At 84, Charles Stanley still prays on his knees every day and preaches every week at First Baptist Church Atlanta, where he’s served as senior pastor since 1971. His age hasn’t come close to forcing him into retirement—the In Touch Ministries founder and author of the recently published Courageous Faith: My Story From a Life of Obedience has spent decades proclaiming the gospel, and he won’t let anything stop him. He has endured church politics, family tensions with his son Andy Stanley, and even the failure of his marriage at a time when a divorced Southern Baptist preacher keeping his pulpit was pretty much unheard of.

While the reasons for the Stanleys’ divorce in 2000 were kept private, the fallout wasn’t. Their separation prompted a church split and sent ripples throughout the Southern Baptist Convention, where the pastor had previously served two one-year terms as president. The elder Stanley was allowed to retain his position at FBC, but he has not remarried. Looking back, he now recalls how he felt as he faced the prospect of a lonely future:

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