In 1976, Campus
Crusade for Christ began "Family Ministry" to provide pre-marriage
seminars for its staff members, and later branched into married staff couples
marriage seminars. Family Ministry was "spun-off" in 1976; it is now
called "FamilyLife" (headed by Dennis and Barbara Rainey). The Raineys
opened the "FamilyLife Marriage Conference" to the public in 1978. In
2002, the Raineys held more than 100 FamilyLife Marriage Conferences (weekends)
in almost every major city in America. (FamilyLife Seminars are abbreviated
versions of FamilyLife's full weekend, hotel-based marriage and parenting
conferences. While the material is the same, some sessions have been shortened
and combined to accommodate the Friday night and all day Saturday seminar
format.) In 1999, the "I Still
Do" one-day (8-hour) seminar series was launched—seven of these are
scheduled for 2003. (See details below of a 2002 "I Still Do"
conference held in Chicago.)
Since 1976, more than one million people have attended FamilyLife conferences and even more have used its materials, offering "the tools needed to build strong homes." FamilyLife's 30-minute daily radio program, "FamilyLife Today" (winner of the NRB Radio Program Producer of the year award for 1995) can be heard on hundreds of "Christian" radio stations nationwide, "providing practical, biblical answers to the issues couples and families face." FamilyLife also airs a 90-second daily "Real FamilyLife" program, as well as a 30-minute weekend "FamilyLife This Week" program. (Source: 12/02, FamilyLife Internet Website.)
- Dennis and Barbara Rainey became best known for their 1980s book Building Your Mate's Self-Esteem, a thoroughly self-oriented book that built on the psychological teachings of the self-love/self-esteem movement, popularized in the professing church by such pop psychology notables as James Dobson and Josh McDowell. In 1995, Nelson Publishers printed a revised edition titled The New Building Your Mate's Self-Esteem (1995:Nelson, 191 pp.). It was endorsed by Josh McDowell ("… Dennis and Barbara Rainey have the most practical answers you could ever want."; Howard Hendricks ("… has proven to be a professional uplift to strengthen the foundations of our homes."; and Max Lucado ("I readily add my name to the growing list of people impacted by the ministry of Dennis Rainey. Give heed to his heart—you'll be glad you did.").
The Raineys have also recorded an 8-tape audio series—"Building Your
Mate's Self-Esteem: 10 Building Blocks":
"Self-esteem is either the crippler or the completer of a marriage … If couples don't learn to base their self-esteem on God's Word, they will develop an unhealthy concept of themselves and each other. … In this 8 tape series, you'll learn how to: Communicate unconditional acceptance; Put the past in proper perspective; Plant positive words; Give your mate the freedom to fail; Be a partner pleaser; Keep life manageable; and Live with purpose." (Source: 12/02, FamilyLife Internet Website.)
Evidence of the Rainey's continued commitment to
psychology is their offering of books (on the FamilyLife website) by Freudian
psychologists H. Norman Wright, James Dobson, Steve
Arterburn, and Dan Allender (the latter a Larry
Wherever social ills are decried, the "dysfunctional"
marriage and family are implicated as causative, and "happy" marriages
and "strong" families are then described as curative. Accordingly, the
building of these ill-defined entities has become a major individual, local,
national, and international objective. Marriage and family have come to dominate
the airwaves and printed pages of so-called Christian media. They are the most
common subjects of "Christian" seminars and conferences. Their
popularity has even spawned a new form of "Christian" conferencing,
the "road show," in which a conference is scheduled to play in various
cities across the country, featuring a cast of popular "Christian"
speakers and entertainers in a "get-away-from-it-all" atmosphere that
combines teaching, entertainment, fun, food, shopping, and excitement.
