Dating in Church

This article is not aimed at any specific church or congregation. It is not meant as a critique of singles ministry. It was provoked by several conversations I recently have had with singles at work and various churches.

In my conversations with singles I was  surprised at the numbers of church single groups that discourage dating among their members.

I understand that the church leadership wants the group to be a safe haven for people to go and to avoid the messiness of failed dating relationships and it’s fallout.

I understand that there are predators who prey on trusting believers.

I understand that leaders are operating under the right motives.

But discouraging singles from dating people they go to church with removes the best pool of candidates from their consideration.

As a friend of mine said, “Where are single Christians supposed to go to find a date?”

Are we subtly suggesting they should go to a local bar or rave and pursue missionary dating?

Are we implying that another church has more spiritually mature people than we do? If that were true, shouldn’t we send them there to start with?

This position can communicate that single people are either spiritually immature or too inherently sinful to succeed in dating each other.

Perhaps their relationship will end badly. Maybe it might negatively affect the chemistry of a small singles group. Maybe someone will get hurt emotionally. All of these things could happen. We do live in a fallen world.

But here is what well-meaning church leaders may not be considering.

Being married does not necessarily make you more spiritually mature than a single person.

Let me say this again. Being married does not necessarily make you more spiritually mature than a single person.

I have seen some Christian marriages that ended badly. I have seen a failed marriage negatively affect the chemistry of a small group that has surrounded them. I have seen people chose sides and the division this has caused.

But I have seen Christian marriages that were saved because they lived in community with a group of people who encouraged them.

I have even seen marriages that failed  but where the participants were made whole because they interacted with a community that loved them both.

Relationships are messy. I have been married for thirty three years to a wonderful woman. There is no woman who can compare favorably to her. She rocks my world. But it has not always been easy. She has loving encouraged me and sometimes had to confront me with my sin. I know I have grown spiritually because of this relationship.

But I am also owe a tremendous debt to two godly women I dated before I married. Both of them were used by God to make me into the kind of man that my wife would marry. My wife confirmed that she was also blessed with at least one such godly man. I am blessed by the way he prepared her for me.

It has been said that people live up to what you expect of them. If you act like you expect them to fail in relationships they probably will.

Maybe it is time for the Church to change our expectations of dating singles.

Many churches do an awesome job at ministering to singles. I have hopeful that the thoughts provided here will prompt some healthy discussions with the singles you serve.

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How Do You Treat Your Guests?

My wife and I took a cruise in early September to Jamica,  Cozumel,  and the Cayman Islands. 

I was stunned by the servant attitude displayed by the employees of the cruise line. 

I wondered what our Churches and small groups would be like if we had the same attitude toward our guests.

1. What if we focused on our guests experience rather than our own?

2. What if we answered our guests questions without making them feel dumb?

3. What if we learned our guests names,  interests,  and passions?

4. What if we joyfully helped our guests clean up their spiritual and physical messes and shared our own failures?

5. What if we helped our guests escape from the stress of the world and focus on the wonder of creation and the Creator we love and serve?  

6. What if our guests differences were not a source of division but instead an  invitation to a open conversation?

If we did these things,  I believe we would create a safe place for people to come back often explore a relationship with Jesus Christ. 

Brokenness or a Mask

As Christ-followers, we either walk transparently in brokenness for our sins, or in rebellion behind a mask of self righteousness and self deception.

Walking transparently in brokenness for our sins is very uncomfortable. No one wants to admit to a sin problem. We obviously all have them. We might share a generic struggle with pride,  having a bad temper, or self control as it relates to our weight.

But admitting that we habitually lie, have cheated on a spouse, struggled with pornography, or have a substance abuse issue is a different story.

We are reluctant to share our sin because we fear that others will think less of us. And sometimes our worst fears are confirmed. We share our hearts and are rejected. So we isolate ourself and we struggle and fail alone, often because we do not have a support system.

We are all broken and miss the mark. We are equally in need of redemption, healing and restoration.

Our unwillingness to be transparent is a rebellion against God’s call for us to live in community.

Our unwillingness to be transparent is a manifestation of our desire to rely on our own self righteousness rather than Christ’s.

The myth of a perfect family

There is no perfect family because none of us are perfect. But we all believe that they exist. And we are often embarrassed, sometimes even angry, that our families are so dysfunctional.

Some of us believe that we are the only one whose family has been wrecked by divorce, spousal infidelity, or sexual abuse.

We incorrectly believe that no one else but us has family members who are estranged from each other.
We believe that the drug abuse, gambling, alcoholism, mental illness, bipolar disorders, and suicidal tendencies that are in our families are statistical anomalies.

But that just is not reality.  The truth is that nearly all families are dysfunctional. Some are just better at hiding it. 

The Bible is filled with examples of dysfunctional  families.

Cain killed his brother Abel.

Noah got drunk and one of his sons reacted disrespectfully and was cast out. 

Jacob, was married to two sisters who gave him children in a  competetion for his affection. One of those children,  Joseph,  was sold into slavery by his older brothers.

Lot’s daughters got him drunk and slept with him.

Judah slept with his daughter in law who was posing as a prostitute.

Sarah convinced Abraham to sleep with her handmaiden since she had not yet conceived a child.

With the exception of Cain,  the rest of these individuals are role models in the hall of faith. 

Their dysfuctions did not define them. They ultimately found their identity in their relationship to God and so can we. 

Random Thoughts

Public Service Announcement to young married men; when someone asks you to name a ‘hot woman’ the correct answer is always ‘Your Wife’.

Know how to tell the difference between Vicks Vapor Rub and Vaseline? Apply it to a sensitive area…. Or you could just read the label.

Worrying is like sitting in a rocking chair. No matter how hard you rock back and forward you ultimately don’t go anywhere.

Whenever I hear the phrase, “a chain of unforseen circumstances”, I know it’s  going to cost me money.

Good things about migraine headaches: The pain is so severe you forget you have hemorrhoids, arthritis , depression, and paranoid delusions

9 Facts About an Unusual Wedding

A week ago, I performed a wedding ceremony that was unusual and beautiful for nine reasons.

1. It featured a couple that were each 79 years old. Both are very active, still driving, and still meeting the needs of others.

2. The woman had been widowed for 26 years, the man for about 2 years.

3. The woman was married for almost 34 years, the man was married for 56 years.

4. The man continues to take care of his mother in law after the death of her daughter, his wife.

5. This same mother in law, was used by God to get this couple together.

6. They are both deeply in love with each other. They are very secure in that love for each other.

7. They took time in the ceremony to recognize how God had blessed them with Godly spouses in their previous marriages.

8. They used their same wedding bands to remind them that God was at the center of this marriage also.

9. Finally, the most interesting fact to me – the woman is my mother. I am delighted by her choice for a spouse.

Love is not just for the young. A second chance at happiness is a beautiful thing.

Voice in my head

The voice in my head is never wrong.

I know that sounds ridiculous, and it is.

But so many of us believe that voice.

The voice inside our head starts every statement with the words, “I can’t”.

That voice tells us that we are powerless to affect lasting change in our lifes.

That voice is discouraging, demeaning, and destructive.

But that voice is, just a voice.

We can choose to embolden it, and empower it by our belief and behavior.

Or we can choose to say, “I can” and see what happens next.