I had been dating all wrong. After being called out of the world into God’s Church, I realized I knew nothing about how to properly date.
Courtship? What was that? Maybe something out of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, or an ancient tradition my great-grandparents practiced.
Growing up, I never heard anyone talk about how to date or court. And of course these social graces are not taught in the classroom. Hollywood portrays love as a magical spark of fate, with only the lucky truly finding happiness with their mate.
Where was a young man to turn for answers?
I soon learned the Church offered a book on the subject: Dating and Courtship – God’s Way by Mr. David Pack. Its 141 pages were filled with principles, scriptures, specific ideas, and guidelines outlining the right way to date and court. I began to unlearn the bad mindsets and habits I picked up from modern society, and learned the right way.
As I put the book’s points into real-life application, I found they worked! I dated as widely as I could and tried to develop my personality, as well as focus on making the experience enjoyable for the ladies. Of course, I did not do everything perfectly, but I strove to keep an open mind and submit to God’s will and timing.
Eventually, my future wife and I began to take a deeper interest in one another. We decided to read the book together as we entered the courting stage, using it as a reference guide as we moved forward. We sought counsel from the ministry when needed and ultimately became engaged. My wife and I have since enjoyed almost seven years happily married.
Looking back on my dating and courtship process, it was Mr. Pack’s book (backed by Bible principles) that helped us both navigate the common pitfalls regarding dating. Over recent years, I have seen that those who followed the book’s principles, and diligently sought God’s will, found success and are now married. While this often takes patience, God blesses those who strive to date and court His Way.
God’s people are surrounded by those dating in all the wrong ways. We hear of incorrect methods from coworkers, friends and family members. The June-July 2015 Real Truth article “Dating in the 21st Century” covered them in detail. Smartphone apps promise real and lasting connections. Other apps and websites cater to those looking for one-night stands—or to simply “hook-up.” Almost anything goes in today’s dating scene, with practically everyone doing “that which [is] right in his own eyes” (Judg. 21:25).
Christians must actively unlearn the world’s form of dating. As with other false doctrines we set aside upon being called, Satan’s way of dating must be replaced with God’s Way.
There is one right way to date, which eventually leads to the long-lost practice of courtship. These timeless principles, if properly applied, provide the only path to a happy and truly successful marriage as defined by God.
The Bible has much to say about proper dating and courtship. This article will include a number of quotes from Mr. Pack’s book, which is based on these many verses. A short quote sets the stage: “Dating, followed by courtship, is supposed to lead to a happy marriage. But marriage cannot be happy if it is not built on the right foundation. Most couples have no idea that the foundation of a successful marriage begins long before the wedding day. In addition, a direct by-product of the wrong foundation is that most people have no idea how to select the right mate.”
Later in the book, Mr. Pack writes: “The world does not understand that proper dating and courtship form the rock-solid foundation that every marriage must stand on. Instead, most unconsciously build marriages on little more than emotional and psychological sand! When troubles come into marriages—as they invariably do—failure results because they are improperly anchored. So many couples are unnecessarily swept away by ‘floods’ for which they were never prepared.
“How many years are required to build a towering skyscraper? Including clearing the worksite, digging and pouring the foundation alone can often take many months, or even a year. Likewise, it takes much time and effort to build a successful, solid relationship. And this also does involve first clearing the ‘worksite’—unlearning all of the wrong knowledge upon which your understanding of selecting a mate is founded.”
“In the first stages of a relationship, when one is having a good time, all can seem wonderful. On the surface, a relationship founded on lust and infatuation is often hard to distinguish from one based on true biblical principles. Infatuation often comes disguised as true love, and few can—or will—see the difference. Nevertheless, the relationship built on infatuation is almost certain to collapse (and often so will some of the many lives directly connected to it), and usually very quickly, while the one built on true love will not.”
“Happy marriages do not come about by chance! Success requires much work and patience…”
Singles—young and old alike—must all do their part in applying God’s principles of dating. Even those in the Church who are already married benefit by cementing in their minds these principles. This way they can properly teach their children as well as help steer singles in the right direction.
