FamilyLife Today® Podcast

I’ve Decided to Follow Jesus.

with Vicki Courtney | March 2, 2006
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Today on the broadcast, Vicki Courtney, founder of Virtuous Reality Ministries, tells Dennis Rainey how the culture and her upbringing influenced her toward feminism and how her grandparents' persistence eventually led her back to church and to a personal relationship with Christ.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Today on the broadcast, Vicki Courtney, founder of Virtuous Reality Ministries, tells Dennis Rainey how the culture and her upbringing influenced her toward feminism and how her grandparents' persistence eventually led her back to church and to a personal relationship with Christ.

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

Vicki Courtney talks about how her grandparents’ persistence led her back to church.

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I’ve Decided to Follow Jesus.

With Vicki Courtney
March 02, 2006
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Vicki:  I tell people across the country that God pursues us.  I believe that.  I've seen that first-hand, the way that he pursued me in those 21 years.  There was, there was that moment of relief that finally I was where I needed to be, in his arms, and begin my new life, a whole new life.

Bob:  This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, March 2.  Our host is the President of Family Life, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.  We're going to hear today about the revolution that took place in Vicki Courtney's life when she was in college.

 Welcome to FamilyLife Today.  Thanks for joining us.  I think about the only person more passionate than an ardent feminist is an ardent former feminist; you know what I mean?  It seems like you see feminists on TV, and they seem very passionate for their cause, but when you run into somebody who says, "I went down that road and I bought the lie," it seems like there's even more passion in the hearts of many of those women.

Dennis:  And they've made a turnaround in that road and come back and found a different road.

Bob:  Right.

Dennis:  And we have a woman who has done that, Vicki Courtney, with us again.  Vicki, welcome back to FamilyLife Today.

Vicki:  Thank you so much for having me back. 

Dennis:  Vicki's the founder of Virtuous Reality Ministry.  She and her husband, Keith, live in Austin, Texas, which we'll forgive them for.

Bob:  That's a great town.

Dennis:  Down there where the orange resides.  Although I did bring an orange tie here where we're interviewing Vicki, but I didn't wear it in her honor today for being a University of Texas grad.  She has three children, just about three teenagers, ages 12 to 17.  She is in the thick of it. 

 This week, Vicki, you brought us into the interior of your life, and you shared, really, how you grew up in a home where you didn't go to church.  You were a "good girl," but ended up having sex, getting pregnant, had an abortion at age 17, didn't tell your parents, and fell in love with a young man in college and didn't tell him until after you were married. 

 I want to go back to as you were graduating from high school carrying the shame and the guilt of that abortion, and just talk about how you entered the University of Texas.  Your first class that you went to, one of the very first, was a professor who had the Christians stand up so he could spot them?

Vicki:  No, the first day of class, it was a philosophy class, he asked the Christians on the first day to identify themselves by raising their hand, and then just casually said, "If you could do me a favor and sit in the same spot each class period, so that I can identify you, I'd love to remember who you are so I can pick on you."  I don't remember it word-for-word, but that was essentially what he was saying.  Of course, I laughed because I considered myself agnostic at the time, and was amazed that a few were brave enough in that class to identify themselves.  I do remember talking about controversial topics, such as abortion and homosexuality, and on and on, and he would, he would just rip them apart.

Dennis:  So, when would you say you became a feminist?  Was it back in high school or was it as you went to the University of Texas?

Vicki:  I would say that I entered those college years -- although in high school I remember on the varsity cheerleading squad having conversations with some of the other girls en route to a ballgame out of town, and we'd talk about where we were going to go college, our dreams and aspirations.  There were a few girls that were on the squad that would say -- actually, the majority of them, for that matter, that would say, "I want to meet someone in college,"  "I hope I meet someone," "I hope I get married, have kids, and I don't want to work," Oh, I would just rip them apart and, "Oh, I don't want to get married until much later; I don't know if I want to have children." 

 My mother, she would very publicly say that she was a feminist and an admirer of Gloria Steinem and such.  My mother had worked herself up the career ladder in the sense that had been a legal assistant and went back in her early forties to law school and got her law degree.  She is a labor law attorney in the Dallas-Fort Worth area today and very successful, and interestingly has come back to the roots of her faith as well. 

