Dr. Charles Stanley is stepping down as senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia.
The 87-year-old preacher will now become Pastor Emeritus.
In a video announcement to the church, Stanley said he initially resisted God's call to pastor First Baptist. He explained that his family was content living in Florida and he had not planned on leaving.
"But when God asks us to do something uncomfortable, it's usually because He wants to do something remarkable," Stanley declared. "I'm so grateful I said yes then, and I'm so grateful He saw fit to allow me to serve as your pastor for more than 50 years."
He added, "I have few regrets and I have many wonderful memories, but as much as I love being your pastor, I know in my heart this season has come to an end."
But the pastor was quick to point out he's not retiring and will continue to preach the gospel through his ministry at In-Touch.
"I will focus the next season of my life on my opportunities at In-Touch," he said. "I will continue to preach the gospel as long as God allows."
Despite his transition into a new role, Stanley insisted that his mission has not changed.
"My goal remains the same - to get the truth of the gospel to as many people as possible, as quickly as possible in the power of the Holy Spirit to the glory of God," he said.
"My hope is that the greatest days are still ahead. I will do what I have encouraged you to do for decades. I'm going to obey God and leave all the consequences to Him."
Dr. Anthony George will take over Stanley's position as senior pastor.
"Not long ago, you chose Dr. Anthony George to succeed me as senior pastor once this day came," Stanley said. "So, I want to congratulate Anthony. You love him. I am so grateful for him. I have no doubt there are many great days ahead for the First Baptist Church of Atlanta."
Stanley became the senior pastor of First Baptist Church in 1971, which led to an enormous increase in church attendance.
Today, church membership includes people from 98 countries of origin, making them among the most ethnically diverse congregations in America.
His son, Andy Stanley, founded North Point Community Church in Alpharetta, Georgia where he is the senior pastor.
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