- Gary Ezzo is a graduate of Talbot Theological Seminary. He gained his popularity and credibility through his ten years on the staff of John MacArthur's Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California. Ezzo held the position of "Pastor, Family Ministries" at Grace Church (GCC) for eight of those ten years (1985-1993). While on staff, he and his wife, Anne Marie Ezzo, developed a number of parenting curriculums used by GCC (e.g., Ezzo taught the "young families and single parents" Sunday School class -- "Joint Heirs" -- and his materials were used to teach parenting classes and were sold in large quantities in the GCC bookstore), and eventually, in a number of other churches around the country. The growth of that ministry lead to the start-up of a separate entity that became known as Growing Families International (GFI:1989), a Chatsworth, California-based firm. In 1993, Ezzo resigned his pastoral position at Grace Church to give full-time to GFI, where he is Executive Director. He remained an elder at Grace Church until July of 1995, finally leaving GCC altogether in June of 1996.
It is clear from Ezzo's teachings that he is a Freudian/Maslowian/Adlerean psychologizer, promoting many of the same concepts taught by clinical psychologist Dr. Larry Crabb. (Crabb is the founder and director of the Institute of Biblical Counseling, now located on the campus of Colorado Christian University in Morrison, Colorado. Crabb's model of counseling is primarily a psychological system of unconscious needs that supposedly motivate human behavior, which system is derived from Freudian and Adlerean/Maslowian psychology with its hierarchy of needs, with greatest emphasis on so-called emotional needs.) See the sub-reports for documentation of Ezzo's psychological teachings.
- The Ezzos claim that their materials are being used by one million parents in some 95 countries throughout the world. Their church-based parenting curriculums are used by over 6,000 churches across North America. They also state on their web site (6/98): "This ministry is here to bring hope and confidence to a new parenting generation." A 1997 GFI catalog states GFI's mission:
"From birth through your child's teen years, Growing Families International Inc., is here to help parents raise morally responsible and biblically responsive children. We offer a full line of parenting curricula for the church and community. Tapes, books, and other resources are available to help families apply biblical principles for living."
The gradual evolution of GFI reveals a sad direction away from the primacy of the local church. As mentioned in the first paragraph of this report, Ezzo began presenting his parenting ideas as a member of the pastoral team within the Grace Community Church. Since leaving GCC, Ezzo continues to propagate his views through GFI, which as a parachurch organization, operates outside the boundaries, control, and direction of any one local church (Acts 15:6; 20:28; Heb. 13:17). Also, his fast-selling and far-reaching materials can have the unfortunate effect of undermining the independent teaching ministry of each local assembly. Ezzo admits at the beginning of most of his manuals that many of the specifics of his material are not found in the Bible. Consequently, the specific parenting ideas of one couple are being uniformly introduced into thousands of local churches throughout the world. This is in direct conflict with God's plan for parenting instruction as outlined in Titus 2:1-8, where, in the context of the local church, godly saints in each geographical and cultural setting pass on to the younger saints the helpful hints and details of godly family behavior.
- Within GFI is a division called Growing Families International Educational Services
(GFIES). This division "serves the community at large with health, educational
research, and basic services in the areas of childbirth education, parent training and
general education." (p. 8, The Making of the Community School, by
Ezzo, Vander Weide, St. Clair). One part of GFIES is Community Schools International, an association of
independent community schools, which are a unique combination of traditional classroom
instruction and home schooling. This shows the Ezzos' growing social agenda. GFI's
Educational Services division seeks to serve the community (not only the church) with a
variety of educational and health services. Also, the Ezzo's introductory parenting
course, "Preparation For
Parenting," has recently been re-worked into a secular
edition, stripping out all religious references and being sold under the titles of
"On Becoming Babywise I & II."
- We have listened to and/or viewed the following three seminars by Ezzo. (A brief analysis of each is attached to this report.):
(a) How To Raise Your Kids God's Way -- 1987, 20-message audio cassette series (since revised and now marketed under the name Growing Kids God's Way: Biblical Ethics for Parenting); also available in ten/120-minute video cassettes. This series is highly psychological, stressing the "Christianized" version of need theology, psychic determinism, ventilation therapy, and self-love.
(b) Godworth and the Self-Worth Crisis -- Early 1990s, 13-message/7-tape audio cassette series. This series gets even deeper into secular psychological concepts than the previous series, and stresses self-love almost exclusively. (Brief summary of only the first six messages in this series.)
(c) How To Raise Your Family: Biblical Essentials for No-Regret Parenting -- 1985, 4-part video series, featuring Gary Ezzo with John MacArthur in a supporting role. This series is highly psychological in nature, teaching various principles of humanistic and Freudian psychology, specifically Larry Crabb's "need theology." [Analysis of only the first two tapes in this series; this series is no longer marketed by the Ezzos, but was available on four audio cassettes through MacArthur's 1993 "Grace to You Catalog" (GTY34-37). In addition, it is not clear whether MacArthur's tape ministry still distributes this series. At our most recent visit to the Grace Church Book Shack (7/25/93), this video series could not be found. However, the same series was available on four audio cassettes (GTY34-37) through the 1993 "Grace to You Catalog."]