 So, I had that influence early on of my mother really educating me, "Well, you need to have a career," and "Don't be dependent on a man."  I guess at that point in the '80s, it was past the burning your bras in the streets, and it's what I call the revised feminist ideology had kicked in, where it's really a hypocritical movement.  But you've now got the fallout going on of that message from the late '60s and early '70s of the sex revolution, women's movement, the more radical form of it at the hands of Steinem and Betty Friedan.

Dennis:  Did you really believe that, as Gloria Steinem said, "A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle."

Vicki:  You know, I wrote about that in my Your Girl book.  Actually, in giving the background for moms of what our girls are being exposed to today, I wanted to draw for them that, you know, show them that the roots are in the sexual revolution, a lot of that teaching.  No, I wasn't even aware until I started looking at her and researching my Your Girl book a few years back, that she had made a statement so radical.  But I joked in my book and say apparently she didn't believe it, either, Dennis, because she got married not long ago.

Dennis:  That's right.  The fish began to pedal, huh?

Vicki:  I said in the book, "I think she found a fish in need of a bicycle."  We laugh, but there's a sadness to that, too, that so many women jumped on that bandwagon.  I'll say, too, my mother was not radial.  I was not a radical feminist.  I wasn't willing -- I liked going out with guys.  I wasn't willing to -- in fact, kind of a funny story at UT.  I thought I would be interested in the NOW meetings going on on campus.  I remember seeing a sign stapled to a tree, back when you could staple things to trees.  Now that's a big no-no on the UT campus.  So, I went to one of those meetings.

Bob:  That's the National Organization for Women.

Vicki:  Yes, yes.  And I remember the girl that was up front talking that night.  It was all let's blame the patriarchy for this and that, and never get married.  And so I was the kind of feminist, I walked away from that and went, "Ew, I thought I was a feminist, but I like guys, so --"

Bob:  "I'm not one of them."

Vicki:  Yeah, I'm not one of them.

Bob:  I was going to say, cheerleader and feminist don't typically go together in the same mold.  But I think what you're saying is that the influence of the feminist culture was so pervasive that even if you weren't a part of the NOW group, your thinking had been molded by a cultural ethos that was saying that career and identity are found apart from marriage and family, apart from a relationship with Christ.  You've got to be about yourself, right?

Vicki:  That's right, and that's really where we are today.  In the '80s, that was the beginnings of revised feminist ideology, where take, for example, the fashion magazines coming out.  This is what I try to tell moms and tell the girls.  This is why they're not good for girls to be looking at.  Most of the editors-in-chiefs of these fashion magazines are avowed feminists, yet you look at the pages and articles in the magazines and it's all about how to be pleasing to men.  So on the one hand you've got the Gloria Steinem version of feminism saying you don't need a man, be independent, to some degree let's be a man-hater, and then you've got the magazine spinning out saying be independent, go for your career, but by the way, here's 50 tips on how you can get a guy magnet, swimsuit tops that tease and please.  It's a hypocritical movement today. 

 So girls, when I was in the college age, in that generation, there was a real confusion as to what feminism looked like, and it was that sort of, you say, okay, cheerleader doesn't really fit that in the mold of a feminist, that's what we were told, go for the career.  You don't need those little ankle biters around for a while, if at all.  It's all about you.  You're number one.

Dennis:  And, you know, I want to get back to your spiritual journey, but I just have to say this, because with feminism failing, and whether it's the 8-lane highway of feminism or the militant narrow road of feminism, it's a dead-end street.

Vicki:  Absolutely.

Dennis:  They're all going in the same direction, but here it's failing.  And as many of them are turning around, coming back in search of the truth and where they find real meaning and real identity, we find a good bit of the Christian community heading off down the highway in search of their own rights, wanting to find out how they can justify their position in doing this or that.  It's a real tragedy, because feminism does not offer life.  The scriptures offer life, and Jesus called us, if we're going to be a discipline to die to self, not seek our own rights.

