"My dad was great. He didn't pressure me. I never heard that talk, 'You're the pastor's son and you need to be an example.' "
What Andy remembers most about growing up with his father is not his fame, but his resolve. He tells this story in "Deep and Wide," his new book about his father and the evolution of his own ministry:
When he was in the eighth grade, his father waged a bruising battle to become senior pastor of First Baptist. The battle inflamed tensions so much that his family received nasty, anonymous letters and deacons warned his father that he would never pastor again.
One night, during a tense church meeting, a man cursed aloud and slugged Charles in the jaw. Andy says his father didn't flinch, nor did he retaliate. He kept fighting and eventually became senior pastor of First Baptist.
"I saw my dad turn the other cheek," Andy later wrote about that night, "but he never turned tail and ran."
His dad was his first hero.
But another church incident taught him a different lesson.
Andy was raised as a Southern Baptist, a conservative denomination that teaches the Bible is infallible and that women shouldn't preach. His father was twice elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention.
"We were Southern Baptists and everyone else was wrong," Andy says. "I grew up believing that we were the true Christians."
One Sunday, a gay pride group planned to march past his father's church. Leaders of the congregation, warned in advance, dismissed church early to avoid contact with the group. But organizers of the march changed the schedule. Andy watched as First Baptist members filed out of the church and gawked at gay and lesbian marchers streaming by. Then he noticed a Methodist church across the street whose members held out cups of water for marchers and signs that said, "Everybody welcome! Come worship with us!"
"We're the church that sings 'Just as I Am' after the sermon, and here we are shunning this group of people because of a lifestyle we disagreed with," he says now.
The pull of the pulpit, though, was stronger than any reservations he had about church. Andy enrolled in college to become a journalist. But he abandoned those plans after a youth minister's position opened up at his father's church.
Those who heard Andy's first sermons say his talent was evident from the start. He had a knack for saying things that stuck in a listener's mind. He was funny, insightful, took on hard questions, and he nudged people to look at familiar biblical passages in a new way.
Charles started televising his son's sermons on In Touch's broadcasts, and picked him to preach in his place when he was traveling. And when First Baptist opened its first satellite church on Easter Sunday 1992, he appointed Andy as its pastor.
Within three weeks, Andy's congregation was turning people away at the door because they had no more room.
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."