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?