Understanding Courtship

Here is the text of a hand-out I gave recently at a workshop on Courtship.


Christians are adopting worldly principles and practices. As a result Christian families and Christian young people are experiencing the same pain and heartache. Fornication. Divorce. Broken families. We live in an age where because of a shrinking globe, deepening apostasy, and information explosion, discernment is not optional. We must think carefully and critically and teach our children to do the same. (Col. 2:8) “beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principle of the world, and not according to Christ….” Why is dating a problem? The dating system is not only not found in Scripture, it violates a number of vital scriptural principles.

Why Dating Is Contributing To The Problem.

1. Dating is dangerous because does not offer enough safety or accountability for young people in the area of moral integrity. This is true for good kids who want to do right, not just for kids who are eager to do wrong.

2. Dating is dangerous gives access to your child’s heart to someone whom the parents have not yet qualified as a viable marriage partner. By the time the parents know the other person well enough to realize he or she is not the one, it is too late because he has already won the heart of the son or daughter.

3. Dating is dangerous because it is a perfect environment for defrauding. (I Thess. 4:3-8)

4. Dating is dangerous because it usually leads to moral impurity.

(II Tim. 2:22; I Cor. 9:27; Eph. 5:3-7; Mark 9:42-48; Job 31:1; Psalm 119:9; Proverbs 6:27; Proverbs 5:15-23)

[It would be a good idea to have a special meeting with and underline this passages on purity and link them together in a “purity chain” for future reference.]

Dating has been described as recreational romance. Some have called the dating system institutionalized flirtation, often dating becomes little more than sanctioned seduction.

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ?to the glory and praise of God. (Phil. 1:9-11)

5. Dating is dangerous because it ignores or overrides the father’s responsibility to “give his daughter in marriage.”
(I Cor. 7:36-38)

One of the worldly philosophies and practices that Christians have accepted uncritically to their harm is the idea that at eighteen years old a young man or woman becomes an autonomous unit free from parental counsel or authority. I would like to suggest to you that God did not intend for young people to be under their own authority until the father released them to establish their own household. (Ephesians 6:1). The leaving should not be before the cleaving. (Genesis 2:24).

Without authority young people loose valuable protection, provision, and direction, God will only give them through their God-given authorities. We need to understand how Satan works. He wants to separate our children from the counsel of Godly authorities so he can take them captive and eventually destroy them. (Luke 22:31) A father is a spiritual protector who needs to have the ability to see these spiritual dangers and address them.

As a result of the dating system and a falling away from righteousness, Christian young people are falling in frightening numbers. It is common for young people to ask their parents, don’t you trust us? One dad answered a question from his son like this: “Yes, we trust you to be like your Dad. That’s why we know you need help.”

So if the dating system is not God’s system, what is God’s system? He has given us His word. He has given us His Spirit. He has given us the mind of Christ. We have everything we need for life and godliness. (II Peter 1:3). He cared about Adam’s loneliness, he cared about Isaac’s grief. His truth includes wise counsel. (Psalm 1) “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the ungodly or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of the scornful. His delight is in the law of the Lord and in his law he meditates day and night. And he will be like a tree planted by the rivers of water. His leaf also shall not wither, and whatever he does will prosper.”

His wisdom includes counsel about home, marriage, and family. If dating is a worldly and dangerous practice that doesn’t work, do we have a better way? I believe we do.


Why Courtship Is The Answer.

God’s ways are a closed system. In other words, the ways of God work together and support each other. Therefore if we want God’s best for our family we need to study to know the ways of God and embrace His ways. It is an exciting adventure as a family when we begin to see the fruit of following the ways of God. One at a time we make life-commitments that bring God’s best to us. Many in our day are a part of a godly remnant that have seen some things in our evil day and they have begun to re-order their lives around the ways of god. I am convinced that one of these ways is courtship. I also believe one of the ways of God is learning together at home.

The courtship idea is getting some very serious consideration around the world. James Dobson done a number of broadcasts on it and former Olympic runner and congressman Jim Ryan has followed courtship with his family. Josh Harris’ books are very popular. The idea is being seriously discussed on many Christian college campuses and in youth groups, but the return to courtship really started primarily among home-school families. And here is the good news: home-schooling is the perfect ENVIRONMENT for courtship.

How does courtship work?

Every family and situation must work out their own unique pattern but here are the basic elements that make what has come to be called “courtship” superior to the practice of dating.

Step One: Come to agreement as a family.

Understand courtship and discuss it with your children. Eventually you want to take your children out on a “date” and encourage them to trust you to help them find a godly life-partner, if it is God’s will for them to marry. You may even give them a token to help them remember their promise to be under your authority in this way. Some families use a written covenant and they have each party sign it. The agreement is to use their single years in special service to the Lord without being distracted by trying to develop a romance before they are old enough to marry.

