What’s Wrong With Missionary Dating?
About the Guest
Pastor Deepak Reju, author of "She's Got the Wrong Guy," talks about what happens when Christian women date men who aren't believers or are new believers. While "evange-dating" seems like a compassionate and faith-inspired thing to do, it sends mixed messages. If a young man does convert, will it be an act of faith or to get the girl? Reju delves into the reasons why it's not wise to be unequally yoked, and why Christians are to only marry in the Lord.
Deepak RejuDeepak Reju, MDiv, PhD, serves as the pastor of biblical counseling and families at Capitol Hill Baptist Church (CHBC) in Washington, DC, as well as president for the board of directors of the Biblical Counseling Coalition. He is the author of several books and articles, including Great Kings of the Bible, The Pastor and Counseling, and On Guard: Preventing and Responding to Child Abuse at Church. Deepak and his wife Sarah have five children.
Deepak Reju talks about what happens when Christian women date men who aren’t believers. Reju delves into the reasons why it’s not wise to be unequally yoked, and why Christians are to only marry in the Lord.
What’s Wrong With Missionary Dating?
Bob: If you were thinking seriously about marrying someone and that person said to you “There are a few parts of my past that I’d just like to keep hidden from you until after we’re married,”—would you be willing to go forward knowing that? Here’s Deepak Reju.
Deepak: In advising singles as they have those conversations about engagement, and potentially getting engaged and getting married, we have categories of conversations they need to have before they put the ring on the finger. One of them is the foolishness from their past. They need to have an honest conversation about what things that they’ve done, so you know the person you’re marrying. No surprises in marriage.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, February 5th. Our host is Dennis Rainey. I'm Bob Lepine. We’re going to talk today about how to be smart during your dating years so that you don’t wind up in a marriage that is full of all kinds of surprises. Deepak Reju joins us. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us.
If you had a daughter who was still single—One of your daughters stayed single into her early thirties, right?
Dennis: That’s right. It was a big deal.
Bob: It was a big—were you coaching her on what she needed to do and not do, and how not to settle? What advice were you giving her—as a father—along the way?
Dennis: I was praying for her. I was putting my arm around her, telling her to hang in there—that not all the good guys are taken—and it turned out I was right. [Laughter] They’ve now been married two years and have had a great start to their marriage—because she didn’t settle—she didn’t lower her standards.
Bob: Were there times along the way when you wondered if she was going to lower the bar and dive in?
Dennis: Oh yes, like the guy she was dating—I’ll never forget this. She lived near Washington D.C. at the time and I met this guy. I asked him about their relationship. I didn’t really put it to him about are you making any kind of commitments. I just said, “What are you thinking about this relationship?”
Bob: You were asking for a DTR.
Dennis: No, I really wasn’t because at that age you have to be careful with your daughter.
Bob: You do have to be careful, yes.
Dennis: But he said, “Well, I just kind of want the relationship to be organic. [Laughter]
I thought, “I think vegetables are organic not human beings.” [Laughter]
Bob: We’re going to spray some pesticide on this relationship real quick.
Dennis: Well, it’s funny now. We have a counselor with us—a biblical counselor—a pastoral biblical counselor from Washington D.C. Deepak Reju joins us again on FamilyLife Today.
I’m impressed you came back after yesterday. We threw you some really tough hot potatoes.
Deepak: Well, glad to do it.
Dennis: He is the author of She’s Got the Wrong Guy subtitled Why Smart Women
Deepak: Some people just dropped out of their chair when they heard that. [Laughter]
Dennis: Why Smart Women Settle. Why they lower the bar. I’ve got some areas I want to talk about today. I’m going to tell you what they are. Number one, I want you to talk to women who are dating men who are not Christians. Not right now; in a minute. Secondly, talk to women who are dating men who are new believers—new followers of Christ—and what your concerns or warnings might be for them. Third—women who are dating men who are pressuring them sexually—how should they handle that—because that’s become normative in the single culture it seems to me across the country. Alright, let’s go back to the first one.
Deepak: Okay, so women who are dating unbelievers.
Deepak: Here’s the problem—a lot of women will choose what we’ll call “evangedating.”
Dennis: I had not heard that. [Laughter] We called it missionary dating when I was in college.
Deepak: Yes, evangedating—which means you’re mixing evangelism with dating. That’s a problem because it confuses your evangelism and your feelings for the guy. It becomes hard to decipher. Am I there to just get him converted so that I actually can have a husband? That’s her side. On his side, do I need to convert in order to get the girl? So that the scary part about that is if he does profess faith, is he doing it for himself—or is he doing it because he knows this is what I need to do to get the girl. Whether it’s the parents who are saying this—she is saying this.
