Charles Stanley and his "Messengers"

I have no doubt that Dr. Charles Stanley is sincere in his desire to encourage the U.S. troops fighting in Iraq. But his “Messenger” struck me as, well, a garish idea. 

It’s not so much the smack of self-promotion in the guise of “filling a great need” by providing the army with “spiritual nourishment.” It’s the aura of pronouncement, of the square-toed Sunday school teacher who tells you what it’s like, what you need, when you know he has never been where you’ve been.That is, it’s “In Touch’s” envelope of safe and willing ignorance of what really goes on and what happens to the psyche of soldiers in war, specifically this sad and detestable war. (Here I would implore Charles Stanley’s “In Touch” readers to go out and pick up Chris Hedges’, “War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning.”)

Now, I’ve disagreed sharply with Stanley on a couple of previous posts–over his Biblical justifications for war, which in effect is a Christian sacralizing of war–so maybe I’m over-reacting, or maybe I’m reacting to him, personally. I’ll let you decide. If you’ve a moment (to squander) here’s what’s on his site:

Thousands of U.S. troops are now stationed around the world. Far from their families, friends, and churches, they have a tremendous need for encouragement and truth from the Scriptures. But their missions often carry them far from a chapel and chaplain.

Understanding the need for spiritual instruction that men and women in combat areas have, Dr. Charles Stanley said, “In Touch wants to help military chaplains share the love of Jesus with U.S. soldiers. Today’s technology is providing amazing ways to share the gospel with people around the world.”

messenger-whitebgThe In Touch Ministries Messenger is a nearly indestructible solar-powered audio device designed specifically for the American soldier. It holds more than 70 hours of messages from the ministry of Dr. Charles Stanley, including these powerful series:

-Facing Life’s Obstacles
-Living the Extraordinary Life
-The Ways of God
-How to Release Your Burdens
-Living in the Power of the Holy Spirit

    The need is great, and the Messenger will be a vital tool to provide spiritual nourishment to members of the U.S. military. Its lightweight construction, earphone jack, and solar panels for recharging make it the ideal audio player for troops in the field.

In Touch Ministries is committed to delivering 20,000 Messengers to U.S. troops in August 2007. This initiative is powered by Dr. Stanley’s desire to share the Word of God with military men and women everywhere. But its level of success will be a direct result of the support we receive from In Touch partners.

The good news here is that this is something you can feel good about not supporting.

Just one more thing Dr. Stanley. While your helping the strafed and hunkered troops to “Face Life’s Obstacles,” and “Live the Extraordinary Life,” perhaps you take a couple minutes of those seventy hours to explain how their President, with supporters such as yourself, concluded that their lives were necessarily expendable for the illusion of containment of a terrorist element that will only grow as a result of the war and ongoing occupation, and how, again, the war has nothing to do with the control of a diminishing natural resource. And again, how the gospel endorses all this. Or is everything explained in your new book , Landmine’s in the Path of the Believer? (Yes that’s the title.)


  1. Oops. I sent that too soon. Do you think that Stanley has any say in the Oval Office? America has always been a country of war. Whether we agree or not, perhaps In Touch ministries is working to minister to the troops because they need it? Not to support the war, but to support the troops in their spiritual life. Just like we don’t condone some of the reasons for poverty, yet we do not distinguish between the worthy and unworthy poor. Our job as citizens is, to the best of our abillity, support the government in power. We are fortunate in that we get a say in who governs us!! That’s right! Bush was ELECTED! S omany are criticizing his decision, my husband included, but “There but for the grace of God go I” and “Never criticize a man until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes.”

  2. I’m with GrowMercy — criticism is appropriate. Even though it’s true that supporting the troops doesn’t mean support for the war, we can be pretty sure that Stanley’s 70 messages don’t include a word about the Christian message non-violence, and we can be pretty sure that the encouragement offered is in fact of the variety that makes pronouncements about what the soldiers need and what God can provide from the comfy perch of not being there. Spiritual words of honesty spoken from experience, such as those Terry Waite wrote after his solitary confinement — words that confessed inability to believe the old things his faith so easily proclaims, words that confessed a complete inability to experience the nearness of God in the face of the hostility born of violence — those words might be helpful, but the usual platitudes? Probably not.

