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.

The number one thing has to be that you have to be going somewhere, and that needs to start with following Jesus.  Now I’m not saying following Jesus perfectly.  That’s a ridiculous standard.  But are you overall submitted to Him?  If not, you need to try to move there.  If you move there, typically He’ll give you some direction.  If someone were to ask where are you going – do you have an answer?  Does the first part of that answer sound something like, “With Jesus.”?

The second thing you need to think about is the role you have as a man and how to best exercise that role.  The idea of headship in a marriage should be exciting and humbling at the same time.  With it comes responsibilities.  But if I understand that as my role, then I’m better able to become the man I need to be to fulfill those responsibilities.* Or as I heard in a sermon recently – If you know who you are, you’ll know what to do.

Let me also state that while both of the above can be hard, they are not only essential but doable.  We have to embrace them.

Now, let’s talk about this from a dating perspective.

First of all, you are not – I repeat not – the head of your date.  You have zero authority. That doesn’t mean that you can’t lead while dating – see this post for more thoughts on that. But you don’t yet have that role in your date’s life which is important to remember both in terms of pressure on yourself and frankly for her as well.

Secondly, I would advise you that as you are dating someone to ask the question, “Would this person respect my role and come with me?”  I could list 100 qualifiers for that statement (this doesn’t mean you command something and she says yes etc) but none of those change the general question.

If the answer is no, then you need to not marry that person.  It will not go well.

Here are two “pictures” of that from my own life, one from dating and another from ministry.

After some dates with one woman we began to talk about what we wanted in life, in the near and far future.  We weren’t getting real deep here but just talking and getting to know more about each other. In the midst of that conversation she said, “I don’t ever want to leave this town.  Ever.  My family is here, my life is here. I couldn’t marry someone who didn’t think they would always live here.”

I knew right then that this wasn’t going anywhere.  It’s not that she was a bad person or even that she wasn’t a Christian.  But that is not my life.  I told her that.  I would go wherever I thought Jesus wanted me to go. I had to know that we would follow Him wherever, no prerequisites.  We stopped dating shortly after.

The other example was in ministry but I think it paints a picture of what it would be like if you married someone who didn’t come with you.  In the ministry that I lead it means going to where kids are.  We go to their turf.  It’s what we do.  I lead other people to also do it. Some people do it with me and some don’t end up doing it.  I remember a meeting with a volunteer who was struggling.  This person said, “I feel like you don’t care about me as much as this other person.  You talk to them more.  I can tell you are close to them and I don’t feel close to you at all.”

I thought for a moment because they were right.  But the reasoning was the problem.  I said, “Well it’s not that I like them better per se.  I like you.  I believe in you and love you. But here’s the difference.  They are in it with me.  They show up.  They go with me as I go. You don’t show up.  My job is to lead people in this mission. That’s where I’m going.  If you want to be with me – you have to actually come with me.”

Now again, I could list 100 caveats and talk about how this can look all sorts of different ways.  But the general truth stands.  You can’t make everyone follow you.  Jesus let people walk.  It’s complicated.  Jesus pursues us yes.  He left His throne to do it.  And yet He doesn’t make people go with Him in response.  And He doesn’t chase them either. The rich young ruler walked.  A man says, “Let me first go bury my father.”  Jesus said “Let the dead bury the dead – follow me.”  The gospels and parables are full of this.  Sometimes you have to let people you wish would come with you walk.  It’s true in life.  It’s true in ministry.  It’s also true in dating.

Remember that marriage is a picture of the Kingdom (as is Celibacy).  They both point towards the Kingdom in unique ways.  Part of the marriage picture is this idea of response to invitation.

I would strongly advise you as a man not to marry someone that wouldn’t go with you. You may be thinking, “Bro you have no idea.  There just aren’t that many women out there like that.”  Maybe.  But there are more than you think.

You need someone who will come with you.  When I do weddings I always tell the groom that the bride needs to know that he isn’t leaving no matter what, and I tell the bride that the groom needs to know that she is on his side no matter what.  I know that both of those will get tested.  But they are necessary.

This doesn’t mean that the only qualifier for a spouse is that she would come with you. However I would tell you that it is one of the essential qualifiers and one that often gets overlooked when the woman has a bunch of other qualities that you are looking for.

I wouldn’t advise marrying any woman who didn’t respect you and who wouldn’t have a posture of going with you as you follow Jesus.**

 

 

* I first read about this idea of roles then responsibilities on this post.  I think it is helpful in seeing that how we view the order of roles and responsibilities is extremely important.

** I would also advise women not to marry anyone they didn’t respect or want to go with

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.

Before we get biblical so to speak, let me throw out three simple thoughts on leadership. Being a leader is not super complicated.  It requires really two main things.  First you have to be going somewhere.  Second, someone has to be following you.  Just because you strike out in a direction does not make you a leader.  That just makes you going somewhere, which is great.  But to be a leader means that you actually lead others.

Secondly, it’s also important to note that leadership is not contingent upon being a “good” person.  That would make you a “good” leader in a sense.  But as I’ve mentioned before you can be a bad person and an effective leader.  Hitler had a ton of followers.  As awful as that was it would be ridiculous to say that he was not a leader.

