March 22, 2008, 8:00 am
Filed under: Leadership, Roles and Relationships


By Walt Alexander

Again, though we have spent weeks talking about this subject, I thought it might be helpful to walk through it once again.

So, who shouldn’t we court?

This is a somewhat random list of thoughts.

1. We shouldn’t court a non-Christian. Because we – as Christians – are forbidden by Scripture to marry a non-Christian (2 Cor 6:14-15), we should not court one. Again, this is a no-brainer.

2. We shouldn’t court someone who is stagnant in their love for and pursuit of God. Court someone who will challenge you to grow in godliness and will not be dead weight. Court someone who is continually growing in their knowledge of the Lord. You know who they are. They are the ones who stand out in a crowd. They are the ones who do not follow the patterns and the norms of this world and culture; they are far more passionate for another world. They rise early to be with the Lord and prioritize all things around the Lord.

3. We shouldn’t court someone who is a drifter. Drifters are people with many, shallow relationships who are uncommitted to a church. They are people who shirk at relational and church commitment. The problem, ultimately, is not merely that they are drifters but that their wandering, sinful hearts (like all of ours!) need the sturdy ground of the church. Left to themselves, they will drift and wander to their demise. Do you want to go with them?

4. We shouldn’t court someone whose life is not adorned with fruit. Now, yes, all people are sinners – including Christians – but do not court/marry someone who isn’t growing. Oftentimes – blinded by lust – we will overlook the lack of fruit in someone’s life. Do not do this! Run from them. You should love them and befriend them, but you should not court them.

5. We shouldn’t court someone who we merely like. Like is somewhat important but it is not ultimate. Like must be submitted to God’s rule. Properly submitted to God’s Word, we should be open and willing to court someone who we would not normally like but who is a Christian, growing in godliness, serving the church, and mature enough for marriage. Otherwise, many men, like myself, would not be married!


12 Comments so far
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I can’t necessarily agree or see wisdom in all these who we should and shouldn’t court.

I am going to definately attack that 3rd assertion of yours. I see it as entirely unwise. Most of those drifters probably need to be invested into more not less. I will throw myself into that lot, for a time. Perhaps you were too broad in your definition. I was emotionally shallow in some ways without realizing it. I have plenty of reasons why I was that way, which one do you want?

I am finding that I probably needed to be invested in more relationally, not less. I needed closer relationships, not more distant ones. This whole idea flies in the face of your suggestion. There is much more to it than I care to post but I will die on that hill.

I find the third point superfluous and potentially harmful in light of the truth in the other points. People can drift because no one but Christ has tied them down. Sometimes a church needs to first act like a church. Drifting or rather bouncing around as consumerism, a sign of christian immaturity, is different.

Finally, courting is not pre-engagement. It is first intentionally investing into a relationship with a secondary reason of considering marriage. The exact problem you mention in 3 is shallow relationships is something that you reinforce by this very assertion against courting those people. The importance of these two reasons become reversed as the courtship progresses, where the primary reason is considering marriage. Much of your wisdom here is for when you should be end a courtship. This goes with other points also too. It is not that you should necessarily avoid it. You must be cautious.

Finally, it is not a sin for a person to marry, even when one is consumed by lust. You must reconcile your list on courting with what 1 Cor 7:9 looks like if you wish to prevent certain marriages. Marrying as such is far from wise and will lead to many troubles. More troubles than what it is worth. I would rather be single eternally.

Comment by Dave McCarthy

Hmmm, I see wisdom in this stuff even if it is not as straight forward. I don’t want you to doubt that it is probably more beneficial than not. I should probably talk in person. I do much better off gathering principles rather than answers though. It seems that it all boils down to two thing that I am not getting about courtship and its purpose vs intentional dating and honesty about goals.

How is courtship clear when ‘possibly pursuing marriage’ means different things at different times? In the beginning, this phrase may mean getting to know someone in general. This phrase takes a natural progression into looking for traits ideal for marriage in a person. It then becomes more judging and considering if the couple are called to marriage with an eye toward God. These aren’t mutually exclusive.

Next, a re-definition of courtship from the traditional one is not tenable always. The traditional one is much more pre-engagement. This lurks in the background corrupting any discussion of possibly pursing marriage and courtship also.