secular psychological self-improvement seminars have now fully evolved into
"Christianized" psychological self-improvement seminars, presented as
road shows moving around the country or as national simulcast events down-linked
to churches. The amount of psychology and secular self-help
ideas vary from speaker to speaker. but are an integral part of these
conferences. Two medical doctors describe a FamilyLife conference (a
"ministry" of Dennis and Barbara Rainey) they attended in Chicago
titled "I still Do," which lists sixteen well-known speakers
for an eight-city tour with thousands attending. Highlights from this
one-day conference follow:
(a) On 8/24/02, several thousand married professing Christian couples attended "I still Do"—"A Life Changing One-Day Conference for Couples" at the United Center, home of the Chicago Bulls. The "I still Do" conference was billed by its producer and director, Dennis Rainey, as "an important step toward improving your marriage … a fun, romantic, bonding experience with your spouse." Its four guest speakers were to help attendees "understand the significance of [their] marriage vows … unlock the secrets to romance and intimacy … improve communication … aspire and endeavor to make your marriage last a lifetime." "FamilyLife," the "Leader in Marriage Conferences," produced this conference, which was one of many scheduled across the country. The superbly organized and upbeat format featured five popular "Christian" speakers, what was called praise and worship, special music by a popular country-western singer, and a resource center featuring innumerable "how to" books by the speakers and other authors, in addition to a host of other products somehow related to marriage.
(b) The opening speaker was popular pastor, radio, and conference speaker, Alistair Begg. Although starting out well (from a Biblical standpoint), Begg left the misleading impression that our relationship with God is important, but subservient to the ultimate goal of building a strong marriage.
The second speaker was Paul Sheppard, "senior pastor and musician," radio speaker, and conference leader "in constant demand." The gospel was presented as something that works to create "harmony" in marriage. Couples "need Christ and his body for their family." He emphasized the duty of the husband to sacrifice "whatever" to meet the needs of the wife, to love her "supremely," to make the marriage "spicy," to "cover" her faults instead of "criticizing." He said that God would call the husband to account for everything that happens in the marriage, but did not mention the wife's responsibility before God for her own sin.
The third speaker was Gary Chapman, popular author, "pastor and educator" who "delivers keen, memorable insights on marriage." He spoke humorously on how to "rediscover emotional love in marriage," by which he apparently meant the kind of starry-eyed emotions experienced by young couples during pre-marital dating. Predictably for his address, he reviewed his best-selling book, The Five Love Languages (similar to the "love language" nonsense taught by Gary Smalley). As a bonus for this conference, he added seven steps to solve conflict (only two had Scriptural references). He informed the audience: "… you don't have any conflicts that cannot be resolved" with these seven steps.
The fourth speaker was Les Parrott, "co-director of the Center for Relationship Development at Seattle Pacific University," who teaches "the basics of good relationships through seminars and marriage mentoring." Parrott drew his thoroughly secular advice from Yale University psychologist Robert Sternberg, who understands marriage as a triangle of passion, intimacy, and commitment. Accordingly, Parrott spoke of a wife's "undeniable need to be cherished" and of a husbands "undeniable need for sex," while offering numerous techniques to satisfy those "needs." In his entire 50-minute presentation, there was only one brief reference to Scripture, and that was from a paraphrased version of the Bible.
Dennis Rainey closed the show with an address calling for a "statement on behalf of marriage and family." He offered five techniques to prevent divorce and called for spouses to "come forward" and pick up a "rose of reconciliation" for their spouse. Each attending couple was given a large "Our Marriage Covenant" document to sign, frame, and hang on the wall to "leave a legacy of Christ-centered love" for future generations to see.
(c) The message of the "I still Do" conference can be summarized in its title (in bold): I, in my own strength and employing whatever techniques and methods psychology has to offer, still do have the power to achieve and maintain a happy marriage. Sigmund Freud would have loved this conference. He would have been pleased to see that it has taken little more than a century for his doctrines that he concocted to take priority over Scripture, even within the professing Christian church. Freud boldly rejected Christ and ridiculed Scripture's teaching of original sin. He taught that people have problems with thinking, feeling, or behaving (and problems in marriage) because of past traumatic experiences. For Freud, the solution to those problems comes via informed or insightful self-effort. Usually a therapist or some special guidance is required. To him, the measure of psychological maturity or "success" was personal pleasure, the fulfillment of sensual "needs." The Freudian paradigm rejected any notion of original sin, conviction of sin, the counsel and guidance of the Holy Spirit, the transforming work of God in the life of a believer, and the Christian life purposed in faithful service to a redeeming, holy God.
(d) With the exception of Alistair Begg's opening remarks, there was essentially no mention of the fallen state of man, his sinful nature, his absolute need for salvation, or the sin-corrupted nature of his reasoning and resolve. Problems in marriage were presented simply as errors of technique, and the ultimate goal in marriage was presented as sensual satisfaction. Conflict in marriage was not presented as the expected result of individual sin in a marriage partner. There was no suggestion of: "From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not" (James 4:1,2). There was no mention of the need for confession of sin, repentance, forgiveness, or bearing with one another. The attendees were assumed to be good people making errors in marriage due to ignorance of proper technique.
