Within two months, Andy's satellite church swelled to 2,000 members.
Andy says his father was delighted. He started joking that the Stanleys would become a preaching dynasty. And both men began to share an "unspoken dream": that Andy would take the helm after his father's retirement. In Touch was no longer just a ministry; it was Andy's inheritance.
"I was the heir apparent," Andy says. "I know that he desired it."
Something, however, would drive father and son apart.
'I got that straight from the Lord'
Andy didn't know his parents' marriage was in trouble until he was in the 10th grade. Before then, he never saw his father or his mother argue or even disagree. Charles and Anna Stanley seemed to have the perfect relationship.
A year after his father appointed him to pastor a satellite church, he knew his parents' marriage was disintegrating. They had been to every counselor and doctor imaginable. Eventually, his mother moved out and stopped attending church with his father.
"People got used to it, and they quit asking about it," he says. "It happened so gradually."
Anna Stanley had made her own mark on the church -- and on her son.
"No matter what I did, I could come home and tell her," he says. "She never freaked out, never overreacted. She was always a very safe place."
The Rev. Louie Giglio, one of Andy's best friends growing up, still remembers some of the lessons Andy's mother taught at summer Bible camp.
"All of Andy's wisdom doesn't come from his dad," says Giglio, now senior pastor of Passion City Church in Atlanta and a founder of the Passion Movement, a popular outreach effort for young evangelicals. "She was incredibly insightful."
The quiet exit of Anna Stanley from the pews went public in June 1993 when she filed for divorce. Her action caused a sensation in Southern Baptist circles, where divorce is considered a sin by some based on a literal reading of the Bible. Some pastors shunned Charles; others publicly demanded that he step down. The scandal dragged on for years as the couple attempted to reconcile.
In 1995, Anna Stanley explained why she wanted a divorce in a letter to her husband's church that was excerpted in the local newspaper, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, in an article titled "Torn Asunder."
She said she had experienced "many years of discouraging disappointments and marital conflict. ... Charles, in effect, abandoned our marriage. He chose his priorities, and I have not been one of them."
The impending divorce didn't just threaten Charles' family; it jeopardized his ministry.
He had always preached unquestioning obedience to the Word of God. And wasn't Jesus clear about divorce in Gospel passages such as Luke 16:18: "Every one who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery."
New Testament passages such as those had prompted First Baptist to institute a policy that prevented divorced men from serving as pastors or deacons. What would the church do when its celebrity pastor -- the man who packed the pews and beamed First Baptist's name across the globe -- got a divorce?
Charles treated the calls for him to step down like he treated the punch in the jaw so long ago -- he didn't flinch. He said he would gladly work on his marriage but he wouldn't resign as pastor.
Gayle White, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution religion writer at the time, dug up a quote from the embattled pastor that explained his rationale and used it in her "Torn Asunder" article: