In 1997, a Focus on the Family board member donated enough money to start a new print magazine when his son, a college student, started telling him about the challenges to his faith he was facing on campus. Knowing of our interest in working with collegians, the leadership team asked my husband, Steve, and me to brainstorm the best way to use the money. We came back a few days later with an idea: publish the whole thing online.
The internet, which had only recently gone public, was growing in popularity and influence. Given the nomadic nature of the college years and the logistical challenges of keeping mailing addresses current, we figured it made sense to make the content virtual.
At the time we pitched the idea, Steve and I had only been married a few months. We remembered how much help we had needed navigating our way through grad school to marriage and on into adulthood, and were eager to create a place where we could gather older, wiser voices to help other young people. When the webzine officially launched in 1998, we had no idea that 20 years later, we’d be celebrating what was to become Boundless.
Likewise, we never imagined how quickly the time would pass from brainstorming a young adults webzine till we’d be needing those resources for our own kids. Just last month Steve and I attended the final week of the biblical dating Sunday school class at our church. As our pastor talked about the purpose of dating — marriage — and the goodness of getting input about dating relationships from parents, pastors and other believers, we nodded in agreement, glad to see the “Girl’s and Guy’s Guides to Marrying Well” on his list of recommended resources. Every chair in the packed classroom was taken — two of them by our own children.
Thankfully Boundless is still going strong, and much of what we wrote in 1998 and the years following is as needed as ever. But we’ve learned a lot, and culture has changed enough that there are some things about dating and the Christian life that I would address more urgently if we were creating Boundless today.
1. Tackle Technology
When we started Boundless, there was no iPhone, no Twitter, no Facebook and definitely no Snapchat. There was no “internet of things.” Smart described people, not phones. All that has changed and much of it for good, or at least benign, fun. But there’s a dark side to all this personal technology: it’s isolating, distracting, and can even be defiling. I still cringe whenever I pass a billboard for an “adult” superstore, knowing I’m passing a peddler of porn. But in our day, every phone in every car surrounding me is a potential portal for soul-deadening, relationship-ruining, life-destroying “content.” It is not neutral as it sounds.
Add to pornography the urgency of instant messaging, the pressure of social media, and the expectation of 24/7 reachability, and it’s hard to imagine a more challenging climate for getting to know someone authentically, patiently, and with wisdom.
2. Get Input and Get Into God’s Word
Christian singles need help amid these challenges to navigate the relational pathways to God-honoring, biblically faithful dating and marriage. There are two ways to get this help: older believers and God’s Word.
Young Christians need older Christians to walk with them (Titus 2:2-6), ask searching questions, offer wise counsel, encourage growth, and admonish and reprove. We all must seek God’s grace in repentance, and “flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart” (2 Timothy 2:22).
The handbook for this older-to-younger discipleship journey is Scripture. The Bible alone is breathed out by God and “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16).
But the world has a strong pull on Christians. We live in the time Paul warned would come, when “people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths” (2 Timothy 4:3-4).
The only way to know if what we believe is true is to measure it against the only trustworthy standard: God’s Word. It is the only offensive weapon in our spiritual armor (Ephesians 6:17), and it is what causes us to think and pray and act more like Christ. But for that to happen, we need to read it, know it, meditate on it, and obey it.
3. Join the Church
But it’s not enough to have morning quiet time and meet for discipleship over coffee. For years Steve and I neglected what is essential to Christian growth — the very thing we so infrequently emphasized in those early years: church membership. We didn’t know then just how important a settled commitment to a biblically faithful local church body is. Most of my growth in Christ has come from the week-in, week-out hearing of God’s Word preached by a humble, godly man who works to rightly handle the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15).
Joining that church has made all the difference. In the same way a marriage seals husband and wife in a covenantal union, church membership unites the individual Christian to the body of Christ. Part of what it means to abide in Christ and receive His life-giving power is to be joined to Christ “who is the head” (Colossians 1:18). The more we’ve grown in understanding God’s design and purpose for Christ’s bride, the church, the more we understand how Paul could say that the marital union, submission, and headship is a mystery that refers to Christ and the church (Ephesians 5:32).
You can live a fully human, fully realized life in Christ even if you never marry. But you cannot live fully, as a believer, if you never join yourself to His church. Not just going, but joining. Not just joining, but serving. Not just serving, but knowing and being known.
In the family of God, along with our brothers and sisters in Christ, we learn how to become faithful husbands and wives. It is there where we are equipped for and encouraged in any lifelong marriage God may provide. But more importantly, life in the body is preparing us for our invitation to the marriage supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:9).
The Next 20 Years
Twenty years from now Steve and I will be 68, hopefully with grandchildren who are close to old enough to read Boundless. Life really does pass like a vapor. I pray today’s readers will persist in faithfulness, taking Paul’s advice to Timothy:
Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. (1 Timothy 4:12)
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15)
Copyright 2018 Candice Watters. All rights reserved.