FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Dating Friendships

with Gerald Hiestand, Jay Thomas | October 17, 2014
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Is dating that beneficial? According to pastors Gerald Hiestand and Jay Thomas, not really. For Hiestand and Thomas too many people use the dating relationship to justify their sexual activity, as if "being in a relationship" makes promiscuity okay. Instead of dating, they encourage singles to establish dating friendships, getting to know someone gradually over time, and then making their intentions of marriage known before beginning to date exclusively.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Is dating that beneficial? According to pastors Gerald Hiestand and Jay Thomas, not really. For Hiestand and Thomas too many people use the dating relationship to justify their sexual activity, as if "being in a relationship" makes promiscuity okay. Instead of dating, they encourage singles to establish dating friendships, getting to know someone gradually over time, and then making their intentions of marriage known before beginning to date exclusively.

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

Gerald Hiestand and Jay Thomas say too many people use dating relationships to justify their sexual activity. Instead, they encourage singles to establish dating friendships.

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Dating Friendships

With Gerald Hiestand, Jay Thomas
October 17, 2014
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Bob: How should we think about dating or courting, as Christians?  Is there anything, biblically, that should inform us as we get together as single men and single women?  Here are some thoughts on that from Gerald Hiestand.

Gerald: The dating relationship—as we contemporarily conceive them, even in the Christian subculture—is a justification, in a lot of people’s minds, to start bringing sexual activity into that relationship that otherwise you would not. The second thing I think that we would be critical of is—it creates a false sense of security that’s not—that’s really not justified.  

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, October 17th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. We’ll talk today with authors, Jay Thomas and Gerald Hiestand, about sex, dating, and relationships—hear what they have to say on the subject. Stay tuned.


And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. I’m just wondering if our guests today have kissed dating goodbye. I guess they have, personally, because they are married. I just wonder if they are on the “Let’s kiss it goodbye” bandwagon that got rolling more than a decade ago.

Dennis: Well, I think they’ve coined a new term—maybe it’s not totally new—but they’ve coined a term called “dating friendships”; right guys? 

Jay: Yes, I don’t know if we started it.

Gerald: Sometimes, I use the word, “dourtship,”—[Laughter]—you know, dating and courtship kind of meshed together.

Dennis: Oh.

Bob: Dourtship—I don’t think anybody is going to want to sign up for dourtship. [Laughter]

Gerald: No, didn’t go over too well. 

Jay: That didn’t make it into the book.

Dennis: Well, we are joined by Gerald Hiestand and Jay Thomas again on FamilyLife Today. Both are pastors, and they have written a book called Sex, Dating, and Relationships.


And it’s really a countercultural book for singles and for parents to really equip the next generation of young people to know how to stand in some pretty stiff cultural winds.

Bob: Well, and you remember having Joshua Harris in here, more than a decade ago—

Dennis: Oh, wow— 

Bob: —right after he’d written I Kissed Dating Goodbye.

Dennis: —and he was countercultural.

Bob: Yes. So, I’m just—I’m curious—if you were sitting down with Joshua today, interacting over his book, would you say, “Way to go, man,” or would you say, “No, you took this thing too far”? [Laughter]

Jay: I think we—

Gerald: That’s a loaded question. [Laughter] 

Jay: Obviously, I think our book will get associated with his; and I think we would have a lot of agreement. I think what we tried to do with our book is to get after some of the same lifestyle considerations; but then, maybe, to draw in some of the theological reasons why it should look this way.

Gerald: And from what I understand—if I remember right—I think Josh wrote his book when he was 19. A lot of it was coming out of just like his—


Bob: Personal experience.

Gerald: —personal experience—

Bob: Sure, it was.

Gerald: —which I think was really helpful. Obviously, it resonated with a ton of people, just based on how well it sold; but yes, I think ours is maybe like a step or two before that—looking at some of the theological underpinnings that would kind of make sense of choosing that lifestyle.