  3. Thank you, Michelle, for your leveling effect.
    To my mind, Dr. Stanley has too much indirect influence on the Oval Office. He influences votes. His “Nation at War” message was his attempt at a biblical justification for war, and an implied support for Bush’s decision to go to war.
    I also think there is room for reasoned criticism, (not saying I’m always reasonable) especially when it’s referenced and backed by people in the situation. (Hence my reference to C. Hedges)
    That said, Dr. Stanley does have every right to minister to the troops. And I have no doubt he is earnest in his desire. But I also, I believe, have the right to question his motives and methods. As you have every right to question mine…so where can I send my shoes?

  4. Even if Dr. Stanley’s response to the war didn’t leave me feeling slightly queasy, I would have to say that I can’t see his little plastic boxes filled with cookie-cutter messages bringing the comfort of a personal God to anyone.

  5. I was at a relative’s home on Sunday. I needed to rest on the couch after a long day at a family reunion. Someone turned on TV and Dr. Stanley’s InTouch was on the tube.

    I made note of the time, and wondered how long the Dr. Stanley program would last; the TV was rather loud, and I selfishly wanted my z’s. It was quarter to the hour, so I figured it would be done in 15 minutes.

    I lay there and listened to the last 15 minutes and was rather surprised at how the Dr. Stanley program sounded more like an infomercial with Dr. Stanley as the brand for the Dr. Stanley program. I eventually looked up the Dr. Stanley InTouch web site, and clearly Dr. Stanley is the brand for the InTouch ministry featuring Dr. Stanley. A brand for any ministry is not unusual in itself. Although, listening to the Dr. Stanley program was even more surprising to me, because I wish I counted the number of times the words “Dr. Stanley” were uttered in relation to the latest Dr. Stanley book, or this gadget with Dr. Stanley messages. Every product mentioned was coupled with “the main product” who is Dr. Stanley, who was mentioned in context each time. Even a listener’s testimony was shared, and God was mentioned once, although praise was given to Dr. Stanley the most, whether in the testimony, or when in context of mentioning “the Word.” I never heard anything about “Jesus” or “My Savior” or words to indicate it was anything but an infomercial. Even when The Bible was mentioned, it was more about how additional messages were included by Dr. Stanley to this custom bible (a significant trend for years by many editors who have designed The Women’s Bible, or Youth, or whatever).

    Perhaps I tuned into the “Dr. Stanley infomercial” portion of the Dr. Stanley program. I have no idea how long the Dr. Stanley program is intended to be. Needless to say, I have no plans to listen to the Dr. Stanley program again because I know I am not interested in hearing a lot of information on quick and flippant answers that point to Dr. Stanley.

    Please take this with a grain of salt…

  6. I have listened to Dr. Stanley for sometime and find his messages to be Biblically sound doctrine. I learn from listening to the Bible messages because he teaches straight from the Word of God. The messages, for me, hit home because the Bible passages used can be translated to daily life.

    No, Dr. Stanley is not a United States soldier. Nevertheless, God’s Word has answers for everyone, soldier, cook, homemaker, business man, etc.

    While I have never experienced anything close to what a United States Soldier is going through, our Lord knows. His Word has answers for each one. No one of us has a corner on what is emotionally needed by the soldier. God knows each soldier and what each individual needs. His Word can direct each one.

    How can we criticize sending GOD’S WORD in audio form?

    God states that His Word will not return void. Getting the Word of God in the hands of soldiers and the message that God loves them, died on the cross to pay for all they had done wrong and that by accepting the payment He made on the cross for them, they can spend eternity in Heaven with Him.

    I like the way Dr. Stanley is spreading the Good News of the free gift of salvation better than the way I am not.

    We seem to be quick to criticize, but let us examine ourselves. What am I, myself doing to get the Word of God to the soldier in Iraq, or to anyone else?

    Are we Christians? Are we shooting our own?

    In His Loving Care,
    “For by grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works lest any may should boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9

  7. Thank you for taking the time to comment Anida. And I am glad that Dr. Stanley and his In Touch ministries are meeting your spiritual needs.

    For my part, Dr. Stanley needs to do what he needs to do. As I mentioned, I don’t doubt his sincerity in “spreading the gospel,” through his “Messengers.” And only he knows if there is any self-serving motives entangled in his 70 hours of expository effusion.

    However, his claim to solid biblical teaching and sound doctrine is what I challenge. And I challenge it by way of the gospel, which I don’t pretend to fully understand or faithfully follow…even though it is my heart’s desire to do so.

