What do you do if a guy asks you out, and you do not think that you are interested in a relationship with him? Whether it is because he seems spiritually immature, he is not going the same direction as you, or you do not see him as more than a friend.
Do you go on a first date to give him a chance and see if something changes from there? I wouldn't want to lead someone on, but by not going on a first date, are you not giving him a chance to show who he is?
This is a good question that presents a dilemma I hear about a lot. A single Christian woman is presented with an invitation for a date or even a relationship with a Christian guy whom she doesn't know well at all or doesn't think she has any initial interest in or both. Does she give him a chance and risk the awkwardness and potentially hurt feelings if her lack of interest is confirmed, or does she decline and risk a missed opportunity? If the woman believes, as I have written in my Biblical Dating series of articles, that the purpose of dating is not recreation or "marriage practice," but is in fact to find a spouse, then the stakes of her decision — and the size of the potential missed opportunity — go up even more.
Others may have a different take here, and clearly your response in this situation is an area of Christian freedom, but my basic response to your question is this: Assuming the man asking you out clearly seems to be a believer, I would encourage a Christian woman in the situation you describe to take a chance and agree to that first date more often than not.
Why do I say that?
For one thing, if you aspire to find a husband who possesses the qualities of biblical manhood, the fact that the guy took the initiative and risk to ask you out is at least one little sliver of evidence that he might be such a guy. It may seem like a small thing, but many, many Christian women express real frustration at the fact that a lot of Christian guys fail to show that initiative. We hear of guys that seem uninterested in marriage altogether. We also hear about guys who, if they are interested in a woman, try to manipulate the situation so that the woman expresses interest first, or who try to gather enough "intel" (often by spending lots of undefined time with a woman so that she is left wondering what his intentions are) so that by the time they make a move, they already know the woman is interested and there's no risk involved.
If a guy asks you out without knowing how you will react, he's taking on the risk of rejection, hurt and embarrassment himself, rather than dodging that risk or even pushing it off onto you. That shows at least some level of initiative and leadership and consideration of you and your feelings — great things to find in a husband. Also, as a side note, if Christian women want more Christian men to step up and initiate, encouraging them by giving them a shot when they do initiate might be really helpful. As for the potential of leading him on, he's a man. It's his job to put his cards on the table and let you respond. In the example you posed, you're just committing to a date, not to marry the guy. Hopefully, the guy will show further leadership by being clear with you at the appropriate time about where he stands and how he feels. Just be honest and clear in the way you respond.
Also, keep in mind that the character and characteristics that make for a godly husband are not always visible from a distance. A wise Christian woman will be looking for a husband who is striving and growing toward those characteristics that God's Word extols in husbands and in men generally. That means seeking a man who is growing in the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-33); who will be committed to sacrificing himself daily for your spiritual good (Ephesians 5:25-27); who aspires to grow in the characteristics that Paul commends in those men who would lead the church as elders (1 Timothy 3:2-7; Titus 1:6-9). Certainly a lot of those things can be discerned at some level by serving in a church with a guy or spending time with him in groups or knowing him as a casual acquaintance. Some aspects of his character and personality and walk with Christ, however, will be more easily observed and evaluated in a context of more focused interaction, and where the issues and topics typical of a dating relationship are on the table.
As a last bit of advice, let me encourage you to make sure your reasons for turning down a first date are biblical. No woman wants to be dismissed or ignored by a brother in Christ because she doesn't embody Hollywood's idea, in appearance or personality, of the "ideal woman," or because she doesn't meet every item on a man's predetermined "checklist" of fantasy wife qualities. It's just as discouraging when a man is turned down based on the same worldly image of "manhood" or "romance." Churches are full of brothers who will make fantastic, godly husbands, even if — or maybe because — they wouldn't strike you at first blush as a Hollywood dream guy or the coolest guy at the party.
Just to be clear, there are good reasons to turn down even a first date. You mentioned some in your question. The guy may seem very immature spiritually. You or people you trust (and who know the guy) may have legitimate doubts about his character or maturity or conduct based on the biblical criteria I referenced before. The guy may be strongly committed to a life or ministry direction that you know you can't get on board with (though keep in mind that could change). These are all biblically sound reasons to lovingly decline.
I hope that's helpful. I will pray that the Lord gives you wisdom on this — and the opportunity to exercise it!
Copyright 2012 Scott Croft. All rights reserved.