Missionary Dating: What it is and Why You Should Avoid It


Written by McKenna Von Gunten

What is missionary dating?    

Missionary dating is when a Christian dates a non-believer for the purpose of converting them over to Christianity. Though this form of getting to know someone while trying to lead them to Christ seems like a great idea, it is not God’s purpose for dating. While dating is not bad if your focus is to honor and glorify God, it is not the way to bring someone to Christ–no matter how beautiful or handsome that person is.

God’s purpose for dating 

“You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted in your own affections…Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers…Or what fellowship has the light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial (the devil)? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God.” 2 Corinthians 6:12-16 ESV  The most common definition of “unequally yoked” that Christians use today is talking about non-believers marrying believers. This goes for your dating relationships as well. If you are a believer, it is the Lord’s will for you to date and marry a believer. He does not want us to be “unequally yoked.” Why? Because you are restricting yourself from loving God and glorifying Him with your whole heart. While your relationship with God is personal, the person you are going to marry should constantly be pointing you back to Jesus. He or she shouldn’t be a distraction from your devotion to God.

Hidden intentions 

Some Christians aren’t convicted on this issue and justify themselves when they date because they say that God would want them to be happy and that He doesn’t want them to be lonely. But are you truly accepting your boyfriend or girlfriend and loving them for who they are if your hidden intentions are to convert them over to Christianity?  Dating to convert someone is built on false intentions, which is extremely harmful to your relationship. Trying to change someone to believe what you believe never works because you simply can’t change a person’s heart. A person’s heart will only change when the work of the Holy Spirit reveals that they need Jesus. Dating a non-believer restricts you in your personal relationship with God and could inhibit your faith from growing further. Getting to encourage someone in their walk with God is a blessing, but that should be done in an equally yoked relationship–where both of you are pursuing God actively and building each other up in Christ.

Don’t settle for less 

Don’t settle for less than what God has for you. Relationships are a beautiful and complicated part of life. We are relational beings who long to be known for who we are. God gave us the desire to love and be loved, and even as we are fully known and fully loved by God, we still seek after romance and fantasies–looking for things to fill up the empty black hole of loneliness.   As humans, we will always battle against the desires of our flesh. Dating has been accepted by our culture in trying out people to see if you’re compatible and if they don’t fit, you break off that relationship. Today, Christian guys and girls are finding it harder to find someone who is pursuing Jesus passionately and shares the same dreams and ambitions as they do. While many of us have the desire to marry a godly person, Christian singles either settle for a lifetime of singleness, dedicating their lives to glorifying God through ministry, or they become tired of waiting on God to bring “their person” and settle for someone who isn’t a Christian.

Relational ties 

Relational ties happen when we share our heart with someone and become really comfortable and close to them. It starts with small conversations and goes deeper with each text you send. Sharing testimonies, late night conversations, and praying together leads you into a confused state if they are truly just a friend or wanting to be something more. Spiritual, mental, emotional, and sometimes physical bonds develop into relational ties which are difficult to break off when dating a person. When we attach ourselves to someone who is not being renewed by constant fellowship with the Lord, we start to take those burdens upon ourselves.  Our bodies are the temples of the Lord, and when taking on another person’s life, you close off areas of your heart where you are unaware of the Lord’s Presence in your life. We aren’t meant to be chained down by our relationships or carry the weight of the world on our shoulders. God made us to walk in freedom before Him.  

What’s your motive? 

When you’re in a dating relationship you need to question your motives. Why are you dating that person? Is it because they are really cute or you like how they make you laugh? Or is it because you admire their character? Looks will change over time, but character lasts forever.  “But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7 ESV  Do you value how they treat others? Are they respectful and honoring you and your moral standards? They shouldn’t be doing things to impress you just because they like you. Seeking after Jesus is to be genuine, not forced. How will this foundation that you’re building now in your dating relationship affect your marriage and future kids? Are you truly concerned for them to seek after God wholeheartedly? Or are you just wanting to be in a relationship because you couldn’t wait any longer and went in search of one?  “Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” Proverbs 31:30 ESV

Are you living like you’re loved?  

We keep trying to find the love of our lives when He’s always standing beside us. We don’t need to be seeking for love because Love found us before we came into being. You don’t need that dating relationship to fulfill you. If we live knowing that we are fully known and fully loved, why do we think that we need a physical imperfect being by our side to make us content? The deepest layer of your heart can only be pierced by the everlasting Love of God.   If the person you’re dating isn’t a believer, how will they be able to encourage you and point you back to Christ when things are hard? As Christians, we were created to be in fellowship with God and live in a community of believers who will build us up in our walk with the Lord. A non-believer won’t understand that no matter how hard they try, they can’t make you happy. You may feel happy, but you will never be content.   If you feel hindered in your personal relationship with God because of your relationship with your boyfriend or girlfriend, ask Him what you need to do. It’s a scary question, but trust me, He wants what’s best for you.

Waiting on the Lord 

God desires for everyone to be in an unhindered relationship with Him. He wants us to surrender and place ourselves fully in His hands–even if that means doing it over and over again until there is nothing left to give. As Christians, He calls us to pursue Him faithfully and to fix our eyes above, and not on earthly things. He doesn’t ask us to give up hope, but to trust Him completely.   Missionary dating is not truly genuine because you are building on a platform of selfish desires instead of giving up your wants and longings to Jesus. It hurts to give up our desires and our will to God because we despise pain. We try to avoid it at all cost. But you will only cause deeper hurt if you date non-believers. You are depriving yourself from what God really has for you. It’s okay to grieve when you long for a relationship, because God made you with the desire to be in a relationship. But we shouldn’t settle for less than what God has for us.  “The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks him.” Lamentations 3:25 ESV Through the waiting, He is drawing you closer to Himself and teaching you what it means to trust Him completely. A relationship with Him is more precious than any dating relationship. If we choose to have joy instead of bitterness in this season of waiting, we will begin to realize that He is not taking away our desire, but remaking our hearts into a more beautiful likeness of His heart than before.   “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” 2 Corinthians 3:18 ESV 

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