Monthly Archives

May 2019

What Does Christian Dating Look Like? Pt.2

Church Dating Culture

In part 1 we looked at what Christian dating shouldn’t look like. In part 2, we will now explore what Christian dating should look like, and discover some of the things that it should be. We are unpacking what it should involve in order to make sure we are enjoying it, treating people well, and building God-centred relationships. 

Part 1 of this post looked at what Christian dating isn’t, and examined some of those assumptions and practices that I think can be unhelpful. It said that Christian dating isn’t: A Seven-Step Plan, Something to Rush, and For People Who Pray More.

This blog will begin to look at what Christian dating is, and what it should look like so that Christian dating doesn’t feel so hard. It’s important to realise how we can thrive, and bring mutual fulfilment. 

So when people ask me what Christian dating is, I am keen to highlight that it should look like we are: 

  • Loving Our Neighbour
  • Following What The Bible Says 
  • Being Active
  • Fostering Mutual Enjoyment

Loving Our Neighbour

This might seem like it should be obvious, right? But it can be easy to forget and harder to apply. (Read Does Christian Dating Go Against God’s Views On Relationships?)

Jesus clearly wanted his followers to love their neighbours and love the people around them. He wanted us to relate lovingly to people and be other person focused. Yet our society says that when it comes dating, we need to think about ‘me me me’.

Society says we only need to think about ‘my needs’ and what ‘I want’. This is one of the biggest problems because inevitably, unkind behaviour follows.

We should be dating in a way that isn’t just thinking about number one

We’re told by God to be people that put other people first. That doesn’t mean being a doormat, but it does mean that we should be considering the feeling and wellbeing of the other person, which is often lacking when it comes to Christian dating. 

We should be dating in a way that isn’t just thinking about number one, but is moulded by this core principle of loving our neighbour in this context. 

Following What The Bible Says 

As a Christian, I believe the Bible should be guiding us. But let me make it clear, the Bible doesn’t talk directly about dating. When the Bible was written, dating didn’t exist.

But that doesn’t mean the Bible is irrelevant. It does talk about romance, and friendships, and how we should relate to others. By exploring what it does say, what it says about relationships in general, we can use it to discover principles to navigate the new phenomenon of dating. 

God’s word is able to transform culture and bring real fulfilment. It may not give black and white advice for dating, but it’s still relevant to relationships. (Read What The Bible Will And Won’t Tell You About Dating)

Being Active

One of these principles is what I call Activeness. Being active is fundamental when it comes to Christian dating. If we wait for God to bring us ‘the One’, if we wait for Him to sort out the mess because we believe relationships should ‘just be easy’, then we won’t approach dating from a position of strength. 

I truly believe God wants us to learn how to become a better friend, and church member, and disciple, and co-worker. He is involved in the process and helps us through his spirit, but he doesn’t wave a magic wand to make us ‘perfect’. 

I think dating is no exception to this principle. 

God wants us, with His help, to be active. To be involved. To be a more intentional follower. To be a participant when it comes to building better relationships. 

Fulfilment… comes when we are involved in the process

Fulfilment isn’t reached by stumbling into an ‘easy perfect relationship’ (which doesn’t exist by the way). It comes when we are involved in the process, and learning to build something worth having. 

Christian dating should involve activeness, and not just waiting, but involve making healthy God-centred choices. (Read One Great Dating Tip From Ruth and Boaz. Really?)

Fostering Mutual Enjoyment

I also believe God wants us to enjoy dating, but not at other people’s expense. 

Society tells us to become so consumed by ‘my happiness’, that we can forget relationships involve two hearts, two minds, and two people. Christian dating should focus on mutual enjoyment.

Christian dating should fundamentally be more appealing

There is no room for abuse, for unkind break-ups, or using people for our own needs. It’s about mutual flourishing. And learning to build something worth having together. Putting each other’s needs first. (Read 15 Questions for Building Mutually Enjoyable Fulfilling Relationships).

Imagine If…

Imagine if we made sure Christian dating was God-centred, based on his principles and hopes for us. It isn’t easy, it isn’t always straightforward, but Christian dating should fundamentally be more appealing and more attractive than what the world offers. 

Christian dating should look like we are: Loving Our Neighbour, Following What The Bible Says, Being Active, Fostering Mutual Enjoyment. (Read Who Else Wants Great Relationships? Why Dating Well Still Matters.)