Bob:  I've said this before, but I have to say it again here.  I think a large part of the reason why feminism caught on is because women looked around and said, "You know what?  If men can be that selfish, we have the right to be that selfish, too."  I mean, I really do think that feminism is rooted in fundamental selfishness, and it was women saying guys have cultural prerogative to be selfish, and we want the same thing.  Now, rather than calling me to nobility and selflessness, which should have been the response, we kind of went off and wallowed in this let's have a selfish culture.  But that's what's at the root of feminist ideology; it's all about you.

Vicki:  It really is, and, again, that's attractive even to Christians.  If we are not bathing ourselves in God's Word, the truth of that, we can all lapse into that at any given time.

Dennis:  We left you in your spiritual journey leaving that National Organization of Women meeting, rejecting what you were seeing there saying, "Wait a second, I'm not sure I want to shoot all the patriarchs here."

Vicki:  I might want to marry one.

Dennis:  I may want to get my own bicycle someday.  If I would have intercepted you, like six months later and could have interviewed you, in terms of your spiritual journey about what was going on in your heart, what was taking place at that time?

Vicki:  Well, a lot of confusion and wrestling.  I would say the first three years of my college journey were trying to figure out what I wanted to be when I grow up, where I think that's what a college is for a lot of students.  Learning the hard way, like stumbling into that NOW meeting and figuring out, "Okay, this is not really what I want to be; I don't want to be this radical."  Not really knowing what I wanted to do or be, and it was right around my junior year, and remember, I had the grandparents, we'll go back to that. 

Bob:  They're still having you over every week for lunch.

Vicki:  Yes, still faithfully inviting me to go to their church and slipping in --

Bob:  Preaching the Gospel to you.

Vicki:  Yes, slipping in every week.  It was almost humorous and cute.  You know, "By the way, there's over 500 students in our college department now," and I would just kind of laugh and say, "It's just really not for me, it's not for me." 

 In my junior year, I was going out with a guy who really I dated off and on.  He was a pretty good guy, one of those that your parents are going, "You know, he's going to make a good living, he seems to really care about you," but chemistry-wise, there was just nothing there.  I tried to talk myself into maybe this is the guy and we'd get back together.  Then all of a sudden, about three years later into college, he called me one day and said, "I want to talk to you about something."  He had rededicated his life to Christ and wanted to share that with me.  He told me that he had been a strong Christian in high school and had strayed from it.  I was thinking, "Well, that would probably happen from dating me.  I wasn't real conducive to walking with Christ."  And so then he's sharing this with me and I really gave him kind of a hard time, to be honest with you.

Bob:  Do you remember what you said to him?

Vicki:  Oh, I do.  I said, "What does that mean?  Are you joining the Peace Corps?  What's going on?  I mean, what does -- " I didn't know any of this lingo, for one thing.  "What is rededicate your life?  What happens?  Do you go off to become a priest?  I mean, what happens?"  And so he shared with me that he had gotten into a Bible study on campus that met weekly with about eight guys.  He would talk a lot about his Bible study leader and things his Bible study leader was saying in this group.  He would tell me, you know, from time to time, "I just want you to go to this church that I've been going to that sponsors the Bible study."  Finally I asked him, "Well, what church is it?"  And he mentioned that it was the big Baptist church where all the college students went.

Bob:  Grandma and Grandpa's church.

Vicki:  Exactly.  I went, "Oh, my goodness!  My grandparents go to this church.  They've been begging me to go to this church."  And so it's kind of funny because I really at that point even said I didn't care much about God, didn't know if there was a God.  I remember thinking, "There's something about this that doesn't ring coincidence."  And so I told him I will go with you this Sunday to your church.  This was in my junior year, I'm 21.

Dennis:  That sounded like a real -- pretty excited, weren't you?

Vicki:  I have to be honest, it was more, "I'll go, I'll go."

Bob:  Grandmother's prayers have finally nailed me to the wall.

