What Another (Now Former) Leader In Sovereign Grace Ministries Teaches About Courtship & Dating

I know it has been a little while since I made an entry but I am not one to just keep posting unless I have something to say.

7/14/11 Update

After leaving SGM Brent Detwiler has produced a number of documents showing multiple problems that exist within SGM and especially the hypocrisy of C.J. Mahaney. As a result of these documents becoming public Mahaney stepped down as leader of the group.

The following blogs are good sources of information about what is going on:


I have the highest respect for Brent having the courage to release these documents. Hopefully they will result in needed changes in SGM.

Original Post

I was reading some comments on another blog called SGMSurvivors (www.sgmsurvivors.com) and someone posted the following link:


If you download this pdf file it indicates it is the handout for a message given by Brent Detwiler at “The Summit Men’s Retreat” on September 21-23, 2006.  He is calling the message “Getting Ready” as in getting ready for courtship.

For those who don’t know, Brent Detwiler isn’t just a another pastor in Sovereign Grace Ministries.  He is in the higher leadership of Sovereign Grace including at times having responsibility for oversight of a number of churches.  Thus this teaching shouldn’t be regarded as the teaching of just one of the regular SGM pastors but by someone in upper leadership.

Just like I have commented before on Josh Harris’s books, this handout has both wisdom and foolishness.

Listed below are some of points Brett Detwiler teaches about Courtship/Dating that caught my attention.  I have inserted my comments below each “point.”

  • Courtship is not for fun.

If courtship isn’t fun I wonder what it should be.  Should it be mundane or a chore?  Sure it should be taken seriously and will be some work but shouldn’t a couple have fun exploring whether they are a good match for each other?  Is this a good way to start a marriage?  I question of the wisdom of wanting to get married to someone that I can’t even have a fun experience with.

  • Dating is about personal gratification and an end in itself. It brings all kinds of temptation to sin.

It looks like Detwiler is convinced that someone can’t date without it including all of the above. It is one thing to promote or think that “courtship” is a superior or more holy than dating.  It is another thing to make a generalization like this.

I know of couples that have dated and wasn’t about the above.  It was done with integrity.  I can’t believe Detwiler’s audacity to make this judgment about dating.

At least Detwiler is out and open about his beliefs vs. writing a book that decries problems with dating but then claims they aren’t against dating.

  • Keep Courtship Brief
    • The longer a courtship goes the greater the likelihood a brother and sister will get involved emotionally and physically in ways that are inappropriate or sinful.
    • By keeping the courtship brief (e.g. 3-6 months) you are trying to prevent this from happening. There is a balance between getting to know the person better and escalating temptation.

I have heard of couples that being under pressure to either get married or cut off seeing each other.  Some couples in response to this pressure would get married before they had spent enough time to get to know each other and fully “explore” the possibility of a marriage.  They would then get married and discover they weren’t as good of a match as they thought.  Imagine being married to someone that isn’t the best of match when God wants this to be a commitment for life.

I guess if you listen to what Detwiler says here and other places in this handout, there is only one way to do things?

  • Marriage will not prosper and may not survive apart from wholehearted involvement in a local church.

Though it always good for a couple to be involved in a local church I am not sure how one can make this generalization.

  • Role oriented marriages – the reason why arranged marriages work.
    • Man – priorities as a husband, father and provider
    • Woman – priorities as a wife, mother, and home worker

(I added the underline and italics.)

Well at least Detweiler is being honest about this.  He is promoting “arranged” marriages.  It sounds like he wants the children’s parents to arrange a marriage.  I wouldn’t want my parents deciding especially without my input on who my mate should be.

In conclusion this teaching may show the real heart and what is really behind what Sovereign Grace Ministries believes and teaches on courtship and dating including how bad they consider dating to be.  At least it is nice to know what their views are so that one can make an informed decision.  It is shocking that Detwiler teaches that there is only one way to do something.

