Commentaries

The Rest of the Story

Photo of Dr. Dobson

Greetings on behalf of all of us at Family Talk. These are busy days here at ministry central. They remind me of my experiences in 1977, when Focus on the Family was brand new and there was so much excitement in the air. We called it “focus fever.” For the next 33 years, I huffed and puffed to keep up with it all. Eventually, 1,400 employees labored with me side by side. We were like one huge family that worked together in remarkable harmony. Who would have believed that as my term of service was coming to an end, I would feel led to recalibrate professionally and start another ministry from scratch?

I’m aware that some of you have been curious about Family Talk and wonder what we are trying to accomplish. Specifically, I have heard six recurring questions that are being posed by friends who call, email, write or come by for a visit. Let me speak candidly and from my heart in response to each of the following requests for more information.

Question 1: There was talk in the media and within Christian circles about your retiring, once you announced your resignation from Focus on the Family. Many of us assumed you would end your busy career and spend your remaining years with your family and friends. Why didn’t you?

Answer: The truth is, I have not even considered retiring, which is a concept never endorsed or mentioned in the Bible. I am not implying that retirement is wrong or that others shouldn’t go this route. It is simply that I want to continue to serve actively for as long as I am able to do so. God has given me what appears to be excellent health, and I want to use it productively.

I’ll admit that having time to travel with Shirley and take life easier had a certain appeal for me. I have a three-year-old grandson whom I adore, and I could have enjoyed spending my days with him and the rest of my family. However, the Lord gently put His hand on my back and seemed to be saying, “Don’t even think about it. There is still too much work to be done.” The day after I said goodbye to my friends at Focus on the Family, I started Family Talk. So here I am now, broadcasting a daily radio program with my son Ryan Dobson and LuAnne Crane, and working as hard as ever. And I am loving it.

There are other people within Christendom who think I am still at Focus on the Family. I have no direct connection with the ministry I founded. Others know I have started a new radio program but have no idea how to find it or where it can be heard. I will address that matter in a moment. First, let me give you an update on the broadcast. We began airing the program on 624 radio facilities on May 3rd, but that number has risen now to nearly 900 in these ten weeks. God is obviously blessing our efforts.

As for the difficulty in finding us each day, I can fix that problem. You can find a list of our broadcast stations on drjamesdobson.org/ . If there are no stations in your area that carry Family Talk, you can listen to us online at www.drjamesdobson.org/ or Oneplace.com. Please call us at 1 (877) 732-6825 if there are other concerns or questions that will help you connect with us. We want to hear from you!

By the way, why would I retire just as I was releasing my new book, Bringing Up Girls? It has been on the best-seller lists for the New York Times, Publisher’s Weekly, CBA (Association of Christian Retail), and ECPA (Evangelical Christian Publisher’s Association) almost from the day of its release. Bringing Up Girls may turn out to be my most well received book ever. I thank God for His blessing on this work.

In short, the Lord gave me a mission and a message many years ago, and He has not lifted that assignment from me.

Question 2: Why did you leave Focus on the Family to start a new ministry when you could have stayed where you were? More than 220 million people heard you every day in 150 countries. Why not finish out your working years in the same ministry?

Answer: This is a very good question and one that I have answered in a previous letter, but it bears repeating. I have believed for many years that one of the biggest mistakes a founder and president can make is to stay too long. By holding the reins of power as the years go by, an executive prevents his organization from developing the leadership to carry on when he dies or suddenly decides to step down. Then a crisis can occur that may even doom the ministry. We have all seen that happen.

To avoid an unfortunate circumstance of this nature, I felt that the Lord wanted me to model how a Christian leader should let go of authority and pass the torch on to a younger generation. That led me to step down first as president in 2003, and as chairman of the board in 2009, and to my departure on February 26th of this year. It was one of the most difficult periods I have ever experienced, but with God’s help, we got through it. Focus was my life, my passion and my calling for three decades. To say goodbye to my friends and colleagues was an enormous challenge. Shirley and I were teary-eyed for weeks.

There is another reason for my departure. There is wisdom in the old adage that two captains can sink a ship. Jim Daly was my choice to succeed me, and we saw many things similarly. It gradually became clear, however, that we had significant philosophical differences. Jim has expressed his views on these matters in numerous articles and interviews. I have not spoken about them until now, but my perspectives are quite different, especially when it comes to confronting those who would weaken the family and undermine our faith. When I recognized these divergent views, therefore, I knew that I would be leaving, probably on June 1st or August 27th of this year. Our board of directors agreed but asked us to complete the transition on February 26th. Thus, my tenure at Focus on the Family suddenly came to an end. The board very generously granted us a million dollars to help us start our new ministry, which was wonderful and greatly appreciated.