Jesus was of course the greatest leader in history by any definition of the term.  He changed the world order.  As a follower of Jesus our hope is that we can lead people towards Him and His kingdom.  Which brings us to point three – we have to first be a follower of Him in order to lead towards Him.  I want to clarify that before we start looking at leading others because even though we can learn a lot about leadership from looking at Jesus and how He led, if we aren’t actually following Him then really we aren’t going to the right direction to begin with.  And remember, direction matters.

Now all of that seems pretty straight forward.  So why is it that we are all so confused in the context of singleness and marriage?  There are a lot of reasons.

Some of it has to do with the fact that in order to sound more with the times in our culture we have sort of used the word leadership in some places that aren’t necessarily biblical. They sound biblical but they add to the confusion.

One of the places this happens is when we say that the man is the spiritual leader of the household when he is married.

What most people refer to is the scripture in Ephesians 5:22-33.  Paul is giving instruction to the people of Ephesus about life and in this particular part talks about husbands and wives.  He says that the husband is the head of the wife as Christ as the head of the church.  He commands the husbands to love and give themselves up for their wives and wives to submit to and respect their husbands.

Now whole books have been written about this and I have only a few hundred words here so we are going to keep it in the context of our conversation here.

The first thing to note is that this is not conditional.  Just as the vows you take on your wedding day are not conditional.  When you make the vows you don’t say, “I promise to love and cherish and not forsake you if you do these certain things”.  No your promise is unconditional.  Until death.  That’s the vow.  It’s a covenant not a contract. This is similar. Paul doesn’t say, “Husbands love your wife if you feel in love” or “Love your wife if your romantically attracted at the time” or “love your wife if she is nice to you”.  Nor does he say, “Wives submit to your husband when you feel like its a good idea” or “submit to your husband if he’s earned it that day”.  It’s a command for each person regardless of the situation.*

The second thing to note here is that the word leadership isn’t used. The word head is used to name the role, and the instructions to the man (instructions for the head) describe what he is to do.  But nowhere is he called the leader.  It’s not that he doesn’t lead.  As the head, Christ leads the church – by loving it no matter what.  But he does have positional authority.  Leading is a part of the job description, but it’s not the job title.

Now here is where everyone freaks out.  We don’t like that.  So what happens is one of the following:

Some say, “It talks about mutually submitting before that . . . ”  That is just a terrible argument.  You can say, “What was true for Ephesus isn’t true now.” That’s an argument.  I disagree with it.  But that makes some sense and I can respect it.  But pretending Paul doesn’t mean what he says is weak and intellectually dishonest.

Some want to abuse it.  This happens when we give men the role (head) without the instructions (love, give your self up etc).  This is where men can abuse their position.  This has for sure happened throughout history and still happens today.

But most in evangelical culture today want to say essentially, “Men, this is your position, if you do everything right and earn it.  Your wife will let you know when that is.”  I know that’s a little sarcastic.  But this is really does seem to be the message.  Do it all right and then it will all go right.  That last sentence is dangerous on a lot of levels.

We like the term “spiritual leader” because it sounds better than head.  But what we end up telling guys is: If you lead well, you’ll be the head.  What we need to instead say is: you’re the head, so lead well.  When we get this wrong, we basically want men to take on the responsibilities that he has without giving him the role that he should have.  Why would anyone want that?

Once you’re married – from a biblical perspective, you’re the head.  You can either be a good one or a bad one and your wife is not necessarily the grade card on that.

Wow! We just covered a lot of ground not very deeply.  You still might be thinking, “what in the heck does this have to do with me the single man?”  In my next post I’ll give you some thoughts on why how you view this is so important.  For now I’d ask you to think about exactly that.  How do you view all of this?

*I understand that there may be extreme conditions that would be exceptions – such as abuse etc. but we have turned everything into an exception and it isn’t working out well.

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.

Not only that, but Jesus knew what people actually needed not just what they wanted.  He didn’t serve them based on what or how they wanted to be served.  Think of the washing of the disciples’ feet.  At no point did the disciples think, “we’ll like Jesus more and follow Him more if He would wash our feet.”  In fact Peter saw it as an affront at first.  He knew who Jesus was (or at least was coming to know) and he knew that Jesus was the one who should be served.  That’s what made it so incredible.

So what does this have to do with being a single man in the church?  Here are some thoughts.

First of all, we need to understand a very important fact.  Despite what we are sometimes lead to believe by evangelical leaders, you can not serve your way to attraction.  What I mean is that there can be this idea that if I serve a woman she will be attracted to me.

Let’s say you really like a girl.  You are attracted to her and you want her to be attracted to you.  One line of thought is that you need to get to know her and do things for her or even “minister” to her.  She is moving and needs help so you volunteer to help move her.  You’re in college and she needs help studying so you help her study.  You offer to carry things for her.  You open every door for her.  You look for every opportunity to serve her.  She is going through a hard time and you are “there for her”.