The first principle to understand about proper dating and courtship is that dating should be fun. It is not simply about finding a mate. Some men (and ladies, too) are too focused on the end goal of marriage and not enough on the overall process. Dating should be seen as a time to have fun learning about different kinds of personalities. It should also be an opportunity to develop your own personality.
Right dating is about providing an enjoyable time for someone of the opposite sex and taking part in activities together to broaden your horizons. It is much more than simply “sizing” someone up as a potential mate and asking her out. The man or woman who thinks this way is thinking too narrowly. Think bigger!
Notice this from the dating book: “Dating truly has become a lost art, but you can learn to do it! You cannot imagine the benefits—to you and others—that will come with the proper form of dating. It is meant to be an opportunity not only for fun, recreation and exercise, but also to learn about people, to develop social graces and etiquette, and to develop yours and others’ personalities, among other purposes.”
Strive to understand the above points and dating will be much more enjoyable—and less stressful!
Recognize that simply going on one date with someone does not mean you will be walking down the aisle with him or her the following month.
This is most likely the exact opposite of what you have been taught or seen before being called. In the world, the only way that men ask for a date with a lady is if they are physically interested in them. If the two appear to be compatible or have “chemistry,” the man will then continue to ask the same woman out over and over again in a short period of time. If the two continue to enjoy spending time with each other, it can lead to them becoming a couple or even getting married later.
God’s Way is different. Asking someone on a date should not necessarily involve romantic interest. While you may be attracted to someone, your sole focus of a first date should not be to try to gauge if he or she is marriage material or if you could see yourself ending up with the person. It should instead be viewed as a relaxing way for two people of the opposite sex to become acquainted with one another. Becoming more serious comes later.
So often, after being asked out on a date, many jump to conclusions about someone else’s level of interest. Ladies, this especially applies to you. Understand that just because a man asks you out on a date, or even a second date, does not mean he is about to “pop the question.” If you are truly not interested in going out with him a second time you can simply decline. Otherwise, be open-minded and do not unnecessarily close any doors in your mind.
Both parties in any dating situation should be careful to not force the process, but instead allow God to guide you to the right person. Regularly pray that God allows you to see His will in any dating situation and try not to get in the way of what He wants for you.
Friends and family in the Church should also be mindful to not inappropriately tease a man or lady regarding who they date. This can give singles the feeling that the relationship is rapidly advancing when it is simply a date and can potentially make them shy away from the process altogether.
One could also wonder when one-on-one dating should begin, and what are the ins and outs of group dating. Mr. Pack addresses this in his book: “During the teenage years, dating should only be within groups and with specific parental knowledge and permission. As one grows older, and closer to the age suitable for marriage, one-on-one dates may begin. The process begins with group dating and leads to one-on-one when the time is right, which, in turn, leads to the more intensive step of courtship if the couple becomes seriously interested. This, of course, then progresses to engagement and marriage, if continued.”
Another pre-requisite to one-on-one dating is that both parties must be baptized. The reason for this is clear. You would naturally want to ensure that a person had put God first in his or her life, and was therefore guiding this step in their spiritual development.
Mr. Pack continues: “Through group dating, you will overcome nervousness and learn to relax and naturally respond to those of the opposite sex. This will prove beneficial when moving on to courting. You will be able to evaluate situations more realistically.
“Above all, try to date widely. Fifty years ago, this was referred to as ‘playing the field.’ This meant dating as many different people as possible. This gives one exposure to a broad range of personalities, with the important side benefit of learning which kinds of personalities are compatible with yours and which are not.
“This is most critical to recognize. You need to know which kinds of people make you comfortable, and which do not. You will probably find that one personality type makes you most comfortable. But this may not always be the case. (Remember, at the same time you are learning about yourself, you are also helping your ‘date’ to do the same.)”
