Interview with Ryan Dobson - On Homosexuality, Abercrombie, Baptism, and Broken People

Hi. And welcome to the first interview to be posted on "Pulling Weeds out of Potholes." I was torn with the fact of whether to edit the interview down. I decided not to. However, I did decide to make headers for the different topics discussed to make it easier if you want to skip over things. One of the advantages of the internet is that we are not limited to a certain page space. I think there are some real gems in there if you read the whole thing.

Also, I would like to welcome all of the people coming here for the first time. Although you will get personal updates on my life on here, the majority of this blog space will be used for religious discussions. Feel free to post a reply in the comments. But beware, I will probably respond. I look forward to hearing from all of you.

If you like what Ryan Dobson had to say in his interview, you should check out his first book, Be Intolerant: Because Some Things Are Just Stupid The last chapter of the book is definitely worth the price of admission for believers. And if you're not a believer, then the rest of the book explains why Christianity makes sense. It is a great apologetic book for a new generation.

The interview took place as we watched the skateboarding competition at Blast!, a Nazarene teen youth convention. Some other people were standing around or came up and talked to Ryan. Sometimes I included what they had to say and his response. The setting definitely made for a unique interview.


Regan – After reading the last chapter in your book, I had a question. I have workers under me who do immoral things. How do you think someone should approach them? They know I think it’s wrong. I’ve had conversations with them before. But I should I tackle it continually?

Ryan – That’s a tough one. That is why I wrote the last chapter in my book. You can’t continue beating a dead horse. Continue living in a way that is pleasing to God. If it comes up, you should just continue talking about it in a loving manner. We have to understand that those who don’t have a moral foundation don’t behave the way we do. I think sometimes we are like, “Well, you know, I won’t let people work for me who do things like that.” We’re not reaching the lost world. What are we telling people? That’s a tough thing.


Regan – I Corinthians 5 tells us to cast the wicked people out from among us. However, it also says that we should not condemn those that are committing sins in the world. We should only be focused on the sins of those among us. Politically speaking, How much should Christians push to make abortion illegal?

Ryan – Totally involved.

Regan – How do you reconcile that with that passage? Are we judging non-Christians? Is that what you get out of that passage?

Ryan – I think that passage in Corinthians explains how we are to deal with people that are in your church that you have gone to and talked to. You have explained your position as a church body. The person continues to sin and be involved in the church. That’s where the church needs to separate themselves as a body from them.

As a group of believers in America, last election, 25 million Christians didn’t vote. I don’t know why Christians are so afraid of public policy. All morals are based on morality of some kind - ultimately it’s to God – and why are we not getting involved in outlawing abortion and partial-birth abortion or fighting for a marriage amendment so same-sex marriage and same-sex unions aren’t legal? These ought to be a huge priority to Christians. If I get married some day, I want it to mean something. And if it means everything, then it really means nothing at all. The studies show that countries that legalize same-sex unions and legalize gay marriage don’t have a giant influx in gay marriage. They have a huge decline in heterosexual marriage. Why get married if it doesn’t mean anything? I could put three glasses out. One has water. One has vinegar. One has gasoline. They’re all going to be clear. They’re all going to be liquid, but they’re not all going to be drinkable. You can’t have something mean everything. It has to be something. I want it to be a special sacred bond between me and whomever I marry officiated by my church and ratified by the state. If you make it mean everything, then why get married in the first place. It doesn’t mean anything at all. We ought to fight for that strongly.

Regan – Bush does seem to…

Ryan – He’s a good guy. I met him on the National Day of Prayer. Solid, solid man. I’ve heard people have their complaints and you can have yours. Is he a perfect man? No. Can you imagine where our nation would be now if 9/11 happened under a Gore leadership? We would be in shambles right now. We needed somebody with a backbone, with a moral foundation, a moral fiber to lead our country through that. And Kerry, I can’t even believe that. That’s where you go to flip and look at John Kerry’s positions.


