I have been dating a guy for almost three months. We are both Christians, both desire to have Christ at the center of our relationship and see marriage as the end goal to dating. We are in our late 20s/early 30s and currently we attend different churches.
My question is: How important is it, at this early stage, for us to attend the same church? He loves his church, attends regularly and is very involved. But he is willing to go to my church if that’s what I want.
My church is very small — about 25 people. There is very little to be involved in. I feel like my growth there has been stagnant. I have stayed with my church for so long, because I don’t want to run when things get hard. I don’t want to leave because I feel like I’m not “getting anything out of it.” I also don’t want to disappoint anyone or leave when the numbers are already so small.
Now, I feel like if I leave, people will think it’s just because of this guy.
We have both been praying about it and want to make a wise decision. Any wisdom you can share would be greatly appreciated!
Thanks for asking this practical question.
For those who are trusting in Christ as their Savior and Lord, weekly worship is an essential part of “walking in a manner worthy of the Lord” (Colossians 1:10). We know we’re not supposed to “neglect meeting together” with other believers (Hebrews 10:25), what’s less clear is when a dating couple should begin meeting together in the same church, and which church they should choose.
Three months is not too short a time to decide you want to be members of the same church. If you see the potential for a biblically faithful marriage between the two of you, then answering this question is a necessary part of the process of growing toward the oneness of marriage.
Given that the pattern for Christian marriage is that the husband lead his wife and children, and that his wife submit to her husband’s leadership, it makes sense that you would at least consider leaving your church to join his. If your fellow church members think you are leaving because of him — then they’re right. That’s precisely why you’re considering a change. But this is a good thing, not something to be ashamed of. Though he is free to join your church, and it’s a wonderful kindness that he is willing to do so, you ought to make your decision based not on the fear of what other people will think about you.
While it’s commendable to remain faithful to your church even in seasons where you “feel like you’re not getting anything out of it,” that doesn’t mean there are never any good reasons to leave. Nor does it mean there aren’t wrong reasons for staying. Proverbs 29:25 is clear when it says, “The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe.” We are to fear the Lord alone (Luke 12:5).
You need something other than your feelings, or the concern about the feelings of others, to know if you should stay or go. You say your church is quite small — 24 members in addition to you — but even that isn’t necessarily reason enough to leave. What’s more concerning is that you say it’s stagnant and has been for some time.
A shrinking membership, though not necessarily indicative of a lack of church health, may be a symptom of deeper problems. What matters in assessing the health of your church is not how many people are in the pews, whether 9 or 900, but whether it is following the biblical model for being the body of Christ.
The 9Marks ministry has helpfully identified nine traits — the “9 Marks” — that make for a biblically faithful church. They are: preaching, biblical theology, the Gospel, conversion, evangelism, membership, discipline, discipleship and leadership. This thoroughly biblical resource would be helpful for you and your boyfriend to read as you prayerfully seek the Lord for wisdom about when and where to make the change.
Hopefully you will find that both of your churches are being faithful to the model given in Scripture. If not, that will make the decision simpler, if not easy. But if you find that both churches are equally faithful, I would encourage you to meet with your pastor and his to seek their counsel about where you will be best able to serve and grow together.
May the Lord guide you.
Copyright Candice Watters 2016. All rights reserved.