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JP PokludaJonathan “JP” Pokluda is the Lead Pastor of Harris Creek Baptist Church in Waco, TX. He was formerly the leader of The Porch in Dallas, TX which grew to be the largest weekly young adult gathering of its kind in the country. JP didn’t come to understand the grace of the Gospel until his early twenties after being involved in different denominational churches his entire life. This ignited a desire in him to inspire young adults to radically follow Jesus Christ and unleash them to change the...more
Though dating culture has changed so much in recent years, JP Pokluda offers insight into how to make dating really count.
Dave: Alright, let me ask you, honey: “Do you remember our first date?”
Ann: Yes, kind of.
Dave: What do you remember?
Ann: That you were stinking hot. [Laughter]
Dave: That I don’t remember; actually, I had hair.
Ann: Do you remember it?
Dave: Do you remember what you remember about it?—what you’ve told me—
Dave: —that I didn’t have any idea I did?
Dave: You said I kept hitting you.
Dave: Every time I’d make a point, I’d take my hand and hit your shoulder.
Ann: “This guy’s super touchy.”
Dave: I remember you thought it was weird.
Ann: I liked it though.
Ann: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Ann Wilson.
Dave: And I’m Dave Wilson, and you can find us at FamilyLifeToday.com or on our FamilyLife® app.
Ann: This is FamilyLife Today.
Dave: Yes, I don’t know if I did. I do now though. [Laughter]
Today, we’ve got a broadcast on dating with the expert who wrote a book on dating, Jonathan Pokluda. Did I get it right?
JP: You nailed it, yes.
Dave: Yes; alright.
JP: I didn’t know if you were going to introduce me; because I was just like, “Oh, you guys are on a date right now,”—kind of watching it happen—you were staring deep in each other’s eyes; it was amazing.
Dave: That’s what we do. Every moment with us is like a great date.
Ann: That’s right; it is.
Dave: Jonathan, glad to have you here: pastor of Harris Creek Baptist Church in Waco. I first found you online when you were leading The Porch. I did not know The Porch ministry of Watermark Church in Dallas went from 150 to 7,000 young people—all singles?
JP: Yes, predominately. It’s a young adult ministry; but mostly/probably 95 percent single. Ministry has changed, as we’ve talked about before, where we probably have 3,500 there in the room—but then 20 campuses around the country—people watching, live, from different churches around the U.S. and really around the world now.
Ann: You were leading that.
JP: Yes, I led that for 12 years.
Ann: Were you amazed by the growth?
JP: I was amazed that I would get to be a part of it. I’m never amazed by what God does, but that I get to be a part of it has never ceased to amaze me.
Dave: Well, I know when I turned it on—again, I’m from Michigan—I hate to say it, but I wasn’t familiar with The Porch; I just heard the name.
JP: It wasn’t your demographic; it’s okay.
Dave: I guess; I guess. I turned you on and watched you. I’m like, “Oh, my goodness, you can preach. Wow!” I’m like, “No wonder.” It wasn’t just that you’re a gifted preacher. In my opinion, it was the truth of the gospel. Every message I watched, you were leading young people to Jesus through the things that they were concerned about.
JP: Thank you for saying that. That may be the highest compliment someone could give me, because what else are we going to do if we’re not leading people to Jesus? That’s the part that amazes me/that I get to be a part of, honestly.
Ann: You’re married—
JP: I am.
Ann: —to Monica.
JP: Yes, been married 16 years.
Ann: And kids?
JP: We have three kids: Weston, our son, and our daughters, Finley and Presley.
Dave: This book on dating is dynamite, as we just read through it. It’s called Outdated: Find Love That Lasts When Dating Has Changed. As you’re talking to young people/thousands of young people over the years, you’ve learned a few things, obviously, about dating.
Dave: One of the things you say at the beginning is: “Dating has changed, and it’s not really working.” What’s that mean?
JP: Dating’s changed with technology/the boom of technology. The way that people find love—they’re looking for love—the way that their hearts are engaged in this topic has changed immensely. No one out there would argue that.
I think, for parents, we need to understand that our kids are growing up in a different world. We weren’t swiping left or right, trying to find love; we weren’t taking compatibility tests/personality tests. Professional match makers is an industry.
