Will She Go With You?

Over the last three posts we’ve been talking about Servant Leading, what serving has to do with attraction, and the fact that in marriage the man is the head which has many responsibilities including loving (serving and leading would be a part of doing that well). You may want to read those before you dive in here.

Today I want to talk about as a single man, knowing the previous thoughts, how should that affect how you go about things in terms of dating and looking for a wife.  There are at least two parts here: How we prepare ourselves and who we seek to marry.

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Men’s Spiritual Leadership And The Bible

One of the most overused, misunderstood, and confusing things in the church is the idea of leadership.  This is especially true when it comes to men in relation to women. It’s my hope today to make that even more confusing.  Just kidding.  Maybe.

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You Can’t Serve Your Way To Attraction

In my last post I began talking about this idea of being a servant leader that we toss around in Christian circles.  I’m not going to rehash all of that here.  You might start by reading that post.  Today I want to talk about the servant part and in another post I’ll talk about the leadership side.

I want to clarify a couple of things quickly.  I’m not suggesting here that we shouldn’t serve people.  Not at all.  We often should.  Again, Jesus served.  He called us to serve others.  What I’m suggesting that serving and leadership are not the same and our motive for serving matters.

Jesus did not serve in order to gain followers.  He didn’t serve to earn relationships.  The reason Jesus is the greatest servant is because he didn’t have to serve at all and yet chose to.  Not only that, but He gave the ultimate service in dying for us.  Jesus served His followers.  But again He didn’t serve to get followers.

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You Are Not Her Spiritual Leader

I want to continue to try to answer a question that reader Stephen asked me a few weeks ago. Here is the question.

Everyone talks about women wanting guys who “lead”, who “aren’t pushovers,” who “aren’t nice guys,” etc. Question: what does this mean in the context of DATING. NOT MARRIAGE. Its fairly obvious what this means for married men. But when I’m asking a woman out for the first, second, or third time, the only things we’re going to disagree over, or have to decide together, are whether we’re going to Chipotle or Olive Garden. What if I really don’t give a darn? How am I supposed to “lead” while I’m casually dating a girl? I’m not an integral part of her life, I’m not her primary counselor, I’m not even likely to be *informed* about serious decisions that she has to make. 

I tackled the general nice guy question previously, but I think Stephen raises a very interesting question when it comes to leadership.

First of all, let’s clear a couple of things up.  Nowhere in the bible is the phrase spiritual leader used.  It’s kind of inferred in several places but we’ve sort of created this phrase so that we don’t have to use words like headship.  But regardless of all of that, and no matter what you call it, when you are dating someone, you are not her spiritual leader or head of anything. You are not saddled with that and you don’t have to love her as Christ loved the church (any more or less than you would any other person) and she is not called to submit to your leadership.  Ephesians 5 is not about dating.

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It Probably Isn’t Going To “Just Happen”

When it comes to dating, and I think especially “Christian dating”, one of the big mistakes too many people make is having the idea that it just happens.  In fact I think most people want it to be this way.  They want it to just happen.

This comes from several places.  First there is this idea that God has only one person for you and He will magically bring them to you.  This is how we get all of the spiritual platitudes like, “God will do it in his timing”, “when it’s right you’ll know”, “God just hasn’t brought you the one yet”, “He is preparing someone for you”, and on and on and on. What’s funny about these platitudes is that while we hate them when someone says them to us, we also hide behind them when we don’t act.

I’ve addressed this particular point about a zillion times in this blog.  But for the record, there is not THE ONE, there is no spiritual soulmate, He is not holding out on you.

But the second and maybe more powerful place this comes from is a culture that says everything should happen organically.  Whatever that means.  Basically what it seems to mean is that you shouldn’t have to actually do anything.  You are entitled to whatever you want and you shouldn’t have to actually try to go do it.

This is a super convient concept when stuff doesn’t go our way.  Or when we sin.

My girlfriend is pregnant becomes everything happens for a reason.  Yeah it does, because you had sex when you shouldn’t have.  I don’t know how to ask someone out can conveniently become, God will bring me someone.  I’m overweight (don’t have a job, don’t have direction, don’t know how to interact with people, etc.) but people should just like me for me.  The right person will just organically be attracted to me.  (But of course I won’t be extending that same courtesy to them).