Question 3: Are you competing with Focus on the Family in your new ministry?

Answer: No, our two organizations are NOT competitors, any more than four Baptist churches within a city are in competition with one another, or that World Vision and Samaritan’s Purse are competitors, or that Young Life and Youth for Christ are at loggerheads. To think that only one organization is needed to meet the vast needs of 75 million families is downright silly to me. Are Christians really postulating that two or six or even a thousand ministries are redundant when attempting to disseminate the Gospel of Jesus Christ? I certainly hope not. There is infinite work for all of us to do in the Kingdom, and there is no redundancy within it. Focus on the Family and Family Talk are simply working in different parts of God’s vineyard. We are not trying to outdo each other or struggle for supremacy in the task of serving the Lord. To do so would not be pleasing to Him. A better way to describe our two organizations is that we are complementary to each other.

Question 4: How are Focus on the Family and Family Talk Different?

Answer: They are similar in many ways, but are also unique. Both are seeking to preserve families and bring people to Jesus Christ. Both hope to help those who are hurting. I founded both organizations, so their superstructures are certainly comparable. What makes the two organizations different is that the personalities, training, objectives and outlook of its leaders are dissimilar. Consequently, we also approach our broadcasts and other ministries from unique points of view. God has given me a platform in the culture that has led to consultations with three U.S. presidents and service on eight national commissions and governmental assignments. My Ph.D. in child development and my work in a medical school are an integral part of who I am. These experiences are also part of my preparation and presentation, and influence what we are trying to do on the air.

Question 5: What are you attempting to accomplish with Family Talk, and what is your strategic plan for the future?

Answer: So many Christian radio programs are “secondary creations.” In other words, they originate during Sunday morning services or in another venue. There is nothing wrong with that, but it is not our approach. Our goal is to prepare the finest and most creative radio programming of which we are capable, and to do it as original productions. For example, this coming October, we plan to visit the site of the 1944 D-Day landings in Normandy, France. An historian and an audio engineer will be walking with us as we stroll along the beaches and the cemetery where the bodies of so many young men are buried. They bought our freedom with their blood, and we must never forget their sacrifice.

This visit to France is only one of many plans we have made to bring together the most knowledgeable, interesting and inspirational teachers, authors and professionals. Radio is our passion, and we will give it our best effort. We also want to utilize social media and the Internet to the fullest extent possible. We are excited about these developments.

Family Talk also respects the fact that millions of families today are falling apart, and we want to do everything we can to preserve as many of them as possible. As stated above, each radio program is carefully crafted to meet a specific need or concern. You can see from the enclosed list of archived broadcasts what this means on a daily basis. We deal with a wide variety of topics, rarely more than two on the same subject, which address the matters that have risen to the top. We hope we will be heard on 2,000 stations or more eventually. I have walked this path before, and believe it is where we are being led again.

Another aspect of our strategic plan concerns an intergenerational outreach. You may be aware that my son, Ryan Dobson, focuses his message on people 35 and younger. He has been uniquely blessed in that arena. Ryan has his own Internet radio program, which is heard around the world. It is a one-hour, live broadcast that deals with some of the concerns that are addressed on our flagship program. He will soon be heard ten times per week, (five appearances on Family Talk and five on a new entity to be called Grounded With Ryan Dobson.) By having Ryan included as one of the co-hosts of Family Talk, a certain synergy occurs in both directions.

LuAnne Crane is the other host of our program, which brings the voice of a gifted wife and mother to the issues we discuss. Frankly, I have never enjoyed a radio experience as much as what has developed between the three of us. We energize and motivate each other, and I think you, the listener, can feel that electricity when you hear the program.

Our Mission Statement is as follows:

To help preserve and promote the institution of the family and the biblical principles on which it is based, and to seek to introduce as many people as possible to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Specifically, the focus of the ministry is on marriage, parenthood, evangelism, and encouraging righteousness in the culture.

Here is our Statement of Faith: Family Talk believes:

  • The Bible to be the inspired, only, infallible, authoritative Word of God;
  • That there is one God, eternally existent in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit;
  • In the deity of our Lord Jesus Christ, in His virgin birth, in His sinless life, in His miracles, in His vicarious and atoning death through His shed blood, in His bodily resurrection, in His ascension to the right hand of the Father and in his personal return in power and glory;
  • That for salvation of lost and sinful men and women, regeneration by the Holy Spirit is absolutely essential;
  • In the present ministry of the Holy Spirit by whose indwelling the Christian is enabled to live a godly life;
  • In the resurrection of both the saved and the lost, they who are saved unto the resurrection of life and they who are lost unto the resurrection of damnation;
  • And in the spiritual unity of believers in our Lord Jesus Christ.