Why do you think Christian dating should be different? Comments welcome below

Originally posted 27/5/2019

What Does Christian Dating Look Like? Pt.1

Church Dating Culture

Many people still ask me this question. They want to know how dating should be different among Christians, and/or why it feels so hard, and/or why Christian dating seems to involve people treating others badly. I believe it should be different, and God wants us to do it differently. So in part 1, we will unpack what Christian dating isn’t.  

Thinking about how to date well has been a big part of my thinking for a while now. I get excited when I deliver a talk or write a blog and people chat with me or leave feedback afterwards to say that it helped them, that it’s caused them to think differently, or understand where God fits in more.

However, I also get people saying that their experience of dating involves hurt, and sometimes being let down by other Christians, which is really upsetting.

So what is Christian dating? What should it look like?

Core Principles

While opinions vary, and not everything can be said in a two-part blog, I do want to highlight some key principles. I really believe we as Christians should try to follow these in order to: protect ourselves and each other, make God central to our search, and allow us to create mutual enjoyment in our relationships.

As I think about what I really try to highlight when people ask me about this, taking into account all my years of experience, I think it’s best to stress that Christian dating isn’t:

  • A Seven-Step Plan
  • Something to Rush
  • For People Who Pray More

A Seven-Step Plan

Christian dating, or any dating, isn’t a one-size-fits-all model. No formula can promise that if you do ‘X Y Z’ you are guaranteed a ‘happy ending’.

I always prefer to talk about principles rather than ‘rules’ or ‘steps’, because they are too rigid, and we are all different and unique. We all have different hopes, fears, and experiences. (Read Warning: Dating Is Not A Simple Seven Step Process).

So one principle may be applied differently to someone who has been on a lot of dates, compared to someone who has been in a relationship for a few years, compared to someone who has gone through a bad break up, or someone who has never been on a date. Nevertheless, the same principles can be made relevant to different situations.

Dating isn’t easy, and it can’t be reduced to a seven-step plan

Dating isn’t easy, and it can’t be reduced to a seven-step plan that belittles the confusion many people face as they date.

I find that people who just give rules and plans often end up only helping a specific group of people. Whereas principles can help everyone, and help us all engage and evaluate our situation and approach.

Something to Rush

In church, dating can often be seen as something to rush through. Due to the fact that marriage is held up so high, this ideal can unintentionally communicate to those that aren’t married that they ‘haven’t arrived yet’.

But I think dating is a relationship that can honour God in and of itself. The way we treat each other can add value to our lives and for those we date, and be an example of how God’s Kingdom is transforming the ‘norms’ of our surrounding culture.

Dating should be about a time where you get to know each other. It’s time to let them see the real you and vice versa, to decide if you want to take that next step of commitment (E.g. go on a second date, or become an official couple, or eventually to marriage.) (Read How To Stop Waiting, And Start ‘Making The One’)

And it is meant to be enjoyed!

Rushing it, rushing to the next stage, will not help us get to know each other. The pressure to put a ring on it will not make it less confusing, it will only mean that we won’t be able to enjoy getting to know someone and falling in love. We need to remember dating has value, and there is no need to see it as just a ‘step’ to marriage.

For People Who Pray More

Good dating, ‘successful’ dating, doesn’t happen to those people who pray more.

So often people say things like ‘pray more and you will find someone’. Or people think they need to pray for God to show them ‘The One’. I think this is dangerous and can make us feel angry with God, or ourselves, if things do not happen the way we want. (Read Will God Answer My Prayers About Who I Should Date?)

Dating is not about praying enough to convince God

God wants to be involved, and wants us to learn how to ‘make the One’, rather than ‘find the One’. Christian dating isn’t about praying enough to convince God to help us out. (Read Why I Chose To Reject Finding ‘The One’)

Imagine If…

Part 2 looks at some key principles around what Christian dating is, and what Christian dating should look like. For now, imagine if we turned down the noise and reminded ourselves dating is valuable in itself, to be enjoyed and not rushed, and God has a better plan than we could hope for which involves us being part of the search.

Christian dating isn’t: A Seven-Step Plan, Something to Rush, or something For People Who Pray More (Read Why I Told Joshua Harris To Redeem Rather Than Reject Dating.)

Do you think Christian dating is valued or not? Comments welcomed below.

Originally posted 20/5/2019

Single Again: Dating After Divorce

Guest Blogs, Singleness

God designed relationships to be a place where we’re cared for, provided for and nourished, where we can feel safe and grow. When this is interrupted or destroyed by divorce, the newly solo-again person is forced back into singleness, maybe with children to support as well. Being alone again after years of marriage can be a traumatic time.  Knowing when to date again is an important question and can’t be rushed.  