Regan – Concerning Christian Exodus and our American government. Christian Exodus states that we have a “Christian” President and attorney general. We have a Republican Senate and House, yet we still aren’t seeing a push to try and stop abortion. Is it just because of the Supreme Court? The partial-birth abortion ban has been enacted, but nothing else.

Ryan – Having a Republican House and Senate doesn’t mean we have a Christian House and Senate. They are very different people. You have Log Cabin Republicans who are gay Republicans. That doesn’t mean Christian by any means. That doesn’t mean they are going to fight for the things that we fight for. We ought to have people that follow what we believe. If a Republican doesn’t follow what you believe, then don’t vote for them.

Regan – In the past the Christian Coalition used to publish a list that said what politicians stood for on issues that were important to Christians. Is there a place that does that now?

Ryan – Family Research Council.

Regan – The Christian Coalition actually considered gun control an issue that Jesus would care about. I know you care about guns from your sermons. But I don’t think Jesus would make a governmental issue on the topic of gun control.

Ryan – Saying that Jesus cared about gun control is a little silly saying there was no guns back in the day. Is it something I’m concerned about? Yeah. Cause in my freedom as an American, I think one of my freedoms ought to allow me to own a gun. Is it a Christian issue? I don’t know if it is or not. Someone could argue for it, but I think it is an issue for conservatives. If that is your viewpoint or philosophy, then you ought to go for it. The Republican party today isn’t a Christian party. I think more Republicans are Christians than Democrats are Christians. But I think it is a mistake to say that the Republican party is a Christian party.

Christians have a vote. Abercrombie & Fitch were promoting and using pornography for years and years and years. This is a clothing company for kids and their catalogs are only for 18 years and older. They had porn stars being interviewed in their magazines. Christians finally said enough is enough. Christians boycotted Abercrombie & Fitch. Their stock went down a bunch. They lost millions of dollars and changed their tune. Christians are a strong group of people. Why do we act like such a bunch of wimpy babies over this stuff? “Oh, we can’t vote. We can’t get involved in public policy.” We can take over. We don’t because we’re like, “Oh, well.”

Regan – What do you think prevents us from doing that?

Ryan – People think that politics is a dirty game; therefore, I’m not going to get involved in it. It’s the pendulum theory. Either people swing to one side of the pendulum or not. It’s things like, “If something might have the potential for a problem, then we shouldn’t do it at all.”

Another guy standing around – In Christianity, a lot of people take Romans 13 out of context. A lot of people have decided that God put this political person in office. Do you think that is taken out of context?

Ryan – I think that it is totally taken out of context. Do you think that if we vote to put somebody into office that God didn’t put them into office? It is our civic duty to be involved in taking care of the sick and the poor.

We took a break to watch some of the skateboarding competition, which a kid from my youth group won.


Regan – Christians don’t discipline anymore. Until recently, I have never heard of church discipline being done in a proper way. Why do you think that is?

Ryan – I think our society has just ingrained a tolerance mentality into us. We are so afraid to discuss, put somebody down, or tell someone that they might be wrong. Society has ingrained it into us so strongly that our churches are starting to feel the effects of it now. We’re afraid that it might split the church. So what if it splits the church? It’s okay to split a church doing the right thing. It’s never wrong to do the right thing. It’s never right to do the wrong thing, yet we tend to do that all the time.

Regan – I was involved in a church split. (I explained some of it to him. Things I don’t want to air online yet.)

Ryan – I had a pastor that had an affair. He, obviously, had to step down from ministry. He went through a whole reconciliation and restoration process. It was five years of counseling, meeting with church board members and accountability partners until he was restored back to a position of ministry if he so chose. Not at our church – But if he chose to get into ministry again the church felt that he had been restored. He was restored with his wife and they’re doing great now because of the way the church handled it. The church grew because of it too.

Regan – We miss out, as a church and individuals, on a complete opportunity to grow when we don’t discipline. Your last chapter talks about being loving enough to discipline.

