missionary dating

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“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.


missionary dating n. The practice of dating non-Christians in hopes of converting them to Christianity.
See also *date for Jesus; *flirt to convert; *unequally yoked.
1981 Wood Questions Teenagers Ask About Dating and Sex 37 : This question addresses itself to what is known as “missionary dating.” … Can a Christian use his or her date as a means of winning others to Christ? 1989 Hunt Now That He’s Asked You Out 33 : She doesn’t believe in “missionary dating”—when a Christian young person dates a non-Christian young person in the hope that the non-Christian can be led to the Lord. 1996 McDowell Handbook on Counseling Youth 124 : “Missionary Dating.” Should a Christian youth date a non-Christian? Can a Christian teen use the dating experience as a means of witnessing for Christ? 2002 Mattingly “On Religion” (syndicated column) (14 Aug.) : Church people have a name for what happens when young believers get romantically involved with unbelievers. They call it “missionary dating,” usually with one eyebrow raised in skepticism. Most of these relationships involve a good girl who is convinced that, with time, she can help a bad boy see the error of his ways and learn to walk the straight and narrow path.
¹missionary date v. For a Christian to date a non-Christian in hopes of converting him or her to Christianity.
See also *missionary dating.
1994 Stromberg Finding the Magnificent in Lower Mundane 226 : Ryan’s daughter called home from college to say she had decided to go ahead and “missionary date” the Mormon kid. 1995 Luce Quit Playing With Fire 53 : Many people try to “missionary date” and bring their dates to the Lord. Let me tell you, there are too many tragic endings to that story. 2004 Meier A Girl’s Guide to Life 21 : Have you ever heard the phrase “unequally yoked”? It means that two people who aren’t in the same place spiritually end up together. This often happens because one person is trying to “missionary date” the other—to save them and bring them to Christ.
missionary date someone into the kingdom v. phr. For a Christian to successfully convert a non-Christian to Christianity while dating him or her.
2001 Brantley God, Sex, and Dating 45 : Please don’t think you can “missionary date” your intended spouse into the Kingdom. If you marry an unbeliever, you are signing up for a miserable life. 2003 McDowell The One Year Josh McDowell’s Youth Devotions II. 205 : You might think you can “missionary date” someone into God’s kingdom. Don’t fool yourself. If you are emotionally attached, you will do way better to remain single and pray for the salvation of that guy or girl.
²missionary date n. A date that a Christian goes on with a non-Christian in hopes of eventually converting him or her to Christianity.
See also *missionary dating.
2000 Payne True Loves Waits Takes a Look at Courting, Dating, and Hanging Out 30 : A missionary date is when a Christian goes out with a non-Christian in the hopes of being a witness to the person. The courting or dating arena is not the place to begin an evangelistic emphasis.
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