FamilyLife Today® Podcast

What Being Mentored Taught Us

with Ann Wilson, Dave Wilson | February 25, 2019
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Dave and Ann Wilson talk to Dennis and Barbara Rainey about what they've learned about marriage through the years. The Wilsons, who joined FamilyLife's speaker team more than 30 years ago and serve at Kensington Church in Detroit, talk about attending a Weekend to Remember marriage getaway just two weeks before their wedding. Together they share how Dennis and Barbara have mentored them throughout the seasons of life.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • 40 Years of Faithfulness 2 CD set

  • 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.

Dave and Ann Wilson talk to Dennis and Barbara Rainey about what they’ve learned about marriage through the years. Together they share how Dennis and Barbara have mentored them throughout the seasons of life.

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What Being Mentored Taught Us

With Ann Wilson, Dave Wilson
February 25, 2019
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Bob: When they were still engaged, Dave and Ann Wilson attended a Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway, where Dennis Rainey was one of the speakers. Dave said the impact of that weekend was less about what Dennis said and more about what he modeled.

Dave: I had never seen a Christian man—didn’t grow up with one. You know, came from a divorced family—alcoholic parents, adultery, the whole blow up of a family—when families weren’t really blowing up as much in the ‘60s. I didn’t know Barbara, because you weren’t there; but you talked about her all weekend—

Ann: Yes; you did.

Dave: —and loved her. I just remember thinking, “There’s my first vision of what I’m supposed to become—is Dennis Rainey.”

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, February 25th. Our host is Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. Dave and Ann Wilson join us today to share with us some of the many lessons they have learned over almost three decades of knowing Dennis and Barbara Rainey. Stay with us.

And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Monday edition. This feels a little bittersweet this week.


Dennis: It does.Somebody asked me, when they heard that Barbara and I would be stepping out as hosting the broadcast—they asked me if it was okay to be sad. I said: “Yes; it’s okay to be sad. Life’s full of transitions that occur. I don’t think we have to put a cheesy grin on our faces and say, ‘Because I’m a Christ-follower, I can’t feel sad.’” I think that lacks honesty/authenticity.

It’s okay to be sad. Barbara and I have been sad—been some tears that have crossed our cheeks and some hugs—but it’s all good. God’s will is good—both looking forward to it and looking back, seeing what He’s accomplished.


Bob: Barbara, it’sa long way from 26-plus years ago when we stared at microphones for the first time and said, “Okay; let’s see where this takes us”; right?

Barbara: Yes; the old phrase, “You’ve come a long way, Baby!” is really true. [Laughter] We have come a long way.

Bob: Yes.

Barbara: That first studio that we started this in—we’ve affectionately referred to it as Bethlehem for many years. It really was a stable, of sorts, [Laughter] because it looked like one / it felt like one.

Bob: It was a garage.

Barbara: Yes.

Bob: We were recording in what was a converted car garage, where they put up insulation on the walls; and they put egg cartons over the top of it. I think this was somebody who wanted to be a rock-n-roll guy, and he converted his parents’ garage into a recording studio. [Laughter] Now, he was trying to make a little money doing recording. We got it at a bargain rate. [Laughter]

Dennis: We did. We got it, I think, for half price—and that was $12.50—and that included the engineer! [Laughter]

Bob: That’s right—and the tape when we were done. [Laughter]

Dennis: It was the launch of FamilyLife Today. It began a great journey that’s been a tremendous privilege for Barbara and me. We’re excited about the new hosts for FamilyLife Today, Dave and Ann Wilson, who join us on the broadcast. Welcome back.

Ann: Thank you! Can I just say?—I want to cry; I love you guys. There’s a sadness to it, you know, and an overwhelming feeling of, “Who in the world can fill those shoes?” because there is no one quite like you guys.

Dave: Definitely not us. I mean, I’m sitting here, listening to you guys, and I feel like we’re standing on the shoulders of giants. I mean, you’ve laid the groundwork we’re walking into. We have no reason to be here except for God. God did it with you, and I’m looking forward to seeing what He’s going to do in the future.

Bob: You talk about standing on the shoulders. That’s a part of what we want to do this week—is reflect on some of the things you’ve learned; because you two, as couples, have known one another for almost 30 years now; right?

Dennis: Right. Dave and Ann joined our speaker team for the Weekend to Rememberabout three decades ago and have served marriages and families all over the country. They’re also pastors of Kensington Church, in the Detroit area, and impact tens of thousands of lives through their outreaches in their church and have authored a book called Vertical Marriage: The One Secret That Will Change Your Marriage. You need to read this book—if for no other reason than just to hear how Dave was humbled. [Laugher]

Dave: It was not a fun moment! [Laughter]

Dennis: It was not—it was not a fun moment, but it’s a great start to a great book.