Sons and daughters need to be taught to reject the folly so common in youth groups and see that God intended for them to use their single years as a time of special intense service to the Lord. (I Cor. 7:32-35)

(Most modern youth groups tend to be entertainment and amusement oriented, not service and ministry oriented. Youth groups tend to create situations where young people are encouraged to initiate romantic attractions outside of the supervision and counsel of their parents).

With a service mentality young people learn to evaluate the character of people of the opposite sex. I once heard of a young lady that sacrificed opportunities to advance her own career by spending time helping an elderly lady. Without knowing it she attracted the admiration of a fine you man who was seeking a young woman with godly character. They are not serving the Lord together.

With a service orientation young people have friends of both sexes and they serve the Lord together. But they guard their hearts. They do not give their heart to another.

When families are committed to courtship they not only are guarding against giving their body to another before marriage, they are guarding against giving their heart to one who will not be their life partner. That is what courtship is. Working with the mother and father to find a Godly life partner and keeping their body and their heart exclusively for them.

Courtship is concerned with Physical purity
Courtship is also concerned with Emotional purity

Step Two: Pray and diligently seek the mind of the Lord.

Father, Mother and family all enter into daily prayer for the direction of God in this vital area. That God would prepare a Godly partner.

-Then go to sleep in the Lord. Adam did.
-Learn to wait on the Lord. Isaac meditated in the field at night.
-Occupy yourself in the service of Christ. The best way to wait faithfully on the Lord is to occupy yourself in His service. “occupy, ?til I come…”
-Pray and seek God for direction. You need to consult someone who knows all the parties better than they know themselves and someone who knows the future.
-Use II Peter 1:5-7 evaluate the faith and virtue of potential mates.
-Allow God to perfect these qualities in you. “If you concentrate on what God wants you to be, He will bring you who He wants you to have.”

Step Three: Make contact through the proper authorities.

When a son is qualified the father or son may contact the father of the woman to initiate a relationship with the father of the woman to discuss the possibility of a future relationship. In the case of the daughter, when the girl is asked out she defers to her father and the father can explain the families convictions about dating and their commitment to courtship. Later that same young man may show an interest in learning about courtship, at which time the father can spend some time sharing the courtship idea and ministering to him. Perhaps he could give the young man literature on the subject. It is even possible the in the future this young man would qualify himself to seek the daughters hand in marriage.

A young lady, on the other hand, may be the last to know. However, if she is the first to know, she should wait quietly or entrust the impression of her heart to her father.

The ideal is SIX people who agree together that they have discerned the mind of Christ.

Step Four: Spend time together and become engaged.

Before this happens six people must agree that it is the mind of the Lord. When all the parties agree that they have discovered God’s will for a new household, then the young people begin to spend special time with each other in the company of each-other’s families. The young lady may spend time and do projects with her future sisters-in-law and mother-in-law and father-in-law. The couple may correspond and spend time together under the accountability of their parents.

A promise of marriage will soon follow and the marriage details will be worked out. Since by virtue of the courtship system both parties are mature and ready for marriage before they enter into the practice of courtship, the period of engagement should be relatively short.

It is vital during this time that the young people “Walk in the light” in order to have fellowship. It is possible to have appropriate privacy without making provision to fulfill the lust of the flesh. (I John 1:9) With a little creativity the couple can have private time in conversation and fellowship without putting themselves into temptation.

Romans 13:12-14 The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light.13 Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy.14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.

Step Five: Marry and establish your own household.

Why is it Courtship Right?

Courtship is following Scriptural commands and principles to obey God.

Courtship provides moral accountability.

Courtship protects the heart of your child. “guard your heart with all diligence for out of it are the issues of life.” (Proverbs 4:23)

Courtship protects you from defrauding and assures both physical and emotional purity.

Courtship insures marital pleasure and joy. God made sex and it is best when you do it His way. Courtship makes it possible to be faithful to the person you will eventually marry. (Proverbs 5:15-20)

Courtship honors the father and mother. (a basic command of God and a foundational principle of Scripture)

Courtship helps the father fulfill one of his God-given responsibilities:
Discipleship (Deuteronomy 6:4-6)
Apprenticeship (Galations 4:2)
Courtship (I Cor. 7:36-38)

Courtship draws the family together.

Courtship takes advantage of wise older counsel. (Two heads are better than one)

Courtship recognizes the significance of a vow. Courtship strengthens the culture because a culture is only as strong and it’s moral “glue” The vows that we have taken. (This is the primary meaning of the third commandment).

