Monthly Archives

April 2018

Why Believing In ‘The One’ Is Very Overrated

Church Dating Culture

People in and outside the church still believe in ‘the One’. Many Christians think that God will one day lead them to the person perfectly designed for them, and everything will then be easy and simple going forwards. But this idea robs us of so much. It can also leave us feeling hurt and let down by God. I think it’s a myth, and it needs replacing with a better vision.

(The following extract is taken from page 23-25 of The Dating Dilemma book, read the introduction for free.)

We often hear Christian couples talking about their relationships in super-spiritual ways: ‘Looking back, we just knew’; ‘God told me that the next person I saw would be my marriage partner’; ‘My previous relationship had been a disaster, but this time it felt so easy – no arguments. It just felt right, so we knew God was in it.’

This can convince us that we will know automatically who we need to marry.

I Found ‘The One’, Several Times

Soon after I became a Christian, I felt that God had chosen one of the girls at the church to be my future wife. I prayed really hard, and then, I thought, came the revelation that we would start dating in six months.

Naturally, I praised God! But as you may have guessed, not only did I not go out with her; she went out with someone else. But it was OK, because around the same time I thought God was telling me that I had heard wrong, and that there was in fact another girl he had chosen to be ‘the one’.

What was going on? God is a good God after all

But that relationship didn’t work out either. So what was going on? God is a good God after all, and wanting to find someone is natural, so why was he not making it happen? Wasn’t he supposed to make it easier for me?

One Story V. Thousands

Sometimes, God may like to intervene with details of who someone should marry. We heard the story of a woman whose grandma told her that she would meet her husband in the next two months. So she ditched her current boyfriend, and met and married this new man.

It has worked out well for her, but for every story like this there are hundreds, if not thousands, where deciding whether or not a hunch is God’s guidance has been more difficult or totally disastrous.

They wondered whether they really had heard from God

Martin and Amy both felt God had given them clear signs that they should be together, so they started dating, but it was all over in three months. Sally and Keith married after an intense whirlwind romance. It felt so good that it must have been from God. But years later, with very little in common and struggling even to sleep in the same bed, they wondered whether they really had heard from God.

Where does this leave ‘the one’ idea?

Rachel And Jason

[Rachel said:] Once I had talked to Jason about my concerns about how we would ever know if we were each ‘the one’ destined by God for the other, we began to see how exciting our relationship could be. (Read Why I chose to reject finding ‘The One’)

You see, if I thought Jason was mine by some cosmic design and then things went wrong, the only logical conclusion was that we were not destined for each other and we were missing out on God’s best for us. Once we both realised that we had married each other not just for our own sake, but for each other’s, we began to find ways to invest in each other and build our relationship.

It’s Overrated 

I came to understand that holding on to ‘the one’ belief robbed me of something. I was putting my faith in the plan, instead of the God who holds time and space in his hands.

I was sitting back and waiting for things to happen, rather than drawing close to God and discerning what he wanted me to do next. It wasn’t a girl that would make sense of my life, but a deepening relationship with God.

When it comes to God’s plan for your life, we believe that the idea of ‘the one’ isn’t good enough.

  • It doesn’t help you if you are heartbroken and think your mistakes have robbed you of God’s plan for your life.
  • It doesn’t help you if you are dating but waiting for a sign from God, instead of working on the relationship.
  • It doesn’t help you if you are married and struggling through difficult times.
  • It doesn’t help you if you are single and feel your life is on hold until you find your ‘destined’ someone.

God’s plan for your life isn’t dependent on your dating status, which means that your capacity to live life to the full isn’t limited by it either. God can do anything in and through us, at any time and in any way! (Read Why I Chose To Think Differently About My Relationship)

(Read the introduction of The Dating Dilemma book for free now, or buy the book here.)