This week we have a guest blogger, Deryn Van Der Tang. Drawing on her own experiences of divorce and widowhood and sharing the wisdom God has shown her along the way.

My Story

After my divorce, my emotions were raw. I felt rejected, betrayed, like I wasn’t good enough, and that I had broken God’s laws and commandments. 

I’d grown up in a legalistic Christian community and felt guilty that I could not keep my marriage together. I felt I had broken those covenant laws, and this placed a terrible burden on my soul. It took a lot of working through, prayer and emotional healing before I was ready to consider another relationship.

Before even considering dating again as a newly single person, I believe it’s important to work through the grief process and find healing and come to a place of forgiveness and acceptance of the past.  

This is an essential stage, otherwise, we are likely to carry baggage from our past relationship into a new relationship, being triggered and projecting onto our new partner.

Rebound Warnings

We may be feeling desperate to be loved again, to have someone to help us raise the children, someone to help provide for us and to give stability once more. This is natural and understandable. But I’ve learnt one very important lesson about this stage:

We become very vulnerable.

It’s so easy to fall into the trap of dating, or even marrying, on the rebound just to have somebody, anybody to take care of us and make us feel happy again. But I’ve seen that there is a greater chance of future dating and/or marriage relationships failing because people don’t take the time to work through the grieving process of their lost relationship.

Work through the pain and our vulnerability

Another thing I warn people about at this stage is that there are many predators who look for vulnerable people to begin an unhealthy relationship with. These are the wolves in sheep’s clothing, unfortunately also to be found in Christian communities!

If there are children involved, it’s even more important to make sure we are a happy and healthy single parent before remarrying, as stepfamilies can be fraught with lots of challenges.

This is why we need to not rush, and work through the pain and our vulnerability. 

Finding Support

So where does this leave us? 

I believe this is a time when we need people who will love and support us through the process. Hopefully we will belong to a loving, non-judgmental family, or church family, to get us to a place of happiness and confidence on our own again before going out into the dating world.

We need good friendships and people in our lives to help support us on our journey towards wholeness.  

From my experience, I have found that divorce recovery or support groups served a very good function in stabilizing me in the first year after my divorce. They helped me see whether there were things I could have done differently, so that if and when I entered a new relationship, I would not make the same mistakes again. 

If these are not accessible to you, home church or cell groups with leaders who will support you can help. Some churches run a singles group that have social events as well. Single parent groups can be found in communities too. (Read 3 Things You Should Do To Avoid A Co-dependent Relationship)

This is a time to reach out to people and ask for help

If your church does not support you, it might be wise to find one that does as this can make a big difference to your emotional and spiritual wellbeing. 

I would also advise people to avoid online relationships as far as possible, but I realise others would disagree with this advice.   

I learned after my divorce that I needed people who would keep me grounded and would pass me a tissue or give me a hug when I needed it. This is a time to reach out to people and ask for help, and not the time to retreat or jump straight back into dating. 

Dating Again

Once I was healed, I felt it would be better for my children and myself if I remarried, but I began the dating process from a position of strength, praying that God would bring the right person into my life.  

I had also built a strong support system to pray me through this new stage in my life. I found that there were many broken people out there that would not make good life partners a second time around and it was only after six years and some bad learning experiences that I married my second husband. (Read How Do I Tell My New Date About My Past?)

Imagine If…

Imagine if we took time out after a divorce to find healing before rushing into a new relationship.  There is nothing wrong with wanting to date again, but there is a journey we need to go on to make dating as positive as possible. (Read 2 Strategies for Surviving The Changing World Of Dating)

In your experience, how good are churches at helping us to date after divorce? Comments welcomed below. 

Originally posted 13/5/2019

Deryn’s Bio
Deryn is a writer, artist, nature and travel lover who is passionate about helping people transform their life experiences. She has been divorced, remarried and widowed and has moved countries four times. She has three adult children and three grandchildren. Deryn runs divorce recovery workshops and writes a blog to help people to find God’s grace and navigate major life transitions.

W:       FB: /Derynsbridge       Insta: @derynvan

‘No Sex Before Marriage’. Why This Can’t Be A Belief! Pt.2


By building on Part 1 of this blog, Part 2 continues to explore the practice of no sex before marriage, and the deeper beliefs this practice is rooted in. As we date, the issue of intimacy and attraction will arise. So it’s worth thinking about what we believe and what God, who designed sex and relationships, would say about it all. 

(The following extract is taken from page 163-165 of The Dating Dilemma book, read the introduction for free.)

