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.
Walk into church the next Sunday morning and read a letter of resignation, Andy said. Tell them that you want to continue as their pastor, and will preach as long as they want.
"Daddy, your church is not going to leave you," Andy said. "They need the opportunity to choose to have you as pastor if you divorce. If you do this, it all ends. Let them choose."
Andy says his father didn't hear anything after the word "resign." All the rumors seemed to be true. His son had joined the church faction trying to get rid of him.
His son had betrayed him.
Andy says it was after that exchange that he started popping up in his father's sermons, not as the heir apparent, but as the Old Testament villain, Absalom. Absalom was the charismatic but treacherous son of David who tried to snatch his father's kingdom away from him through war.
"My dad at the time fashioned me as an Absalom who had rebelled against him," Andy says. But Andy himself felt betrayed.
He wondered why his father didn't denounce from the pulpit those people who questioned Andy's loyalty. He told his father, I'm your most loyal staffer, but you can't see it.
"I never felt I should replace my dad. I didn't feel like I was at war with my dad."
The conflict could not have come at a worse time for Andy. He had recently married; a baby was on its way. He had a steady job, health benefits, his congregation was booming. But his relationship with his father was crumbling. It was like being trapped in a soap opera.
"It consumes you," says Sandra Stanley, Andy's wife. "As soon as he got home, we were talking about it all the time. There was always something new happening, some new comment."