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Singleness isn’t just a second-class phase of life we rush through. Singleness affords opportunities, and God has purpose for this season. We shouldn’t miss what He wants to teach us now because we’re fixated on the future.
In the season of singleness, we find freedom we won’t experience in subsequent phases of life.
1. FREEDOM FROM DISTRACTION. In other stages of life, it’s easy to be distracted by the opposite sex instead of focusing on unhindered devotion to God.
2. FREEDOM FROM ANXIETY. We’ll have divided interests in other seasons of life. Singleness gives us freedom from the anxieties and stresses of a relationship.
cultural versus biblical
Our culture tends to view singleness in one of two ways: a time to relish and work on ourselves or a phase of life to be terminated as quickly as possible. Both views miss the mark biblically.
Help members of your group see the unique gift and opportunity singleness provides to live fully on mission for God. Singleness shouldn’t be leveraged to focus exclusively on ourselves or our career but on our unique calling and role in the work God is doing in the world.
In any group of singles, there will likely be a range of people—some who are content in their singleness and others who are discontent. Neither is inherently wrong. Regardless of where someone falls on the spectrum, data suggest that most people who are single hope to be married eventually. Help both groups realize that the purpose of this stage is to pursue Christ with purity of devotion.
As the leader, uphold singleness in the same positive light the Bible does. Singleness is a good gift from a God who loves us, not an unfortunate stage to be endured.
God, we want to see singleness the same way You do. We want to use this time to make the most of our calling and the most of Your kingdom. Please help the people in this group, no matter how we feel about being single, become more committed to You with unwavering devotion. Use this Bible study to deepen our faith and to point us to You and Your purpose for our lives.
Dating is a process of evaluation, and that process begins with finding who to date. The goal of this session isn’t to discover how to find a date but to identify what type of people you should date. To determine this, Ben suggests that you seek someone with the following characteristics.
• Someone who has the same cause as you
• Someone who has character shaped by God
• Someone with whom you share chemistry
cultural versus biblical
In a culture dominated by a consumer mentality, especially in regard to dating, followers of Christ aim for much more. Society bases relationships on transient characteristics, such as physical looks, which will fade over time. This emphasis dehumanizes people. Scripture calls us first to place our allegiance in God. As we maintain that allegiance throughout a dating relationship, we should focus on character and chemistry. To pursue only one of these three qualities is to miss God’s best for us.
Though we’d like to create categories of boyfriend and girlfriend, the goal of dating is to answer the question, Is this person the right one for me?
Ben mentions in his talk that the Bible doesn’t recognize the categories boyfriend and girlfriend. This statement is likely news to many people in your group and may even be news to you. Most of us tend to reject information that goes against our experience. Resist this urge and hear Ben’s point. The idea of evaluating a mate is very much a biblical concept. The goal of this session is to apply those biblical principles to dating.
Members of your group may be dating people without the same cause, character shaped by God, or chemistry. All three elements are needed. Be aware that this teaching may present a difficult but needed realization for some members.
This session emphasizes the importance of meeting people to date in the context of Christian community. Many people find dates through less personal platforms like dating apps. Although nothing is inherently wrong with those, help the group see the value of a shared Christian community as a means to meet other people.
God, let us prize and seek relationships with people of character and faith. The people we date will shape our lives and character over time, and we want to date people who push our faith to greater depths. Lord, help us desire to be the type of couple who build each other’s faith. Please lead us in this process.
The Bible doesn’t contain a how-to guide for dating, because dating isn’t a biblical concept. However, the evaluation of a potential mate is wholly biblical. This session will give members some practical criteria for what dating should look like, bringing much-needed clarity to the process of dating.
As we date, we want to date with clarity and autonomy.
1. CLARITY. We’re up-front and direct about how we feel and what we think throughout the process.
2. AUTONOMY. We don’t use our dating status to lay claim on someone’s time or body. The Bible allows for neither option.
cultural versus biblical
It’s nearly impossible to avoid being influenced by the way culture approaches dating. However, asking the question “How does God want me to date?” can help make the period of dating even more fulfilling in both the short and long terms.
