A Pastoral Response to Online Dating

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Recently, the team of pastors who lead the single men and women of our church decided to address the topic of online dating. One of the men, Isaac Hydoski, who is a very wise and skilled pastor, wrote a paper that sums up our pastoral team's counsel and concerns for those using or considering the use of online dating services. This is a longer post than we normally share here, but I hope that you'll find it helpful. This is by no means a comprehensive treatment of the subject—it's simply our local church seeking to give wise counsel to the men and women in our care.

Online Dating: A Pastoral Perspective by Isaac Hydoski

Don't you wish it was as easy for you as it was for Adam and Eve? Online dating services have been around for just over 10 years, but the idea of finding a spouse goes back to the Garden of Eden. The world looks very different now in some respects, but in other ways it hasn't changed. We still desire to get married and God is still bringing husbands and wives together in marriage.

But how does the $500 million industry of online dating fit in to the grand scheme of God's plan for marriage? Does the Bible have anything to say about online dating? Can we learn anything from others' experiences with online dating?

These are some of the questions we hope to bring clarity to through this paper. This perspective paper is the fruit of the application and study of Scripture, pastoral experience with counseling others and an interview with some from our community who have participated in online dating. We believe this paper is timely. We hope it serves you as you seek to obey and honor our Lord Jesus Christ.

Before getting into the details it is vital to establish that Scripture nowhere forbids online dating and therefore neither should we. It is a denial of the sufficiency of Scripture to add 'laws' that God in his wisdom decided not to include in Holy Scripture. Let's all commit to not load each other's consciences with 'sins' that are not in Scripture. This was the mistake of the Pharisees. But we do want to help inform your thinking and practice related to on-line dating that is shaped by biblical principles. (Read more...)

15 Comments

My husband I minister on a christian college campus. We are concerned about how HUGE online dating has become. There is almost no one who hasn't done it.
In an effort to reach out to the young women, I have a blog. Do you mind if I copy and paste this article on my blog, as long as I give credit to who wrote it?

Gina,

I hope the article serves the women who read your blog. A link to us would be preferred but you can do the whole thing on your blog if you'd like with proper credit and info on the church. Thanks!

Joshua

how about making a list of questions to discuss the most important values and convictions...

derek, someone else could come up with a list of what THEY think is important..but best is to carefully and prayerfully consider before the Lord what aspects of life YOU consider important...and on which side of the proverbial fences YOU stand on for those issues. Then, when someone piques your interest, you will already know the key issues on which the two of you ought to be aligned to prosper as a couple for God's glory.

was involved for years in a post-based contact ministry (postal because it predated the Net by several years). This was well-managed and overseen, in a way that net dating is not, so that filtered out a lot of the problems that arose. Looking back on it, it was a good way of meeting people, especially in a small country with a small national church, and where the average size of an evangelical church is no more than a hundred adults. Some did manage to find the love of their life; many more of us made very good platonic friendships.

But what the ministry has done for us, is not so much ensured we will find someone through it, that's quite rare, but has helped us to the point that when we do meet the love of our life through more "normal" channels, we're actually in a good enough place to make the most of it. The honest truth was that most of us were not really up to the mark at the time we started; and this was a good way of lifting our game.

BTW, if the people at Covenant Life are telling singles that it's all about " ... believing in God's sovereign goodness and provision for you in particular", then they are ignoring the reality that too many singles are simply not up to the mark, and that this really needs to be attended to beforehand. I speak here as a past chief of sinners: being told that I wasn't trusting God for a spouse, and that was why I was still single, really didn't help. (The real issue, I now happily admit, is that I was a depressive. Perhaps I still am). At any rate, talk of the sovereignty of God *has* to be squared off against issues of personal responsibility; and while the article was calling people to be responsible, the scope of that call is wider than the writer was acknowledging.

I should add here, that the better expressions of Calvinism do make clear the reality of personal responsibility, just as the better expressions of Arminianism/ dispensationalism/non-Calvinism, acknowledge the reality of God's sovereignty. The problems come in both traditions when the aspect of truth they don't as a rule emphasise, gets forgotten about.

First I must say that I loved this article because for once it was not condemning online dating, but offering objectives. The only thing that bothers me about it is that it's giving advice that should be given anyway to those dating. I met my boyfriend of a year and half through online dating and the questions I asked him were no different than what I'd ask someone I met in person first. Singles need to know what to ask and what to look for in a mate regardless of the situation. Personally, I think online dating caused me to investigate the other person more, which was great for me.