Maybe in the past when the average age of marriage was about 10 years younger than it is today that sort of thing would make some sense.  I think there is some reality to college aged folks and “organically meeting”.  But for most of us this just is not a good plan to get married.

The first question needs to be, do you actually want to get married.  I believe that most of us are called to do so.  Marriage, while not the end all and not the solution to life, was instituted by God in the very beginning.  Some people will not get married.  Some are not called to it.  But for those of us who don’t think we are called to celibacy we need to attempt to move beyond it, not just sit around and hope for it.  Especially as a man.

We need to act.  And action, typically means being intentional.  Being intentional typically means having a plan.  None of this means that the plan will work.

I’ve used this example before but let’s say you need a job.  Do you sit around and just hope that it “organically” happens?  Ok I know some people do, but those people typically remain unemployed.  If you want a job, you go out and hit the pavement (or the internet or whatever).  You use the resources available to you to find a job. You might have work on some skills.  Maybe a new skill for a new job – that might require going back to school or practicing interviewing.  You learn, practice, and attempt, over and over again.

If a kid wants to get better at a sport for example, do they sit around and hope that they just learn to shoot a basketball?  No you learn how to shoot it.  You listen to your coach. You go out in the driveway and shoot the ball over and over.  Does this mean you’ll be Jordan?  No.  But will you be better than the average person who hasn’t shot a basketball?  Yes.

Look, I’m not saying it’s simple.  What I am saying is that having a plan and learning how to be better is good.  Humbling maybe, but good.  It’s called growth.  It requires effort.  And usually it requires failure because you don’t know when or if it will work.

The question should be, how do I put myself in the best position to succeed.  I have to get in the game.  I need to have a plan of attack.  I might need to practice.  I might need to study or acquire new skills.

You need a plan of how to meet people, how to approach people and what to do on a date.  And that’s just for starters.

Gentlemen let me assure you of this.  Girls like a guy who has a plan.  They can say they don’t but they do.  That doesn’t change when you get married by the way.  If they want to think “it just happened” that’s fine, but we all know it didn’t.

Do you want to get married?  What are you doing today that makes tomorrow any more likely that you will get married? If you aren’t dating anyone, what is your plan to change that?  If you are dating someone, what is your plan to advance that relationship?  What are your intentions?  What are doing to make your intentions reality?  What are you getting better at?

 

 

My Church Doesn’t Get Singleness And I’m Mad Pt 2

Yesterday I said that a reader had posed the question, “what do we do about anger at the church when it comes to singleness?”  I offered some reasons why it’s important to deal with and some reasons why that anger can be legitimate.  I then said we could leave the church, ignore the problems, or actually engage the problem.  If we choose the third problem I offered that there are at least three things we need to do.
  1. Do our best to understand why it’s the way it is, and trust that most of it is not personal.
  2. Earn the right to have a voice.
  3. Exercise our voice in a way that can be heard.

Yesterday I offered some thoughts on part one.  Today I want to comment on part two and three.

The second part is vital and it starts with this.  We need to do a good job of loving people. We need to love an help shepherd younger single people.  We need to have married friends and learn to minister to them as well.  We can speak into married people’s lives and marriages.  We need to love our married friends well – and this includes loving our married church leaders well.

If we want to change the stereotypes then we have to be different.  There is no reason why we can’t lead a small group with married people in it. Attitude is important.  For example, what do we do when there is a marriage sermon series?  Do we check out, or double down?  How I love other singles, married people, and leaders in the church carries weight. What I’m kind of saying is get off of the defensive, “no one gets it” level and onto the “I’m an equal follower of Jesus and I’m going to live it” level. Church leaders may not pick us to lead naturally, but we have to actually try to serve and lead.  Maybe more than once.

This leads naturally into point three.  That is, once we’ve earned the right to have a voice, freaking exercise it.

I’m not saying it will be easy or that they will listen to that early on.  But that doesn’t mean they won’t listen at the end of the day.  What I know for sure is that if we don’t speak, and don’t act, then nothing will happen.  But if we earn the right and speak up, someone (not everyone) will hear us.