Imagine If…

Imagine if we stopped putting our faith in a myth that leads to so much confusion, hurt and disappointment. Imagine if we learned to be intentional in our search for love, in our romantic relationships, and in our relationship with God. And learned how to be involved in building something worth having, and finding fulfillment in this better vision. (Read Who Else Wants Great Relationships? Why Dating Well Still Matters)

Do you think ‘the One’ idea is overrated? Comments welcomed below. 

Originally posted 30/4/2018

Who Else Wants Great Relationships? Why Dating Well Still Matters

Church Dating Culture, What The Bible Says

‘Dating can be better than it is’. This idea and belief has driven me, my thinking and what I do for nearly 10 years. I still think that dating is meant to be enjoyable, but we also need to be intentional and think about our attitudes and approaches. Not to take the fun out of it, but so we can work through the hard times and make the good times more frequent and long-lasting. 

I’ve been researching, writing, teaching, and preaching about dating in one way or another since 2009. I delivered a talk recently to a group of young adults about relationships. Because I’ve done it so many times, and do it so often, I can forget that many people are hearing teaching on dating for the first time.

I was talking about how God wants to bless our relationships and be involved as we date. He wants it to be fun, respectful, fulfilling, and if it goes wrong he is still involved and interested. It was great to see them getting excited and knowing God is relevant and cares about dating.

God wants to transform the way we see and approach dating

Someone the other day asked me why I do this stuff. Why I deliver these talks and do the work I do. My mind was taken back to what I wrote in one of the introductory pages of the book I co-wrote, The Dating Dilemma.

Back then I thought, and still do think, that God wants to transform the way we see and approach dating. So we can do it in a way that can bring real and authentic connections with others. The book I wrote, and the work I do, is all about that.

I still think it’s amazing that I get to be part of what God is doing in this area.

(The following extract is taken from page 32-33 of The Dating Dilemma book, read the introduction for free.)

Dating Differently 

Throughout history, Christians have always stood out in the way they treat other people: whether it was Jesus treating women with respect, or the early church treating slaves with dignity, God has always asked his people to live lives radically different from the society around them.

His desire for us to be selfless in our love and committed in our relationships is unchanging. No shift in culture will ever change it.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus. (Philippians 2:3–5)

It’s because we seek to be Christ-like in our relationships that the church teaches how to be a selfless parent, husband, wife, neighbour, son, daughter, boss, employee, friend. It’s time to add ‘Christ-like boy/girlfriend’ to that list too.


What concerns us with the ‘Christian dating’ we’re seeing is the lack of guidelines. Do you feel this too?

Well, we’re seeking to change that! At the heart of this book is our desire to see you approach dating from a God-perspective that will change everything: how you feel about dating, how you date and even where your dating leads.

This is a biblical approach to dating that we can celebrate

It’s a bold claim, but did you notice that we didn’t promise that you’ll get married or be dating within the month? No-one can promise anyone that their special someone is just around the corner. It’s an empty promise. It might already ring hollow for you.

So we’re not promising that.

What we are promising is to help you be credible, intentional and selfless in your attitude and actions. We believe this is a biblical approach to dating that we can celebrate and practice in the twenty-first century. (Read How To Tell If Our Relationships Are Thriving.)

New Perspective

As we said, this is a book about dating, not marriage. We want to help you value dating in and of itself. It is linked to marriage, but we can glorify God and grow as people through our dating experiences. We’re going to explore together what dating God’s way could look like for you.

Often when we go through hard times in life (at home, work or university), we are quick to see how God can use it to bring us closer to him and to grow us as a person. So why would this not be the same with challenges we face in dating relationships?

Imagine if we all reminded each other that dating differently is better

Why would God not want to help us learn more about ourselves and him through these key relationships in our lives? Should we just say, ‘Next time will be different’, and never reflect on what went wrong? (Read 2 Strategies for Surviving The Changing World Of Dating.)

(Read the introduction of The Dating Dilemma book for free now, or buy the book here.)

Imagine If…

I learnt a long time ago that God is doing a lot of amazing things to transform our society’s dating culture. I’m not the only one doing it, but I’m grateful to be part of it.

