Popular author, speaker and pastor Charles Stanley will be stepping down from his role at First Baptist Church Atlanta after more than 50 years. Associate Pastor Anthony George will become senior pastor of the church, according to the church's 2017 succession plan.
Stanley came to First Baptist in 1969, according to In Touch Ministries. The church now has more than 12,000 members and estimates that millions of people around the world watch its services online, as reported by Christianity Today.
"I'm so grateful [God] saw fit to allow me to serve as your pastor for more than 50 years," he said. "As much as I love being your pastor, I know in my heart this season has come to an end."
Stanley explained he isn't retiring, but will focus his energies 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," he added. "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."
Speaking of George today, Stanley said, "I am so grateful for him. Thanks to Anthony's leadership and his love for you and his love for God,I have no doubt that there are many great days ahead for the First Baptist Church of Atlanta. My hope is that the greatest days are still ahead."
Stanley will turn 88-years-old this month.
According to a news release, the church currently has more than 12,000 members, and the global viewing audience of Stanley's sermons is estimated at "well into the millions."