Someone once posted in the comment section , “I wish I was brave enough to share this post with my minister and elders”.  I’m not trying to be self promoting here, but if you like something I or someone else writes about this stuff, share it with people that count.   Have conversations (not just complaining sessions).  Point out that the bible talks about celibacy and that maybe your church should think about it.  Go missional on them (churches are all about “being missional”) and tell them that 50% of people are single and that those people are WAY less likely to go to church.  If they approached it differently maybe those people will come.  Speak up when it’s not right, not just under your breath to your friends on the way out the door, but with your elders and leaders that you’ve earned the right to talk to.

What we need is to lovingly challenge the church.  Not softly mind you.  Firmly and with conviction, but in love, for the good of the whole body of Christ and for the lost.

Offer solutions, and offer to help make those solutions happen.

This blog, and my whole writing and speaking ministry, started in one conversation about four years ago.  My church had a singles seminar that went bad.  I met with an elder and pastor at my church and after some niceties said essentially, “So, your singleness seminar sucked.”  They knew it.  Now understand, I was mid-30s, had helped our church plant a new campus, led several community groups and genuinely loved these guys.  I said, “Look, here are some of the things I would have maybe talked about.” and I shared some new ways of looking at it, from a single perspective.  Less than a year later they asked me to come to a weekend on Marriage and Family (of all places) and present on singles and marrieds together.  I just finished teaching (with another single person) a four week course on Singleness and the Gospel at my church.

Now does it look like it should?  No.  Do we as a Church get it?  Heaven’s no, not even close.  But is God moving in it? I’d say yes.

I don’t have a list of easy answers but here’s my point.  We can sit around, be mad and/or be the victim, or we can get off of defense, go love people, trust that they might have a good heart, forgive them for what they probably don’t even realize they are doing, without selfish ambition offer ideas – and then back it up.  It needs to be bigger than just me and it needs to come from a heart of conviction, not bitterness.  It will not be easy, but it could be good.

The question isn’t “does the church get singleness?”  It doesn’t.  Maybe a better question is if my church doesn’t get singleness – what am I going to do about it? If we don’t initiate the conversation, then who will?

The Danger Of Church Dating

One of the things that people used to ask me all the time about my “search” for a wife was something to the effect of, “Have you tried at Church?  I mean there are all sorts of women there.  Are you asking them out?”

What makes this an even better question in my case is that throughout my 30’s I attended a church of the hot chick.  In other words I attended a church in which there were lots of single people, many of whom were attractive.  In fact many people go there partly because of this.  I mean what better place to meet someone than a 2000 person church where singles are actually welcomed right?  Well sort of.

Here’s the thing about “Christian” dating – it’s never simple.  It’s a huge disadvantage really.

For starters, it can be hard to figure out the approach etiquette at church.  I mean the “talk to them in the lobby” thing has some value, but our lobby was small and the window to approach was short. But that is nothing compared to the mind games you have to play.

In the church as a guy, if you never approach anyone then you are obviously passive, and not a real Christian leader.  But if you approach too many people you are “that guy”.  And here’s the best part about that.  There are two “that guys”.  The one who approaches and gets shot down by everyone and the one who is successful in the approach but then decides he doesn’t want a second date (or third, or fourth, or doesn’t want to marry that girl).  In a hurry you become either the creeper or the player.  Welcome to dating in the church as a guy.

To top it off, you get to be called out by the pastor.  “Men just need to man up and initiate.” As someone in a class I was teaching a couple of weeks ago said, “You need to ‘man up’. But only once.” Truth!

Here’s the reality.  In our church culture, the church can be one of the least safe places to ask someone out.

Think about it.  If I go to a bar, for example, I approach a girl, she says no, I move on. There’s a good chance she won’t be there in a week.  Or I just go to a different bar if I want.  Grocery store, book store, mall, your waitress, and certainly online – all way safer. Less blowback and less expectations.  Heck the only thing more dangerous than church might be work. . . maybe.

There a lot of reasons for this.  I won’t even try to cover them all, but here are a few (I’ll have more to say about some of these later).

It starts with the general idea in evangelical culture that women are basically innocent and men are basically lustful or immature.  You don’t hear many sermons about it being time to woman up.  There is not space in this post to get into this but think about it for any length of time and you see it.