The instruction to date widely cannot be overemphasized. So many become caught up in one person and do not expand their horizons. They fail to consider there might be others out there with whom they are more compatible. This is selfish! Becoming focused on one person too early in the process can potentially limit you finding the mate God wants for you—and for the other person. Keep an open mind and “play the field” in a right way.
For those in their 20s, dating widely is especially crucial. Only after you more fully develop your personality can you know the types of people with which you are truly compatible. Ultimately, the answer may surprise you!
Even when striving to follow God’s principles of dating and courtship, there are a few common mistakes that are easy to make. One of these is regularly “hanging out” with someone of the opposite sex and the other is giving into infatuation and lust. These are worldly dating trends and mindsets often carried over from the world into the Church. We must be on guard to not accidentally copy wrong dating methods.
First, let’s examine “hanging out.” In the world, a male and female will often meet each other in a group setting, and after finding common interests or being attracted to one another, they will begin to start spending time together one-on-one. Initially, it can be a seemingly normal friendship but it often leads to a very close relationship. When the male or female is asked about the relationship, the response is, “We’re just friends” or “We just hang out sometimes.”
There is nothing wrong with being friends with someone of the opposite sex, but understand that this can easily lead to a wrong form of semi-courting.
The hanging out mindset can creep into how men ask ladies out. They may say something such as, “I’m planning on going out to eat tonight. You can come, too, if you want.” Realize how this can make a lady feel. She should not be some sort of add-on to your plans!
Instead of just “hanging out,” the man should formally ask the lady on a date. You should say something such as, “May I take you out to dinner this Sunday?” Or even, “I would like to take you out on a date.”
While this approach may seem too formal, understand that the kind of casual dating done in the world is all wrong. Its effects can be seen in society—from broken hearts and misunderstood intentions to unwanted pregnancies. Dating God’s Way ensures that these kinds of things do not happen.
The next snare to avoid is becoming caught up in feelings of lust and infatuation. It is natural for attraction to exist between a man and a woman, but our human nature can overly focus on this aspect. A passing interest in someone can quickly turn into outright lust.
Self-control must be exercised, especially in today’s society where sex is all around us. Realize that infatuation is an absolutely wrong foundation on which to form a lasting relationship. Mr. Pack’s book has much to say about this aspect of relationships. In fact, he devotes an entire chapter to it. A few excerpts are stated below, starting with a lengthier description of infatuation.
He writes: “Infatuation can involve very powerful attraction. Never underestimate it. While it stirs up the emotions and feelings that make couples think they are in love, infatuation is nothing more than a starry-eyed experience—a romantic daydream. But, at this point in a relationship, it is nearly impossible to convince anyone of this. Reason and logic seem to magically disappear as people feel they are going through a wonderful, even divine, experience that will last forever.”
“…How then can you know if you are becoming infatuated?
“The biggest symptom of infatuation is an almost complete reliance on emotions—to the exclusion of almost everything else about a person—allowing these emotions to first lead, and then dictate, your actions. In the earliest stages of a relationship, ask yourself the following questions:
“What is your major attraction to the person? If infatuated, your main interest will almost certainly be physical appearance. On the other hand, if you truly love the person, you will—among many other things—be interested in his or her total personality, and this will come to include the person’s character.”
If you are infatuated with someone, you may try to rationalize that you are compatible because you have great conversations and enjoy being around the person. This alone does not mean you are right for each other. You want to weigh all the factors.
Another characteristic of infatuation is that it is selfish. If you feel like you must spend every waking hour with another person or you will “die” if you cannot see him or her—you are infatuated. Unhealthy, unbalanced emotional dependence is infatuation!
Jealousy is an additional symptom. If you find yourself becoming jealous when that “certain” someone talks with another person, you need to reexamine your motivations. You should sincerely desire that all singles have the opportunity to become acquainted with others their age. This helps ensure that every man and woman ends up with the best possible mate for him or her. Whoever you may be interested in should also want the same for you.
