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Southern Baptists laud James Dobson, Focus on the Family at 25-year mark


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Amid a culture that has left many families frayed and others battered, James Dobson has stood strong.

For 25 years.

The anniversary has provided an occasion for words of appreciation to be voiced for Dobson and the Focus on the Family ministry he founded in 1977 — appreciation that Dobson is careful to voice to the Lord.

With “God’s Faithfulness” as the theme for Focus’ 25th anniversary, Dobson, 66, reflected, “… as we reflect on our journey thus far we are reminded time and again of how marvelous his blessing has been. Looking back on the joys and sorrows, the periods of elation and the times of discouragement, we can clearly see that the loving hands of our Heavenly Father have sustained us every step of the way. It is a humbling experience to be able to stand at this landmark in the ministry’s history, giving thanks for the blessings of the past and looking forward to what God has in store for the future.”

Jack Graham, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, recounted several ways he is thankful that God raised up Focus on the Family from Dobson’s humble start in a small office in Southern California 25 years ago.

“On a personal level, my wife Deb and I have been tremendously blessed and encouraged by Dr. Dobson’s ministry as we’ve been in the pastorate and in raising our own family,” Graham, pastor of the Dallas-area Prestonwood Baptist Church, told Baptist Press Aug. 1. “He has certainly been an inspiration and a guide not only to pastors like myself but to literally millions of families all across America.

“I think a generation has been changed, an entire generation of Christians and families have been changed by the biblical and practical counsel and guidance from Dr. Dobson,” Graham said.

Focus on the Family “has far-reaching impact on the culture of America,” Graham continued. “I believe Dr. Dobson to be one of the most influential citizens in the country. He’s like a Daniel, who in his own generation has touched the nation with the biblical message, a message of truth.”

And Dobson is “highly respected among Southern Baptists,” Graham said. “We are appreciative for his ministry and prayerful for his continued ministry.” As Southern Baptists are in a time of a convention-wide emphasis on building up families, “he is a tremendous resource,” Graham said.

Dobson was the closing speaker at the 1998 SBC annual meeting in Salt Lake City.

“I have enormous respect for your movement and your love for the Lord,” Dobson, a member of a Church of the Nazarene congregation in Colo. Springs, told the ’98 convention. “Almost thou persuadest me to be a Southern Baptist.”

Dobson noted that society “has split now into two broad camps, in what I would call a civil war of values: … God is [and] God isn’t.

“If God is, it changes everything,” Dobson said. “That’s why we believe in the sanctity of life, in the dangers of premarital sex, in sexual loyalty and fidelity, the Ten Commandments, honesty and integrity. There’s this whole understanding that influences behavior that comes from that idea that God is, that he exists and his Word is true.”

On the other hand, Dobson said, those who believe “God isn’t” make up their own rules. If something is inconvenient, it’s gotten rid of — including babies and the elderly. If God doesn’t exist, everyone is free to do with life as they wish, including determining that homosexuality is no different, morally, than heterosexuality, he said.

“These two world views are in collision,” Dobson said. “Values are upside down. It is still a $25,000 fine to kill an eagle’s egg and it’s not even a misdemeanor … to abort a baby. It’s not the equivalent of a parking ticket to do that to a viable healthy baby.”

Richard Land, president of the SBC Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, told Baptist Press, “I can barely imagine what the cultural landscape of our nation would be like today without Dr. Dobson’s prophetic presence over the last 25 years. He has challenged us all to be salt and light and I am grateful for the millions of Christians who have heard his call and determined to make a difference in the culture for our Lord.

“From my own experience in ministry,” Land said, “I know how hard the fight for hearts and minds has been over the years. Yet God demands we take a stand for righteousness regardless of the cost. Taking such stands often provokes the ire of those who deny God’s authority and makes the messenger the target of vicious barbs from the secular media. I praise God for the bold and uncompromising stands that Dr. James Dobson has taken for the family in the face of such bitter assaults.

“Southern Baptists, as well as all Bible-believing Christians, owe Dr. Dobson a tremendous debt of gratitude for standing in the gap for the past 25 years as he labored in God’s strength to turn hearts toward home,” Land said. “We value his partnership and his support of our ministries on behalf of our faith and our families. God bless you, Dr. Dobson.”

Dobson, before launching Focus on the Family, had earned a Ph.D. in child development from the University of Southern California and served 14 years as an associate clinical professor of pediatrics at USC’s School of Medicine and a concurrent 17 years on the attending staff of Los Angeles Children’s Hospital in the divisions of child development and medical genetics.

