Going on A Date
Does Not Mean You're Dating

After kissing dating goodbye, you may have the impression that going on a date is wrong. If you've been part of the sub-culture promoting courtship you may be paranoid about trifling with someone's heart so you keep your distance from the opposite sex. While it's not good to trifle with hearts, you don't need to go overboard and be so guarded that acquaintances do not develop into friendships, leaving courtship as an impossibility.

As one sincere Christian wrote in his blog, “We’re all about preserving modesty and propriety, which is awesome, but then when the rubber hits the road, and it’s time in life to not kiss dating goodbye, this particular culture really doesn’t have anything to give me.  Pretty much all the messages I hear from the literature and speakers are: don’t date, wait for the right person, and don’t date.  Trust me, this is really great stuff for when I was a teenager, but I’m turning thirty soon.  Wrong demographic."

"For example, there is a rule of relationships out there that one needs to talk to the father before starting a relationship.  Yes.  Kinda.  I mean, I don’t even know you yet.  What am I supposed to talk to your father about?  This is particularly distressing because sometimes life doesn’t allow people to get to know each other in person before going on a date, like when people meet at a church youth conference.  I don’t know you, and for us to spend some time getting to know each other, let’s go on a date.  ”Yes, but I don’t date.”  Honestly, what’s a guy supposed to do?  In that situation I propose the idea that going on a date is not dating.  We’re getting to know each other and evaluating the idea of a relationship.  Trust me, I’m not here to play with anyone’s heart, and I’m only interested in serious relationships.  It’s not that type of a date."

I agree with this guy. Dating is undefined and directionless romance. Going on a date to get to know someone so that you can purposely head towards marriage is a different thing altogether. Let it be clear at this point that this article is for those who are actually ready for marriage, and are not in a place where they can build friendships with the opposite sex in group settings.

Freedom to have Friendship

In an excellent sermon by Joshua Harris entitled "Courtship-Smourtship" he articulates in seven minutes this very relevant problem. I have written out what he said from the minutes 25 to 32 but I encourage you to listen to the whole sermon when you have the chance. 

"We have observed...a lack of freeness between men and women in cultivating friendships. You can describe this as a standoffishness, overly reserved, even a certain level of up tightness. This just isn't how relationships should work in God's family."

He goes on to explain, "Purposeful courtships can only happen if mature men and women first feel the freedom to get to know each other in brother-sister friendships.

I want mature men in this church not to feel scared about initiating friendship with women. I think there's been some confusion in this regard, and I'd like to clear it up." After a serious pause, Joshua Harris says with playful confidence, "I want you to read my lips. Write this down. You are hearing this straight from the courtship guru's mouth.

  • It is okay for brothers and sisters to go out to lunch together. To go out to dinner. Not breakfast." Then he jokingly adds, "Breakfast would be a date," as the audience laughs. He continues...

  • "It's okay for brothers and sisters to grab coffee.

  • "It's okay for a man and a woman to email one another.

  • "It's okay and it should be possible for a man and a woman to stand talking in the church lobby without having 10 people afterwards stop them and say, "when's the wedding date."

"And just one point of clarification. If you are 14 years old I am not talking to you. You go read "I Kissed Dating Goodbye" again. Alright? (The audience laughs again). And you know what? Neither am I saying this so that immature selfish men can carry on decade long special friendships with women and never pursue commitment with  any one of them. But I am confident that as a community...that we can take care of those boys. Where there's a need of adjustment, we will bring adjustment.  As one member of the church came up and told me after he heard me say this, he said, "....It's easier to counsel the living than it is to raise the dead. We'd rather have the problem of bringing adjustment to a man who is unwisely and unhelpfully just pursuing ladies without bringing definition. We would rather have that problem than to have the problem that no man is talking to any woman." 

So guys, there you have it. If you don't want to call it going on a date, fine. But it's okay to initiate friendship with a female. I know what you're thinking. "But she'll read into it and feel offended that I'm playing with her heart even though I'm just trying to get to know her better." Joshua Harris anticipated that as well. So, he goes on in his sermon to address the ladies.

"Ladies, your cooperation is needed here as well. Now first of all, let me just state, you don't have to talk to any guy against your will, alright? You're under no obligation to go out to lunch or coffee with any person that you don't want to go out to lunch or coffee with. You could say, "I don't care what Josh said, you stay away from me, alright?! (The audience laughs). But if you desire to be able to grow in friendship and get to know someone, here's how you can practice sisterly affection to brothers in your life.

Let men be your brothers and don't assume that there's a more than friendship interest unless he actually states it.

With his mouth.

In English.

To YOU!

Okay?!
(The claps and cheers from the audience indicates this resonated with them.)

See it's not helpful if it's like, "He sort of told me in winky language that he liked me. This is not a good place to get a word from the Lord....Until you get a word from him, don't read into his actions. Don't assume that he has a romantic interest. Let the men in this church be brothers to the women in this church.

Now all that being said, if you feel in a relationship with a particular man, that there's a lack of forthrightness in communication, you don't have to continue to keep accepting the attention of a man who is asking for lots of your time and not explaining why. There is a place for sharing where a certain level of attention or focus makes it difficult for you to just view it as a friendship. It can be appropriate for a woman to share that with a friend."

From strangers to courtship?

Joshua Harris has received a lot of flack about his book because people take the principles to extremes, which is why he felt the need to address the issue of men not feeling a freedom to develop friendships with females, and females feeling uptight and over analyzing things.

The following Courtship Comedy perfectly illustrates how awkward going on a date can be when you take courtship principles to extremes. Though exaggerated, the girl exemplifies how standoffish, overly reserved, and up-tight women feel in regards to developing friendships with the opposite sex.

Because of this, there has to be a mutual understanding between mature men and women to permit themselves to develop a friendship without feeling anxiety about it and taking it too seriously. It's okay to have fun and enjoy the process of a deepening friendship. It should feel natural, not business like.

Maybe for you, "going on a date" sounds too worldly. That's okay.

But if a guy has observed a girl from a distance and think there's potential for something more, he should seek to move the friendship from casual to deeper.  If there's no other way to get to know her without looking like a stalker, ask her on a date.

DO NOT ask her to have a "purposeful friendship."
I don't know where that term came from but it's very confusing. Did your best friend ever ask you to be his friend? Friendship just happens. And it's not exclusive. When you ask a girl to have a "purposeful friendship," you may as well be asking her to be your girlfriend. A better way to develop the friendship is to just ask for small commitments like hanging out together.

Conclusion about going on a date

Going on a date does not mean you are dating. It means you are intentionally getting to know someone who, as far as you know, may have potential to be something more.

One date does not end in marriage. You have the freedom to choose what happens after going on a date. So don't over analyze and make a bigger deal out of it than it really is. 

Like the courtship comedy, it's ridiculous to go from being casual friends to thinking about engagement. You don't even know each other and should not freak each other out by expecting them to make a decision too soon. In sales, if you close before the peak of interest, you'll get rejected. The same goes for relationships. If you ask someone to make a serious commitment before they have all the data, they'll say no. Start with smaller commitments, like going on a date.  

As one article pointed out, “There is so much pressure when dating a ‘Christian’ girl … I feel like I have to know if I am going marry her before I even have a conversation with her.” Both sides seem to wonder why nothing is “happening” and I think—now brace yourself—this is why: We have adopted the mindset that dating (in and of itself) is unhealthy. Maybe this is because we haven’t seen healthy dating relationships modeled for us." (source)

Be mature. Wait until you are ready for a committed relationship that may head towards marriage. Be brave. Going on a date is not the same as dating.

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