Bob: Okay, so, when your kids hit the teen years—when they are 16, 17, 18—and they start to have strong feelings for a member of the opposite sex, and they do what my son did—came to me on a Saturday afternoon, and he was—I think he was a junior in high school—and he said: “Dad, please let me take this girl to the movies. I like her, and I just want to get to know her. Can I take her to the movies?” 

I’d been saying to him, all along, “Look, when you are ready to pursue a marital relationship, that’s when you are ready to date.”  Well, he wasn’t ready to pursue a marital relationship. He just liked the girl in his class.



So, when your kids come to you, at 16, and ask that question, Gerald—“Yes,” “No,” “We’ll see when the time comes,”—what’s your answer? 

Gerald: Well, I’m saying, right now, that I’m going to say what you said. So, I guess we’ll see, when the time comes, if I hold the line of it.

Bob: And by the way, let me just say, I relented. He’s married to the girl he took to the movies. So—

Gerald: Oh.

Dennis: There you go.

Gerald: It worked out.

Dennis: There you go.

Bob: Yes.

Gerald: Yes, I think, one—and this is something we spent a lot of time on, in the book, looking at—but when you think about what a dating relationship is—there is going on a date, which is what your son was talking about—that’s one sort of thing. Then, there’s a dating relationship, which is another sort of thing.

Jay and I don’t come down hard on the going on a date. We both would say, “Hey, let’s keep that in the context of pursuing a spouse,”—so, starting to date when you are 15 or 16—that doesn’t maybe make a lot of sense. But the activity of going on a date—we don’t have a problem with that if you are looking—that’s kind of a form of courtship or looking for a spouse.



Where we would get more critical is in the contemporary notions of a dating relationship and “What does that really mean when you’ve got a dating relationship?” One of the things that we would be critical of it—it tends to justify sexual activity that, otherwise, the couple would not engage in; right? 

So, you have a guy and a girl that like each other, but they are not boyfriend and girlfriend—good Christian couple in the youth group or whatever. They would not think it appropriate to just make out; but, when he asks her to be his girlfriend and she says, “Yes,”—all of a sudden, that sexual ethic, somehow, just took an arbitrary shift. Now, suddenly, they feel justified—

Bob: The passionate kiss is now—

Gerald: Yes, it’s now acceptable.

Bob: —an acceptable thing.

Dennis: It’s not only acceptable—it’s expected.

Gerald: It’s expected; right.

Dennis: The culture has made it so.

Jay: Yes.

Gerald: So, the first thing, I think, we would say is—the dating relationship, as we contemporarily conceive them—even in the Christian subculture—is a justification, in a lot of people’s minds, to start bringing sexual activity into that relationship that otherwise you would not.


The second thing, I think, that we would be critical of is—it creates a false sense of security that’s not—that’s really not justified. I mean, when you unpack it all the way down to the end—like what a dating relationship is—is essentially two people that are committed to liking each other until they don’t feel like liking each other anymore. They’ll let each other know before they’re done.

But it has all the trappings of a marriage; right?  So, the boyfriend/girlfriend—husband/wife—anniversaries / remember Valentine’s Day. If you have to break up—it is a divorce—like we make it feel like it’s a marriage. And then, so, people move their emotional furniture in. They move their—even sexual furniture in—but, in the clause itself, is: “This can end at any time for no reason at all.”  And people just aren’t—they’re not prepared for that, emotionally. They know that, intellectually; but, emotionally, they are not really prepared for that.

Jay: And it’s interesting, breakups are so painful. Why?



Because—if you’ve started to live, functionally, as a married couple—and say you’re a teenager—so, you’re emotionally not quite mature enough to handle all of that—and you break up. Well, I tell young people, “If it was a semi-marriage, you’ve just experienced a semi-divorce.”  God hasn’t designed you to have to go through that, and repeatedly, four or five times, until you find your spouse and, then, by the way, you’ve brought in a way of thinking—


Dennis: Yes.

Jay: —into that marriage—

Dennis: Right.

Jay: —where you may not end up in a divorce—but you are going across lines, probably, in low moments in your marriage that you would not have otherwise—if you had started with this all-in or all-out mentality prior to.

