Wednesday, August 3, 2011
Dealing with Serial Daters in Your Church
Today's blog is taken from Boundless Webzine, a website of Focus on the Family. Author Candice Watters offers some strict advice for a single woman inquiring about serial daters in her church, as well as advice for the church. This is a widespread issue that is often overlooked.
DEAR BOUNDLESS ANSWERS
There are several guys in my church who are known as "serial daters." They have dated several women I know, and have left broken hearts in their wake. My question is twofold: Should the church leadership address this, and how?
Also, if one of these guys were to pursue me, how should I handle it? Should I ask about their intentions right off the bat? On one hand, I understand that people may need to date several people before getting married, but on the other hand, I don't want to waste time with someone who will never commit.
Yes, the church should address this and, in another day, likely would have. Depending on where you go, it's possible they might. It's called church discipline and there are still some churches that practice it. I'm aware of an affiliation of biblically sound churches that includes church discipline as one of the "Nine Marks" of a biblical church.
According to the 9Marks website, "church discipline is the whole complex of teaching, preaching, structures, practices, and censures which clarifies acceptable behavior from that which is unacceptable for members of a local church." Drawing its authority from Scripture (Hebrews 12:5-11, Matthew 18:15-17, James 2:14-26, 1 Corinthians 5:1-13, 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15, 1 Timothy 1:20, 1 Timothy 5:19-20, Titus 3:10-11), church discipline includes both positive and negative elements. On the negative side is "warning, rebuke, admonition and excommunication." On the positive is "teaching, preaching, modeling, discipling, even implementing biblical structures of accountability in the church."
In the case of these "serial daters," I suspect church discipline might take the form of an elder or other leader approaching these young men and talking to them about the way their dating habits are defrauding the young women in the church. They might then let them know what the church expects of them: that they stop serial dating and instead, prayerfully focus on one woman with the goal being marriage. This process would be under the oversight of this or another leader or a mature Christian couple in the church.
Such top-down influence on the dating and mating habits of single men is rarely seen in our present day nearly-anything-goes, individualistic church culture. How your church handles this will say a lot about your church.
Among believers, dating relationships should be conducted with clear intentions (determining the couple's suitability for marriage), in a timely manner (no dating indefinitely for recreation alone), with oversight (either from the woman's parents or surrogate parent[s]) and with purity (no sexual activity before the wedding).
Sadly dating relationships rarely are. That doesn't mean, however, that you can't follow this biblical model on your own. Granted, it's not your job to discipline, but to guard your own heart with wisdom. You can require all of the above of any man who expresses interest in pursuing a romantic relationship with you — the serial daters included.
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