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‘Legacy Celebration’ for Charles Stanley features noteworthy pastors, Gospel artists

David Jeremiah speaks at the Celebration of Legacy of Charles Stanley on April 23 at First Baptist Church Atlanta. (Screen capture)

Editor’s note: This story was updated after initial publication.

ATLANTA (BP) – The “Legacy Celebration” service for pastor Charles Stanley featured a lineup of notable pastors and musical guests worthy of his world-famous ministry career.

The celebration for the former pastor, renowned television and radio preacher, and former Southern Baptist Convention president took place in front of a full auditorium at First Baptist Atlanta Sunday night (Apr. 23).

CeCe Winans and the worship choir and orchestra perform at the Legacy Celebration for Charles Stanley at FBC Atlanta on Apr. 23. (Baptist Press/Timothy Cockes)

The audience was treated to stirring Gospel music performances from CeCe Winans, Greater Vision and The Collingsworth Family.

Guest speakers included David Jeremiah, senior pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church in El Cajon, Calif., and founder of Turning Point Ministries; Franklin Graham, president and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan’s Purse; and Anthony George, senior pastor of First Baptist Atlanta.

Jeremiah spoke of Stanley’s monumental influence on future television and radio programs such as his but reiterated his most important ministry was the local church.

“I can’t remember a time in my adult life when I have not been able to watch Charles Stanley on television,” Jeremiah said.

“The thing that always has stuck out to me is that when you do this and you become seen across the country in different places, the temptation would be, you know, the church is hard and being a pastor is hard work. Maybe just let the church go and go do the media thing.

“He would never do that because he was a man of God who first of all was a pastor. He was a man of God who thought the Word of God, and the people of God and the church of God were a priority. He knew that the light that shines the furthest has to shine the brightest at home. So, he built a great church and from that church this light has shined all over the world in places we will never even know about until we get to heaven.”

Franklin Graham speaks at the Legacy Celebration of Charles Stanley at FBC Atlanta on Apr. 23. (Baptist Press/Timothy Cockes)

Graham spoke of Stanley’s unwavering commitment to the authority of God’s Word and said the best way to honor Stanley’s legacy is by “staying true to the Word of God with its unchanging truth in this ever-changing world.”

In addition to Jeremiah and Graham, several other noteworthy names made appearances via recorded video shown during the service, including:

  • Chuck Swindoll, founder of Insight for Living Ministries
  • Jim Cymbala, senior pastor of The Brooklyn Tabernacle
  • Tony Evans, senior pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas, Texas
  • Robert Jeffress, senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas, Texas
  • Donald Trump, former president of the United States

The service came after a private memorial service was held among the Stanley family. Stanley’s body also lay in repose the day before (April 22) from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

At the time of publishing, the livestream of the Legacy Celebration had more than 50,000 views on YouTube.

Pastor Anthony George speaks at the Legacy Celebration of Charles Stanley at FBC Atlanta on Apr. 23. (Baptist Press/Timothy Cockes)

For George, who became senior pastor at First Baptist in 2020 after Stanley transitioned to pastor emeritus, the service represented a time to reflect on not only his former pastor, but his close friend.

Stanley began pastoring First Baptist Atlanta in 1969, the same year George was born. Years later, George would serve as associate pastor next to Stanley, where he would learn many ministry and life lessons.

George humorously described stories from his times fellowshipping with Stanley, whether it be watching movies, sharing a meal or shopping for clothes.

The crowd erupted upon hearing a story from George about Stanley trying sushi for the first time.

The two were at a local mall shopping for clothes, when they decided to get something to eat. They walked into what George described as a “millennial looking” Sushi place.

Upon being served a plate of Sushi which George said looked “ugly,” the 80-year-old Stanley took one bite of the food, paused for a moment, looked at George and said, “It’s like the Lord’s telling me don’t eat any more of that.”

In his years serving next to Stanley, George said he never viewed his role as associate pastor as a stepping stone.

“What God made clear to me is, ‘Don’t you go there to succeed him; you go to serve him,’” George said.

He spoke fondly of the times the two shared in prayer and the lessons he took from watching Stanley’s spiritual walk up close.

George spoke to the blessing it has been to following in Stanley’s footsteps as First Baptist continues to walk into the future.

“I sure didn’t deserve it (being Stanley’s successor),” George said. “But every day when I drive to this church and every Sunday when I stand in this holy place, I recognize that I am eating fruit from trees that Charles Stanley planted.”

The stream of the service can be viewed here.