Ryan – If you love somebody, you’re going to tell them what’s going on – not out of a sense of pride, but out of sense of love saying, “Listen, I’m bringing this up because I care about you.”

Regan - Like, when I tell my wife that her outfit is ugly.

Ryan – Yeah. You got to be careful on that.


Regan – Your current book is about discipling one another. What are other teachings that you feel the church ignores that they need to focus on in order to be what God intended the church to be?

Ryan – Being a true, real Christian. So many times we run away from things that, maybe, we might get in trouble with. Take the whole dating thing. There are people who believe you shouldn’t ever date.

Regan – Like the book, I Kissed Dating Goodbye.

Ryan – He’s published by my same publisher, so, you know. Josh is a great guy. I just don’t believe in the courtship process. Can you get your heart broken in dating? Yeah. But it’s okay. It’s fun to date. It’s fun to go out. Just because you might get in trouble with something doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it. It means you should be really careful with it.


Regan – What issues are worthy of church discipline?

Ryan – I think you have to go on a case by case basis. Infidelity is a huge one. It’s not just church discipline as a whole but Christians coming to one another and being open and honest to themselves and with other people saying, “You know what, I see this going on.” It’s not ignoring the log in your own eye when you have accountability partners and small groups.


We stopped recording at this time and watched the second round of skateboarding. However, during the round a guy came up and introduced himself. His first question probed where Ryan goes to church. Ryan answered that he used to go to Saddleback and now goes somewhere else. I can’t remember where that somewhere else is right now. That’s what a tape recorder is for, and I didn't have it on at the time. Then the guy asked Ryan if they are a post-modern church. I asked part way through his reply if he minded if I turned on the tape recorder because he was saying some good stuff. He gave the ok.

Ryan – There is a website. I don’t know if it is, but they are so mad over my view of post-modernism as a thought theory (against being a worldview). There’s a semantical difference. That’s all it is. It’s like saying “gay” means “happy” rather than “homosexual”. That’s all the difference is. And they’re so upset by it because they view post-modernism as people in a post-modern time. Not as the traditional theory of post-modernism as a thought process. Post-modernist thought is relative thought. It’s more relativism as a whole. And because they (churches) have chosen to call themselves a post-modern church, people respond by saying, "You believe there isn't absolute truth."

The other guy – So churches shouldn’t call themselves post-modern?

Ryan - They shouldn’t get mad when people think they teach relativism. It’s like if I had a gay church and said, “Oh, no. It’s a happy church.” People are going to assume I mean something else, so you can’t be upset by that. It’s okay if you believe that and just explain to people when they come into contact with you. “Our church is a post-modern church.” “Oh, do you this?” “No, we just live in a post-modern time and are part of a post-modern movement.” I wouldn’t call a church post-modern unless you believe truth is relative. If you do, then it seems pretty consistent.


The other guy – (He said something about Post-Modernism is just a label we put on it. It was hard to hear because he was standing a distance away from my tape recorder.)

Ryan – Our church is a younger church. We have lots of community involvement. We have tons of small groups. We have a real Bible-believing pastor that preaches from the word, from his heart, and where God leads. Our church is interesting. Our teaching pastor, the one who preaches on Sundays, is not our head pastor. Our worship leader is our pastor. It allow our teaching pastor to focus 100% on weekend services.

The other guy – Isn’t that the way a lot of churches are heading?

Ryan – I think it would be great if they did. Not a lot of pastors were meant to be managers, administrators, or fundraisers. They were born to preach. To allow them to do what they were called to and allow someone else, who is a good administrator, to do that part of it, it’s awesome. I’m a speaker. I’m really bad at organization. I have an agent who does all my contracts, bills, accounting, and contracts. If I had to do that, who knows if I would get to any events. It’s great that way. It allows me to do what I was called to do.


The other guy – Do you sit down and write it all out when writing a book?