(e) "I still Do" was sold as a Christian conference for Christian couples. Although there was initial reference to the importance of faith and salvation, one speaker after another made it clear that the real value of Christianity was its pragmatic use as a step toward the higher goal of a happy marriage. This kind of thinking is common and seemingly acceptable in Christianity today. Forgiveness is valuable because it reduces blood pressure. Families that "pray together stay together" and supposedly have fewer children in prison because they have stayed together. "Religiousness" is associated with "healthier" responses to disaster. God is presented as a means to an end in contrast to Scripture's clear presentation of God as the beginning and the end. God was surely made for us, rather than us for Him (Col. 1:16). Christianity is presented as "useful" and its value as practical. The Christian is seen as an eager consumer of the benefits of the Christian faith rather than as an eager servant loving that Redeemer who first loved him.
(f) The emphasis on "I" was profound throughout the conference. Each individual husband and wife were assumed to be able to accomplish their assigned tasks to achieve a "happy marriage." Failure was never attributed to the fallen nature, but rather to error in technique or to insufficient information and tools. This was a "do it yourself" Christian couples conference. All of the speakers supported this approach to solving problems in marriage. The last three speakers made little or no reference to Scripture and drew their advice from popular counseling psychology. In so doing, they left the audience with the impression that God's Word is insufficient for godliness in marriage and family. There was not a hint of II Peter 1:3-4 which says: "According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge."
(g) Nearly all the "tips and recommendations" were drawn from the world of psychology, motivational dynamics, conflict resolution theory, and the personal experience and fascinating anecdotes of the speakers. Even though the advice had a show of wisdom (Col. 2:23), it lacked the spiritual power necessary for real change (i.e., for sanctification). It would seem that the enthusiastic attendees were largely taken captive "through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ" (Col. 2:8).
Scripture does not teach that righteousness comes about by self-effort. Attendees were not pointed toward the Lord; they were pointed toward self and lists of things they should and supposedly could do. Righteousness was not considered to be an issue and was certainly not the goal. The attendees therefore left with lengthy lists, a diploma, and a sense of self-empowerment with the goal being a "happy marriage."
Passages like Ephesians 5:22-33, Colossians 3:18-21, and 1 Peter 3:1-7 tell believers what our conduct in marriage should be. But these are not lists of methods or techniques; they are fruits of the Spirit working within the believer. These are not skills that can be purchased from the psychological self-help marketplace. They come about as we are transformed by the Holy Spirit as we obediently and gratefully "seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God" and "mortify [your] members which are upon the earth," that part of our earthly nature that seeks self-gratification (Col. 3:1, 5).
(h) Throughout the conference there was repeated reference to the necessity of fulfilling "needs." Attendees were encouraged to fulfill the needs of their spouses, but it seemed always for their own gain rather than for the glory of God. These "needs" were entirely romantic, erotic, and decidedly selfish. Scripture tells us that the real need for each one of us is the removal of the wrath of God resting upon us because of our sin (Phil. 3:8-16; Matt. 16:24-26; Luke 18:28-30). When atonement for sin has been made, we are then called to mortify (put to death) that part of us that seeks to gratify the self. A conference that validates psychology's so-called hierarchy of needs contradicts the clear Biblical truth that Christ came to redeem us from the enslavement to such "needs." For before salvation we were all enslaved to "serving divers lusts and pleasures" (Titus 3:3).
(i) The attendees were left with the impression that a "happy" marriage and a "strong" family are the ultimate goals of the Christian life. At no time were Christian couples encouraged to pour out their lives for anyone but themselves. With this kind of teaching from those we call "Christian" leaders, it should not be surprising that hospitality, neighborliness, and authentic witnessing to "strangers" has disappeared from the life of the church. Who has time for such when "date night," "sex night," "re-igniting the fire in the bedroom night," "just sit on the couch looking at each other," "quality time," and "family night" increasingly fill the calendar of committed "I still Do'ers!" The Word of God in complacency-jarring hyperbole teaches a different priority: "And a man's foes shall be they of his own household" (Matt. 10:36); and "If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple" (Luke 14:26).