Bob: If your pattern was six relationships—where you got in a fight and you broke up / you got in a fight and you broke up / you got in a fight and you broke up—you get married—if you get in a fight, what’s the first impulse? 

Jay: Right.

Gerald: Yes.

Bob: You break up—something is wrong with the relationship. 

Dennis: And there are those who do attribute the high divorce rate to a culture that has grown up in these multiple dating relationships, where the only thing they know is how to toss the towel in.



Jay: Right.

Gerald: Yes.

Dennis: They don’t know how to stick it out.

Gerald: I think what we’ve done is—we’ve spent so long treating dating relationships as if they were a marriage—that, now, we are treating marriages as if they are dating relationships.

Jay: Right.

Gerald: And so, a breakup—it’s like a breakup in a marriage is like breaking up in a dating relationship. We don’t—it doesn’t carry the feel that it used to.

Dennis: Okay, I want to ask you guys to speak to a parent, right now, who is in the process of training and equipping their sons and daughters to grow up in this sexually-saturated, multi-message culture that we are in today. Give them the messaging they need to communicate to their son or daughter as they are in elementary, junior high, high school. What is the purpose of sex?  Biblically-speaking, what did God have in mind here? 

Jay: Well, I think this is a great opportunity—not only to talk about the subject itself—but, now, you get to talk about the gospel.



If Gerald and I have written this book—and a parent or a young person hasn’t gotten a clearer picture of the gospel—then, we failed.

Gerald: Yes.

Jay: In some ways, what we are doing is—we are sneaking in the gospel. We’re hoping that this translates to any issue in life, whatsoever.

Dennis: Okay. There is a parent listening to this, right now—maybe they grew up in church. They’ve got all kinds of theology in their life—maybe they don’t—and they heard you just make that statement. They are saying, “Now, what does he mean?” 

Bob: “Sneaking in the gospel.” 

Dennis: “What does he mean?” 

Bob: “Sneaking in”—that I need to ask Jesus into my heart in order to be a Christian—is that what you are saying? 

Dennis: Explain what you mean there.

Jay: So—yes, you do need to ask Jesus into your heart to become a Christian. You need to ask Him to continue to work in your heart, every day therein—and an eternity forever in heaven—continue to be seeking Christ to change us. That is the truth and the logic that affects every part of life, not least sexual purity.



We would commend to parents: “Start with that—start with that worldview where everything rotates around the core of the gospel—and then, begin to define this issue. Go back to Genesis 1 and see where the story of God’s promises begins. One of the things He does is—He creates Adam and Eve. They are in a marriage, and He talks about the image of God. Something about that marriage is going to represent what it means to be in the image of God. He calls them male and female. He brings them together. They leave / they cleave—they are together without shame.

Paul actually cites that in Ephesians 5—he quotes from Genesis, Chapter 1—talking about the logic of how Christ is reflected in a marriage—His love for the church. Now, this parent is walking with their child through the Scriptures, beginning to see the logic of a marriage, in some special way, reflects Jesus’ love for His people.



Bob: Okay, I can hear a teenager saying, “Okay, look, Gerald, you think that way because you are a pastor. I mean, you’ve been to seminary—that’s why you think that way. Nobody at my school is thinking: ‘Oh, this is a sermon about Jesus and the church. That couple that’s going together over here—they are getting married—that’s about…’—they’re just not thinking that way. So, if I am preaching that sermon, nobody’s getting it.” 

Gerald: Yes, so, I think you’re right that no one is getting it; but there is a great opportunity for them to get it as we live it out appropriately. There are certain things that we pick up, intuitively, without even explicitly understanding it. For instance—the way that I come to understand what a Heavenly Father is—is through my own father relationship. That’s where I first conceive of what a father is. Now, you tell a ten-year-old to try to make these logical connections—or even a teenager—they may not be able to make those logical connections.


However, those connections are being made in the way that they are living their life.