- Other popular Ezzo' materials marketed by GFI include Reflections of Moral Innocence (eight/55-minute videos or 8-message/4-tape audio cassette series, and a student workbook [rev:1996]); Preparation for Parenting (six/60-minute videos or 7-message/4-tape audio cassette series, and a student workbook); Preparation for the Toddler Years (five/60-minute videos or 6-message/4-tape audio cassette series, and a student workbook); Preparation for Adolescence: Growing Together Through the Middle Years (8-12) (six/65-minute videos or 4-tape audio cassette series, and a student workbook); The Bible and Common Sense Parenting (booklet); On Becoming Babywise and Babywise II (paperback books -- secularized versions of Preparation for Parenting, but without religious references); Birth By Design (a childbirth manual); and Reaching the Heart of Your Teen (eight/55-minute videos or 8-message/4-tape audio cassette series, and a student workbook).
Four individual tapes are also sold by GFI -- The Father's Mandate; Rejection:
Man's Greatest Fear; Repentance: Forgiveness & Restoration; and
Memorials -- although I have only read the transcript of the Rejection tape
(which borrows heavily from humanistic psychology; the need theology of Maslow/Crabb,
which stresses the "need" for self-acceptance and self-esteem; and from Freudian
psychology), the GFI catalog descriptions of the content of the other three appear
psychological as well. (As of 10/1/97, no independent bookstore may sell any of GFI's
curriculum materials, but customers and churches must now buy directly from GFI. Only
Multnomah will market the non-curriculum materials -- the Babywise books and the Reaching
the Heart of Your Teen book.)
- Some claim that Gary Ezzo no longer teaches the psychologically-oriented material described in this report -- specifically, that How To Raise Your Kids God's Way has been substantially revised and no longer contains psychological teachings (at least to the degree described in our review). As stated above, How To Raise Your Kids God's Way was originally recorded in 20 messages on audio cassette tapes in 1987. I first listened to these tapes in January of 1992. In September of 1993, GFI re-recorded these messages and marketed the series under the new title of Growing Kids God's Way: Biblical Ethics for Parenting. In a phone conversation with Anne Marie Ezzo (Gary Ezzo's wife) in March of 1996, I was told that this 1993 revised series was a "major revision," consisting of "condensing some of the material and adding major new material." Nevertheless, this revised series now consists of only 19 messages. (The revised video series includes an introduction plus 17 sessions.) Upon further questioning, Mrs. Ezzo confirmed that the topics and material covered in the original 1987-series, such as the self-esteem material, was also taught in this 9/93-series. (Growing Kids God's Way was re-recorded again in January of 1995, but only to take advantage of state-of-the-art recording equipment made available to the Ezzos; i.e., "very little change was made from the 1993 edition," according to Mrs. Ezzo.) In addition, Mrs. Ezzo confirmed that the original Godworth and the Self-Worth Crisis series has not been revised and is still being sold. Since this series is even more psychological than the original How To Raise Your Kids God's Way series, it is evident that Gary Ezzo has not changed his psychologically-oriented views.
Since that conversation with Mrs. Ezzo, I have endeavored to look at more of the Ezzos' teaching materials and the analysis done by some others. An elder at a New England Bible-teaching church has written an excellent review of Growing Kids God's Way, as well as reviews of Preparation for Parenting and Preparation for the Toddler Years. I have adapted his materials into three new sub-reports.
- Besides the psychological content problems with all of Ezzo's materials, Ezzo has run into a little problem with some in the medical profession concerning his Preparation for Parenting series -- "Some physicians and nurses are concerned that the rigidity of the feeding program the Ezzos advocate may put some newborn infants at risk of inadequate weight gain, especially in the first weeks after birth" (8/16/93, Christianity Today, "The Brave New Baby," p. 34). This "program" was begun in 1987 and is now in its fifth edition. Christianity Today published another negative article in 1998 (2/9/98, "Growing Criticism, Groups back away from Preparation for Parenting," p. 96), again citing physicians "reporting a high incidence of dehydrated and failure-to-thrive children whose parents were adhering strictly to the Ezzos' program." In a GFI web site response to the latter article, the Ezzos point out that a million parents are now using either Preparation for Parenting or On Becoming Babywise, implying that CT's criticism is nothing but sour grapes. Evidently, for the pragmatic Ezzos, big numbers validate one's teachings.
The Ezzo's problems in this area have not stopped them from continuing to market themselves and their organization as experts. (Anne Marie Ezzo is a Registered Nurse with a background in pediatric nursing, and is a childbirth instructor and co-founder of Christian Childbirth Educators.) GFI offers a child-birth teacher certification program through its GFIES subsidiary, "designed to equip program participants in the areas of theology, philosophy, anatomy, and physiology." They also market a bi-monthly newsletter for expectant parents and parents of children up to one year of age -- Babyline.
- Promise Keepers is the gigantic new (1991) "men's movement" among professing evangelical Christians. Its roots are Catholic and charismatic 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, Gary Ezzo is a promoter of this ecumenical, charismatic, psychologized men's movement, at least indirectly -- the latest GFI product catalog offers two highly psychological books by a PK promoter, author, and speaker, Stu Weber -- The Tender Warrior: God's Intention for a Man; and Locking Arms: God's Design for Masculine Friendships. Also, Ezzo wrote a section in a "Four Thoughts on Parenting" article in PK's Summer 1996 Men of Action magazine.
Other supplemental reading materials offered by GFI which indicate the
psychologically-oriented nature of the Ezzos are books by self-love advocates Dennis
Rainey (The Tribute: What Every Parent Longs to Hear) and R.C. Sproul (Essential
Truths of the Christian Faith); psychologizing marriage counselor Gary Chapman (The
Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate); and the
ecumenical Elisabeth Elliot (Passion & Purity: Learning to Bring Your Love Life
Under Christ's Control).