In dating, culture and intuition may not provide helpful guidance, although we’ve been trained to think they will. Scripture provides that guidance. The Bible never uses the terms boyfriend and girlfriend, a status our culture often assigns to designate a sense of ownership over another person. The Bible gives two categories of relationship: we’re either single or married. Until we’re married, we have no rights over another person.
When we date, starting in the right place is key. If we want to find someone who’s seeking God, we have to look where people seek Him. Because dating is a season devoted to evaluating the other person, offering clarity about our thoughts and feelings is a sign of maturity and integrity.
To evaluate, we have to watch and learn. Through observation in multiple environments, we find out whether the other person is truly who we think they are.
When people approach the topic of how to date, they have lots of presuppositions and assumptions. There will likely be as many opinions about dating as their are people in your group. You’ll want to account for that possibility in your conversation.
Much of how we think about dating is cultural rather than biblical. Just because a person’s friends date a certain way doesn’t make it wise or biblical. Here are a few examples of people you may need to consider.
1. MISSIONARY DATERS. Some Christians date someone who doesn’t share their faith in the hopes they’ll convert them. Though this may seem like a good idea, it’s a path to heartbreak. Shared faith is an essential component of healthy relationships.
2. CLAIM STAKERS. Others may use the terms boyfriend and girlfriend to lay claim to someone. In dating, however, we need space to evaluate whether the person is right for us.
3. SERIAL MONOGAMISTS. The goal of dating is marriage. Jumping from person to person with no clear goal or end in sight doesn’t meet the biblical standard for our relationships.
God, we want to honor You in this season of evaluation, but we need You to help us see what You see in the people we date. Help us discern the true character of our dating partners. Give us clarity and courage to speak openly and honestly. Keep us from rushing ahead of You or lagging behind. Help us stay in step with You as You lead us through this process.
In this second half of our approach to dating, we’ll look at the process itself. The culture surrounding us takes a casual view of sex. We hear that sex is essential to our well-being, whether or not we’re married. And society claims that sex is primarily physical, with no significant effects on our mind or spirit.
In his talk Ben offers three ideas for pursuing purity.
1. SURROUND YOURSELF WITH WISE VOICES. Whom we listen to and speak with about dating matters, especially in regard to purity.
2. RESIST FIRST IMPULSES TOWARD INAPPROPRIATE SEX. Sexual temptation abounds. The quickest and surest way out is to “flee sexual immorality” (1 Cor. 6:18).
3. “DRINK WATER FROM YOUR OWN CISTERN” (PROV. 5:15). Sex is permissible only within the confines of marriage.
cultural versus biblical
Our world of casual sex tells us in order to evaluate whether someone is the right person and in order to be physically healthy, we must sleep together. The Bible calls us to something different. The truths of Scripture stand in stark contrast to what pop culture and relational self-help books esteem as wisdom.
Scripture carves another pathway for our thoughts and actions. The Bible calls us to purity, choosing love over lust. We should treat the other person graciously, as if we were dating a child of royalty. We should always surround ourselves with a community of people who know our strengths, weaknesses, hopes, dreams, and desires and who choose to remain present and active with us during this phase.
The pathway of purity is fraught with challenges, but for those who’ve already sinned sexually, God offers grace. If someone in the group has sinned and feels a weight of guilt, be sure not to add guilt and shame. Help them understand that they can be forgiven and can begin pursuing purity from this day forward despite past failings.
Additionally, pornography usage is rampant. Purity isn’t simply what happens between two people; it may be what happens between someone and their computer. It’s possible that members of your group have struggled with pornography in the past or are struggling now. Maybe you’ve personally struggled in this area.
The people in your group need to know they can pursue purity and find freedom from sexual sin. The purpose of this session isn’t to heap condemnation but to help people maintain freedom from sexual impurity.