Maybe I am being to narrow but the term. Maybe I am the only one who sees this. You can’t avoid the discussion though.

You can’t claim protections and value courtship if those very protections are from the terms. Commitment is linked to agreeing on terms. What commitment in courtship is there without terms? That first define what it is you are commiting to. You can’t discount the terms. I was looking for some kind of surefire answer but I ended up being very disappointed by Josh Harris. I wonder if you can help.

Clarity of goals includes commitments to purity and pursuing marriage. They are really the only protection in Courtship vs. intentional dating. Yet, it lacks clarity so how can it be said to offer any protection.

I know what it all aught to look like. Yet defining courtship based on what ends up being a relationship dynamitic is little protection at all. This is proved by the fact that courtships look like different things to different people.

Is there something you can address as far as commitment, or what is commited to if the ‘terms’ have to be formulated so broadly for courtship to make agreeing to them near pointless? At least pointless in relation to intentional dating.

Comment by Dave McCarthy

I want to move from principles because they are not helpful to discuss.

The terms in courtship/dating are not irrelevant because the term defines the commitment. If you can’t define a term then the commitment which upholds all the principles is irrelevant. I don’t want Josh Harris quoted which says that terms are irrelevant. Acting on priciples is most important but you can’t claim protections exclusive to a commitment then.

Comment by Dave McCarthy

I’ve probably said all I want to say. Needless, I am not a fan of Courtship. I will only ever intentionally date, with secondary commitments to all of the principles courtship is suppose to provide, but fails due to lack of clarity. This is probably far off for me. I have no horse in the race.

Comment by Dave McCarthy

Lets hear what you really think Dave.

Comment by Dsizzle


It seems like you are really getting caught up on terms/definitions. What Josh says is that how we live defines our terms. And I think Walt is focused on application for those looking at courtship, which I think is all supported biblically.

As far as drifter comments, I agree with Walt and you. Those people do need to be reached out to, taught, and built into relationships — but I do not think marriage is the relationship that is going to “tie” them down. I think this is one of the problems in Corinth that Paul is trying to correct in 1 Cor. 7 — bad marriages. People marrying unbelievers or Christians who are immature and need to grow (in other relationships before marriage.)

Finally, shorter comments…Please.


Comment by bigplew

No, I never said that marriage was that relationship. Notice I approached it as wisdom when to end a courtship, not avoid one. Maybe its that perspective that is the main issue between me and walt. Courtship is to find out things about the other person and their potential for marriage. Not having arrived at it.

Comment by Dave McCarthy

Dave, you said “Courtship is to find out things about the other person and their potential for marriage. Not having arrived at it.”

Courtship is usually about finding out about the other person’s potential to marry YOU. Courtships between two godly people who are both ready and equipped for marriage all the time end. One of the keys in a courtship is not to find out, “Could she be a godly wife to someone?” but rather, “Could she be MY wife?” Not every godly girl is equipped to be your wife.

On the other side, you don’t want to begin a courtship with a person who clearly portrays any of the qualities Walt discussed in this post. It would be extremely unwise, and in some cases anti-Biblical.

Comment by psteele

when you said “we should be open and willing to court someone who we would not normally like but who is a Christian, growing in godliness, serving the church, and mature enough for marriage,” were you referring to both guys and girls? what do you mean by “normally like”?

other than my confusion about that, Walt, you’re doing/have done a great job with these posts!

Comment by BD

Yes, in saying “we should be open and willing to court someone who we would not normally like,” I was referring to guys and girls. The point is: in general the way we define like is unbiblical. We need to get back to the Bible and like what God like.

Notes: this does not mean we turn into some heartless organism but that we trust God to lead us to girls/guys who live biblically!

Comment by Walt

Also, Brooke, thanks for your encouragement!

Comment by Walt

Having dated someone who was both stagnant in their belief and a very uncommited person for 2+ years, I have to say I agree entirely with the care Walt asserts we have in chosing someone to court. The relationship went very sour when I had a desire to begin growing again and was only held back by our relationship. It’s a horrible situation to go through.

Comment by Scott

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