I have decided to reconsider the whole missionary dating strategy….but probably not in the way you’re thinking. Before I explain, however, let me back up a bit…
This weekend I traveled to the remote reaches of Arkansas to participate in my college roommate’s wedding. She’s an incredibly godly woman who works in youth ministry, and her husband is about to start seminary, so it was exciting to see such Christ-centered individuals come together in marriage.
(And for those readers who live in Arkansas–hats off to you! I had my doubts about liking Arkansas, but I actually had a lot of fun! I even got to experience a great taste of Arkansas culture when I attended the “Toad Suck” festival, which isn’t nearly as weird as it sounds. Google it if that piques your curiosity…)
In addition to experiencing Arkansas and spending time with some amazing people, it was a blessing to witness the way in which this couple’s relationship is a witness to those around them. For instance, the Maid of Honor was the bride’s teenage sister, and even though she’s already a Christian, she got to observe the degree to which Christ is the center of my friend’s marriage. We prayed for the bride prior to the ceremony, and the wedding homily was all about Christ as well. So as the bride praised God on the one day that the world tells us to focus on ourselves, her younger sister sat by and watched. What a powerful witness!
Well all of this got me to thinking about my own dating relationships, and what kind of example they’ve provided for those around me. More specifically, my brother is not a Christian, so I have to wonder what he thinks about Christians every time he’s seen one of my relationships crash and burn. He treats his wife way better than most Christian guys have treated me, so what does the Church have to offer him?? When I think of the many messages my dating relationships have conveyed to him about Christianity, I can only cringe.
That said, I have decided to hijack the term “missionary dating” and redefine it in a new way. Rather than thinking of this term as referring to those who date non-Christians in the hope of converting them, I would prefer to think of missionary dating as the state in which both Christians in the relationship date with a mission.
When two Christ-centered individuals enter into a dating relationship with one another, they should function under the reality that their actions have consequences beyond the relationship itself. You are not only affecting your boyfriend or girlfriend, but you are affecting everyone who witnesses the relationship. You are showing everyone around you what it looks like when Christians date, and how that courtship is different from the world. You are demonstrating the way in which brothers and sisters in Christ should relate to one another, and that relationship should demonstrate a love that transcends emotion–it is a love stemming from your unity in Christ.
That said, your relationship can also provide a dangerous witness–you can convey that relationships are all about making yourself happy, using another person to complete you, or taking advantage of another person for your own selfish ends. When we approach relationships this way, we fail to date with a mission, and our witness to friends and family will suffer as a result.
So I encourage you to missionary date. But the key is to find someone who will go on mission with you. If your purpose in dating is ultimately self-serving, then you are no different from any other non-believing person, but if you date with purpose, with vision, with a heart for the world, then your dating relationship has the potential to turn heads and draw people in who desire to experience such a refreshing way of caring for one another. Only date that person who will enable you to be a brighter light in the darkness because we all know that, given the state of society’s relationships today, our culture needs such a beacon of hope.
Brooke and Kevin–thanks for being one of those beacons! I’m praying for you as God moves you onward and upward!