God, we want to be people who desire purity at all costs. Help us reject cultural expectations and see our dating partners as brothert or sisters in Christ. Help us fight the battle for purity, which is too difficult to fight on our own. Help us support one another in this pursuit. We believe You’re able to give us victory.
Dating is a process that culminates in marriage. How do we know we should marry the person we’re dating? This session aims to answer that question and then to establish steps to take after we’ve made that initial decision. Engagement is the time when we bare our hearts and seriously consider what it means to become one with another person.
Ben teaches in his talk that we can know the person is right for us if we find the following qualities in the relationship.
1. EXCITEMENT. We should feel excitement in the relationship.
2. LIFE. Solomon compared his love for his bride to the season of spring.
3. A STRONG SENSE OF COMMITMENT. A desire to stay is one standard we can use to measure the health of our relationship.
4. GROWING COMMUNICATION SKILLS. Successful marriages rely on successful communication. These skills should always be honed, but we begin to sharpen them during dating and engagement.
5. ABILITY TO SURVIVE A MOMENT OF CONFESSION. Marriage is hard. We need to be honest.
cultural versus biblical
Engagement in our culture is all about wedding planning. We ask: What dress and tux should we wear? What should the flowers look like? Who’ll be in the wedding party? Where will we live after we’re married? Biblically, engagement is a brief season that allows a couple to focus on the complexities of bringing their two lives together as one. It’s is not only a time to work on the wedding but also a time to work on the marriage. Engagement involves wedding planning, but it’s primarily about union.
Help members see that engagement is the final step in evaluating a mate. Although it should be exciting, it should also be a time of serious consideration. The couple is beginning to knit their lives together.
Engaged couples are often surprised to learn how stressful engagement can be, so don’t be surprised if engaged couples in your group express that sentiment.
Urge engaged members to seek premarital counseling. Many churches provide some form of this with either a pastor or a counselor. Having an objective party to advise and encourage the couple during this season is tremendously helpful.
God, we want to see each stage of our relationships as You do. Please craft our relationships in such a way that the current or eventual engagements of the people in this group will exalt You. Allow this group session to be helpful and productive for them.
Just as God called us when we were single to pursue Him uniquely in that phase, He has also called us to pursue Him uniquely as a married couple. Marriage is a about couples being on mission.
1. A COUPLE ON MISSION IS HOSPITABLE. They extend grace and help others walk with the Lord.
2. A COUPLE ON MISSION IS WILLING TO TRY SOMETHING NEW. They seek ways to advance God’s kingdom.
3. A COUPLE ON MISSION IS FAITHFUL TO THE END. Faithfulness continues at every point in the marriage.
cultural versus biblical
Marriage in our culture is disposable and can be ended by the choice of either party at any moment. Such ideas of marriage fall woefully short of the biblical ideal. Biblical marriage has a twofold design.
1. A PICTURE OF JESUS AND HIS RELATIONSHIP WITH HIS BRIDE, THE CHURCH. Wives are to submit to their husbands, and husbands are to initiate and lead. When these roles work in harmony, marriage can provide a beautiful picture of Jesus and His church.
2. A PURSUIT OF GOD’S MISSION. Through hospitality, ministry, and faithfulness to each other and God’s call, marriage is more than a couple who lives as one. Marriage involves pursuing God’s mission together. The strongest bonds are formed when a couple lives out their marriage on mission together.
Hopefully, this session will be an exciting conclusion to your study together. Here are a couple of points to keep in mind.
1. EXPERIENCE WITH MARRIAGE. Our experience with marriage colors our expectations of marriage. It’s likely that some people in the group have never seen a godly marriage, so the biblical ideal will be new to them.
2. EXPERIENCE WITH DIVORCE. Other members may have divorced parents or may have been divorced themselves and are now single again. Be aware of the experiences these members might bring to the discussion. Help them feel comfortable.
God, we want marriages that last and that point others to You. Give us marriages that picture the reality of Your relationship with Your church. Strengthen the marriages in our church and in our community so that they honor You and reflect Your purpose.