(j) An even more fundamental concern about Rainey's "I still Do" conference is the message that God depends upon the methods and efforts of man to accomplish His purposes. Scripture teaches us repeatedly that when man turns to his own methods to accomplish even what he believes are God's highest goals, his efforts are not only fruitless, but are condemned by God. (Abram's attempt to fulfill God's covenant via Hagar produced no godly fruit. Isaac prayed to the Lord for twenty years before a barren Rebekah became pregnant with Esau and Jacob. Meanwhile, Ishmael had already produced twelve sons.) The Lord's ways are not our ways. (Joseph's brothers tried to kill him; yet the names of those twelve boys from that "dysfunctional family" will be written on the gates of the eternal Jerusalem [Rev. 21:12]. John the Baptist was born to a doubting old Zechariah and his barren old Elizabeth.)
Summary: This conference is characteristic of many large Christian
conferences, which are highly advertised, well-attended, and multi-citied or
simulcast, with big name speakers who are to deliver on all kinds of direct and
implied promises regarding how to better one's life, marriage, and family. While
well-intended, these conferences incorporate psychology and self-help principles
and practices mixed with Christianity. Some speakers promote psychological
self-help ideas with little or no Scripture. Others, whether trained in
psychology and it's solutions to life's problems or not, mix it with Scripture
and, thus, promote a psychological self-help gospel, unaware that they are
devaluing God's Word.
Keepers is the gigantic new (1991) "men's movement" among
professing evangelical Christians. Its roots are Catholic
to the core. PK's contradictory stand on homosexuality; its promotion of secular
psychology; its unscriptural feminizing of men; its depiction of Jesus as a
"phallic messiah" tempted to perform homosexual acts; and its
ecumenical and unbiblical teachings should dissuade any true Christian from
participating. Promise Keepers is proving to be one of the most ungodly and
misleading movements in the annals of Christian history. Nevertheless, Dennis
Rainey is a promoter of this
ecumenical, charismatic, psychologized men's movement, as evidenced by his
speaking at their men's conferences and by his writing numerous daily
"devotionals" (encouraging such unbiblical practices as journaling
leadership) for publication in PK's bi-monthly Men
of Integrity ("your daily guide to the Bible and prayer").
- Campus Crusade founder Bill Bright fasted 40 days during the summer of 1994, during which he claims to have received a "prophecy from God" that a mighty revival is coming. He then issued a call for hundreds of liberals, charismatics, and new-evangelicals to gather in Orlando 12/5/94-12/7/94 to fast and pray for revival. An Invitation Committee made up of a hodgepodge of 72 liberals, new evangelicals, and charismatics was formed. Included were: Robert Schuller, Charles Colson, E.V. Hill, Jack Hayford, James Dobson, W.A. Criswell, Charles Stanley, Paul Crouch, Luis Palau, Bill Gothard, Pat Robertson, Kay Arthur, and Larry Burkett. CCC's Bill Bright cites "a great sense of urgency to link arms and unitedly call upon God for help in the spirit of King Jehoshaphat (2 Chr. 20)." This ecumenical "linking" is in the "spirit of Jehoshaphat" indeed, but the Jehoshaphat of 2 Chr. 18 (instead of 2 Chr. 20) where he "linked" with wicked King Ahab and incurred the wrath of God. (Reported in the 11/15/94, Calvary Contender.) [Another three-day "Fasting & Prayer" conference was held in 11/95 in Los Angeles; it attracted 3,500 "evangelicals" and charismatics. The Invitation/ Host Committee for this event included most of those listed above, plus Dick Eastman, Chuck Smith, Bill McCartney (Promise Keepers), Tim and Beverly LaHaye, Shirley Dobson, Paul Cedar (E-Free), Ted Engstrom (World Vision), Joseph Stowell (Moody), and Joseph Aldrich (Multnomah). A third conference was held 11/14/96-11/16/96 in St. Louis. New additions to the Host Committee included Max Lucado, Henry Blackaby, Loren Cunningham (YWAM), Greg Laurie, Dennis Rainey, Randy Phillips (Promise Keepers), Josh McDowell, D. James Kennedy, Howard Hendricks, and Neil Anderson. (Conferences have been held every year now, but there is an uncertain future with Bill Bright's August 2001 retirement from Campus Crusade.)]