Today is our church’s annual golf tournament. The tournament raises funds to help send students to camp. Today also marks my annual round of golf.
I’m a pastor but I’m not very good at golf, which might make me a bad pastor.
My senior pastor is very good at golf. He’s been golfing for a couple decades and his dedication has paid off. When he swings the club the ball goes where he wants it to go. When I swing the club, I very often miss the ball.
I don’t know why pastors love golf so much but here are a few thoughts.
Pastoral work requires a lot of patience and golf is a game that produces patience. Like Chubs told Happy, golf isn’t a game about pure emotion. It’s about calming those emotions and finding a certain level of peace and patience. If a pastor can work on his or her patience on the golf course, maybe he or she will find more patience when dealing with a parishioner who wants to see the bell choir every week. If the pastor can avoid cussing at the ball when it doesn’t go to its home, he or she can probably swallow that snarky remark when a cell phone rings or a baby won’t stop crying in service.
Pastoral work also requires a lot of prayer. Jesus tells us to pray in secret, not standing on the corner trying to get the attention of everybody. While the tee box is definitely a public place, the prayer can be done in secret. I imagine I will be praying a lot as I step into the tee box. My prayers will be something like, “Dear Jesus, please don’t let me miss the ball and make a fool out of myself in front of these two dudes I don’t know. Amen.” And then, when I miss the ball, I might loudly ask God to curse the ball and send it to hell. Only if it’s in his will, of course.
A round of golf is a great opportunity for evangelism. A pastor looking for the harvest has 3-4 hours with a few other people. Over the course of the round a pastor could ask questions about vocation, family and eventually faith. Here are a few ways a pastor could broach the topic of faith on the golf course.
“If you were to die in a golf cart accident on the 10th hole, do you know where you’d go?”
“My sand wedge is great for getting me out of traps. But do you know who’s even better? Jesus.”
“I’m glad there’s a bridge over this creek. Here, let me draw another bridge for you.”
“That water hazard wouldn’t be so hazardous if I could walk on water. But no one could walk on water, right?
“You’re looking for the food cart girl because you’re thirsty? Let me tell you about water which will make sure you never thirst again.”
There are plenty of opportunities to share the gospel on the golf course but, with so many pastors golfing, there might not be much of a need.
Even though I’m not very good at golf, I hope and pray that God can still use me as a minister for his kingdom. I’m pretty sure he can, I just need to find other ways to develop my patience, prayer and evangelism.
Now here’s my favorite joke about golf from the late Mitch Hedberg.
“I played golf, I'm not good at golf, I never got good at it. I never got a hole in one, but I did hit a guy in one. And that's way more satisfying. You're supposed to yell "fore." But I was too busy mumbling, "there ain't no way that's gonna hit him.”
How else could golf benefit someone trying to be more like Jesus?