Imagine if we all reminded each other that dating differently is better and encouraged each other to date well, and this doesn’t take the fun out of it. Rather, it can create relationships we all crave. God’s love, grace, and purposes can have a real impact. I still believe that. (Read Why I Told Joshua Harris To Redeem Rather Than Reject Dating)

Have you ever thought about how God could transform our dating culture? Comments welcomed below 

Originally posted 23/4/2018

2 Strategies for Surviving The Changing World Of Dating

Finding A Date, Healthy Relationship Rhythms

Dating can be exciting, fun, scary, and confusing. This is partly because the dating culture is always changing. But the way people find someone to commit to and build a romantic relationship has changed for each generation, knowing how to adapt and thrive is vital. Which is why avoiding instant gratification and avoiding minimal effort is needed. 

The way people find romantic partners has changed over the last few decades, and it’s still changing.

For example, a few decades ago people had to meet face to face. They had to learn how to make small talk and go up to a guy or girl and start talking. The younger guys probably had to also drive over to her parents’ house and meet her parents and pick her up.

If you go back even further, to the time of courtship, there would have been chaperones joining the couple on their romantic meetings. These couples would have only started to meet up after their parents had agreed to it.

Romance Never Changes

8 out of 10 millennials still think true romance is important

However, despite the changes in our culture, people’s need for romance has not changed. Some research suggests that 8 out of 10 millennials still think true romance is important. And most teenagers and 20-25 year-olds still want to get married.

In other words, dating may be changing, but people still want to find a romantic relationship. They date in order to find someone and fall in love. Even if love has had a digital revamp!


We could talk forever about the many different influences on the dating culture and their effects, but technology has been a big factor.

The digital age means we now have access to millions of people all over the world because of the internet and social media. This means we can connect with more like-minded people, even though this can also be overwhelming (Read One Big Reason Why Dating Feels Overwhelming).

But it also means people don’t need to make initial contact face to face. Dating apps and websites mean you meet online, start chatting online, and then maybe meet up later on.

Just like when we order stuff online, or want to check something out, we can just take out our phones or tablets and instantly get what we want with minimal effort.

This has negatively affected the way we date.

Instant Gratification

We are now used to getting what we want instantly. Technology, phones, and gadgets mean we can get things instantly that 50 years ago people had to wait hours or days for. Emails have replaced slow letters. Microwaves have replaced slower oven cooking. Bank transfers have replaced slow cheques.

One strategy to navigate dating is to remember relationships take time

When it comes to dating, people can have the same expectation. They can think that dating is meant to quickly lead to love and a strong relationship. But that takes time. No amount of technology can speed up the process of building a relationship. Ask anyone who had been married or dated for years, and they will tell you it builds up slowly over time, not on day one.

One strategy to navigate dating is to remember that relationships take time. Technology may be able to get us a date quickly and help us find articles and tips on how to date. But building a relationship is never instant.

In order to thrive, we need to remember that it takes time.

Minimal Effort

Not only is technology making things quicker, but it also makes things easier.

We no longer need to leave the house to get our shopping. We no longer need to go to the library to get information. We no longer need to plan as much, an app will bring a taxi to us or show us where to go with minimal thought from us.

We can end up approaching relationships in the same way too. Thinking that minimal effort will bring what we want. But while dating is meant to be fun, it’s hard work, and two imperfect people need to be intentional, compromise, and build something together.

Relationships take work and minimal effort will lead to people getting hurt

Our strategy has to remind us of this: relationships take work, and minimal effort will lead to people getting hurt and cause the relationship to be weak. That approach will ultimately not fulfil our desires.

New Phase 

A date can now be a chat over skype, or a 30-minute chat in a coffee shop (I wouldn’t suggest this though, Read What Should We Do On A First Date?). It looks very different to 20, even 10 years ago.

Dating is changing and seems to be more fluid. The boundaries seem more blurred than ever sometimes and people don’t always like to label a relationship.