A husband and wife, who have come together in a way that honors God—both in their sexual relationship by abstaining from sex before marriage and then coming together in a joyous union after their marriage—that’s a preaching of the gospel that the child may not be able to make explicit / conscious connections with—but, yet, is picking up what it means for Christ to love the church and for the church to honor, and obey, and follow Christ. There is a proclamation of the gospel that is going on there, even if the explicit connections are not clear to people—it’s still there.

Jay: Yes, and isn’t it often the case that an unbeliever notices the lifestyle of a faithful disciple? 

Bob: Yes.

Jay: And they may not put all the theological pieces together—of course, they couldn’t—but they begin to ask that person: “So, what’s the deal?  What’s going on in your life that you live this way?”  Now, you can bring the verbal interpretation of it.



You’ve adorned the gospel with your lifestyle. Now, you can tell the gospel. Not only is this healthy for the young person—it’s telling the right things about who God is and what God does—but it’s a great evangelism opportunity.

Gerald: And this is what makes sense of all sexual ethics because, when you think about a husband and wife relationship being a picture of Christ and the church—and now, suddenly, it’s clear why God hates divorce because what you are doing is you’re taking the picture of Christ and the church and you’re tearing it apart. Infidelity in marriage—like: “What’s the problem with infidelity?” 

Dennis: Right.

Gerald: You’re painting a picture of Christ, who is being unfaithful to the church, or the church being unfaithful to Christ. I mean, you can carry this out into polygamy and homosexuality—that our sexuality was created, by God, specifically, from the beginning, to function as a picture of Christ and the church when we come together as husband and wife / male and female.

Dennis: And it was designed to be expressed in one union—

Gerald: Yes.


Dennis: —with one man / one woman for a lifetime.

Gerald: Because that’s the only kind of union that reflects the solidarity of Christ’s one-spirit relationship with the church. Any other use of our sexuality comes outside the purpose for which it was created, which is why it becomes destructive. That’s why Jay and I are so committed to calling for the use of sexuality only in the context of the marriage relationship because that’s where it was created to be used. To use it outside of that—whether it’s extramarital/premarital—it doesn’t function in the way that God designed it to function.

Dennis: Given that lofty picture, you go back to the statistics that you mentioned earlier—that 80 percent of Christian singles are having sex—and yet, that same group that took the survey, 75 percent of them said it was wrong. The issue is: “What in the world is taking place here?”

I just have to read a passage of Scripture because this cuts through the fog— 


—1 Thessalonians 4, verse 3—and I’ll read a couple of verses here: “For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God…” Why is this area so evergreen?—in terms of every generation seems to fall off the cliff?! 

Gerald: Yes, and I think this gets back to what we were talking about in the previous time we were together—where people will read that—hear you read that verse and say: “Well, as long as I’m not having sex, then, I’m adhering to what that verse is about. I’m living that verse.”  That’s really where we’ve dropped the ball, as evangelicals, I think.


I mean, over the last 50/60 years, we have redefined sexual immorality so narrowly to just mean: “Just don’t have sexual intercourse.” We’ve opened up the door to all sorts of sexual immorality—that stops short of sexual intercourse—but is still, nonetheless, sexual immorality and, then, have wondered why things are just in such disarray.

Bob: So, you’d put passionate kissing—

Gerald: I would.

Bob: —outside of marriage in that verse—

Gerald: Yes.

Bob: —that’s sexual immorality.

Gerald: Yes, and I want to be sensitive here. I want to acknowledge that a passionate kiss is not going to have the same consequence in one’s life as premarital sex. I mean, there’s a continuum there; but a lustful thought is sexual immorality. It doesn’t have the same consequences, but it’s still sexual immorality. A passionate kiss is sexual immorality if it’s outside the bounds of the marriage relationship. So, yes, I think we just need to call it what it is. We need to acknowledge that it’s sexual, and we need to say that that belongs in the marriage relationship. When it’s not, you’ve moved into the realm of sexual immorality.

Bob: You know—I can imagine a teenager, who would ask the question: “Okay; so I understand what you are saying.