In church the expectation is marriage.  This isn’t all bad.  It should be the ultimate goal of dating.  But it shouldn’t be the goal of the first date.  If a guy approaches a woman, she shouldn’t have to answer if she wants to marry him, just if she wants coffee.  At the same time, for the love of all things, a few dates does not a marriage make.  No other context creates this type of pressure.

If it goes bad, you still have to go to church there.  In other words, I like my church.  If I ask someone out, she’ll still be there next week.  What if she says no?  What if she says yes? What if we kiss and then break up?  What if I then ask someone else out?  No matter what happens this is both people’s place of worship.

It only takes one scorn woman to mess with your reputation.  Choose wisely.

I know this much – I always hesitated to ask out anyone from church.

This needs to change.  Here are a few quick thoughts on how.

First off we need to get in our heads that both men and women are good and bad. Men need more than the three categories of creeper, player, and perfect.

Second men and women need to show each other this grace thing we all talk so much about.  I remember once I asked out this woman from church.  She said yes, and then changed her mind to no.  I was frustrated and we had a bit of a rough exchange. I then realized she was into someone else.  I walked up to her the next Sunday and simply said, “Hey, are we good?”  She said yes and you know what we were.  Revolutionary I know.

Third and maybe most important.  If the leaders of a church are going to tell men that they need to “man up”, then they better dang well have their back when they do.  The male leadership of the church need to be able to stand up to women, not just stand up for them.  I’ve been blessed to have seen this done well at my church several times.  It’s huge. There’s a time to call out both the creeper and the player, but there is also time to stand up for the guy and tell the woman to let it go.

What about you?  What would make the church a safer place to pursue women?  What is your church’s culture of dating?  Does it make you want to pursue or scare you off? How would you change it?

Have A Game Plan For Dating

One of the worst places you can be on a date is that moment when the girl says, “what are we doing?” and the guy says, “I don’t know, what do you want to do?”  I know because I’ve been there and done that.  When you go on a date, especially initially, it’s good to have a plan, or at the very least, have an opinion.

But let’s back up a step.  I think it’s actually helpful to have a plan when meeting women. Now I don’t mean be a robot or be completely controlling.  But I think that as a guy, having a plan, or set of plans is helpful.  Having some options in your mind for things to say when you meet someone is good.

A lot of guys have a hard time approaching women.  I’ve talked about approaching women and developing dating skills in the past.  But the common theme in those previous posts is that having a game plan is good.

When I was online dating after a while I realized is that sense you never knew who would communicate back, it was good to have some sort of system or you’d be sitting there all day.  So I developed a three or four email plan.  Now don’t get me wrong, I didn’t send the exact same email to everyone.  But I had the exact same principles.

Comment on what they wrote, ask two fun/light questions.  In the second email ask another series of questions including a set of either/or questions.  In the third email ask a fun question and deeper one.  Fourth email ask to talk live.  (Gentlemen – for free – women like questions – makes you seem interesting and interested at the same time – that’s for free).

When I was talking to my wife early on she would make fun of it.  She’d say stuff like, “is this part of your system?”  She could tell I had one.  The best part was from the very first date, she went about trying to bust the system.  It was awesome.

Am I saying you need a system to approach women?  Yeah sort of.  Especially if you are uncomfortable doing it.  I’m not saying you should plan every moment and interaction out in your head.  I’m not telling you to over think it.  (If you are 30 and single – you’ve already over thought it – lots of times).  I’m saying that as a guy, when you have a bit of a plan that you trust, when you “know what you are doing”, it gives you confidence and you can go from there.  If you have a plan – you don’t have to over think it – you just do it.

Here’s a non dating example.  I’ve spoken in front people my whole life.  Literally hundreds of times in front of many thousands of people.  Now part of it is that I have a gift of speaking and teaching.  But part of it early on was I worked my tail off in preparation.  I studied what I would teach and I practiced.  I would stand in my living room and give the talk over and over.

When I got to the actual talk, I owned it frontwards and backwards.  That enabled me the freedom to handle anything that happened that night without getting flustered or thrown off track.  It enabled me when sharing God’s word to be able to listen to His leading as I talked and flex with what was going on in the room.