But in order to thrive in this environment, we need to be prepared to be intentional. To think about who we are and the kind of person we want to commit to. Our best strategy would be remembering that building a strong and stable relationship takes time and work. Technology can never change that.

Anything in life worth having takes work, romance is no exception.

Imagine If…

Imagine if we embraced the changing world of dating in a way that didn’t lead us towards unrealistic expectations. If we used the benefits of things like technology but remembered it takes work and time to build the relationship we truly want.

Anything in life worth having takes work, romance is no exception. (Read The 3 Best Ways To Prepare For A Date)

What strategies have you heard that have helped you? Comments welcome below. 

Originally posted 16/4/2018

What 35 Years of Marriage Really Looks Like


When I talk to people about marriage, they either focus on the enjoyable and exciting bits, or on how hard it is and the low points. The truth is, we need to talk about both. We can’t be so cynical that we take away the amazing things God wants to bless us with, but the enjoyment and good bits only come alongside the hard work. An amazing couple recently reminded me of this truth. 

I was surfing the internet a while ago, looking for inspiration for what to write about. During my search, I came across a blog written by a recently married Christian. She was essentially saying that marriage is great, and Christians need to stop talking about how hard it is.

The main point was that her first year of marriage has been amazing, but everyone told her it would be really hard. She argued they made her worry too much, and it has been so easy, so they shouldn’t have been saying those things.

Right and Wrong

This blog really stuck with me, because I think she is right and wrong.

We should be talking about how it’s meant to be fun and make us feel great

We should be talking about how great marriage can be. It’s not just a piece of paper, it’s sacred, it’s should be enjoyable, it can be amazing, it’s one thing God uses to communicate his love for the world (Ephesians 5:22-31). We should be talking about how it’s meant to be fun and make us feel great.

However, all that stuff doesn’t just happen automatically.

The highs come because couples commit to each other, they show acts of love even when they’re annoyed at each other. In the lows they communicate and talk, working through issues selflessly and with respect for each other. They don’t just demand their own way.

They have to prepare themselves for this because it involves saying no to ourselves and sacrificing for the other person.

However, all that stuff doesn’t just happen automatically

Unless we listen to the warnings about how hard marriage is and realise it’s serious, that all relationships involve two imperfect people working together to create something that’s mutually enjoyable and fulfilling, it won’t be great.

35 Years Of Marriage

I always say, whether we are single, dating, or married, it’s good to hang out with people who are married/been married for longer. It’s great to learn from each other and support one another.

My wife and I had a couple round for dinner who have been married for over 35 years. It was great just chatting and hearing about how they had served God together over the years in different contexts. Like having homeless people, and people in very bad situations, staying with them. How they’ve been very evangelistic and planted lots of churches in hard areas. It was amazing.

How Did You Meet? 

I eventually ended up asking how they met, and it turns out they were engaged after a few weeks of dating, then married within the year. Which was a bit of a surprise to hear!

They went on to say that they just knew, and that God told them when they first saw each other that they would get married. Now, if you know me or have read any of my posts, you know I do not think God operates like that for lots of reason. I think this belief is very unhelpful, and not spoken about in the Bible. (Read Why I chose to reject finding ‘The One’).

I was about to interject when they then said something very striking. They said ‘but we might have heard wrong, and we may have been ‘wrong’ for each other, but if you are committed, work hard and rely on God’s grace, you can have an amazing relationship.’

Always admitting you need grace

After she said that I felt like applauding.

Here was a very inspirational couple, who were very happily married and still in love, who were enjoying it even after 35 years, saying it’s been great but it takes commitment, hard work, knowing you’re not perfect and always admitting you need grace. (Read What I Wish Someone Had Told Me About Dating)

My Marriage

For me personally, I’m a bit of a hopeless romantic. I always got carried away and liked to focus on the enjoyable and great bits of relationships. That is important, but hearing the warning from others who spoke to me about commitment and made me aware that it isn’t always easy, was invaluable.

I now have a good marriage because we remember both of these messages.