Where Does The Belief Come From? 

When confronted by angry Pharisees wanting to catch him out, Jesus takes them back to the Creator’s plan for sex: that two become one (Matthew 19:4–5). The practice of waiting for marriage before having sex is rooted in the belief that sex unites a couple in a powerful way – physically, emotionally and spiritually. 

Breaking this bond is damaging (1 Corinthians 6:12–17). That’s why we protect ourselves –  and each other – by waiting for marriage. If sex is about giving ourselves completely to the one person we’re committed to for life, then waiting for them becomes part of our act of loving them.

We are to be tender, loving and compassionate towards each other, just as God is tender, loving and compassionate towards us. We are to be passionate, protective and loyal to each other, just as God is passionate, protective and loyal to us. We are responsible to God for how we use our sexuality, just as we are responsible to God for how we use our time, money and talents.

Selfish Sex

Instead, what we see in society, and sometimes in the church, is that people engage in sex as if it is an act of entitlement and for personal gratification: nothing to do with God. 

We use the word ‘protection’ to refer to not getting pregnant or not catching an STI, rather than to avoid the emotional impact sexual activity might have on someone.

Selfishness weakens us and limits our vision for sex

Can you see that being sexual and wanting to have sex is not the issue? Being selfish with our sexuality is.

Selfishness weakens us and limits our vision for sex. Our problem is not that our sexual desires are too strong, but that they’re too small. We settle for making sex just physical, instead of everything God intended it to be: intimate, emotional, powerful and uniting.

New Identity

Whenever we talk about this issue, especially in church, there needs to be grace. There’s so much guilt and condemnation around it

The main reason Paul gives Christians for not having sex outside of marriage is that we have a new identity. We are one with God. Wherever we go, God goes, and whatever we do, we involve God in it. So it matters what we think and what we do. It’s a difficult idea to get our heads round. But for Paul, this idea was so vivid that he told the early Christians:

Your old sinful self has died, and your new life is kept in Christ with God 
(Colossians 3:3 NCV).

. . . Don’t you see that you can’t live however you please, squandering what God paid such a high price for? The physical part of you is not some piece of property belonging to the spiritual part of you. God owns the whole works. So let people see God in and through your body.
(1 Corinthians 6:16–20 The Message)

Not For ‘Virgins Only’

Paul wasn’t writing his letter to a bunch of virgins who had grown up in Christian families. The ancient Roman world worshipped many of its idols through cultic prostitution. Pornographic images found on pottery and walls reveal the range of promiscuity people were involved in. 

Before many of the new converts became Christians, they may well have been involved in orgies and prostitution in temples.

You might not have been sexually intimate… or you may have already had sex. In one way, it’s irrelevant

So Paul is clear to tell them that their new identity as Christ’s followers means a complete rethinking about everything, especially sex. For Paul, the only sexual intimacy that doesn’t fall under the category of sexual immorality is sex between people who are made one flesh by God. In a loving marriage, sex leads to increased intimacy. Outside of marriage, with no commitment, it can lead to alienation and loneliness.

You might not have been sexually intimate with someone because you’re waiting for marriage, or you may have already had sex. In one way, it’s irrelevant. For Paul, what is relevant is the fact that being one with God means you are free to do things differently, whatever your past. 

New Belief

Whenever we confess our mistakes to God, we can be assured of his total and utter forgiveness: ‘Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need’ (Hebrews 4:16 NIV). (Read The Four Words Spoken By Jesus You Need To Hear)

It’s important to see that a balanced and healthy attitude to sex begins way before you decide what sexual activity you will or won’t do when you’re dating. It starts with exploring God’s purpose for sexuality, appreciating your own sexual appetite and embracing who God says you are. 

When we are one in Christ, we are no longer bound by our desires; we are no longer slaves to them. But this doesn’t mean we aren’t tempted. That’s why we need God’s boundless grace in our lives and real honesty in our churches.

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

Imagine If…

Sex is best when commitment, selflessness and our new identity in Christ is involved

Whenever we talk about this issue, especially in church, there needs to be grace. There’s so much guilt and condemnation around it. Sex is good, God created it (Read God created sex and sexual desire, honest!) but he also created the best context for it, because it is powerful and can potentially do damage. 

Imagine if we remembered that the practice of no sex before marriage is rooted in the belief that sex is best when commitment, selflessness and our new identity in Christ is involved, no matter what our past may be. 

Do you think deeper beliefs about sex are talked about enough? Comment welcomed below. 

Originally posted 6/5/2019