We had a dear friend—one of my wife’s closest friends—who had gone into her 30’s and hadn’t gotten married and her husband had met her at their place of employment. She appropriately—after he had expressed an interest—invited him to church. So he comes, and he hears—it was on the prophets—the sermon is on the minor prophets. He hears three weeks of judgment. One of the signs that this might have been real is he loved it, actually—it didn’t scare him away.
Instead of her answering all of his questions, she helped him get into a relationship with a man in the church who started mentoring him—
Deepak: —getting in the Word with him—leading him to Christ. But here is the key—like after he professed faith, was he then just going to focus on the girl? He got past the finish line. He’s now going to pursue her towards marriage.
Or am I seeing him actually engage with other men—attending the church—studying the Bible for himself? Or am I seeing a drop-off? He professes faith. He takes a shower. He comes to church with me, but that’s it. That’s enough to get across the altar.
Dennis: Deepak, we’ve done some broadcasts here on FamilyLife Today on the topic of spiritually mismatched couples. I think that’s really the result of someone who may have got caught up in a dating relationship with someone who wasn’t a follower of Christ, fell in love with them. Then quote unquote got them converted. Then they moved into the marriage and then, the wife finds out he’s not in the same spiritual game that she’s in.
Deepak: Oh yes. How many stories have I heard where it’s a young woman who had met a guy—say at work or at a party or something.
He’s a non-Christian, yet he expresses interest. He’s kind to her. He cares for her well. They have a fun time together. He’s attractive and none of the guys at church are expressing any interest in her.
Deepak: So she immediately feels the pull of “Finally, here’s a guy.” And yet all the things about him are at least half decent. Then she gets into the relationship and over the course of time she grows emotionally attached.
Dennis: I just want to say half decent is not a reason to get married.
Deepak: Okay, well that’s right. [Laughter] What you’ll see is she gets emotionally attached to him and all the things she’d always thought she’d do—marry a Christian man, establish a Christian home, raise children in their faith—they start to compromise all of that. You start being willing to let go of things—especially as that emotional attachment gets stronger and stronger and stronger. Some of your convictions you’re willing to begin to let slide so that—you know the evangedating is dreadful.
I’ve got a friend who says if it’s clear in Scripture—1 Corinthians 7:39—where it speaks about only marrying in the Lord. Everybody quotes 2 Corinthians 6, being unequally yoked, as the main text for this conversation—and it is—it’s a part of the conversation. Yet when you look at what apostle Paul is doing in that text, he’s primarily talking about—in 2 Corinthians 6—about the false teachers who are going against the church and talking about false alliances we have with unbelievers.
So a secondary implication of that text is not being paired with an unbelieving man—so unequally yoked— Picture two animals who are yoked—that harness that’s on them and they’re both pulling the plow. Can a cow pull the plow, or an ox, with a rabbit? [Laughter] No, that doesn’t work! You can just picture that. That’s not the way it’s supposed to work.
Bob: Well even if it’s a strong ox with a wounded or a weak ox, you’re going to be plowing in circles for a long time.
Deepak: Yes, so that text helps us to see—you’re not supposed to be unequally yoked—but 1 Corinthians 7:39 just makes it really clear—you’re only to marry in the Lord.
That’s true but a lot of single women right now are going to be saying “There are no Christian guys who are expressing interest in me. So this is my best chance at this—to evangedate—to go ahead and try to convince a non-Christian man what he needs to believe so that I can finely get married.”
Bob: Deepak, I have sat across the table from young women in these relationships and I have said to them “I want you to imagine. It’s five years into the future and you’re married and you have kids—and you want to take them to church. Your husband says ‘Fine, I’m not going.’”
I want you to imagine that’s your experience week in and week out and just say, “Are you going to be okay with that—because that’s what the trajectory you’ve got going on here is.” And it does help them—I think—to forecast what that unequal yoking is going to be like if they pursue this relationship, and the bitter fruit that’s going to come from that.
Deepak: Well, yes, and so every time she pulls out of the parking lot and drives to church with her children by herself—every time she has to open up the Bible and read to them where her husbands in the other room without any interest—every time she feels like she wants to have a good conversation with her kids about an issue and yet her husband is not leading spiritually in the family. She doesn’t see those implications. And yet, we’ve seen them—time and time again—where you make that choice now, you shouldn’t be surprised.
Now I’m going to have some women who will come to me and say “Well the ends justify the means. I can point to the one situation where—
Dennis: —where it worked.
Deepak: —where it worked,” and said, “That’s going to be me.” I said, “There’s no way I can guarantee that.”