Those are all fine things.  But none of those things will make her attracted to you.  If she is already attracted to you, those sorts of things could help advance the relationship at some level.  But they are probably at best neutral in terms of attraction.  However, if she is not attracted to you and she knows you are attracted to her it could be a negative.  You could end up in the nice guy/friend zone.  You are meeting her needs which is great for her, but that won’t make her attracted to you.

On top of that, and this gets back to how Jesus served, if you are serving to get her to like you (be attracted) really you aren’t being a servant.  There are strings attached.  Women see right through this.  They might take the help.  But that’s as far as it is going.

This is one of the ways that nice guys get clobbered over and over.  “I did all of this for her and yet she chose this other guy.  He does’t do anything for her . . . ”  Well that might be true.  But too bad.  First of all, that’s not part of the deal.  Service means just that.  Pure servanthood operates without expecting anything back.  Also it doesn’t matter because if the other guy who doesn’t serve her is who she is attracted to, then . . . well . . . she is attracted to him.

What I’m saying here is that serving the girl is fine.  That’s your choice.  But if you do it so that she will date you, then that’s really on you.

Jesus served out of strength.  He did it out of love.  Not romantic love or “feelings” love. He doesn’t call us to do it out of those things either.  He wasn’t qualifying himself as worth being with by serving.  He was already worth being with and they knew it.

This by the way carries over into marriage.  We tend to sell guys on this idea that if they do certain things they will get certain results.  Serve your wife to “earn” points (I’ve actually seen Christian leaders say things like this).  But that’s not sacrificial service.  That’s selfish service.  It’s for sure not leadership.  I don’t do the dishes so that my wife will like me better.  I do it because why should I not do it.  I do it because she made a great meal and the least I can do is help clean up.  But I don’t do it expecting her to have sex with me. And I’m not counting on it making her want to.  I’m for sure not doing it to bank “points”.

Let me be clear once again.  I’m not anti serving.  But I’m saying don’t serve with an expectation of a result for you.  Don’t serve to be more attractive because it won’t make you more attractive.  Don’t serve to get something in return.  Serving is not a tactic.  And it won’t work.

Finally let me add this.  If you are serving someone in an effort to chase or get them to like you, I’d stop.  Stop being the nice guy.  Stop putting yourself in the friend zone.  Stop trying to earn it.  Don’t be used in that way.  I spent significant time there in my life.  It’s not effective and it won’t help you.  Don’t let anyone tell you different.

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.

At the same time you can show leadership.  You’re not her “leader” but that doesn’t mean you can’t lead.  In the restaurant example from above (a great simple example) I’d say on the fist date you should just have a plan and do it.  Just lead.  This is where I’m taking you tonight.  Go someplace that you like that you think she might also enjoy. Don’t show up and say, “where do you want to go?”

Now once you are dating, I don’t think there is anything wrong with asking her what she’d prefer, but I’d ask her that before you show up.  Leadership is more about an attitude.  It’s more about the conversation that night than the menu.  (A note to the ladies here – for the love of all things, if the guy asks you if you prefer mexican or italian and says he is great with either, and you have a preference, express it.  Don’t make him guess and then say, “well I really wanted mexican”.  Men like food.  We don’t care.)

While the above is sort of a practical answer to the fist couple of dates, I think this question begs a deeper one.  What is leadership and what does it look like in a dating relationship.

Leadership is sort of a funny word in our culture. It seems that everyone wants to be one, but very few are seen as one.

Which brings me to the first important point – in order to be a leader, you have to actually be going somewhere.

If as a guy, you know who you are, and remain confident in that, you can look for someone who will come with you.  In terms of attractiveness, knowing what you want, and passionately pursuing it aren’t going to hurt you.  Frankly it’s also often more effective when first asking someone out to invite them to go with you versus a general ask.  “Will you go out with me sometime?” is a lot more pressure than, “I’m going to the game this weekend, come with me.”  I get that isn’t always the preferred method, but the general idea of having a plan and inviting her to it is good.

But here’s another funny thing about leadership.  It require followers.  If no one is following you, you’re not actually a leader.  Also, just because someone has followers doesn’t mean they are leading the right way – just that they have leadership ability.  Hitler had followers.

I say all of this because it’s hard to have a conversation about men leading, be it in marriage or dating, if we don’t sort of have that down.

So here are a few thoughts on how to lead in dating.

  • Be going somewhere yourself.  What are you about?  Where are you heading – big picture and tomorrow.
  • Invite her to that – the simple small stuff at first (go with me to the game?) the bigger vision later (where do we want to be in life).
  • You set the boundaries – physical and otherwise – and honor them – even when she doesn’t want to.
  • Don’t follow her around.  Pursue her, get to know her (which is leadership), but don’t chase her.
  • Make decisions about things you do together.  (Again to clarify, the more your in the relationship the more that becomes joint – but you can still lead the conversation).
  • Lead in reconciliation and forgiveness, but not out of fear – instead out of concern for her and the relationship.

These are just a few examples.  Maybe some commenters will have more.  Keep in mind that no one leads well all of the time (I for sure don’t) and over thinking it and crushing yourself when you feel you don’t lead is totally counterproductive.  Every guy screws this up.  But we need a target.

One final thought here – if you lead and the woman never follows – reconsider that relationship.  Especially when it comes to following Jesus.

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?