The book records this about outright lust: “One of the most powerful forces behind dating today is little more than the basic sex drive. While God did instill the sexual desire in human beings for a pure and holy purpose, the world, held captive by Satan’s influence, has turned this into lust. Sizing people up for sex has now become a common practice. For decades, ‘girl watching’ and ‘boy watching’ have been national pastimes. Millions routinely lust after men and women to whom they are not married.
“Today, God’s most basic commands are routinely broken. Notice: ‘You have heard that it was said by them of old time, You shall not commit adultery: but I say unto you, That whosoever looks on a woman to lust after her has committed adultery with her already in his heart’ (Matt. 5:27-28). Throughout society, people are confronted—even bombarded—with the temptation to lust.
“Almighty God created sex. In the right setting, it is one of the most wonderful physical experiences that a man and a woman can share. Yet, Satan has twisted this God-designed pleasure, reducing it to a sinful act, practiced almost universally between virtual strangers. He has used sex to preoccupy young minds so that, in time, it destroys character and ruins any potential for a happy, wholesome, lifelong relationship between a husband and wife.”
Christians must be different. We must come out of this world and its ways, and strive to do everything according to the Bible and God’s Law. This includes seeking His will.
Consider. Would you want to marry someone who was not serious about their commitment to God’s Church and was instead basing a relationship on appearance?
The choice of whom you marry is the most important decision of your life besides baptism. Why would you not want to do everything in your power to ensure that God will be with you throughout dating and courting, and bless your efforts, which will ensure that you later have a lasting, happy, fulfilled marital relationship?
The answer is obvious.
If you avoid these two major pitfalls, as well as others that exist, you will be in a better position to date and court according to God’s will.
The Man’s Responsibility
Men, remember that you must take the lead in asking a woman on a date or even to dance at a Church event. Some men have a tendency to wait endlessly for the “perfect circumstances” before asking out a lady. Others might not ask a woman on a date at all if he is uninterested in her, thinking only of himself. Such actions are selfish and leave a woman with no other option but to patiently wait for someone to come along.
Even if you are uninterested in a particular person, would it not be best to at least give her the opportunity to go on a date? This is not considered leading her on, but rather dating widely. And, if you keep an open mind, you might be surprised to find that she is more interesting than you initially thought.
Remember, dating widely is not about physical attraction. It is designed to help both of you develop your personalities and learn to at times push past your comfort zones to get to know someone—sometimes more for their benefit than yours.
During the time that I dated widely, there were ladies with whom I was almost certain I would not click well. Yet I wanted to give them the opportunity to go on a date and to be able to get to know them to ensure that I was not going against God’s will. I knew that in the long-run doing so would help both of us learn to better interact with the opposite sex.
Although I was not compatible with all my dates, I learned to appreciate the personalities of the different women whom I dated. In the end, it also helped me to become a better gentleman to the woman I now call my wife.
Yet there are right and wrong ways to ask for a date. Mr. Pack writes in his book, “There is a correct way to ask for a date—and a variety of ways not to do this.
“For instance, if you are organizing a group date—and pre-planning is important—the opinion of others involved could be helpful…Be sure to plan something before you go out. Dating is a constructive, mentally stimulating and fun activity when done properly…”
The man should not ask out a woman at the last minute, or be vague about his plans. Again, remember the point earlier about not falling into the approach of just “getting together” and “hanging out.”
While on a date, make it special for a lady. Think through all the details. Consider going above and beyond and doing small things like cleaning the inside and outside of the car before taking her out to dinner. Think ahead about interesting topics to discuss or questions you have for her. Do not put the burden on her to carry the conversation.
Also, be considerate to not be too bold with her or come on too strong. Men should not aggressively pursue dates or phone calls with a lady. Allow the relationship to develop naturally and be patient. Any other approach will be off-putting. Be balanced and exercise common sense.
One way to do this is to avoid asking for another date too quickly—especially at the end of the date you are on. Waiting some time will allow you to reflect on the experience and give the other person the opportunity to do the same. Yet if you have already dated widely, known the person for a while, and you both agree the relationship is moving forward, this would not be out of the question.