I’m not suggesting being rigid.  Think of football. You have a playbook.  You game plan all week.  When you get to the game you call plays based on what is given to you.  Once the play starts you execute as best you can and then you just play ball.  But without plays it all falls apart.  You don’t just show up on game day and hope for the best.  Bad teams either have a bad plan, or they never change based on what is given to them that day. Or both. What I’m saying is the better you game plan, the freer you are to react.

Here’s the kicker.  You know what having a plan really is?  It’s called leadership, and leadership actually works.  With women pursuit is part of it (going to her) but part of it has to be invitation.  But you can’t invite her if you aren’t going anywhere.

By the way this is why if you let the girl become the goal you are screwed.  Women don’t want to be the goal.  They want to join you on the journey.

Having a plan and practicing creates confidence.  It helps you know what works for you and what doesn’t.  I’m not saying that you should make dating a game.  But attraction matters.  Confidence is attractive.  That is fact – like it or not.  And as a guy, having a plan and knowing what we are doing creates confidence.

Here’s what I know doesn’t work.  Doing the same things that don’t work over and over. Being scared when you approach a woman you like because you don’t know what to say. Hoping that even though you never work on getting better at it that God will somehow magically make it happen.

Do you feel confident approaching someone?  Do you know what to do when you do have a date?  What would it mean to work on that?

The Church Doesn’t Get Singleness

Here’s a fun experiment.  Go to amazon and search for Christian marriage books and then search Christian Single books.  It’s not pretty.  (Then for real fun go through the Christian single list and try to find books written by a guy.)

Here’s the point.  The Church loves to talk about marriage.  They are like the marriage experts.  As I’ve said no matter what your theological beliefs, you can find a marriage book for you.  I mean you name it – you like Keller? Eldredge? Piper? Jakes? Bell?  You can find their take on marriage. Books about how to navigate singleness – not as much, (apparently ladies you are supposed to do a lot of waiting and being satisfied, and us guys are supposed to figure it out without any help whatsoever).

But it’s not just books.  Marriage retreats, forums, conferences, sermon series.  Its even part of churches’ missional approach, “we are going to be doing a series on marriage – invite all your friends.”

Sure somewhere in there they like to throw in the obligatory thought on singleness, which is usually short sided, un-researched, full of platitudes and impractical.  And then the best part is we kind of get a pat on the head as if to say, someday you too can be a grown up married person.

Now someone will say that I’m bitter or just seeing the grass as greener on the other side.  I’m not mad – I’m just right.  In 20 years of walking with Jesus and going to church (including the last eight at a church that has 50% single people) I’ve never had a married friend say, “The church just doesn’t get marriage.”  Single people feel it all the time.  It’s a no brainer and it’s real.

Have you ever thought about why it’s this way?  One main reason that I’ve talked about before if that most pastors don’t get it.  But there are other basic reasons.

First it’s just flat easier to talk about.  There’s more clear scriptures on marriage.  There’s not much on singleness and exactly zero on dating.  Also, it’s more obvious if a marriage is in trouble than if a single is.  So the fact is it’s just easier.

Second, married people fit the church structure better.  They are more comfortable showing up to church to begin with. Much easier to go with someone than alone.  The church knows that if you love kids then you will get parents.  A lot of Christian parents are married – (side note – we are not very good with single parents either.  Holy smokes.  Let’s hold another moms group during the day – that helps – yikes).

The truth is almost everything we do is set up for the family – training the family, protecting the family, growing the family. In fact I would submit that family is an idol in our church today, but that is another post.  Now it is helpful as a single person, especially if we didn’t grow up with it, to see and be engaged with solid families and I’m all about that.  But where does the non married person fit into all of that.  What real practical help are we giving to them for where they are right now?

Third, the church assumes that you should get married.  We talk about being called to singleness but we do absolutely nothing to help anyone determine that.  Our theology of singleness is messed up at best and completely lacking at worst.  

Finally, because they don’t know what to do and what to say, they offer up spiritual platitudes about waiting on God, not settling, perfect definitions of who we should marry, and how to not have sex – which is their biggest concern.