Detwiler’s message may also show the real heart behind what Joshua Harris believes on courtship.  Harris may claim that he doesn’t have strong views against dating but when one sees something like this it really makes you wonder if Harris’s views aren’t this extreme also.  Of course there could be differing views in SGM.

8/31/09 Update

24 Responses to “What Another (Now Former) Leader In Sovereign Grace Ministries Teaches About Courtship & Dating”

  1. Adam Says:

    That is breathtaking. This is legalism in its purest form. Legalism is not earning forgiveness through works (as C.J. defines it)… it is constructing a list of rules that are latched on to and used to guard against breaking biblical rules. The Pharisees came up with 40 definitions of “work” to be avoided on the Sabath. Likewise SGM comes up with 40 or so to guard against sexual sin in the process of finding a mate.

  2. steve240 Says:


    Thanks for your comment and welcome to my blog. It is quite shocking to read how Detwiler thinks courtship can happen only one way. At least with this handout one can see where he really stands on these issues.


  3. Ellie Says:

    Maybe Detwiler should do more research on the “success” of arranged marriages.

    “One factor that you have to take into consideration immediately when
    looking at this topic is that societies in which arranged marriages
    continue to be acceptable could also have very different views on the
    acceptability of divorce. Also, there might be less freedom for people
    involved in such arrangements to express satisfaction or
    dissatisfaction. Women, in particular, may be tied by fear of the
    consequences if they express dissatisfaction. I think also it depends
    very much on the educational and cultural level of the families and on
    the society in which they live. An arranged marriage that works more
    on a “blind date” system, with the young people having the final say
    on acceptability is significantly different from the case of a forced
    marriage against somebody’s (usually the woman’s) will, as will an
    arrangement organised for two consenting adults versus and arrangement
    in which one or both partners is still a child.”


  4. SavvyD Says:

    Dear oh dear, I’ve written about this too. Arranging or trying to arrange a match has brought many a dissappointment and heartbreak to young Indian men and women in America. Please look at my India serious for some laughs, but also a serious look.

  5. SavvyD Says:

    It concerns me that dating is associated only with personal gratification of lustful desires. My parents dated respectfully under the watchful eye of her parents. I’m dating to find a suitable match and have been accused of having a death wish because I meet a man for dinner at Applebees. I might get to the dinner and discover that the person isn’t suitable for me. On occaision I did kiss them anyway and refused future dates because I knew it wouldn’t go anywhere.

  6. Seasoned Mom Says:

    I find this appalling. We raised two beautiful daughters. Both dated. Neither definitely married the first young man they dated, BUT…… They both DID walk down the aisle as virgins – IN ALL ASPECTS- and their families are in the ministry. I find Brent’s focus more on control than the well being of his children. He also believes that unless one’s child is married, they are under their father’s authority until ……..(not their heavenly father’s but their earthly fathers)

    No, I don’t want to see anyone suffer the pain of sexual sin. BUT where are we on teaching our children about gosip, slander, judgemental, critical spirits and attitudes. Those can cause as much or more irrepairable damage than the sexual sin. Maybe Brent needs to read PROVERBS 6 and see what the Lord really hates and sees as an abomination…

  7. Josh Says:

    Guys, you should really do some more research and seriously consider contacting either Brent or one of the SGM pastors and see if you can discern what their real heart motivation is in promoting courtship. My wife and I have been in a SGM church for about 7 years now and we had a blast courting to find out if marriage was for us. I can see how it’s easy to come up with conclusions about Brent, but I think you have taken his teaching points and turned them into something that he wouldn’t condone. Best of luck in your quest for the truth about what God teaches on relationships. I would agree with Brent but don’t think that we would make any requirements or demands on anyone, you should feel at least some freedom in your choices based on what you think the bible communicates about these issues.

  8. steve240 Says:


    Welcome to my blog.

    I wish you would go line by line and explain how I have misinterpreted his teaching points.

    For example his teaching point says “courtship is not for fun.” How can what I said be misinterpreting what he said? I am glad you had fun with your period of courtship.