Imagine If…

Imagine if we reminded each other that marriage is amazing but takes commitment, love is both easy and hard, marriage has high points and low points, and the more we work at it the more high points we can experience together.

We need to learn and remind each other about healthy and unhealthy relationship expectations so that we can build relationships on strong foundations that are really fulfilling (Read Unhealthy Relationship Expectations We Should All Know).

Do you think we hear about every aspect of marriage? Comments welcomed below. 

Originally posted 9/4/2018

‘Family’ Is Redefined In Light Of The Cross

Friendships, What The Bible Says

As we celebrate and reflect on Jesus’ death and resurrection, it’s so important to meditate on the profound impact it has on our relationships. It may sound obvious to some of us, but we can often take this for granted or overlook how it should affect our definition of ‘family’. I am always reminded of how important this is when I read John 19:25-27. 

Happy Easter everyone!

I hope the last few days have been both sobering and a celebration. I’m always mesmerised by Jesus and his cross, and taking the time to reflect on it this time of year is such an amazing privilege.

As I think about Easter, I’m always drawn to how deep and rich the story is. All of the things Jesus achieved through his sacrifice are exciting, humbling, and awe-inspiring. And I just wanted to share one point, that you may very well be aware of, but I always think is worth saying.

New Family 

Naturally, doing the work I do around building healthy relationships, I’m always drawn to the relational impact our faith has. And I was reminded of a passage in John 19, which records some of the words Jesus spoke when he was dying on the cross:

Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing near by, he said to her, ‘Woman, here is your son,’ and to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ From that time on, [John] took her into his home.
John 19:25-27

This is one of those verses which I can easily read over and not pay too much attention to. But like always, when we dig a little bit deeper, it teaches us so much.

Jesus, while he is hanging on the cross, while he is dying, is redefining what it means to be family. He says ‘this is your mother’, and ‘this is your son’, to two people that are only linked because of him.

He acted on what Jesus said and what he did

What’s amazing, is that John didn’t just think Jesus’ words were a nice idea or a nice phrase. We often hear people in church refer to each other as brother and sister, and it can lose meaning. But this new command and new understanding from Jesus caused John to actually bring Mary into his home and treat her like family. He acted on what Jesus said and what he did.

Mary had Blood Relatives

It’s quite clear from other passages in the Bible that Jesus had younger siblings. There was family that Mary could have stayed with and been looked after by. Which, especially in a culture which had a big emphasis on family and looking after your elders, they would have undoubtedly been prepared to do.

Yet Jesus seems to be suggesting that it’s no longer about blood relations anymore. It’s about knowing him, believing in what he did in that moment. He is the link. (Read Saved By Faith Vs Saved By Belief: The Crucial Difference). The cross means we love and look after other believers and treat them like family.

While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him. Someone told him, ‘Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.’ He replied to him, ‘Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?’ Pointing to his disciples, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.’ Matthew 12:46-50.

New Perspective

Much more could be said, and much more could be added to this point, but for me, this verse stresses the importance of creating a new family based around faith in Jesus. Yes salvation is individual and Jesus meets each person individually, but it doesn’t end there.

We are saved into a family

We are saved into a family, a family that isn’t defined by status, or blood ties, or ability, but on what Jesus did at Easter. This should cause us to love and treat fellow believers as brothers and sisters.

We know loving people can be hard work. And we may have come from families where it wasn’t modelled that well or at all. Thankfully, we have a God who is ready to help us, is patient, and ready to forgive when we make mistakes (Read The Four Words Spoken By Jesus You Need To Hear)

Imagine If…

This idea of family may have been something you’ve heard before, or it may be a new idea for you. But in a world that tells us to look after number one, and to only help people who act and think like we do, Jesus asks for us to see our fellow Christians as family, and to act like they are in very practical ways.

So what’s the one thing you could go out of your way to do this week, to help someone who needs help from the family?

What do you make of this idea? Comments welcomed below 

Originally posted 2/4/2018