“Missionary dating” is when you share an ice cream sundae with that cute missionary who just came back from the mission field. Not!
(Note: updated definitions for the term missionary dating are available.) Missionary dating doesn’t mean going on dates with a missionary. And it doesn’t refer to the awesome dating scene if you happen to be a missionary. It actually has very little to do with real-life missionaries. Missionary dating is when a Christian goes on dates with non-Christians. It could be that the Christian has fallen head-over-heels in love with a non-Christian and is convinced that over time he or she will be able to persuade their crush to convert to Christianity. Or it could be that the Christian is deliberately seeking out non-Christians in the dating scene in order to evangelize in an extremely up-close and personal way.
Whatever the missionary dater’s motivation, virtually all the books and sermons in the contemporary Christian church agree on this: such dating is not Biblical. Church pastors, youth leaders, parents, and other wisdom figures in the lives of young Christians all categorically counsel against Christians getting romantically entangled with non-Christians.
An interesting Christianese term commonly heard in these discussions about missionary dating is “unequally yoked,” which means two people partnering up who shouldn’t be partnered at all. The idea is that a Christian and a non-Christian who want to partner in business or partner in a romantic relationship are always going to have a different perspective when it comes to the most important questions in life. The unequally yoked metaphor calls to mind an image of a sheep and a goat harnessed together and trying to accomplish something productive. Does a sheep and goat tied together sound in any way productive? Of course not! Case closed. Bible 1, Atheism 0.
But to steer back to the point, that’s not to say that in the past two thousand years people haven’t been converted to Christianity while dating a Christian or even after marrying a Christian. Sure, it can happen (after all, anything can happen). But history shows that it hardly ever happens. Parents and pastors, in their denunciation of missionary dating, just want to protect the young believer from what will end, in all probability, in heartbreak.
I can almost hear the advice being given to those kids who are considering doing some missionary dating: “Charlie, why can’t you find a nice Proverbs 31 girl?” a young man’s parents plead. And: “Alice, why don’t you talk to that missionary kid who started going to our church?” a young woman’s parents beg. Sigh. If only our hormones were a little more holy!
The orations of church leaders and the dismal statistics of interfaith romance notwithstanding, young men and women will still occasionally fish outside of the baptismal pool in their quest for love. At least we have a word for what they’re doing: missionary dating.
Read below for the definition.
What other Christianese terms do you know about that have to do with love, romance, and relationship? Let’s hear them in the comments.