Deepak: “There’s no way you can guarantee that that’s going to be the case.” More often than not, it’s the other way just like you described, Bob, where the guy is not showing the spiritual leadership that she needs to raise a Christian family.
Dennis: And that’s not what single women, ultimately, are looking for.
Let’s talk about the second question, okay? You believe it’s dangerous to begin seriously dating a new believer. The way I would say it is “Single women need to be aware and have knowledge of a spiritual track record of the young man they’re dating. It’s very important.” Somebody has said “The best measure of what a man can do is what a man has done.” Single women need to take heed and be careful about dating new believers.
Deepak: Yes, well the track record is really important because that history is going to tell you a lot about who it is you’re marrying.
The disparity between often a mature Christian woman and that young believer is going to show up quickly in a marriage. Because here it is, we’re asking men to lead in their families yet if you choose to marry a brand-new convert, he’s still trying to figure out what Christianity is, and how to actually be a faithful Christian. Yet he’s faced with all kinds of important decisions.
It wouldn’t be surprising that a young woman gets frustrated because she’s grown up in the faith. Maybe she grew up in a Christian home—maybe she’s been in the Bible for years and she understands what a mature decision would look like—and yet she’s tied herself to a man who isn’t wise enough yet to make that mature decision—because he just hasn’t had a chance to grow up in the faith.
Dennis: So what’s that look like? How many years does a man need to be a follower of Christ? What should a woman be looking for in terms of experience of the young man?
Deepak: Well she should be looking for a guy who is converted—
—a guy who is committed to studying the Word, to being discipled, to be committed to a local church—all those things set a right trajectory. But the struggle with dating a guy who’s a brand-new convert is he hasn’t fallen in love Jesus. He hasn’t had time enough to do that—to get his bearings—yet to know then how to lead someone else in falling in love with Jesus.
So William—who was a brand-new convert in our church—he’d had a radical conversion. He’d had a difficult past behind that and as he’s coming to our church, he takes an interest in Lauren. Lauren’s a godly woman. She’s in campus ministry. She’s actually having a very fruitful evangelistic ministry on campus.
So William goes to his discipling mentor and asks, “Can I date Lauren?” This is very early on in his conversion. His mentor said “Not yet—six months. Six months you need to focus on your relationship with Christ.
You need to dig into the Word. Be faithful at church. Get discipled. You need to get some grounding before you can take care of someone else.” So—
Bob: Now wait. Are you telling me at your church I’ve got to get permission from somebody to date somebody else?
Deepak: Well, no, no, no. It’s not permission. [Laughter] It’s not permission.
Deepak: It’s not permission, but it wouldn’t be surprising that if you have an older godly mentor who you trust—who’s been pouring into you—you’re going to go to him and say, “Is this a wise decision?”
Bob: Yes, that’s good.
Deepak: That’s what I want. I don’t want singles out there trying to figure it out on their own. If they’re a part of a church, they want older people who are in the faith, who they trust, to actually help them sort through these decisions. So six months to the day when William went to Mark and asked, “Can I date her?” and he said, “Wait six months.” he returned and said, “Can I do it now?” And he said “Yes.”
Because William had done exactly that—he had come to church, he’d been in the Word, he grew up in his faith. Six months isn’t the marker, but the point is William had to take some time to grow up in his faith before he could take responsibility for somebody else.
Dennis: I love the wisdom of that story and what it points out in a young man. And if a young lady has a guy like that pursuing her, you’re likely close to finding the right guy. I mean there’s no way to guarantee what’s going to happen in a marriage relationship—
Deepak: That’s right.
Dennis: —but someone who shows that kind of wisdom prior to asking the question and making the commitment, it’s a big deal.
Bob: I’ve said to young women before “You need to know if his love for Jesus is still there if you’re not in the picture.”
Deepak: Yes, that’s right.
Bob: Because I’ve met the guys who are like “No, I am spiritually interested. I like the church and all of this,” but in the back of their mind it’s like “What I really like is you.” It’s pretty clear to me. I remember when I met my girlfriend who is now my wife.
She was more spiritually mature than I was—it was pretty clear. We had our first face to face conversation and I said to her “So, tell me about guys you’ve dated”—which I shouldn’t have been asking on the first date but, anyway, it wasn’t’ a date. We were just talking. She said, “There was this one guy, but you know” she said, “he just did not lead the relationship spiritually.” I said to her, “Oh yes, that’s too bad.” I’m thinking to myself, “I have no idea what that means, [Laughter] what she just said. But it’s clear—
Dennis: But I know I’m going to find out!