The Woman’s Role
A woman in God’s Church striving to date and court must also exercise patience. Since ladies must wait for a man to initiate a date, this waiting period can be difficult. Always remember to keep things in perspective and to trust God to provide you with opportunities to practice right dating.
Mr. Pack wrote this about what a woman must focus on: “Another important aspect of femininity, almost completely lost to girls and young women today, is modesty. Are you modest? Are you aware of your posture and stance—the look in your eyes and the tone of your voice? Do you wear provocative clothing that does not cover as much as it should, while also knowing that it is intended to be suggestive and sexually arousing? Or do you dress elegantly and modestly, with dignity? A woman should be naturally concerned about her appearance, yet never in a way that is vain (Prov. 31:30).”
Make sure you do not unwittingly lead a man on, in other words, give him the impression that you are more interested in him than you are. Think carefully about your words and gestures around him. Women can often be too friendly with a man and inadvertently give him the idea that you are both moving forward faster than you want. Be mindful to not touch your hair, lean in toward him, or giggle too much as this can give the wrong impression.
Mr. Pack continues addressing ladies, “Women: Keep your trust firmly in God. Because the man takes the lead in asking for dates, the woman must recognize that it takes real, enduring faith to believe a godly man will be sent to her. The wise woman knows that ‘taking matters into her own hands’ would ultimately backfire. She patiently waits for God to intervene on her behalf.
“Are you kind, patient, cultured? Do you have an attractive personality that you are constantly striving to build—to polish? Are you continually happy and joyful, and, if not, are you striving to be?”
Ladies, if you put these points into practice you will be putting yourself in a strong position for God to bless you with a mate.
To those who have dated someone a number of times and are finding a lot of compatibility, you may be in the early stages of courtship. If this is the case, it is time to counsel with your minister.
Whenever you are in doubt about what to do, or if the relationship seems to be progressing quickly, remember that your minister is there to help with advice. He will be able to guide you regarding what next steps to take. Sometimes it is appropriate to continue moving forward at a natural pace with a person with whom you are spending time. Other times it may be best to slow down and make sure both parties are truly compatible and in it for the right reasons.
Age may also be a factor. Again, if you are unsure of what to do, counsel about the situation. This shows that you are seeking God’s will in the relationship and He will bless you for it.
To brethren who may be older, the same principles in this article apply to your situation. There is no such thing as being “too old to date” in God’s Church. You most likely have a lot of experience that you could share with another person. Throughout the history of The Restored Church of God, there have been many older adults who have successfully dated and courted, which led to them being able to share their lives with someone who truly cared about them.
There is a tendency as you get older to think that you may have been single for so long that you are used to it and more comfortable in such a position or you may be wary of getting close to someone because of experiences in a previous marriage. (Men, remember it is your responsibility to ask out ladies.)
God does desire for older people to get married. Recapturing the true purpose for dating and seeing the bigger picture of how it could help you to grow will reap many benefits. Do not be afraid of starting this process in the later years of your life.
Others may be wondering, what if I meet alone and there is no one to date? Or what if there is no one in my congregation I can date? In some cases, brethren are completely by themselves and do not see any way to date in the near future.
Be patient if you meet in a small group. Trust God to provide you with someone in His time. That said, keep in mind that the Feast of Tabernacles is a perfect time to get together with other singles in group settings or through one-on-one dates.
Request Mr. Pack’s book Dating and Courtship – God’s Way or read it again if you already have a copy. It covers much more than what can be addressed in an article. For instance, it answers questions such as, “What are the appropriate age differences between men and women?”—“How can I practice true masculinity/femininity?”—“What warning signs show I may be in a relationship for the wrong reasons?”—“How can I know if I am in the courtship stage?”—“What are some good date ideas?”—“When are we ready for marriage and what is there to know about the engagement process?”
After reading the book, use it as a reference guide while you date. Refer back to its pages constantly to ensure you are applying its principles. Then be prepared to reap the benefits of dating and courtship God’s Way!