JP: We have more help on the topic of dating than any generation that has ever lived, and we’re the worst at it. Consider this: people are getting married later; they’re getting married less; and marriages aren’t lasting. Whatever you would call the divorce rate today—there’s discrepancy in this—let’s just say somewhere between 40 and
50 percent. Then there’s this other significant number of people that stay married but they’re just un-divorced. That’s how I would draw the conclusion that most marriages fail: you’ve got some end, and some are unhappily married; yet, we have more help than ever.
For those who want to be married, we need to figure this out—the way that we’re doing this today is outdated—dating, as we understand it/as we define it, is a relatively new idea.
Ann: Yes, I was going to ask: “When did that happen?”
JP: About 120 years ago, it entered the English language as a euphuism for prostitution. To “go on a date” meant to exchange an experience for sexual favors. Now, if you consider how the world dates today, we haven’t come that far.
JP: The interesting thing about this is Hollywood has the highest divorce rates of anyone on the planet; and they’re the ones pumping out the: “Hey, do it this way…” “Let us teach you how to date,” “Hey, watch this…” They should not be teaching us how to find love that lasts. [Laughter] We have to go somewhere else.
I would go to the author of love, the One who is called Love; the One, who not only invented love, but embodies love; and He’s going to rightfully tell us. Now we know the Bible says nothing about dating, because that wasn’t a thing then. But it says a lot about relationships and how we can foster relationships.
This book is observing literally tens of thousands of relationships over a decade—seeing what they do that works; seeing what they do that doesn’t work; and realizing the pattern that, when they seek to honor God in the way that they built and formed these relationships, it tends to go well; and when they don’t, it doesn’t tend to go well—so just introducing those eternal truths.
Dave: You’re talking about: “It doesn’t work—at least, not working well—the way we date today.” What are we doing wrong? Because when you say all these things, you’re right. We have personality tests; Ann and I never did that. I mean, these people that can help us and tests that can help us are awesome; and yet, it’s not working. Why not?
JP: I think people, first and foremost, are dating for fun; so we don’t think about the intentionality. We don’t think about it like a job interview—like if I’m auditioning for a part or I’m going to try to play a role—“What is the actual job?” People don’t date, thinking about: “Okay, marriage: how do I identify if this person is going to make a great spouse?”
We date for the manic highs and the manic lows. I think so many young people today are addicted to the emotional roller coaster; they can’t get off of it. Girls will come up and say, “I just don’t know why I only date these scum bags,” or they’ll use a different word. I’ll say, “You’re addicted to it. That’s what you’ve trained your heart to look for.”
Proverbs 4:23 says: “Above all else, guard your heart for it’s the well spring of life.” That’s one of those eye-roll verses, like, “Okay, I get it; guard my heart.”
But what it actually says is: “More than you guard anything in the world, protect your heart. Above all else, protect your heart/guard your heart. Be careful what you let in, because it takes you places.”
The world will say, “Follow your heart.” The Scripture teaches us to inform our heart before we follow it. You don’t want to follow an uninformed heart. You don’t want to follow your feelings and your emotions, because that’s what you’ve done in every relationship you’ve ever been in; you’ve followed it into the relationship and out of relationship. I think that message is foundational to what we’re doing wrong today when it comes to dating.
Ann: That stuff is big; because I hear you and think, “That is the fun of it. That is/it’s the highs; it’s the lows; it’s the wondering.”
Dave: She’s getting excited. I can see her right now, like the adrenaline rush.
Ann: But here’s what happens—is you’re right—if you don’t have a perspective of why not to do that, you just fall into it. Then, when you say, “Bring God into this,” that’s like: “Oh, so I’m/what’s that look like?” We didn’t grow up in the church; so when somebody said, “Bring God into it, and don’t give your heart away,” I was so confused by all that terminology: “How do I bring God in?” and “How do I not give my heart away when I’ve done that all the time?”
You’ve talked to tons of people that have done both of those things.
JP: Yes, I think you have to date with intentionality; but to say: “Hey, here’s why I’m here/this is what I’m doing: I’m not just following my feelings. What I hope to do, over this coffee, is really intentionally find out if we want to have another coffee/if we want to keep spending time together. I’m going to ask you questions for the purpose of finding out if I want to do this again and really, hopefully to reveal to you, if you want to do this again.”
But most people don’t think that; they show up and they say, “Man, I hope I feel something.” That has not gone well for us.
Dave: You got/you just used the word, “purpose.” The first part of you book is: “Why We Date,” so let’s talk purpose. Number one is: “What is dating anyway?” Can you define it? Why would we date?