Bob: I’m going to figure that out if I want any—" You know what—it put a challenge in me. I had to figure this out. But I could have just as easily been one of these “Oh yes, yes” and had her snowed by a false attraction to Jesus that was really just an attraction to say, “If this is the guy you want me to be for the next six months, I’ll do this and then I’ll revert back to the old patterns after we’re married.”
Deepak: Yes. Well, so that story I told earlier about the young woman whose boyfriend had come and heard the judgment sermons and converted, at some point as they’re dating, she said to me “How do I know that this is the real thing?” I said “Well only the Lord knows his heart, but we can ask him some questions. So go to him and ask him ‘If I die today, what are you going to be doing in five years in your spiritual life?’”
And he said, “This relationship with Jesus is not because of you.” He said, “In five years, I’m going to be in this church. I’m going to be growing in faith. I’m going to be trusting the Lord. So if you want to come along that’s fine.” That gave her a lot more confidence to say “Okay, it’s not just about me.”
Dennis: Okay, let’s go to the—we’ve got to get to the third question. What about the young lady who is dating a guy and he is all about sex?
Deepak: Get rid of him right now! Just do not do that! So here it is—we know that God’s Word is clear about premarital sex.
Dennis: Is what He said clear Bob? [Laughter]
Bob: I think, I think—
Dennis: Would you like to interpret what he just said?
Bob: You can delete his—you can unfriend him on Facebook. You can delete his number from your phone and block all the text messages, right?
Deepak: So here it is—that guy is already showing that he is not willing to live by God’s Word.
Deepak: Because premarital sex is really clear in the Bible that that’s wrong. If a guy is going to keep leading you into sin, why would you stay with him? Because that’s going to be no different when you get into marriage—in terms of the kind of leadership he’s going to demonstrate. The thing we need to keep in mind is the compromises that a man will make in dating, it shouldn’t be surprising that you’re going to find those same kind of compromises—either that or something else within marriage.
Bob: Well, in fact, you’re probably going to find those compromises multiplied in marriage because we put on our best behavior when we’re dating. Once we’re married, it’s like “Now I can show the real me because you’re stuck with me.”
So whatever you’re seeing the tip of now, the iceberg is underneath it, right?
Deepak: Yes, and so there’s going to be some single women right now who are in that relationship who are struggling with that. The first and foremost thing I want to say is that—if you’ve struggled with premarital sex and you feel guilt and shame over that—Jesus has forgiven you. You can come to the cross and—right now—the blood of Christ can wash away all that sin.
You do not have to persist in compromising your relationship in order to keep the guy—which is one of these lies that women can hold on to: “If I don’t actually participate in a sexual relationship with this guy, he’s not going to stick around.” Well that’s not the kind of guy you want to keep for the rest of your life!
Dennis: Okay, I want to say a word to the women—single women who are being pressured right now. Listen to me. Deepak has given you some great advice.
The reason is a man who doesn’t know how to serve you by denying himself before marriage, will not know how—after marriage—to give up himself for his wife after marriage.
The nature of the cross of Jesus Christ is surrender—it is death to self. And you know what? That is the key to a great marriage. It’s two imperfect people who have surrendered to the One who will teach them how to love, how to forgive, and how to go the distance in a marriage relationship.
This is one of the hours we spend at the Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway where singles, pre-marrieds come and get advice from our speakers. I think one of the needs is to be able to present a standard, with compassion—talking about the forgiveness of Christ—that we are washed clean by Him. But there still is a standard, and it’s really important, and it is going to impact your future. If nothing else, someday your kids may ask.
Deepak: Can we say to encouragement for the single women who are living by the standard and fighting for it. Don’t stop.
Bob: That’s right.
Dennis: I agree.
Deepak: Because all the pressure of the culture is pressing in on you right now to actually give up that standard. And yet that’s a beautiful thing in the eyes of God.
Bob: Let me say to the guys who want to get a copy of your book, She’s Got the Wrong Guy and I’m saying the guys. Don’t you agree?
Bob: Because guys would really do well to read this book.
Dennis: And I think the daddies of the daughters and the daddies of the guys need to get a copy of the book and go over it with your son or the young man who is dating your daughter.
Bob: We’ve got copies of the book in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com and look for She’s Got the Wrong Guy: Why Smart Women Settle by Deepak Reju. Or you can call to order at 1-800-FL-TODAY. That’s 1-800-358-6329. Again, our website is FamilyLifeToday.com.
The tollfree number—1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word “TODAY.” Look for the book, She’s Got the Wrong Guy.
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And we hope you can be back with us again tomorrow when we’re going to talk about the red flags single women ought to be looking for when they’re dating somebody, thinking about possibly getting married. Deepak Reju will be with us again tomorrow. Hope you can be with us as well.
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 next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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