Our operation is very lean and conservative regarding the resources given to us by God’s people. Every dollar is precious and will be used to best advantage in the Cause of Christ. There are many other aspects of our strategic plan that I don’t have time or space to address, but good things are in the works.

Question 6: What are your plans for public policy in the future?

Answer: I have never been more concerned about this great nation and its families than I am right now. Every day, it seems, another tenant of traditional morality goes down in flames. When I left Childrens Hospital of Los Angeles and USC School of Medicine, the institution of the family was already showing signs of cracking. I’m not claiming to be a prophet, but I foresaw three decades ago what we are experiencing as a nation today. The Judeo-Christian system of values was despised even then in some circles. The only thing that has changed is that the assault on the family and cultural morality has become much more vicious.

The institution of marriage is undergoing a complete overhaul. For example, despite the fact that 30 out of 30 states have voted to define marriage as being exclusively between one man and one woman, various courts have begun chipping away at that foundation. One of them, a district court in Massachusetts, struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act, DOMA, on July 8th, which was passed by the votes of 427 members in Congress, and signed by President Bill Clinton. It has been the law of the land since 1996. A single, arrogant, imperious judge has decided to declare the law null and void. The Obama Administration might not choose to appeal the ruling, which causes me anguish.

On another front, the Ninth Circuit Appeals Court is considering the constitutionality of Proposition 8, by which the exclusivity of traditional marriage between one man and one woman was affirmed by the people of California. The Ninth Court is the most liberal appellate court in the land, yet the future of marriage rests in its hands, at least for now. A decision is expected any day.

The attack on America’s institutions continues in full swing. The National Day of Prayer has been declared unconstitutional, and Congress is about to end the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy for the military, which will make open homosexuality legal in all branches of our Armed Forces.

The country is being systematically bankrupt, and beginning January 1, 2011, every family is going to be hit with draconian new taxes. Even the marriage penalty tax is scheduled to be reinstated. We MUST fight this attempt to undermine the financial integrity of the family!

Judge Elena Kagan, President Obama’s selection for the open seat on the U.S. Supreme Court, may be confirmed by the time you get this letter. She has encountered little opposition from Republicans to this point. Kagan is a supporter of partial birth abortion and holds numerous other leftist positions.

And on it goes. This is a time for Christian people to be in fervent prayer for our country.

Family Talk will fight with all its resources to defend the family against those who would destroy it. We will wage war on those who would manipulate children for political purposes, or try to weaken the military. These and other institutions of our democracy need all the help they can get. We want to be counted among those who will stand firm against the forces that are trying to bring Western Civilization down.

In order to do that job more effectively, we hope to start a 501(c)(4) organization just as soon as we are able to accomplish it financially. This will be a vitally important addition to the Family Talk tool chest, helping us do even more to address the moral and cultural issues confronting the family. Our day will come, but it is not here yet.

In the meantime, I must report to you that only 25% of the required funds are coming in to support Family Talk even at current levels. We are operating on startup funds that must be supplemented. Would you prayerfully consider how you can help us financially right now? It would certainly be appreciated. We also need supporters who will commit to a monthly gift as God directs. Again, you can do this by writing us at 540 Elkton Dr., Suite 201, Colorado Springs, CO 80907, calling us toll free at 1(877) 732-6825, or using our website at www.drjamesdobson.org/.

Let me make four other requests.

  • Tell your friends and associates where we are heard and what we are doing. Reproduce this letter and pass it on.
  • Send us the names and addresses of people whom you know would like to be on our mailing list.
  • Let us hear your thoughts and suggestions. We want to know what you think.
  • Please pray for us and for this new ministry. It is a daunting challenge, but one that we believe has been ordained by God.

Thanks so much for allowing me to clarify a few matters about our ministry and share our needs. If you have other questions or comments, please contact us.

Have a great summer’s end with your family.

Sincerely,

James C. Dobson, Ph.D.
President, Family Talk

P.S. Ryan and I have been invited by Rev. Greg Laurie to address his Harvest Crusade rally in Anaheim, California, on August 8th. 50,000 people are expected to attend at Angel Stadium, and we hope you will be among them.