    From what I have read about Brent and the church he use to lead, I am quite sure he “would make any requirements or demands on anyone” as you said.

    You do know that Brent recently stepped down as pastor? See the following blog:


  9. Josh Says:

    Just for the record

    When Steve quoted my “would make any requirements or demands on anyone” the “rest” of that sentence said this…

    I would agree with Brent but don’t think that we would make any requirements or demands on anyone, you should feel at least some freedom in your choices based on what you think the bible communicates about these issues.

    Making this convo difficult because certain parts are dissected and used to make new sentences that sound entirely different. I just wanted to clear things up. Hopefully this post will make it past review.

  10. steve240 Says:


    Again it would be nice if you gave me examples of where you think I misinterpreted what Brent Detwiler said.

    From what I have heard in most SGM Churches the courtship model is imposed on members. There really is no choice.

  11. RC Davis Says:


    Here’s the link for the conference. Better to listen and read with context…not just on this topic but also the broader subject of godly manhood.


  12. steve240 Says:

    RC Davis

    I didn’t think one could find a copy of the message online. I will listen to the message.

    Thanks for posting this.

  13. RC Davis Says:


    Last Sunday in the Parent-Teen Ministry (a.k.a. Resurgence) teaching time Pastor Chad Rogers spoke on “Do Hard Things: Purity”. He specifically addressed the issue of dating and made the point that as a local church they aren’t against dating per se, but rather are focused on imparting biblical wisdom for life through the adult years.

    Last week on Kevin Swanson’s radio show the subject was “Single, and Wants to Be Married”. From http://generationswithvision.com/RadioShow.aspx?sid=1286 :

    “Kevin Swanson interviews Alex Chediak, the author of an important new book on singleness for Christians. Alex provides some terrific wisdom for singles, but also some helpful advice for church communities who have an interest in launching young people into adulthood and marriage. The goal, of course is to get these young folks from singleness to marriage without sexual sin, emotional heartache, and excessive delay.”

    It was a great interview and really expresses the heart of Brent Detwiler’s teaching and our ministry at SGC-Woodstock. I recommend taking 30 minutes to listen.


  14. steve240 Says:

    RC Davis

    Thanks for sharing another message. I will listen to the message when I get a chance.

    I am not sure what Chad Rodgers promotes but I am guessing he promotes the courtship approach vs. traditional dating. If so, it is interesting that he is pushing for people to get married earlier or at least is alarmed that people are waiting longer these days. My experience with the courtship/”kissing dating goodbye” approach is that it teaches single men and women to almost be afraid of each other and thus


    relating with those of the opposite sex vs.

      learning how

    to relate.

    If people don’t learn to relate with those of the opposite sex then it is no wonder that people are getting married at later years. Hopefully this problem is now being acknowledged and addressed in courtship circles but I have my doubts. Sadly courtship promoters seem to feel that their approach is superior to even dating with integrity which from what I have seen makes them fail to see the problems courtship/”kissing dating goodbye” produces.

    Thanks again for sharing this additional message.

  15. HeartofHope Says:

    Unfortunately, many ministries are beginning to promote the idea of arranged marriages. The idea sounds good when you tell people all you really want is for young people to be able to get married without suffering sexual or emotional sin. As someone who was raised in that environment, I can’t find words to express to you the desperation and hopelessness that was the result. There is so much emotional damage and lost ground that I have not even scratched the surface on recovering, even after having been in a loving and healthy married relationship for two years. It breaks my heart to think of all the others still in that situation, and the ones who broke away and are dealing with the fallout. God have mercy, for I know I do not.

    Thank you for taking the time to write this blog. Reading through it has been tremendously helpful to me. I’ve been thinking for some time now I should do something to tell people about what I came out of, but I’m afraid my bitterness would be less effective than a gentle voice. May you be blessed.