JP: Dating is a path to a promise—Simply put: it’s a path to a promise—you’re trying to move in a relationship toward a commitment/a lifelong commitment. If we apply that to the question, “Why do we date?”—we date to find a spouse. “What if I’m not looking for a spouse?”—then you don’t need to go on a date.
“Well, what if I’m still want to have fun with the opposite sex?”—well, now we’re back to dating for fun. It’s not going to be fun—that’s the irony; that’s the irony—when you date for fun, and you experience the manic highs and the manic lows, it leads to heartbreak, lots of sleepless nights, anxiety, snot-crying in your pillow. [Laughter] That’s where dating for fun goes.
But when you date on purpose, it can be a lot of fun: I can see that; I can measure that; I can have conversations around that. Romans 12:9 says: “Love must be sincere.” There’s no games; I’m not left wondering. I always tell guys, “Let me tell you something about girls: ‘Girls wonder.’”
JP: They’re like, “What do you mean?” “They wonder if you’re going to call them; they wonder if you’re going to text them; they wonder where this is going; they wonder what you’re thinking.”
People say, “What does it mean ‘to lead in dating’?” I say, “Leaders remove confusion. Clarity is kindness; so as much as you can, remove that confusion. As much as you can, lovingly say, ‘Here’s what I am thinking…’” So much of dating is turning your thoughts into words and being sincere towards one another.
Dave: Are you saying, on an early date, the man or the woman should state pretty honestly from the very beginning their intentions?
JP: I’m saying, “What else are they doing there if not trying to find a spouse?” This plays into, especially for parents, as you think about dating in high school. I’ve got kids moving toward high school and just trying to manage those expectations as a parent. I sat my girls down and I said, “Listen, this is what dating is. Everybody’s going to do it this way; right?—they just are excited to go to the dance with somebody. You’re going to hear that they’re in love, and you’re going to see the tears, first hand. I want you to take note where those relationships go.”
Everybody—when I say that—wants to tell me about the one high school sweetheart experience they know. I get that—those are there; that’s awesome—I celebrate that like the next person. But what is way more common/exponentially more common than that, are the many, many, many, many breakups; because, as Song of Solomon says, we’ve “awakened love before its time.” [Song of Solomon 8:4] We begin to play married; that has not gone well for us.
Ann: With your kids, are they allowed to have a boyfriend or a girlfriend based on the definition of dating? When does that happen then?
JP: For us, in our family, we just say we—I’m big on this—“You date for marriage and Daddy is going to help you. I have your best interest in mind.” I pray every single morning for their spouse; I pray every morning that they would not awaken love before its time; I pray every morning they would not set anything evil before their eyes; and really want to help them.
What I’ve done in the first season of parenting is tried to earn their trust; you know.
[I] just want you to know, like, an, you can trust me. I have your best interest in mind. There are going to be some times in the future, where everything in you says, “You need to go right,” and I’m going to say, “You need to go left.” It’s going to feel like an injustice and unfair. But I hope that you will watch those times closely.
My commitment to you is—I can’t promise you I will always be right—when I’m wrong, I’m going to own it fully; I’m going to ask forgiveness and seek to be reconciled to you. But I really do want to earn your trust.
And this one’s going to be, I think, the hardest is: everyone in your class/—
—all the girls around you are going to go crazy for boys and be talking about them, and you’re going to feel left out. You’re going to feel like you have nothing to contribute and like your parents are strict.
I want to make sure that we have fun. If there’s a dance that weekend at the school, that everybody’s going crazy about, if we can/if we have the means, I’m like, “You know what? I’m taking you to New York that weekend and give you a better alternative.”
I’m always trying to think through: “How can I give them a better alternative?” That doesn’t have to be expensive. It can be a camping trip; it can be just something that they want to do.
Ann: You’re really saying: “I want more for you,” “I want better for you.”
JP: That’s what God says to us.
JP: “I want better for you than the world offers.”
Dave: Are you saying, at 13, you’re not going to let her go to that dance?
Dave: —or is it her call?—or when would you let her go?
JP: I’m fine with her going to a dance. I think every kid/it has to be different, based on their level of maturity. That’s a part of, as parents, we have to be students of our children. But if she goes to that dance, I hope she goes in a group and they have fun.
It’s not like I want my daughter to not be around boys until she’s married to one. I want her to be around boys a lot—but just not in that one-on-one setting—where we know/I mean, every person over the age of 21, hearing this right now, thinks back to the foolish things you did when you were 18. [Laughter] Hormones are going crazy; you couldn’t wait to get by yourself and just push the envelope. Yes, I want to protect her from that.
