There’s a really popular saying directed at Christian singles: “If bae don’t pray, bae can’t stay!”
You’ll hear preachers shout it at Christian conferences and see it worn by women on cute v-neck t-shirts. The message behind this mantra can be summed up like this: A man may be interested in you. He may be professional, handsome and respectful. But if he doesn’t show you he has a relationship with God, you can’t date him!
I’m a dating coach and matchmaker who works with Christian singles. I’ve also been preaching and leading worship since I was 17 years old, and I’m married to an amazing man who is an ordained elder. I say all this because I’m on board with teaching women how to protect themselves from men who have the wrong intentions; I’m also an advocate for marriages where the couple is equally yoked. At the same time, I believe that sisters need love, too. So I’ve got a few problems with this “bae ain’t bae if he don’t pray,” mantra.
First of all, it’s mainly directed toward women who make up 80 to 90 percent of churches—and not to men who are missing from the discussion. Secondly, most of the teachings about dating and relationships within churches are centered on what women shouldn’t do. Don’t date, wait! Don’t use online dating, it’s a sin. Don’t worry about when your husband is going to come. Just serve God!
Meanwhile, no one is discussing the elephant in the sanctuary: There aren’t very many men within churches for single ladies to choose in the first place!
So while pronouncing that you won’t give a man any play if he doesn’t pray may get you the approval of the mother’s board, it may also be a big turn-off from a man who could be a great husband for you.
Case in point: I have a friend and matchmaking colleague who is an amazing man. He desires to be married, isn’t interested at all in causal dating, has a great job and is building his own matchmaking business in an industry where you don’t see very many brothers advocating long-term relationships. He’s over 6-feet tall, is a devoted father to his daughter and lives his life with integrity and accountability. Yet, the first time we met, he asked me a question after he discovered I work with Christian singles. He seriously wanted to know this:
“Why do Christian women say they won’t date me? We’ll go out on a few dates, and when it’s time to talk about a relationship, they’ll ask me if I go to church. I tell them I don’t, and they immediately say it’s a deal breaker. I’m confused because I know I treat them better than most of those dudes who are hypocrites and players. I used to go to church, I have preachers in my family, and I’m open to going again. But we don’t even get to talk about that because these girls just cut me off!”
He was serious, sisters, and by tone of his voice, I could tell he was confused and hurt by the fact that women were rejecting him, even though they said they wanted a good man.
Now I know you’ve been taught to look for a godly man and to not entertain anyone who doesn’t look like he has a real relationship with God. But I’m wondering if you’re relying more on tradition and less on discernment when you define church-going as a deal-breaker.
For example, how will you know if a man you’re dating has a real relationship with God? Going to church obviously doesn’t mean someone is walking with God. Do you need to see him praying over the Carmel Macciato you’re having on your first coffee date? Does he need to testify about the goodness of the Lord while you’re texting goodnight. Must he pray for you when you tell him about the challenge you’re having with your boss? Should he speak in tongues instead of kissing you goodnight, and send you daily devotionals instead of good morning texts?
Truth be told, there are a lot of church players who know how to talk the talk, but don’t walk the walk! So while it may be clear when a man doesn’t believe in God or follow His ways, you may need a little more time to discover the heart of a man before you dismiss him as “ungodly” and therefore undateable.
For example, one of my clients reconnected with a man who she knew through a mutual friend. Over dinner, he told her he’d always admired her and said he could see himself marrying her! However, as she got to know him, he revealed that he didn’t go to church and didn’t see himself going in the near future. We both were concerned about his lack of church membership, but I told her to trade her judgments for curiosity, and to use the tools I’d taught her to figure out if he was a good match. She learned how to ask important questions in a way that was non-threatening and didn’t make her man feel like he was being interrogated.
As a result, he opened up to her and explained his spiritual beliefs. Although he was raised by his grandmother, no one in his family attended church. When he was 10 years old, he discovered the Catholic church down the road and began attending. He was devoted and became an altar boy. Scandals in the church made him question his faith, but he hung on to the belief that God was real. As he got older, he had a college buddy who became a preacher. But observing his friends’ life, including that friend’s moral failures, made him come to the conclusion that he couldn’t trust church leadership. So he believed he could have a relationship with God without attending church.
His story is not a unique one. Many men don’t attend church for various reasons. Should that be held against them in dating? Should we continue teaching women to only choose men who attend church? Or should we be looking to change church culture and make it a place where men want to go and participate?
I’m not asking you to compromise your standards. I’m not asking you to date a man who won’t respect your boundaries and who will lead you away from God. I am asking you to trade your judgments for curiosity. I’m asking you to let go of your scripts about what love should look like and feel like when you meet the right man, because most of the time, your love story will unfold in a surprising way. I’m asking you to be patient with some men, who may need to believe in the church again, even though they still believe in God.
I want you to have a thriving relationship that honors God. I don’t want you to miss it because you’re believing in a rhyming phrase a preacher made up that isn’t necessarily the gospel truth.
BMWK, should not going to church be a deal-breaker? Share your thoughts below!