“So, how come these feelings start to emerge in me so long before I can act on them?”  And interestingly, in listening to Dennis read 1 Thessalonians 4, it’s so that I can learn self-control, which is going to be a lesson I’m going to need to learn throughout my life; right?” 

Jay: Yes. I think it’s important—again, let’s come to Peter, my oldest—to say: “The feelings are normal; okay?  You can’t choose the feelings, but you can choose whether you act upon them in a way that’s inappropriate. You are learning this wonderful lesson of entrusting God with those feelings and any other temptation you might have.” We walk with them through that; and at the same time, saying: “You are a sexual being. Lord willing, one day, He is going to bring a godly woman to you; but until then, learn to trust Jesus.



“He will give the Holy Spirit to you to help you in this. You’re not left alone. This isn’t God being cruel with you; but part of walking with Christ is depending upon Him, moment by moment, and asking for the moment-by-moment help of the Holy Spirit.” 

Dennis: Your book, Sex, Dating, and Relationships, is really a great book to cause a parent to think about “What do I believe about this area?” and “What will be the truth I will pass on to my kids?” 

You guys don’t know this, but I finished what could be the sequel to your book. It’s called Aggressive Girls, Clueless Boys. It’s from Proverbs, Chapter 5, verse 7—trying to help parents realize they’ve got to have some conversations with their daughters to keep them from being seduced by the world in terms of how they think about using their sexuality—



—and how they’ve got to have a number of conversations with their sons to talk to their sons about what will happen—not only when they’re 12, 13, 14, 15—and by the way, folks, it’s happening at even younger and younger ages—where girls are being aggressive, sexually, with boys. 

But this issue that we are talking about here—this is a lifelong issue. I’m in my sixties, for goodness sake, and it’s still an issue for me: Will my head be turned?  Will I cave into lust?  By the grace of God, I have been faithful to my wife Barbara. You know what that brings me?  It brings me life, and I think it brings my adult children life. I think it brings my legacy—my grandchildren—life. Our lives can be a doorway through which sin gains entrance into our family.



What you guys have put together here is really a great exhortation for singles, parents, teens—people of all ages—to think, biblically, about our sexuality and how we are going to keep that passion under the control of the Holy Spirit.

Bob: Yes. I have to tell you—when the book first came out, I got copies. I sent one to my son, who was, at that time, a senior in college; and I sent one to my other son, who was a freshman in college. I know, when they got it, they both thought, “Okay, here we go—another book from Dad.”  But they both read it, and they both said they liked it. In fact, my oldest son said, “Honestly, I don’t like it that much, but I can’t argue with it.”  I mean, it was really influential in both of their lives as they interacted with young women.

So, a couple of thumbs-up from my sons—and the truth is they are not alone.



Joe Stowell, at Cornerstone University, said that you guys are providing, in this book, a realistic and theologically-astute perspective on the subject. That’s a pretty nice endorsement.

We have copies of the book, Sex, Dating, and Relationships, in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. You can go, online, to order a copy—go to Click the link at the top of the page that says, “GO DEEPER.” Look for the title of the book, Sex, Dating, and Relationships: A Fresh Approach. Again, the website——click the link that says, “GO DEEPER,” at the top of the page; or you can call to order the book, 1-800-FL-TODAY—1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY.” 

If you have younger children—children who are headed toward adolescence but aren’t quite there yet—you ought to start planning now to take advantage of our Passport2Purity® resource. Take them away for a weekend, where you can prepare them for what’s coming up in the teen years.



You can start talking about these subjects before your kids’ hormones have kicked in.

We have information on the website at about Passport2Purity. Again, go to Click the link that says, “GO DEEPER,” at the top of the page. You can order from us, online; or you can find out more about the Passport2Purity resource. Again, the website,; and our toll-free number is 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY.” 

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And we hope you have a great weekend. Hope you and your family are able to worship together this weekend, and I hope you can join us back on Monday. We’re going to talk about manhood. Actually, we’re going to hear some thoughts about that from pastor and author, Matt Chandler. He’s got some great things to say about what authentic biblical manhood is all about. I hope you can be here for that.

I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We’ll see you back Monday for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

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