Ryan – My dad and sister do that. They sit down and actually write an entire book out. I’m a much better speaker than writer, so I work with a writer. The first time we meet we spend four days up at a retreat and I talk about what I want to write on. We record the whole things just like this. Then it gets transcribed. And then we put it in chapter outline. Then the co-writer starts sending me questions. I used to type my responses, but I can’t type fast enough. Now, I record everything. Someone transcribes my answer. We use them for the book.

An aside - The guy who he was rooting for in the skateboarding competition at this point was out there trying to do moves that he just couldn’t land. Ryan kept saying you have to focus on things you can get done rather than constantly failing. It seems to be a good philosophy to follow not only on the skate park.


Regan - Your last comment was about the log in your own eye.

Ryan – I think that is the process. It’s kind of like accountability partners. I have friends who aren’t perfect, yet they still ask me if everything is okay. If they see me doing something that is out of control they say, “Hey, dude, you’re doing something that is a mistake here.” It’s not like I reply, “Oh, yeah. But what about you.” It’s because I am honest enough and know that this guy cares about me. We have a relationship.

I used to travel with a guy named Bob DeMoss. He talked about media, music, and things like that. He talked about certain standards that you set for your family. He said, “Listen, now that you are beginning to set a standard for your family it is not okay to go home and take you kid’s entire CD collection back. You have not earned that right yet. You have to earn the right. As a parent you have to say that you haven’t been great at this yet. Now, we are going to have a family standard. We’re going to have a buy-back policy. Buy the CDs from them, so they can turn around and buy CDs that are appropriate. This way you’re earning the right to be heard." And that is the thing with church. When you hear about the sins of someone at your church that you don't know very well, you can't just go up to that person and attack them. You haven’t earned the right to be heard. Now, if you’re a pastor and this person has chosen to be at your church and this is in the area you’re a leader in, then you have earned the right to be heard. It is just doing it in the right way.

Regan – Do you think there needs to be a renewal of the meaning of church membership? So many people just come to church and become members, but membership never really means I’m going to be held accountable.

Ryan – If you have a membership process that people are going through, it out to mean something. If people are coming casually to your church, they have still chosen to let you be a leader over them.


Regan – With your dad being Dr. Dobson, what was your biggest struggle growing up in that type of environment?

Ryan – People thinking I’m supposed to be something I’m not supposed to be. People thinking I’m a smaller version of my dad. My parents never put that pressure on me. They never said you have to go into the ministry. I never planned on going into the ministry. It just worked out that way. But everyone else thought, “Oh, you ride a skateboard. What do your parents think about that?” “I don’t know. They bought it for me.” “Oh, you dress this way. What do your parents think about that?” It’s kind of that thing. It’s a “we thought you were going to be something you’re not” kind of a thing.

Regan – Have you ever talked to Jim Bakker’s son?

Ryan – I’ve not talked to Jay. He has a great book called “Son of a Preacher Man.” If you haven’t read that, it is a phenomenal book on grace. I might actually see him next weekend in Atlanta. He has a good ministry going on. Reading that book is one of the greatest things someone could do because it shows what a hypocritical church body does to its members. The way that Jay and his sister were treated because of actions of their parents ought to be criminal. The people who did that ought to be accountable for their actions. And they will be some day. Jay is still wounded by that. He’s a good, solid guy. I just did an interview with Biola’s alumni magazine. They asked Josh McDowell’s son, Sean, Rick Warren’s daughter, Amy, Lee Strobel’s son, Kyle, and me to get together. It was good seeing different kids like that, seeing how they have been raised, and how we share struggles having parents do what our parents do.


Regan – One of the stances from the background that I came from is “In essentials unity, in opinions liberty, in all things love.” In your book you try to clarify three essentials to being a Christian. Are you comfortable saying those are the essentials of what Christianity is?

Ryan – All the essentials? That was just three that I chose. There are probably more. Believing that the Bible is true and the inspired word of God and that Jesus is who he says he is - that’s super important. I’m drawing a blank on what my third one was, but I’m sure it is important to.

Regan – It’s the second one, actually. God exists and is the way the Bible describes him to be. One of the debates in the church of Christ has always been what are the essentials to have unity on.