Bob: Dave, you were telling me earlier that you and Ann first knew anything about Dennis and Barbara when you were engaged couples at a Weekend to Remember.

Dave: Yes; we went to the Chicago Weekend to Remember, 1979—no; 1980. Only went because we were told, “You can’t get married unless you go to this conference, because you need to know God’s game plan for marriage.”

Ann: We were both involved with Cru® on our campuses—I was at the University of Kentucky, and Dave was at Ball State University in Indiana. Our disciplers were like, “You can’t get married unless you go to this conference.”

Dave: It worked—we went. Didn’t know you guys—never heard of you guys.

Ann: Barbara wasn’t speaking. It was just men—they didn’t have wives [speaking]. 

Dennis: We couldn’t afford to take the wives. [Laughter] It was a great season for the men to give the talk on submission to the wives.

Dave: Yes; I was happy about that. I was like—

Dennis: That was one of the high points of the—

Dave: “Go get them, Dennis.”

Ann: I wasn’t! I was like, “Who is this guy up here, telling me to be submissive?” [Laughter]

Dave: Here’s the amazing thing that you didn’t know—and we didn’t even know what happened—but you became our mentors.

Ann: Yes; and you didn’t even know us!

Dave: Yes; we’re sitting there—and there was a couple of thousand; it was a big Weekend to Remember—we’re just one of thousands sitting there, and we’re not married yet. We honestly, most of the weekend, thought it didn’t apply to us—it applied to all those couples that are struggling. We were sort of surprised they were taking notes like crazy.

We just kept looking—I don’t even know if we took notes; I really don’t! It was like: “This is good stuff, but we love each other. We love God. We’re going into ministry. This won’t be as hard as it is for those couples for us.”

Barbara: —“everybody else.”

Dave: But what I do remember, more than anything, is I had never seen—it’s one of my lessons learned. I had never seen a Christian man—didn’t grow up with one—you know, came from a divorced family—alcoholic parents, adultery, the whole blow up of a family—when families weren’t really blowing up as much in the ‘60s.

Dennis: Right.

Dave: I was sort of an outcast even; but here I am, sitting at this conference with Ann, and that’s what hit me is—and I didn’t know Barbara, because you weren’t there; but you talked about her all weekend—

Ann: Yes; you did.

Dave: —and loved her. I just remember thinking, “There’s my first vision of what I’m supposed to become—is Dennis Rainey.” You became a mentor from a distance.

Ann: And you created some conflict, as well, because I had that same image of: “That is what you should become, Dave Wilson—is Dennis Rainey.”

Dennis: Don’t blame that on me, Ann Wilson. [Laughter] You’re the one that created the conflict there.

Ann: I know.

Dennis: Your finger was pointing at him as you said that, right there.

Ann: It’s so true; but I did have these expectations of, “Oh, this is what you should do.”

That did create some conflict.

Dave: That did not go well, because I also sort of wanted to be you. You know, again, we don’t know even each other; but I’m like, “Yes; that’s like my only real vision of what a Christian man is, so I need to be that.” Yet, we’re different—you know, we have different personalities and different drives.

Ann: And we were young, spiritually.

Dave: I was brand-new in my faith—probably a year-and-a-half—so I knew nothing.

Dennis: To the men, who are listening right now, I just say to you: “If that was true back in 1980, how much more is it true today because of the breakdown of the family?”

Bob: —that men need a vision/need a model.

Dennis: They need a man to look up to.

I’m telling you—any man who’s looking for an assignment—you need to know there are dozens of men at your church—younger men at your church—that need you to make yourself available to become—maybe in a formal setting—a mentor, a coach, a manhood coach, a husband coach; and then if God blesses, coaching about fatherhood. What you’re just describing is the hunger of man’s heart to know what it looks like and how to love a woman. Sometimes, we need—well, usually, we need a man to show us how to do that.

Bob: You said you’d never had the concept that a husband should sacrificially serve his wife. That was not on your radar screen, anywhere, when you got married.

Dave: Oh, no. My dad—and sort of a role model of men at that time—were: “Women served you; women were for you.” I mean, I literally watched my dad take me on vacations, as a five- and six-year-old, with girlfriends—I mean, while he was married to my mom. Whether he said it or not, I saw that women are disposable to men—you use them, abuse them, do whatever you want to bring pleasure to yourself—no matter what the consequences are. That’s what I saw.