Now some of this is our fault as singles.  Here’s what I mean.  We are way more likely to church hop (in fairness some of that is due to the stuff above).  We can leave any time – we don’t have to convince a spouse or pull kids away from their youth group.  Secondly, married people typically give more money and assume more Sunday leadership roles.  I can’t back that up with statistics but I’d stake any amount you want on that being true. We often have less invested.

But here’s the thing, and you, me, married people, the church and everyone else might want to grab a hold of this.  The day of reckoning is here.  50% of America is unmarried and the trend is upwards.  80% of people age 18-29 have never been married and that trend is upwards.  So unless the church wants to get smaller it might want to think about how to help, reach out to, walk with, encourage, engage, and challenge singles.  They might want to figure out how to empower them in leadership.  Perhaps they could help them figure out and pursue their calling to marriage or to celibate ministry.

The church could be a place where singles are welcome, treated equally and held accountable through real relationships.  Or it can keep ignoring reality and miss out on the opportunity.

Stop Looking At Her And Go Talk To Her

From about 7th grade until I was in my mid 30’s (man I hate admitting this), I had a huge thought that ran through my head when it came to dating.  It was basically, “I can’t get the girl I really like to like me.”  Now granted in 7th grade, no girls (whether I liked them or not) liked me – ha.  But as I went into high school there was always THE girl that I wanted. Kind of adolescent version of THE ONE. If I could somehow be “good enough” then THE girl would like me and my world would be complete.

When I got to college this changed because I just dated people and wasn’t looking for THE ONE.  But after college it came back.  There would be someone that I liked that I couldn’t pursue, or more often that just wasn’t interested in me. There were other people who liked me – but not the “right” people so to speak.  So I wasn’t unlikeable, which I guess was good, but I couldn’t seem to get the girl I was all about.

I’ve had a lot of people tell me similar stories.  There are a lot of reasons for this.  Part of it is we are playing with a narrow field.  I mean you want to date someone you are actually attracted to and get along with, who also loves Jesus and has some sort of similar direction in life.  It’s a smaller target area to a degree than a lot of our culture.  Add to this that as believers we are not looking for the “hook up” (at least hopefully not) and the pressure mounts.

So as guys, what happens is when we finally see someone who seems to fit all the categories, we choke.  We end up thinking about this person way too much and give her this power over us that she should not have – and if we really got to know her that she would not have.  We stop being ourselves and become passive or nice.  Which is why these women are never attracted to us.  We end up thinking too much or strategizing for the right moment, or we become “friends” with them.  All of this makes me want to vomit, mainly because I spent so much time there.

If you are thinking that only the “wrong” women like you, then you are the problem.  

You are acting differently around the people you really like. The women you don’t like are attracted to you because around them, you are yourself.  You lead, and stand up for stuff. Women like that.  But when you get around someone you really like you can’t do it.

If you don’t change this, you will never get married because you probably won’t marry someone you are not attracted to and excited about, and you won’t be able to get the women who you are attracted to.

You have to get out of your head.  If you are having pretend conversations or thoughts about a person, you are done.  It’s over.  It’s not going to happen and certainly not the way you are pretending it will.  Worst of all, she is not the person you have made up in your head.  It’s not real.  Stop it.  Seriously.  Ask God to kill the pretend.

We build up the woman we like into something not real. But she’s an actual person who -as awesome as she is – sweats, bleeds and even poops just like you.  So stop being scared.  Look, if you think she is not going to be interested in you, she won’t be.

Stop looking at her and start talking to her.

You have to act.  The longer you delay, strategize, etc, the deeper hole you are digging for yourself.  My opinion is that you have only a one to one look at/talk to ratio.  In other words once you’ve made eye contact you have to act – ideally in about 30 seconds.  If you don’t, you send one of two messages – 1. you are not interested in meeting her or 2. you are scared of her – and worse, you’re now deeper in your own head.

Even if all you do is introduce yourself that’s great – in fact typically that’s better.  We are going to get into some technique stuff later, not so that we can all be Casanova but because no one in the church is helping us guys figure this out (I promise this is coming soon).  But the number one way to kill the pretend and/or stop being afraid of her, is to talk to her.  I promise, she’s a real person – who could actually like you.

So can you get the one you like to like you?  What goes through your head when you are attracted to someone?