Ryan – It’s funny. As I travel across the country people always come up. I was somewhere. I don’t know what denomination it is, but they believe you have to be baptized to be a Christian.

Regan – Church of Christ.

Ryan – I gave a gospel presentation and they complained because I didn’t say baptism. And they were like, “You know the Bible says that you have to be baptized.” And I go, “Obviously, I disagree.” They were so shocked that I didn’t want to debate them on it. They finally said, “Why do you say that?” I go, “Listen, when Christ was on the cross and the thief next to him said he believed in God. Jesus responded to him that today you’ll be in Paradise with me. I don’t know if there was a whole baptism service going on right there. He said, 'Today you are going to be with me in Paradise.'" I tend to take Christ at his word. People can debate that. It’s hard because there are certain denominations that believe that baptism is an absolute essential and I don’t; therefore, they believe I’m leading people astray because I’m making them feel like they are going to heaven yet they haven’t been baptized.


Regan – (I clarified that not all church of Christ was that way. Maybe that makes you happy or angers you.) In your book you write about a friend, Mike, who fell away. Last week we had a guest preacher at our church. He shared a thought that he had about Judas. I don’t know if it is true or not, but it was interesting. Judas wasn’t chosen by Jesus because he was going to fail. He was chosen because he was great spiritually and had potential. What do you think causes good Christians to fall? What can be done to help prevent that?

Ryan – There are a lot of things that you can do to prevent yourself from falling. Accountability and other things like that. I think the Lord uses broken people. Look at the disciples. He’s using tax collectors that are totally crooked and dirty. He’s using uneducated people, fishermen, and other people like that. If you look at the Bible, he is using flawed, broken people. He could use perfect people. He could’ve used only Pharisees. It still would’ve proved He was good. But because he uses somebody like me who is clearly a sinner proves that he is great. God is great shows in the people that he uses. He could’ve just come as Christ and not used anybody. He would still be good. But he is great by using people that are broken. It also opens the door to speak to anybody. When God uses broken people, others respond, “Oh, you’re a sinner.” “I am a sinner. God still loves me and wants the best for me.” It’s an amazing thing to know. I think that is an important thing for Christians to know. Shame is okay to an extent, but guilt is a product of Satan. When I get up to speak and Satan is like, “You know what you have done in the past.” That’s not the Lord speaking to me. When I speak on abstinence I know without a shadow of a doubt that someone in the crowd has already messed up. There are probably others in the crowd that have STDs. They feel like damaged goods and that nobody is going to want them. That is not what God is saying. God is saying, “You’re a perfect human being in my eyes. There is someone that is going to love you, cherish you, and treat you right for the rest of your life. If not a person on earth, then certainly Me." Saying you’re damaged goods, you’re broken, and that nobody is going to want you is a trick of Satan. That’s not true. It’s Satan talking.


Regan – On communication. One thing that you did, which was effective, during the sermon that we’re taught not to do in preaching classes is use stories that are totally irrelevant at times. Why do you do that?

Ryan – Part of it is keeping the attention. A lot of the stories that seem irrelevant at first have a hook in the end. The opening story had nothing to do with what I was talking about. I always say intro is everything. If you can get somebody’s attention in the first couple of minutes – I watch stand-up comedy like crazy. I like it because they keep your attention and they keep changing it up. Different speakers pull you in at the very end. You think where is he going with this, and then they pull you in. You will see that tonight even more. I try to do that in tonight’s stories even more.

Regan – So you would advise a speaker to use irrelevant stories to get the audience’s attention?

Ryan – Maybe once or twice. My dad always told me: “Tell stories that make your point. Don’t make points.” People want your stories. They don’t really want to hear points. If you go “my first point is…” and that is all you’re saying, you only need to be up there five minutes. But if you’re going to be up there for 45 minutes to an hour, tell stories. That’s what Christ did. He told parables. He was a great storyteller. I try to follow that philosophy.