May I suggest
sovereigngracesingles.com
as a possible good online dating source. Right now it seems like there are more Presbyterians than Baptists on the site. Some more Baptists would help round it out a bit. I know of two couples who found each other through this site.

Good article for advice on online or conventional "dating". Thanks!

It is ironic that this posting comes from a ministry affiliated with someone who wrote a book about kissing dating goodbye. I know that he meant to say something about "dating like the secular world dates", but now we single christian men have to deal with ladies -- and sometimes church leaders -- who think there is something suspicious about dating. Maybe it was always like that, though.

Can't say the article offered much in the way of pastoral insight, either.

Ironically many christian introduction services actually function already in a way that lets subscribers do those things they recommend (such as spelling out their beliefs, what they expect, etc.).

I believe that the article was straight and to the point. I especially liked the part about examining your motives.

And yes, I agree that those of us who are trying to get a husband, "our way and not God's way," need to repent and ask God to help us. I'm 36 years old and I'm beginning to wonder if I will ever get married and have at least 1 child.

Perhaps I still have some growing to do, maybe the husband that God has designed for me has some growing to do as well. But I do know this, that there are millions of women like me, hearing the banging of their biological clocks...

Can we be "real" about this?

Wow! This really helped me as I am using online dating. I know my values and that I do not want to compromise on my beliefs coz I really love God so much. I have met this man who feels the same and now, we are considering God's will for us.

Yeah number 5 "Ask about their values and convictions" really guided me. I almost forgot that I need to have a conversation with his pastor or church leader and now I remembered coz of your post and now, I thank you so much. God's grace and glory be with all of us!

I tried out online dating sites and today realized that my priorities were WAY out of line and it was really me being lazy. I've just moved to a new area and being alone and 'of marrying age' stands out even more when people keep introducing me to guys who "are available" - I want something more than this. I want to be a princess worth pursuing, worth the time to seek in person and worth the effort to be patient (on both our parts). Thanks for this article - even if it is a little older than today. I've removed my profile from the site and am seeking God's help to be patient and disciplined. It's hard sometimes but I've got to trust that God's got a tremendous plan. Thanks for helping a sister out here :-)

I appreciate your concern about singles taking things into their own hands rather than trusting God with supplying them with a life partner. It can be a temptation. However internet dating can also be done prayerfully and trusting that God can work through internet dating. In our disconnected society where social networks no longer work like they did that this is an avenue to meet Godly men (or women)who are also looking for relationships. In biblical times, and in many non-western countries, arranged marriages were the norm. At my church once we get past youth group age there are very few avenues for meeting new people. The church where I have been for many years is very family foccused, which is fantastic, but not conducuve to meeting eligible singles. I'm not about to go church shopping to meet someone. I know that God is quite able to "drop a man in my lap" however also think that he wants us to use practicle avenues for most of life including this one.

The doctrines of this man, difficult enough in themselves, provide a ready platform for fundamentalist hypocrisy in the church. Fanatical proponents of "Kissed Dating Goodbye" methodology ultimately trashed my reputation in my old church (it was found out I "went too far" with my ex-fiance). They stalked around with lists of requirements for their future wife/husband. The sexes avoided each other and were embittered. Elders/deacons kids got a lot more freedom even though they weren't above messing around at times. The singles had a gossip network by which others were "warned" as to who was "marriage material" and who was NOT. If you didn't make the lucky few, people were distantly polite & emotionally absent in the youth group; you didn't have a chance at making friends.

Josh, I don't believe you intended for extremes to happen. But you have muddied the pond for a couple of generations now. Many of us are so cynical that we have resigned ourselves to singleness. Some of us had meaningful, pure relationships with Christian sisters that have been destroyed because of confusion on topics like "emotional purity" (we don't want to cheat on our future spouses by opening up). You are in a position of great recognition and authority. You have the responsibility to set a better example.

I beleive people should be led by the spirit and the word.I once signed up to a chrsitian dating site and the Holy spirit specifically told me to get off that site.That tells me thats' not the tool he will use in my life and frankly, i would rather do it His way. We just need to slow down sometimes so we don't eat fruit out of season.If God permits another christian to do it then they can go ahead within the confines of Godly principles.

A very late response to a blog post, but I just wanted to throw in our success story ... I just passed my ninth anniversary with a wonderful Christian man I met online. We started talking because of similar faith profiles. I was young (21) when we started talking online 10.5 years ago, and still living at home, so my dad was there when we first met in person. My close friends and his extended family were very involved in our first few visits back and forth. I did relocate when we married, and then later we moved back to my home town for him to attend graduate school. For us it worked.

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