Lessons from the Links
I have played golf since I was a sophomore in High school. I have a love-hate relationship with the game of golf. On some days I absolutely love it while on other days I am tempted to say the kind of words no preacher, Christian or human being should ever utter. However, I must be addicted, because I keep going out to the course thinking, “I might play my best round today.” The quest to improve keeps me playing. The enjoyment of hitting a good shot is why I play.
I have discovered some valuable lessons about faith and ministry and from the links of the golf course.
Golf is hard and so is life in ministry.
James Barrett Reston said, “Golf: A plague invented by the Calvinistic Scots as a punishment for man’s sins.” Golf is not an easy sport to learn. It takes a lot of practice to play golf at a high level of competence. This involves a lot of bad shots. Hank Aaron said, “It took me seventeen years to get three thousand hits in baseball. It took one afternoon on the golf course.”
Life as a follower of Jesus is a difficult challenge for all of us. If you are in ministry, it’s even more challenging as you deal with difficult circumstances and people. The most difficult person you deal with is yourself. Jesus told us that life was going to be hard. (John 16:33).
Golf is not fair and life is not fair.
Every golfer understands that bad breaks are inevitable. When a golfer hits a long drive or a short iron shot there is a probability for bad bounces to happen. A perfect putt will sometimes hit something on the green to cause it to miss the hole. Golf is not fair. Pete Dye, the famous golf architect said, “Life is not fair, so why should I make a course that is fair.”
Life in ministry is not fair. Those in positions of leadership often find themselves in no win situations. Someone is going to be disappointed. Someone will probably get hurt and may leave the church. We can try to please everyone and make everyone happy, but that is darn near impossible even in the smallest of churches.
The best golfers hit bad shots.
No one plays a perfect round of golf. Watch the best players on TV and you will see how they struggle at times. Last week, I got to play with one of our club’s best players. I was a little nervous and I struggled in the first couple of holes. I think I was trying way too hard to impress him. He told me that he had shot a 71 earlier that day. Pretty good, considering our golf course is known to be one of the most difficult in the country. We came to the fourth hole, and this awesome player shanked his golf shot from the fairway. A shank is considered the worst shot in golf. My response to him, “I can’t believe it. You are human!” I played much better for the rest of the evening as I relaxed knowing even the best hit bad shots.
We all struggle in ministry. We all fail at times. We have our bad days when nothing goes right. It happens to all of us. We read of many so-called successful ministers and well-known pastors who have made bad decisions. They have had some bad days in ministries. In the end, we are all vulnerable.
Golf offers no mulligans, but with Jesus we have access into His grace in which we stand.
Everyone struggles when it comes to following Jesus and leading others in ministry. We all have our bad days. We are all human. Thank God for His grace and forgiveness through His Son. In golf, every shot counts and has to be written down. There are no mulligans or forgiveness offered on the golf course. Your score is your score. We are all going to have our moments when we fail.
In ministry, we get to offer the wonderful good news of grace. We proclaim forgiveness in a very unforgiving world. In the gospel, we have the promise of no condemnation for all who are in Christ Jesus.
Golf can provide a lot of entertainment and enjoyment, but in the end, it’s only a game.
In view of eternity, our golf score doesn’t matter. How we respond to our golf scores is what really matters. It’s not our strokes, but our attitude and responses that will outlive us.
We can preach great sermons and lead top notch programs in our ministry. In the end, it’s how we respond to God and to each other that matters most. Great preachers can be great jerks. The church can look great on the outside, but offer nothing of eternal significance on the inside if Christ is not first in our message and lifestyle.
Golf can open up opportunities to meet new people.
Every week, I meet someone new on the golf course. Our course attracts visitors from all over the area and surrounding states. In the end, this is what I enjoy most about golf. Yes, I love to play, but I love the people I meet and get to play with on a regular basis.
In ministry, we have opportunities to meet new people in our world. Do not take for granted the people who are in your life in the course of a day. It’s an opportunity to get to know them and reach out with the love of Christ in some special way. It’s how we treat others with the love of Christ that will matter most in the end.