Ann: JP, the last time you were here, we talked a little bit about your past/that you feel like you didn’t do this well.
JP: I did not do this well.
Ann: What did that look like?—because you’re passionate about it now for reasons.
Dave: I got to tell you. One of our researchers, who read through your book and wrote us some notes, said, “I would say the book title should be Everything I Did Wrong So That You Don’t Do It Too. [Laughter]
JP: That’s right.
Dave: She was just saying, “You were very honest”; and obviously, you were. Tell us what you did wrong.
JP: There are no perfect parents, as some people would say. [Laughter]
I don’t think I was ever single longer than two weeks since the fifth grade. Most of those relationships were overlapping. I had gone to a university for divorce—because the way that we date is really training for divorce—because you get in a relationship; and when you don’t feel in love with them anymore, you get out of a relationship.
Then you get in another relationship because you have all the feels—it’s exciting, and it’s fun—you get up in the morning, and your heart beats; you have a reason to live; you’re thinking about them; you’re wondering when they’re going to call; and when they do, your body releases all these endorphins and just a serotonin dump—you feel so great, like you’re on ecstasy. Then you realize that they do this thing that annoys you and, all of a sudden, all the feels leave.
This is a systematic training for divorce. That’s why we go into marriage—and the way that we’ve dated—has taught us to get a divorce.
Ann: I have never/have you ever thought of this?!
JP: No, it’s so true.
Ann: You’re right; you’re so right. It’s/it really is: we’re training ourselves for divorce.
Dave: In some ways, you’re defining a very, very popular show on TV—that I would love to say, “I never once watched”; but I’ve actually watched a few times—is The Bachelor/The Bachelorette. They just sort of model that.
JP: Look at the success rate. The show/it’s been a long-running show.
JP: But you just look at the success rate of that show when it’s like: “Hey, we’re going to give these compatibility tests. We’re going to create the perfect scenario. We’re going to let you choose from all these people,” and you still get it wrong.
Dave: That’s the model you’re talking about.
JP: That’s right. Sex at an early age in high school and, really, just then dating becomes a pursuit of that. Now you’re talking about, not just a university that’s training you for a divorce, but a university that’s training you for adultery. But not just sex; then pornography. As I became an adult, I had an extreme addiction to pornography/daily looking at porn. An addiction to porn is not an addiction to sex; it’s an addiction to variety. There is no room for monogamy for the person who’s addicted to porn; right?
Then I became a Christian. That’s a story in and of itself. I’m at a club; someone invites me to a church. I trust in Christ.
Dave: Whoa, whoa, wait! You’ve got to give us a little more: “I’m at a club—
JP: Yes, I’m at a club.
Dave: —“and I get invited to church.”
JP: I grew up in church; I went to church school; you know? I went to church three times a week sometimes. Then I went to college. I, because I didn’t have a relationship with Jesus, I did all the crazy things that pagan college students do. Then I graduated somehow; and I’m at this club, 18 years ago. I’m talking to this girl; I say, “What are you doing this weekend?” She said, “I’m going to go check out this church tomorrow.”
I said, “Great, pick me up.” She does; so I go, hungover. I sit in the back row, smell like smoke. I had heard the gospel; I had talked about the gospel with other people. But the Holy Spirit at that point—she really exits the story—I kept going week, after week, after week, and just really getting beat up—[Laughter]—like sitting in the parking lot, weeping; like, “What is wrong with me?”
I just/I was watching these people, legitimately, follow Jesus; and I gave my life to Christ. The Holy Spirit came and just cleaned house. There were things that went away so easy: the way that I talked—my language was terrible—He fixed that. I had major anger issues; He fixed that.
Pornography—man, that lingered; it just didn’t—I’ve done drugs; I’ve been an alcoholic—nothing ripped my life like that [pornography] addiction; it just enslaved me. I have accountability. I begin to experience freedom and healing from that addiction.
I get married—and I say this prayer—the pastor’s up there; we make these crazy promises to each other; you know: “…for better or worse; sickness and health; till death do us part.” He says, “You may kiss your bride.” We walk down the aisle. Our friends and family are there; they’re applauding. It’s beautiful; she’s beautiful. I hold her in my arms in the foyer—and I say/I say this prayer—I say, “Dear God, thank You for allowing me to escape the consequences of my sin.” I was like, “Man, I got away.” And I was thinking of pornography/I was thinking of sexual sin.
