Focus on the Family, one of the most influential Christian family organizations in the nation, recently celebrated 30 years of ministry. The celebration also recognized the passionate work of its founder, considered by some as the most powerful evangelical in the Christian right.
"He's like this giant snowplow and he's paving the way for those of us who are the little sidewalk snow blowers," best-selling author Gary Smalley commented about founder Dr. James Dobson.
Thirty years ago, Dobson was serving as associate clinical professor of pediatrics at the USC School of Medicine. He felt fulfilled with what he was doing, Dobson said at an anniversary event in Colorado Springs, Colo., on March 30. But he saw families starting to fall apart and what he sees as the beginning of a movement that we see today which has devastated families.
Today, Dobson leads an organization that broadcasts faith and family values on approximately 6,000 stations worldwide and receives millions of calls each year. During the early years, however, Dobson had no clue that Focus on the Family would become a ministry which would not only help families but also win people to Christ.
"I am astonished that so little became so significant," said Dobson, who says he is proud of the ministry today.
Although his ministry mainly helps hurting families, struggling marriages and parents trying to raise their troubled teens among other family issues, Dobson's influence is significant in the political sphere.
"His influence among evangelicals outshines that of any previous Christian Right standard-bearer because he is not seen as the Christian Right's standard-bearer," wrote Dan Gilgoff in The Jesus Machine, which released last month.
Dobson told Gilgoff in an interview that he has no political ambitions. Rather, he prefers the role of a behind-the-scenes political fixer, wrote Gilgoff, alluding to Dobson's role in the evangelical successes of the passage of gay "marriage" bans, the reelection of George W. Bush, and the Terri Schiavo congressional intervention.
While Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson are more widely known and considered some of the most influential figures in the Christian Right, Dobson is a more powerful political force than Robertson or Falwell ever were, even though he's less well known among non-evangelicals, said Gilgoff, who believes the story of Dobson and his organization has gone almost entirely untold.
Although Dobson and Focus On the Family constantly receive verbal attacks and hate calls, the hate is evidence of the fact that they have spoken the truth at a time and in a culture that refuses to believe that truth even exists, said Gary Bauer, president of American Values, at the anniversary celebration.
"Someday soon because of you, because of this ministry, because of Jim (Dobson) and Shirley (his wife) and his incredible team, you're going to wake up and go down to the end of your driveway and pick up your morning newspaper and the headline is going to say 'Court Overturns Roe, Finds Right to Life,'" Bauer told Focus on the Family staff.
"Jim Dobson and Focus have never sought power in Washington, D.C., and that's a good thing because power is fleeting," said Bauer, indicating that the organization represents permanent values – family, faith and freedom.
After 30 years, Dobson continues to lead the popular radio broadcasts and actively serves as founder and chairman but has largely stepped back from the operations of the organization, which is currently under the leadership of Jim Daly.
Dobson admitted he has one concern – that the ministry will lose its heart.
It's not enough for the ministry to be effective and to operate successfully from a business perspective, the ministry founder said. Passion is required.
"You can't afford to lose heart."
As America falls further from faith and moral values, Dobson urged the ministry to press on with passion.
"The end is not yet. Let's press on."