"You see, into my ministry I brought the survival spirit. You do or die. You do whatever is necessary to win. It doesn't make any difference what it is."
That survival spirit was second nature for Charles, whose father died when he was 9 months old and who grew up so poor that he learned about Santa Claus the Christmas morning he discovered in his stocking the orange that had been in the refrigerator the night before. He lived in 17 homes by his 8th birthday.
His mother, Rebecca, worked two jobs and was often away from home. But she'd leave her son notes, reminding him of chores, giving him advice or simply to say, "Charles, I love you."
At night, she'd kneel beside her only child and pray, "God bless Charles here for whatever it may be."
Just as his mother protected him, Charles shielded her. She married an abusive alcoholic who told his stepson he would never amount to anything and sometimes tried to attack Rebecca.
Charles would intervene.
"You come after my mom," he'd say, "you come after me."
So it was really no surprise that, decades later, Charles would refuse to back down. He told opponents calling for his resignation that he answered to a higher authority.
"God said you keep doing what I called you to until I tell you to do something else," he says today. "I got that straight from the Lord. ... I was simply obeying God."
Besides, what could he do -- make someone not divorce him?
"If somebody doesn't love you and doesn't want to live with you, you can't -- nowhere in the Scripture does it say that you're to preach the gospel until someone does this or that," he says.
Charles, though, wasn't the only one in his family with a strong will. His son had other ideas about divorce.
The tension between Andy and his father had been building even before the divorce.
They were partners in ministry, but they were becoming rivals.
As Andy's congregation started outdrawing his father's, people told Charles that his son was becoming a prima donna who wanted to take over the entire church.
Those rumors seemed to be validated, Charles recalls, when his son's church staff asked him to give them the satellite church's property.
"They felt like they had their little nook," Charles says now. "They didn't have their little nook. Whose idea was it, No. 1, and who's paying for it, No. 2."
The distance between father and son was also philosophical. They had different ideas about church leadership.
Andy had discovered another preaching mentor, the Rev. Bill Hybels, an unassuming, genial pastor -- the kind who travels alone without an entourage. He helped pioneer "seeker churches" while leading Willow Creek Community Church in Chicago.
People tend to focus on the cosmetic innovations of seeker churches: incorporating contemporary Christian music in worship, injecting clever skits and colorful stage props into services. But Andy was also drawn to Willow Creek's primary mission: reaching "irreligious people" who had been turned off by traditional church.
After hearing Hybels, Andy says, church made sense "for the first time in my life." Hybels became his hero.
"They were more committed to progress instead of maintaining traditions."
Andy incorporated some of Hybels' innovations into his father's satellite church. He stopped wearing suits in the pulpit as his father had insisted. The church grew even more. But so did the tension with his father.
Was he competing with his father?
Almost 20 years later, Andy pauses before he answers:
"Not intentionally, but I felt like what we were doing was better."
All the tensions converged one day when Andy's father called him into the office to discuss the divorce.
"Dad, you never asked me what I think you should do," Andy said.
His father smiled and asked him what he thought.