Courtship makes it possible for young people to concentrate on serving God in their youth! (I Cor. 7:32-35)

While Dating is seeking your own, Courtship is waiting on God’s best. “God reserves his very best to those who leave the choice to Him.”
So courtship requires faith. Your commitment will be tested.

For courtship to work, for Christian parenting to work, you must win and keep the heart of your sons and daughters and they must have your heart. (Malachi 4:6)

Here is A Simple Road-MAP to Maximum Romance.

MINISTRY. Concentrate on Ministry and Maturity until you are ready for Marriage. (I Corinthians 7:32-35) “…serve the Lord without distraction.” Don’t spend your time and heart on “mini-marriages.” When you concentrate on becoming what God wants you to become and doing what God wants you to do, he will bring you who he wants you to have. Concentrate on being more and more like the King and one day He will introduce you to one of his daughters! (Matthew 6:33)

AUTHORITY. Have an agreement never to initiate any romantic relationship without the full enthusiastic blessing of your parents. (I Corinthians 7:36-38)

PURITY. Purpose to reserve all sexual expression for marriage. (I Corinthians 6:18-20; I Thess. 4:3-8) Walk in the light to maintain the highest standards of sexual purity in your mind, actions and habits.

When people react or misunderstand remember
The Fire-Fly Principle

Philippians 2:15-16
Ephesians 5:3-13
Matthew 5:14-16

“The darker the night, the brighter the light shines.”

A Prayer

Father, hear us, we are praying.
Hear the words our hearts are saying.
We are praying for our children.
Keep them from the powers of evil,
From the secret, hidden peril.

Father, hear us for our children.
From the worldling’s hollow gladness,
From the sting of faithless sadness,
Father, Father, keep our children.

Through life’s troubled waters steer them.
Through life’s bitter battles cheer them.
Father, Father, be thou near them.
And wherever they may bide,
Lead them home at eventide.

?Amy Carmichael


-Win and keep the hearts of your sons and daughters. Courtship will not work if you overlook this vital truth. You must win and keep the heart of your sons and daughters. (Mal. 4:6) They must know that you love them and you must have their heart.

-Don’t be dogmatic and insensitive to others. On the one hand some have fallen into the trap of a wooden-literalism, where they make the mistake of taking a reference to an historic practice as a command to observe that practice in every day and in every culture. This can be avoided by carefully hermeneutics, studying the Scripture in the right way. This can also be avoided by principle-centered thinking. Mature Christians a governed by scriptural principles. Their lives are ordered around applying timeless principles in the distinct culture in which they live. There is no special premium on being a cultural oddity. The primary difference that distinguishes Christians from those who have bought into the word system is moral and ethical, not outward. Some would insist on using the word betrothal, and there is nothing wrong with that. But we need to be careful, when we are expressing ideas to other that we do not erect unnecessary road-blocks in their way. We are not commanded to call it betrothal. That is optional. We are commanded to obey the law of God and practice His ways and apply his principles.

-Don’t confuse true piety with the homestead movement or the “old-fashioned” movement. Simplicity is a virtue and a needed one. But if we assume that we have to become homesteaders to live simply we may complicate our lives with homesteader trinkets and in so doing get distracted from our calling in this world. Real piety is not being old-fashioned. Courtship is an idea God intended for our time. Some have probably left the impression that courtship is an attempt among people that are frightened by our rapidly-changing age to turn back the clock. That is not true.

-Have a sweet spirit and learn from others in the body. We are to be morally and ethically distinct. We are to be wise in the exposure allow. But there is a balance. We are also commanded to be in the world and to go into the world. One of the best ways to do that is to be involved in a local church. This is a command of God.

-Expect to be misunderstood. Be willing to stand alone. When you are on the cutting edge of societal change, expect to be misunderstood and even mildly persecuted. Be prepared to pay the price for your convictions, but try to avoid exuding false-piety which is a form of pride. People are going to often reject new truth when they first hear it. It is hard for them to receive new ideas. Don’t make it harder for them by making them overcome your abrasive personality, too, or your pseudo-piety. Help them along. During times of misunderstanding it is helpful to me to think of what I like to call the “Firefly Principle.”

We live in a dark world. The moral and spiritual darkness is closing in around us. That can be frightening. But we need to remember that times of opposition are always moments of opportunity! (I Cor. 16:9) Obstacles and Opportunities in disguise! Let me explain.

Young people who are respectful stand out against the darkness of rudeness.
Young people who are pure stand out against the darkness of impurity
Young people who are under authority stand out against the darkness of rebellion
Young people who are diligent stand out against the darkness of sloth
Young people who are wise stand out against the darkness of foolishness

When things are dark remember that your good deeds are the light that causes others to see you and glorify God.

Kenneth L. Pierpont

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