During those years, he became burdened by the ever-increasing internal and external pressures on and unprecedented disintegration of American families.

Leaving his staff positions at USC and the children’s hospital to launch Focus on the Family, its outreach from the small office in Southern California grew to include to a radio broadcast, a video series, speaking engagements and a ground-breaking book, “Dare to Discipline.”

Today, Focus on the Family is a national and international ministry based in Colorado Springs, Colo., with 1,300 employees and a yearly budget of more than $125 million producing family broadcasts in more than a dozen languages reaching more than 100 countries including China and Russia, a dozen-plus magazines and an array of newsletters and websites — as well as maintaining an active role in America’s public policy and culture debates.

Dobson’s half-hour flagship radio broadcast is aired on about 3,000 outlets in the United States and also in 40 other countries, while a 90-second TV commentary is aired by about 100 stations across the country, including numerous network affiliates.

In addition to Dare to Discipline, among the 20-some books he has authored are “What Wives Wish Their Husbands Knew About Women,” “The Strong-Willed Child,” “Straight Talk to Men,” “When God Doesn’t Make Sense” and, most recently, “Bringing Up Boys.”

His first film series, also titled “Focus on the Family,” has now been seen by more than 70 million people. Two other film series followed, “Turn Your Heart Toward Home” in 1986 and “Life on The Edge” in 1994.

In government service, Dobson served on the task force which summarized President Carter’s White House Conference on Families in 1980; he was appointed by President Reagan to the National Advisory Commission to the office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, serving from 1982-84; he served as co-chairman of the Citizens Advisory Panel for Tax Reform, in consultation with President Reagan, 1986-88; he served as a member and later chairman of the United States Army’s Family Initiative, 1986-88; he was appointed to Attorney General Edwin Meese’s Commission on Pornography, 1985-86; he was appointed in 1987 to the Attorney General’s Advisory Board on Missing and Exploited Children and to Secretary Otis Bowen’s Panel on Teen Pregnancy Prevention, within the Department of Health and Human Services; he was appointed by Sen. Robert Dole to the Commission on Child and Family Welfare in 1994; and he was appointed by Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott to the National Gambling Impact Study Commission in 1996.

In 1982, Dobson was named Layman of the Year by the National Association of Evangelicals.

His wife, Shirley, meanwhile, chairs the National Day of Prayer movement.

Morris H. Chapman, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee, told Baptist Press Aug. 1, “We are delighted to send our congratulations and best wishes to Dr. James Dobson on the 25th anniversary of Focus on the Family. Dr. Dobson and Focus have endeared themselves to the Christian community in general, and to Southern Baptists in particular, for their faithful, solid, measured and biblical ministry to the body of Christ in America. … I believe God raised up James Dobson and Focus on the Family to strengthen and conserve the work of the Lord in our land and around the world.”

Citing Dobson’s “expertise and commitment to assist families to achieve and maintain healthy status,” Chapman said Dobson has “blessed a myriad of Southern Baptist families. I suspect that in virtually every Southern Baptist church there are numerous members whose home life has been improved, enriched and benefited by his ministry. … Focus on the Family does not hold itself out as a church ministry, but it has dependably functioned as a faithful partner to augment the ministry of local church leaders in cultural and social areas.”

Chapman also noted, “Virtually every Christian leader I know realizes we are in a moral and ethical crisis of gigantic proportion. Focus on the Family has served our nation and the Lord by raising the consciousness of millions of our citizens about these issues and the cultural divide that appears to be widening by the day.”

Robert E. Reccord, president of the Southern Baptist North American Mission Board, told Baptist Press, “Jim and Shirley Dobson personify for me Micah 6:8 which says what the Lord requires of his people, and especially his leaders – ‘To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with [the] Lord.’ As they have done that, God has thrust a gifted teacher from one of the nation’s leading medical schools and a talented lady to become a force worldwide in matters of justice, mercy and proclaiming a powerful biblical message to the critical issues of our day and calling our nation to prayer.

“While known for family related issues and legislative perspective influenced by a biblical worldview, we must never lose sight that Jim and Shirley are also both driven by a passion to share Jesus Christ and his life-transforming message with every person possible,” Reccord said. “I thank God for Jim and Shirley, their friendship and their partnership in spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ. I pray God will give them years ahead every bit as impacting as the 25 great years they have just celebrated.”
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(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at https://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: SHIRLEY AND JAMES DOBSON.