When I got two years into marriage, and I realized how naïve that prayer was; because I hadn’t escaped the consequences of my sin. It just came in a different way; I had no idea how to love one woman for the rest of my life. I had systematically trained myself that, as soon as I don’t feel something, I’m out. I felt so stuck, and she felt so stuck. We’re looking at each other; and it’s like: “I don’t know? Do I love you? I don’t know anymore. I don’t even know if I like you. What do we do?”
That was a symptom of the way that we date.
JP: That’s what happens.
Dave: You carried—you mention in your book—you carried luggage.
JP: I carried the baggage, yes.
Dave: We’re all standing at the altar, and if we could see behind the reality, we have these bags.
Dave: We don’t think we have them. You prayed a prayer, thinking: “I’m glad I escaped that.” And yet,—
JP: I’m just carrying them with me.
Dave: —you’ve got more than a carry-on coming on that baby.
Ann: I think it will be worth talking about that piece more even.
Dave: Yes, for sure. I know that for Ann and I, our dating relationship was the only relationship, where Christ really was the foundation. I just surrendered my life to Christ; she had done the same thing. It was like a totally different experience, because we had a purpose.
Dave: It changed everything.
Ann: I think it changed everything, and the biggest thing was we put Jesus in the center.
Dave: We’d start a date with prayer; end a date with prayer; put boundaries on the physical relationship. I mean, I had never done that; it was radically different.
I’m not saying, if you do that, you’re going to marry that person; but I would challenge the single listener: “Put Jesus at the center of your dating life. You may have never done that before. Get on your knees, right now, and say, ‘I’m going to surrender this area to my Lord and Savior.’ Trust Him, and it will be a uniquely different experience.”
As I sit here now, married 40 years, I know that decision, when we were dating, changed my legacy.
Bob: Well, if it wasn’t clear to you before today, I think the conversation that Dave and Ann Wilson have had today makes it clear that the way we’re doing dating in the
21st century in the United States is not accomplishing what the people, who are dating, want it to accomplish. Dating is broken. Part of the reason is because we’re not approaching the whole issue of dating from a biblical framework.
That’s what Jonathan Pokluda’s book, Outdated, is really all about. It’s a look at how we can think biblically about the subject of dating. Whether you’re in your 20s or 30s, trying to figure out how you can have a dating life that is honoring to God, or maybe you’re dating again after the loss of a spouse or a divorce, you want to have an understanding of dating that is biblical. That’s what JP’s book is all about. Again, it’s called Outdated: Find Love That Lasts When Dating Has Changed. You can go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com, to request your copy of JP’s book, Outdated; or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY to get your copy.
Again, the website is FamilyLifeToday.com. Look for JP Pokluda’s book, Outdated: Find Love That Lasts When Dating Has Changed, orcall to request your copy of the book: 1-800-FL-TODAY is our number; 1-800-358-6329; that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
Now, one of the things we know about some of you, as listeners, is that you are people who really have a heart to want to help other people. We know that because some of you have donated to make sure that FamilyLife Today is on the air in your community so that other people can benefit from this program. FamilyLife Today is listener-supported. It’s because of a handful of listeners in your community that you were able to listen to today’s program. If you are one of those folks, who has helped support the ministry of FamilyLife over the years, we want to say, “Thank you for that ongoing support. On behalf of your fellow listeners, thank you for making this program possible for us.”
If you are someone who likes to help other people, earlier this week, we talked with PeggySue Wells and Pam Farrel about The 10 Best Decisions a Single Mom Can Make. We want to make copies of that book available to anyone who makes a donation to support the ministry. My thought is: “This is a great book for you to give to a single mom you know as a way to express love for her and to say, ‘I’m here to help.’ Make a donation to FamilyLife Today; request your copy of the book, The 10 Best Decisions a Single Mom Can Make. We’ll send that to you as your thank-you gift for your support. Not only will your donation be helping others, but having a chance to give away the book to someone you know will be helpful as well.” Let me just say, “Thank you, in advance, for your ongoing support of this ministry.” We do appreciate you.
We hope you can join us, again, tomorrow when we’re going to talk about the gift of singleness. You know, the Bible talks about singleness as a gift. There are some singles who wonder, “Is it a gift or is it a curse?” We’ll hear what Jonathan Pokluda has to say about that tomorrow. I hope you can join us for that.
On behalf of our hosts Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. We’ll see you next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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