In a video announcement following Sunday’s online worship service at First Baptist Church in Atlanta, Pastor Andy Stanley informed his congregation that he would be stepping down and transitioning to pastor emeritus. He will be replaced by Dr. Anthony George.
Stanley, who came to Atlanta in 1969 as an associate pastor before being named senior pastor two years later, told members that it was time to step down as their lead pastor.
“Earlier this month, I informed the board that I felt the time had come for me to step down as senior pastor,” Stanley said in the video. “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.”
Stanley, a former Southern Baptist Convention president who is turning 88-years-old later this month, said he would take on the role of pastor emeritus. He also said he has no plans to officially retire, but will turn his focus on In Touch Ministries, which he founded in 1977.
“As you know, I don’t believe in retirement. I’ll continue to preach the gospel as long as God allows,” Stanley said. “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.”
First Baptist Church said in a statement on its Facebook page, “We are forever indebted to this man of God—not only our faithful pastor, but also a pastor to millions around the world.”
In 2017, First Baptist Church announced that Dr. Anthony George, who was hired as an associate pastor in 2012, would be Stanley’s successor. He followed Stanley’s comments in the video with a message of his own.
“Thank you for being strong and of good courage through every battle that you’ve had to fight… You have stood tall and confident through all these years while at the same time remaining dependent and prayerful before an almighty God,” George said.
“Because you were a yielded vessel, the gospel of Jesus Christ — through you — has blanketed this globe. Truly, God has been with you wheresoever you have gone,” he added.
Prior to moving to Atlanta, George was the senior pastor of Aloma Church in Winter Park, Florida for approximately 15 years. As part of his new role as lead pastor of First Baptist Church, he plans to “do some serious strategic planning for updating our church’s organizational structure and ministry model.”