Vicki:  Actually, after I told him I would go, and this is the beginning of a week and so I've got a few days to try to figure out a way to back out of it.  But I called my grandparents and I told them, "Guess what?  I'm going to your church this Sunday."  Well, the just could not believe it and said, "Okay, okay."  Well, long story short, he ended up having to go out of town and I could not rouse my roommate to go to church with me that Sunday.  You know, girls don't go to the bathroom alone, much less -- I mean, brand-new to the church pretty much, had never been in a big church like that.  So I picked up the phone that Sunday morning of my junior year and I called my grandparents and I said, "You know, Ken that invited me, he had to go out of town Friday and I can't get my roommate to go with me; I'm just not going to go today."  I was supposed to have lunch with them after church.  Well, my grandfather -- I love sharing this story.

Bob:  I know exactly what they said.

Vicki:  Yes, I mean, born and raised in Texas on a farm, he said, "Sis, you get your church clothes on and you go stand out in front of your apartment and you be waiting for us.  We'll be there in 15 minutes."  I didn't have church clothes, guys.  But I did as I was told, and I remember like a frightened child standing out in front of my apartment complex and that big Ford LTD pulled up.  I got in the back seat and they took me to church, and walked me -- I'm 21 -- they walked me to the doors, the double doors of that college department.  I guess it was that afternoon, this guy that had invited me and then left town, called and said, "Did you go?"  I said, "I did.  I went to your church, my grandparents' church.  They made me go."  I shared that they had talked about a retreat for college students coming up in a few weeks.  He said, "Oh, my Bible study leader that I told you about, we're going to that.  You need to go."  And so I actually did enlist a friend to go with me, sign up, and that was three weeks later, Labor Day weekend 1985. 

 I went to the event.  I did almost try to get out of it.  I called at one point, told this fellow that I just wasn't feeling well and we thought we might go to Sixth Street instead.  It just dawned on us, there wasn't going to be any liquor at this Baptist event, and how could there be any fun?  I seriously said that, and so he said, "No, you need to go, you need to go, you already told your grandparents you were going to this."  So a lot of it was, oh, wow, I've committed to my grandparents and so I'll go. 

 I did.  I went, and that night I heard the Gospel presented very clearly.  I was wrestling in my heart.  I knew that what the speaker had shared was exactly what I was searching for all those years.  I wish I could tell you I walked forward.  At the end we all sang, "I've Decided to Follow Jesus."  It was so funny, because I was standing there and I was just wrestling in my heart and talking back and forth with God and saying, "Wait a minute, I didn't even -- I've said for years, I don't even think you exist, and here I am talking to you."  I remember wrestling with that and yet this is what I want.  The speaker talked about this void in your life and trying to fill it with everything. 

 So then the worship leader said, "I know there's just one more person in here," and my friend's Bible study leader that was there that I had taken note was very, very cute, by the way, and leaned over at that point and said, "Well, I wish this one more person would get going because it's getting late."  I remember thinking, "Oh, no.  Everyone knows it's me." 

 I wish I could tell you I walked forward, but I didn't, and I share all over the country now in women's groups and such that it was about on the 11th chorus of "I've Decided to Follow Jesus," that I said, "I give up, Lord."  To myself I said that.  Then this guy's Bible study leader the next morning brought up in conversation, said, "Are you a Christian?"  I shared with him, I said, "You know, I think I am now.  I said that prayer last night." 

 Anyway, a long story short, that ended up being the man that I married, my husband.  I stood in line at that Baptist encampment at a pay phone that Saturday morning.  It was too late on Friday night, and I made my one phone call, and don't you know who I made that phone call to?  I called my grandparents and my grandmother answered.  I'll never forget that.  I did, I told her, "Grandmother, your prayers have been answered.  I prayed and I said that prayer last night, and I asked Christ to come into my heart."  There was just a silence on the phone.  You could hear her choking back tears and said, "I'm so, so proud of you."  That same set of grandparents gave me my first Bible when I turned 10.  It was a children's Bible with animated cartoonish pictures, and I carried it with me to that college event.  That's all I had as a Bible.  She said on the phone, she said, "And when you get back, I'll get you a grown-up Bible."  And she did.  I got my first study Bible when I got back.  And so they're such a part of my Christian heritage.

Bob:  And there was something about calling your grandparents the next day.  I assume they're no longer alive.