Sitting at the FamilyLife®Weekend to Remember is the first time I ever heard Ephesians 5 taught: “Husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church.” You explained it: “He died for the church; He gave up His life for the church. That’s how we’re supposed to serve our wives,”—like: “That’s a new concept. I’ve never heard that before.”

Bob: One of the things that you’ve observed, Ann, over the years, is you’ve watched how Barbara has watched Dennis. You’ve learned from that.

Ann: Very much so. Barbara, when you guys were on stage together—or you were just communicating or even as friends—I would watch your respect for Dennis. You didn’t need to be bigger than him; you didn’t need to be below him, but you were right by his side. I was watching that—I think a lot of people have watched that very closely. For me, that’s been inspiring; because I can be super strong.

Dave: Yes; just a little bit—just a little bit. [Laughter]

Ann: I can want to push Dave into that position and almost nag him to the point of, “You should be…” and that did nothing. How did you do that?

Barbara: You know, it’s interesting—because Dennis used to say that to me, all the time—the most important thing I’ve ever done for him is to believe in him. I never could figure out why that really was that important. I mean, it just seemed obvious to me that that was what I was supposed to do; it’s what I wanted to do. It wasn’t fake; it wasn’t pretend—I really did believe in him.

I think it was because of what you said earlier, Ann—that Christ was at the center of our marriage. It’s because I really believed that God brought us together. I really believed that He was the author of our relationship and of our marriage and that: “This is the man God gave me. Therefore, if I believe God and His Word, then I’m to respect him, and follow him, and believe in him.” It was kind of both—I mean, it was because I did believe in him; but it was also because I knew I needed to believe in him and that he needed that.

It’s altogether because of my following of Christ that I knew that’s what God had for me to do—that was His pattern for marriage and that was my part of the marriage. That was my piece that I brought to him and to us that God wanted to work together for our good and for the good of our kids too.

Ann: Talk to the young wives. These guys talked to the young men in the church or out there—what about the young women? How would you encourage them? Would you encourage them to find mentors? How do they go about doing that to learn how to respect their husbands?

Barbara: I think they do need to find mentors—I think it’s really important. Just a couple of months ago, our youngest daughter was assigned a mentor through her church. It has been really fun to watch our daughter, Laura, meet with this woman, who is in her early 50’s, who still has kids at home; but they meet together for coffee. Laura asks questions and her mentor answers questions; they have a great relationship. I am so encouraged to watch that. I think all young women would benefit from having an older woman in her life to do that.

But I also think the other piece is believing what God has called you to do. When you can’t do it, knowing that God will give you what you need when you can’t do it. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately—that we all run into seasons in our marriage—sometimes it’s long seasons but sometimes it’s just days when we’re struggling with respect, or we have a hard time believing, or we don’t even feel like loving our spouse/loving our husbands. That’s when I’ve learned, over the years, to depend on what Christ has done for me, and what He’s given me, and what He can supply that I don’t have.

I think it’s both—it’s having someone—a physical person in your life, who can encourage you—but it’s also, in those alone moments in your marriage, when you go: “I’m not really feeling love for him right now,” or “I’m not thinking I can respect him in this moment; but Jesus, will You help me believe in him? Will You give me what I don’t have the capacity to produce on my own?” because He is able when I’m not able. That is the key, really, to being a wife in marriage—is depending on Jesus to give you what you don’t possess; because none of us have it all. None of us have it wired together.

Ann: Dennis isn’t perfect? [Laughter]

Barbara: Did you see how easily I laughed at that?

Dave: That was quick! [Laughter]

Dennis: It was too quick! [Laughter]

Barbara: It was very quick!

Dennis: Way too quick.


Barbara: Yes.

Dennis: You know, it’s interesting—at the end of a significant chapter in Ephesians, Chapter 5, Paul instructs—he actually gives a summary of the responsibilities of a husband and a wife. In the last verse, he says, “However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.” If the husband is loving his wife as Christ loved the church—denying himself, giving up his life for her, serving her, meeting her needs, asking how he can help her—and that means getting off your easy seat, watching TV and football all the time, and helping put the kids to bed, helping clean the dishes.

Ann: Preach it!

Dennis: Yes. [Laughter]

Ann: Yes!

Dennis: I mean, really, guys have to get it—that this whole equation of the dance between a husband and a wife begins with their love. We are called, first and foremost, to love our wives as Christ loved the church. That makes a wife’s respect possible.

Barbara: Well, it does. I will readily admit that I am not always the easiest person to love. Husbands need to depend on what Christ can supply in their lives, too; because we’re both imperfect—we’re both broken; we both have flaws; and we both have days when it’s really hard to do what God has called us to do. In those days/those moments of every day of every year of every marriage, that’s when we discover what Christ has done for us. That’s when we experience the power of God working in our lives, and that’s what makes our marriage attractive to others—is following what He’s told us to do.

