It is hard to believe it has been 20 years since the “True Love Waits” (TLW) movement began. According to a recent Baptist Press story, “True Love Waits morphed from a nameless concept in coffee break conversations into a movement that, beginning in February 1993, steadily spread to teenagers across the country. That month, 53 youth at Tulip Grove Baptist Church committed themselves to sexual abstinence before marriage.”
It is no surprise the movement was begun by Southern Baptists and was connected to one of our signature events (a Disciple Now weekend). What is surprising is that since its beginning, literally millions of teenagers have taken the pledge for abstinence until marriage, unleashing a positive peer pressure trend upon this nation.
Connected to the “True Love Waits” pledge cards and even jewelry have acted as reminders of the commitment to God and before man. Since its beginnings, there always were naysayers and doubters. Today, those exist. Yet who can argue against the principle of the matter?
Statistics show that the average college student today is as likely to graduate with a sexually-transmitted disease as they are a diploma. The “hooking-up” culture on college campuses is out of control, and the very invention of the term “sexting” (sending sexually-explicit text messages) speaks to the continued moral spiral in America today.
Yet the movement’s founders and pastors and youth leaders among Baptists remain committed to teaching abstinence. The True Love Waits pledge reads, “Believing that true love waits, I make a commitment to God, myself, my family, my friends, my future mate, and my future children to be sexually abstinent from this day until the day I enter a biblical marriage relationship.”
At a recent 20th anniversary TLW weekend, Richard Ross, professor of student ministry at Southwestern Seminary, who “cofounded the movement with then fellow-LifeWay employee Jimmy Hester while also serving as youth minister at Tulip Grove . . . watched as a second generation pledged their purity before God.”
“In several cases, I was speaking to teenagers who are the teenage children of those who made the first promises,” Ross said, marveling at the wonder of leading those he knew as babies in the same commitment as their parents to wait for their future mate.
My, how far we have come in 20 years! Of course, we know it takes more than signing a piece of paper or putting on a purity ring to resist the strong drives of temptation for the average teen and young adult. At the same time, making commitments is just what we need.
C.S. Lewis put it this way. “Chastity is the most unpopular of the Christian virtues. There is no getting away from it: the old Christian rule is, ‘Either marriage, with complete faithfulness to your partner, or else total abstinence.’”
Lewis in his own day knew what we experience now. It is unpopular to wait. Yet Oklahoma Baptists have been greatly impacted by the True Love Waits program. Andy Harrison, the BGCO’s Falls Creek program specialist, will be building upon the TLW program with an event later this spring.
“We are going to have a statewide rally (on Wed., April 17) for ‘Project: Love,’ which is really a broader look at integrity, and a central piece is abstinence,” said Harrison. “We essentially are revitalizing the True Love Waits message and talking about more than dating relationship. We are focusing on having a primary relationship with God and healthy relationships with family.”
Harrison, and many like him, understand that at the core of sexual integrity is our very walk with God. For those who have stumbled, we have forgiveness in Christ. He still corrects us and says, “Go and sin no more.” For a new generation growing up, they will have an opportunity to walk with God in healthy, pure relationships. If they do, young people will find that God’s plan for their lives was definitely a true love that was worth waiting for.