  16. Susan Karsten Says:

    The church needs to address more frequently the theology of marriage, not of courtship or dating. Keeping pure for marriage needs to be the focus and the commitment.
    Now we have so many women going into careers, that it is having the results of men in the 20’s staying childish.
    Respectfully to you all,
    SK, a married lady, mother of 3 teens.

  17. Debra Baker Says:


    I’m a bit confused, are you making an association between women having careers and childish 20 year old men?

  18. sUSAN Says:

    Dear Debra,
    Yes, my post was confusing about that. Yes, I am saying there is a connection – it’s a bit off topic, but re the theology of marriage and the delaying of marriage by so many…I just think marriage is not preached and taught as the good that it is.

  19. steve240 Says:


    One of my thoughts on “childish men” is that in groups that promote the “kissing dating goodbye” concept the single men and women seem to be almost afraid of each other. That is they learn to avoid relating to each other vs. learning how to properly relate.

    It is sad under this situation to see single men and women in their 20’s and older acting like young teenagers.

    I am sure this is another cause of “childish men.”

  20. sUSAN Says:

    If you can, read the review, in World Mag. Apr. 9 issue (p. 29) of the book “Manning Up: How the Rise of Women Has Turned Men into Boys”
    Also, on this topic the book “Getting Serious About Getting Married” in which the author is very critical of “young adult/singles groups” and how that all plays out in the aread of delaying marriage. “GSGM” is also very interesting on marriage in general.
    If the strong desire for marriage and all it means is present, most men can “get up the nerve” to pursue. Preaching about marriage to these younger single men is vital.
    Thanks for your interest (btw, I am 54, married, mother of three teens!)

  21. Debra Baker Says:

    Susan (and anyone else unfortunate enough to take interest in my writing,) we are of similar vintage (I just turned 51) and I am the mother of eight children including two teenagers. I also have grown children and regard them as the reward for all that hard work when they were children.

    My oldest two are married, both of them married in their mid twenties (23 and 24) Both girls.

    My 24 year old son just got engaged on Sunday and he is extremely responsible and mature as is his fiancee (whom we all love already.)

    I see no gender difference between my son and two daughters.

    I see no difference in me being a stay-home mom when the girls were going through their engagement-preparation for the wedding-for the secondborn, finishing college and my subsequent return to school (and TA position) for this time when my son is in the throes of wedding prep and he just graduated (top in his class) last December (and my oldest also graduated from college with me (literally, she got her BA when I got my BS from the same schohol 😉

    I realize my own personal experience is not representative of the larger population but it seriously makes no sense to suggest that women being treated like equally worthy human beings would, “Turn men into boys.”

    Actually, I suggest the opposite to be true, when men realize they do not have a natural advantage because they sport a……y chromosome, they will need to, “man up,” as it were and work just as hard as everyone else on a level playing field.

  22. sUSAN Says:

    Women are not equally worthy because they do a function that men are doing. Women are very worthy already. Image-bearers, and all! 🙂 This is not about beign worthy,it’s about fulfilling God’s mandate to be fruitful and multiply and sacrifice – for both man and wife.

    We can see that “things” are not working out well for the establishment of Christian families – that’s what I am talkin’ about! 🙂 If it has worked out well for you and your children’s children, what a blessing.

  23. Debra Baker Says:

    I think one thing that you may be overlooking is the type of environment we in the West that is our normal environment.

    It takes much longer for a child to grow up and master all the technology we need in order to function. This wasn’t the case throughout human history.

    Mary was about 14 or so when she had Jesus, this was pretty normal in the day but youth need a minimum of about 16 years of education, ideally 18 or more hence the need for delayed marriage.

    On the flip side, people live longer so we have longer marriages (potentially) even if they are being delayed.

  24. Janey Says:

    Whoever thinks arranged marriages are wonderful doesn’t have very many in their own family.

    In our family there were two arranged marriages in the past four generations, and they were disasters.

    That side of the family has three people with severe mental illnesses, three who are criminally violent, and at least one sex offender.

    The other side of the family that wasn’t nearly as arrogant about their Christianity has stable and loving marriages and families. Go figure.

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