    When it comes to the issue of violence and war, Dr. Stanley sidesteps the gospel and argues from the Old Testament and from a verse in Romans about obedience to authority. He says, “Throughout Scripture there is evidence that God favors war for divine reasons and sometimes uses it to accomplish His will (from Stanley’s, A Nation at War).” In other words, Dr. Stanley sees God as an occasional warlord, disposing of people when they are in the way of His will. God, it turns out, is just like us. Even though all of scripture is a story meant to slowly wean us away from all forms of scapegoating violence, vengeance, and war.

    As a Christian, all of scripture and indeed, my entire understanding of God is through the lens of the gospel. If Christ is indeed the fullness of God, then God is without retribution. But as far as I can see, Jesus only endorses peace and love of enemies. Dr. Charles argues that Jesus was only talking to individuals and not nations when he exhorted us to love our enemies. It’s a convenient line of reasoning, but it’s not gospel. And, for what it’s worth, the early Christians, until the time of Constantine, had no such understanding.

    Finally, it’s not God’s Word that I object to being sent in audio form, it’s Dr. Stanley’s interpretation of God’s Word. But again, that is my view and I’m no authority.

    Again Anida, thank you for your comments.

  8. You are all wrong and don’t really know what you are talking about. I am taking 400 soldiers to Afghanistan and Dr Stanley and his church were gracious enough to give us one Messenger for every soldier. Our soldiers love them and if the messengers help my soldiers overcome the harshness of combat then they are well worth having. My soldiers love them and many have commented on how much they have helped them. Don’t criticize what you know nothing about. When you have to lead soldiers into combat then you qualify to speak out. I am proof positive that the Messengers work and are not self promotion for Dr Stanley. The man is 76 years old, he has nothing to prove to you or anyone else.

  9. Thank you LTC Carter, for your comment. My criticism is not with you or the 400 soldiers you are leading into combat. And if, as you say, the Messengers are giving you and your soldiers comfort, I am truly grateful. I disagree with Dr Stanley’s theology but I will not disparge you, your soldiers and the eminence difficulties you have or will face. My prayers are with you, and as a follower of Christ my prayers are also with our enemies.

  10. Stephen, I’ve noted your respectfulness to those who don’t agree with your criticisms of Dr. Stanley. 🙂

    But it seems as if perhaps your primary problems with Stanley and his “Messengers” is that you simply don’t agree with his “theology.” I’d say from what I’ve heard and read of Dr. Stanley’s beliefs and interpretations of Scripture and in reading and studying it for myself over the years, I probably agree with 95% of what he teaches. So I happen to think what he’s done/doing here is kind of a cool thing to do.

    Apparently my late father did too as he donated to the cause before he died. . .

    None of us will know this side of heaven how his messages of encouragement and comfort from God’s Word may have helped our soldiers. No one understands God’s Word perfectly or IS perfect.

    But I commend Dr. Stanley for thinking of doing–and then actually doing something that may just bring some hope to some people in real fears, with real hurts. I will leave it to God to judge and discern his heart (motives).

  11. Thanks for commenting Lisa. I could never argue against bringing solace to people in combat. My argument remains with Christians like Dr. Stanley who attempt to justify state violence using the bible.

  12. Thank you for the reply, Stephen.

    My argument sometimes is with those who argue with Dr. Stanley as if he (and others who interpret Scripture as they do) actually enjoy and/or promote violence. It amazes me how some believe that others actually feel that way and accuse them of such.

    My opinion is that we could be all a bit more tolerant of our various “differences” pertaining to Scripture and ought to major on the majors (God’s plan of salvation) rather than the minors. Just think how much more pleasant life might be if we all did that.

  13. Thanks again Lisa.

    I would never accuse Dr. Stanley of enjoying violence or directly promoting violence. I do think however that a particular interpretation of scripture can and does indirectly sanction the use of violence. With utmost respect, this to me is not majoring on the minors. I see scripture more organically, that is, God’s plan of salvation cannot be separated from the issue of violence or in how we treat the poor but is intimately tied up in these things. This is not an question of tolerance but of charitably seeking understanding. I stand totally vulnerable (meaning I could be wrong) and ask how it is that Jesus’ words and life-example can be reconciled to the use of any sort of violence.

  14. Dr. Stanley is a GREAT pastor and teacher, he always has a livily message, he has a great personallity and i wish i lived in Alanta, GA … he is a very livily pastor and dont bore you to death like some, he just preaches and tells the word and his thoughts plainly, i know some pastors preach for 2-3 hours and at the end…. you are almost asleep but NOT Dr. Stanley, you can watch him on


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *