships. If we don't spend time on our knees before the Lord, we will find our ministries fail to have a lasting impact for the kingdom of God. This is true for any believer because everything he or she does flows out of a personal relationship with the Father.
More details about Emotions: Confront the Lies. Conquer with Truth. (Howard Books), as well as a free chapter excerpt, can be found online at In Touch Ministries' website: www.intouch.org/emotions/index.html.