Vicki:  My grandfather is.  My grandmother passed away several years ago, and I told the story at her funeral, where many of her friends were there and even staff of the Baptist church that played such a part in my salvation experience as well.  It was so healing to be able to tell that story.  My grandmother was such a dear woman and she would often joke and say in her church, and they were a part of this church for over 50 years.  She said, "I'm in the last class before you go to heaven."  In the Baptist church, they promote you.  You always have those promotions.  Well, she was done promoting in the last 10 or so years, and she was so great about it.  She would say, "I'm in the last class before you -- the next promotion is heaven."  And what a promotion that is.

Dennis:  Well, you just described what Paul wrote about in II Corinthians 5.  It says, "Therefore, if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature.  The old things passed away, behold new things have come." 

 I have to believe right now there is a woman who is listening to us -- perhaps a man -- and we haven't sung 11 stanzas of "I Have Decided to Follow Jesus."

Vicki:  I'm willing, guys, are you all, if that's what it takes?

Bob:  We want to keep our listeners.

Vicki:  Okay.

Dennis:  But the reality is, the joy that we're talking about here, and the laughter that we can laugh about and enjoy as individuals is there because we're secure about our eternal destiny because of our relationship with Christ, and he does pursue you.  Some of you who are listening right now know God has been pursuing you and it's time.  It's just like Vicki on that 11th verse.  It's time.  Give up!  Give up!  Give your life to Christ and become a new creature, and then call your grandmother, because somebody's been praying for you.

Vicki:  That's right.

Dennis:  Maybe it's your mom, maybe it's your dad.  Perhaps it may be your pastor that you've been dabbling in church, but the point is, give your life to Christ and then get on with growing.  Get on with the rest of that song.  That song is a great song.  "I have decided to follow Jesus."  Frankly, I don't know of another way to live life.  He is the one who brings meaning.

Bob:  And it may be, Dennis, that there are listeners who would say today, "I think I am being pursued by God."  We'd like to send you a book that's called Pursuing God.  It's a book that invites you to respond to the God who is pursuing you, and we'll send it to you at no cost.  You can call us or go online and request a copy of the book.  We're happy to send it to you.  All you have to do is call and say I think maybe it's time to do what Vicki did, and what you guys have been talking about.  It's time to surrender, and I want to know more about what it means to be a Christian.  We'll send you a copy of the book, Pursuing God, when you go online at to request it, or when you call 1-800-F as in Family, L as in Life, and then the word TODAY, 1-800-FLTODAY, and just say I'd like a copy of that book, Pursuing God, because I'd like to get to know the God who is pursuing me.

 When you go to our website, you'll also find information about the resources Vicki has available for teenage girls and for their moms including this, well, it looks like a magazine.  It's actually, I guess they call them bookzines, or something like that.  The book is called Teen Virtue, and it's a full color magazine for girls on the issues, the real issues that teenage girls face.  You've also got a journal that you've created for teenage girls, and a book for moms called Your Girl: Raising a Godly Daughter in an Ungodly World, a book that Beth Moore called a must read. 

 We've got these resources in our FamilyLife Resource Center, and you can request copies when you got o the website,, or call us at 1-800-FLTODAY for more information on how you can have these resources sent out to you.  We can also send along a CD that has our conversation with Vicki Courtney, if you are interested in receiving that.  Again, go to the website,, or call 1-800-FLTODAY for more information.

 Let me say a quick word of thanks, Dennis, to all the folks who support this ministry with your prayers, with your financial contributions, especially those of you who are Legacy Partners.  Those are folks who on a monthly basis make a donation to the ministry of FamilyLife Today.  It's your financial support that helps this ministry continue to grow and to reach more and more folks each year.  We appreciate your partnership with us, and if you're a long-time listener and you have not yet made a donation to FamilyLife Today, we would love to hear from you.  Again, you can donate online at, or you can call 1-800-FLTODAY to make a donation, and we appreciate hearing from you.

 Well, tomorrow, Vicki Courtney is going to be back with us and we're going to talk about what we can do as parents to help our daughters pursue virtuous lives.  I hope you can be with us for that. 

 I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team.  On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine.  We'll see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

 FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas, a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ. 

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