Dave: You know, as I’m listening to you guys talk about that—and how you’ve modeled that for us—I was going to say: “Barbara, I’m so glad you’re in Ann’s life; because she needed to respect me so bad.” [Laughter] She had a model, you know: “Finally, there’s somebody to look to,”—but that’s on a funny side; that’s in our book—we can talk about that some other time.

I was just thinking: “You’ve impacted our lives, and what you just talked about is impacted millions—

Ann: Yes.

Dave: —“not thousands—millions through FamilyLife and, even, through this radio program.”

I’ll tell you another thing that I’ve learned from you. One of my learnings is—I really always loved your laugh. Both of you’ve laughed—there’s joy. I thought of the day that we did join that speaker team. You can tell the story, Dennis. That could have been a moment of “We don’t make the team.” Tell them what happened.

Dennis: We haze the new speakers, who join the speaker team.

Dave: This was the first year, by the way, that you did that.

Ann: Yes.

Dennis: We do hazing to just humble them a little bit and let them introduce themselves in unique—

Barbara: —creative,

Dennis: Yes.

Barbara: —spontaneous, fun ways.

Dennis: Man, did we get it from the Wilsons—I mean, they brought it!

Bob: What did they do Barbara?

Barbara: They came out, dressed in black leather—both of them; right? [Laughter] Am I remembering correctly? Was it black leather jacket and jeans or whatever?

Ann: We started out in farmer kind of outfits.

Barbara: I don’t remember that part. I just remember the black leather.

Ann: And then we stripped it off.

Dave: We stripped it off to leather. We started with farm, because we grew up in a farm sort of town—

Ann: —in Ohio.

Barbara: Got it.

Dave: You know, we’re from Findlay, Ohio—it’s sort of farm.

Ann: We did it with a rap.

Barbara: Yes; I remember the whole thing was done to a rap.

Dave: Then we ripped it off; and yes, I had Michael Jackson’s one glove. I had a tattoo on my arm.

Ann: I had a black leather skirt on.

Dave: We had music with our little jam box. You guys remember it?

Dennis: Yes; I remember it.

Barbara: Yes.

Dave: We started this rap. I can still do it: “My name is Dave and—

Ann: —“my name is Ann.”

Dave: “We’re gonna talk at you—

Dave and Ann: —“the best we can.

Dave: “We’re from the Motor City, now that is true.” We had this whole little rap going.

Barbara: It was so great! It was my all-time favorite of all of them. [Laughter]

Ann: We finished; and the group of speakers—the veteran speakers—just kind of sat there, with their mouths—their mouths were just wide open.

Dave: Dennis, you can share your side; but I can share—when I was doing it, I’m looking—you and Crawford were in the front row, and you’re jaw was at your chest. It was like—and I’m like: “Oh my gosh! They’re reconsidering firing us right now. [Laughter] We’re not going to make it past this”—you know—“interview! They are like”—I literally thought—

Barbara: “Who are these two?”

Dave: “They think, ‘This isn’t even Christian—what they’re doing!’”

Dennis: “Are these guys…?!” This is why one of your first speaking assignments was inside the Artic Circle. [Laugher]

Dave: Yes; I agree.

Dennis: It was fun.

Barbara: It was so much fun.

Bob: What was it about their laugh that was infectious?

Dave: Well, here’s the thing. I really did have this second thought; and again, we’re not even done yet. I was in the middle of this thing, and I’m like: “Oh, this was a bad idea,”— [Laughter]—you know—“These people are a little more conservative than we are. We pushed the envelope a little too far.”

Dennis: Yes; yes.

Dave: I just really was having this thing: “Like man…”

Dennis: It was a close vote. [Laughter]

Ann: —which, by the way, I was 29 and Dave was 32. We were young—

Dave: Yes.

Ann: —yes; when we were doing this.

Dave: I had hair—I had the whole thing going on back then. You know, at the end of the night—because other speakers did their little skit—and then, you guys came up and you just started laughing. That’s when I was like: “Oh, they get us. They get what we did.” You know, it was pushing the envelope a little bit; but there’s a joy and a laugher like, “You know, life’s going to be fun; and they’re going to be fun on the speaker team.”

Ann: I think that’s the word—you guys are fun. You always find the good in people; you find the best in life, and you laugh hard. You make that a point, I think.

Dave: That’s one of the things that I think I’ve loved about listening to FamilyLife Today—is you and Bob—and you guys laughing.

