Hey guys, read this article by my pastor this last week and thought is was absolutely solid.  Have a read, I'll put half of it up and half later, but it will count towards part of my Relationship Stuff I want to post up here, ENJOY:

CHURCH WITHOUT LIMITS: COURTSHIP 101 by Brendan Witton

Introduction 

A number of years ago in the early stages of our church the majority of our members were not involved in relationships. The LORD impressed on me very strongly that a shift was coming and if we did not establish a culture of how to ‘date’ according to the principles of the Scriptures that it would tear our church community apart.

This stood out to me because I had seen far to many examples of young people who were growing in their faith but were ship-wrecked by sexual sin and broken hearts. I had also watched too many ministries which became “soap operas” of who was dating who, and the distraction and damage that it caused. Furthermore, I was not in a relationship myself and was hungry to understand how to live out a godly relationship myself.

I recognized clearly that our cultures view of relationships and dating didn’t work – it very often led to disaster. The reason that we often saw the same results in the ‘church’ was because we were doing things the exact same way! What we needed was a fresh, Bible-based perspective on how to do things.

I began to go to the scriptures, talk with couples about both their successes and failures, and learn from other youth ministries and what they did. I was also greatly influenced by “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” and “Boy Meets Girl” by Joshua Harris. I entered into a relationship (and ultimately married) and others began to get into relationships as well.

Through this whole process we developed a paradigm or approach to relationships that we call courtship. We would never suppose that it is the only way and that every other one is wrong but we have seen it work for couple after couple in our church community. I have often had the honor of standing at the alter with a young man and women who, while not perfect, have honored God and honored each other and enter marriage without the guilt and shame of sin and compromise. I have sensed the presence and pleasure of God so clearly on those days.

As our church has grown, and others have expressed interest in our approach I realized the need to articulate more clearly the heart, and step by step practicalities of what we do. This document is my attempt. It is ideally meant to be used as a guide for teaching and discussion. It does not cover every minute detail and I suspect will be modified and sharpened as we get feedback and continue to grow. If you have questions or need clarification (particularly if you are not part of the CWL community) please feel free to contact us and we will do our best to help you.

Grasping the Heart of Courtship

Before discussing the practical steps of courtship it is absolutely vital that we get the heart behind courtship. When you have the right heart, then the practical steps will be a lifeline to honoring God and honoring each other. When you do not have the right heart they will seem like legalistic rules that you will ultimately resent.

So what is the heart behind courtship?

I.                   It is a heart to honor and please God

  1. As a believer our number one aim should be to please God in every area of our lives – including our relationships and love life.
  2. When you have this heart you want to do everything possible to conduct your relationships with the opposite sex in a way that pleases God and brings honor to Him.
  3. We please God when we live in accordance with his principles and commands. Courtship is about doing just that.

II.                It is a heart to honor each other 

  1. In addition to loving God we are commanded to love each other – when a couple’s relationship is filled with sin and compromise they are not truly loving or honoring each other. 
  2. True love is not seeing ‘how far can we go’ or ‘how much can I get’ but it is saying ‘I want to help you walk in purity and walk out the call of God on your life’.
  3. By applying the principles of courtship a couple will truly be honoring each other and showing true love.
  4. When starting a courtship, no couple knows for certain that they will be married and so it is also important to remember that you may be in a relationship with someone else’s future husband or wife. How would you want someone to treat/interact with your future spouse? Would you want them in the back seat of a car with their clothes half off? No! So that is the standard with which you should treat the person you are courting. “Do unto others and you would have the do unto you”

 III.             It is a heart to walk in purity and holiness

  1. God has called and empowered us to walk in purity and holiness in every area of our lives – including our love life and relationships.
  2. Sexual sin has devastating consequences. These include unplanned pregnancy, STD’s, broken hearts, soul ties and spiritual bonding, delay or destruction of the calling of God on your life and the list goes on.
  3. A wise individual will not enter a relationship lightly and when they do so will plan for purity and holiness very seriously – this is courtship.

IV.              It is a heart to prepare yourself for a successful marriage

  1. Biblically, the ultimate design and purpose of love and romance is marriage
  2. Today we see an unprecedented number of failed and broken marriages. Many people do not understand that the seeds of destruction are often sown in how they prepare themselves – both in their personal life and when they are dating/engaged.
  3. When you honor God, each other and walk in purity through courtship you are laying the foundation for a healthy and strong marriage.

 V.                 It is a heart that desires the perfect will of God for you life

  1. The most important decision you will make in life next to accepting Jesus is who you will marry.
  2. Many people have undermined or even destroyed the call of God on their life because they married the wrong person.
  3. Entering into a relationship with someone is serious business and needs to be treated as such. It should not be done flippantly or lightly.
  4. When the principles of courtship are applied they help you make sure you walk out God’s best in your life.

 

 Courtship Basics

So now that we have covered the heart, let’s discuss the practicalities of what it actually looks like:

Courtship is a principled relationship in which marriage is a prayerful consideration that is committed to scriptural purity, real accountability, submission to God and spiritual authority and functions according to clear God-given standards (P.A.S.S.)

 I.      Courtship

  1. Some would ask why we used the word ‘courtship’ instead of ‘dating’? When the word ‘dating’ in used, in our North American culture we have pre-determined picture of what that is. By using a different word we are making a break from ‘relationships as usual’ and reinforcing that we are basing our relationship on the Word of God rather than the cultural norms.
  2. It is important to note that what you actually call your relationship does not matter as long as you adopt Godly principles. If a couple wants to say they are ‘dating’ rather than ‘courting’ that is fine.

 II.      Principled Relationship

  1. If you were to ask an average dating couple what principles they were basing their relationship on they would probably give you a blank look – in our culture relationships are often based on feelings and not on sound principles.
  2. As believers we need to base our relationships on the principles of the Word of God and not how we feel. For example: we may feel very strongly like have sex before we are married but we do not because of the teachings of the scriptures. We put principles above our feelings.
  3. A commitment to courtship is a commitment to base every area of your relationship on the Word of God and when you feel like doing something else you stick to the principles.

 III.      Where Marriage is a Prayerful Consideration 

  1. God’s ultimate design for our capacity to fall in love was that it would lead us into a committed relationship of marriage.
  2. In our culture, dating is often completely separated from any consideration of marriage but this was never God’s intent. If we are dating someone with no intention of exploring a long term commitment then why are we doing it?
  3. This question is very important to consider because we will often realize that we are doing it to fulfill our lusts, medicate a need that we should be looking to God to meet, or simply because it is what we have been told we are supposed to be doing.
  4. If you are not in a season of your life where marriage is a possibility (even if it is several years down the road) then why open yourself up to the potential temptation, sin, heartbreak, and distraction of a relationship?
  5. It is important to counter-balance this point with a caution that you do not need to rush toward marriage or feel that because you are courting you must get married. The heart of courtship is that this person is someone that you could see yourself potentially marrying and you are developing a deeper relationship with to prayerfully explore that possibility.
  6. We must remember that every successful courtship does not end in marriage. If a couple begins courting but then realizes that they are not to be together then they have succeeded in finding God’s will. The point of courtship is that they will be able to step away with minimal damage of sexual sin, guilt and shame.

So guys, I'll put part 2 up next Sunday night... also as soon as we have it I'll put a link up for the message I spoke last Friday at church, also entitled "Courtship 101" 

Keep burning for Jesus!!!