Ann: Yes.

Dave: There’s always power moments in the show; and yet, there’s joy. There should be joy—I never saw joy in the church.

Dennis: Here’s the hint for the listeners: “This is what you’re getting—you’re getting Dave and Ann with raps, dressed in black leather.” [Laughter]

Bob: Now, wait; they’re coming to the studio dressed in black leather?!

Dave: No way! No way!

Dennis: I don’t know.

Ann: Everybody just turned off their radio. [Laughter]

Dennis: I’m only speaking, symbolically, here. The issue is—they’re going to push the boundaries in your life. You know what it’s going to be?—it’s going to be pushing you and the boundaries toward Christ.

Barbara: —always.

Dennis: —always.

Barbara: They will always do that.

Dennis: —you know, somebody, who loosens you up. There’s a lot of our listeners—they need to laugh. A couple of laughs a week is not excessive. [Laughter]

Bob: That’s right. [Laughter]

Dennis: You know, you just need to have a good time and be found guilty of having too much fun rather than too little, because we know where we’re going—we’re going to heaven!

Barbara: Amen.

Dennis: A non-Christian can’t afford laughter.

Dave: Yes; we should have the joy. Our joy should be a magnet to people that don’t know Christ. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen this—it’s interesting—there’s a study done, years ago. Children laughed—you know how many times a day?—the average child?—500 times a day. If you’ve had kids, you go: “Yes; they do.” It drives you crazy with laughing. Adults laugh 15 times a day. What’s wrong with that picture?!

Barbara: A lot is wrong with that picture.

Dave: It’s like you say to your kids, “Grow up and be an adult.” Well, they did; and they stopped laughing. It’s like: “Wait; joy! We know the end of the story—He rose from the dead; there’s eternity waiting for us.”

Dennis: Right.

Dave: We should have joy. Again, I’m not saying you don’t go through hard times and you work through those things; but man, there should be a sense of joy. You guys modeled that in your marriage and in your ministry, and you let us get on the team.

Bob: I would think that our listeners, who would want to get to know the two of you—Dave and Ann—better, we’ve got copies of your book, Vertical Marriage, which lets us in on the interior of your relationship—the lessons you’ve learned and how you’ve grown, as a couple, as a result of where God’s had you. The book is called Vertical Marriage. It really is a great book that points us to how marriage is designed to work. The way you guys said: “If you want your marriage relationship to work the way it’s supposed to work, your relationship with God has to be what He has designed that to be.” That’s at the heart of the book, Vertical Marriage. You can order a copy when you go to; or call if you’d like to get a copy: 1-800-FL-TODAY is the number.

I’m also thinking of listeners who—you are new to FamilyLife and you’re thinking: “I’d like to know a little more of the history. I’d like to know about how God has been at work through this ministry in its first four decades—some of the things that God has done through this ministry to impact lives, and generations, and legacies,”—because that’s what we’re all about here. We sat down—Dennis and Barbara and I sat down, not long ago, and we reflected back on the first four decades of this ministry and some of the amazing things that we had a chance to see God do in those first 40 years.

We would love to send you two audio CDs that tell the story of the first four decades of the ministry of FamilyLife and let you live that with us. You can go to our website at and just request those CDs—they’re our gift to you—no cost. Just give us you name and address; we’ll mail the CDs out to you—or call and say, “I’d like the CDs they were talking about on the radio today,”—we’ll send them out to you. Our phone number is 1-800-FL-TODAY—that’s 1-800-358-6329—1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”

Now, before we’re all done here today, the new President of FamilyLife, David Robbins has dropped by with some closing thoughts. Hi, David.

David: Hi, Bob; thanks so much. Dave and Ann expressed the feeling of standing on the shoulders of the Raineys. Meg and I feel the exact same way. Dennis and Barbara have been so gracious to befriend and mentor us during this transition of becoming the President and have offered so much wisdom and support. As I stepped into this role 15 months ago, it was immediately clear that Dennis and Barbara’s fingerprints are all over this place. They have, not only impacted Meg’s and my life personally, but millions of people all over the world. As we enter into this new chapter, we will stay true to the core biblical principles that Dennis and Barbara have established. We are praying that God would allow us to steward what they have handed off to continue to impact as many marriages and families as possible.

Bob: Yes; that’s right. We hope our listeners can join us back tomorrow. Dave and Ann Wilson are going to be here again. We’re going to continue to talk about the lives and the legacies of Dennis and Barbara Rainey—how we’ve all been impacted through their ministry. I hope you can be with us for that tomorrow.

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

FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas; a Cru® Ministry. Help for today. Hope for tomorrow.


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