by Clint Kelly
Driving the gospel home
Scott Lehman will never forget the day he used his seven iron to drive a golf ball through his sister’s bedroom window. The most vivid part of the memory is not the sound of shattering glass, or hiding out in the old sand-filled John Deere tractor tire, or even hearing his father shout his full name: “Scott Nelson Lehman! Where are you?” It was what his father said after brushing the sand off his tearful 10-year-old boy: “Son, you’re forgiven.”
His golfer dad wasn’t finished. He said, “We all hit some bad shots in our lives. The important thing is to keep swinging! Never stop swinging, son!”
And Scott never has. The founder and president of In His Grip (IHG) sports ministry tells that story to encourage men to see themselves through the eyes of love with which their Heavenly Father sees them.
“Men do life shoulder to shoulder in golf carts, duck blinds, bass fishing boats, at ball games, and in vehicles to and from our favorite activities,” Scott says. “We can no longer wait for men to walk through the doors of the church; we must take the gospel to them along the fairways of life.”
DRIVEN BY PASSION
IHG is one of a growing number of men’s ministries where men are reached for Christ by doing what they love to do. In the process, they minister to one another. Though often so, sports aren’t always the catalyst. The partnership of more than 150 Christian organizations within the National Coalition of Ministries to Men (NCMM) includes outreach to males through music, entrepreneurship, military service, and other avenues of common interest.
Amazed that he’s able to combine two of his life passions, God and golf, Scott says his beloved sport is not only where men can be reached with the gospel, but also the place where they can learn to grow in Christ.
UNDONE BY THE DOLLAR
It took the near collapse of his marriage for Scott to realize that golf (and all the other trappings of what the world defined as a successful lifestyle) was nearly his undoing. In 1997, at age 36, Scott took his dream trip with three buddies to the Masters Golf Tournament in Augusta, Ga. Riding high from the experience, he returned home to hear his wife say she could no longer stay in the marriage because of Scott’s pursuit of the “almighty dollar.” Within hours he went from a mountain top to the valley of despair.
A book was published that same year titled In His Grip (Thomas Nelson). Written by two golfers, the book provides insightful analogy between professional golf and the Christian walk. Reading it helped turn Scott around. He committed himself to Christ, and God began a mighty work in Scott’s heart and life. In 2006, he founded IHG. In 2010, he was invited to address the 1,000 guests assembled at the Masters Tournament Golf Breakfast. It was the first time in 13 years that Scott had been back. This time, his wife, Leslie, sat proudly at his side.
Today, Scott is not only a certified golf-teaching professional and contributor to The Golfer’s Bible (Holman Bible Publishers), but the leader of a ministry that brings men together around the cross of Christ. Churches that host an IHG chapter hold golf tournaments that average 40 men. IHG invitational golf tournaments average 100 men, of which nearly 50 percent are unchurched. In addition, local churches send men to IHG leadership training workshops. The greatest outcome Scott sees is that men with a passion for golf get involved in the church by reaching out to men beyond the four walls of the church.
“We can no longer wait for men to walk through the doors of the church; we must take the gospel to them along the fairways of life.”
At a recent IHG tournament in Franklin. Tenn., a copy of the book Golf’s Sacred Journey by David L. Cook (Zondervan) was part of a gift package for each player. When one of the golfers read it and reached the last page, he began to weep. He called a Christian golfing buddy, they met for lunch, and the tournament player gave his life to Jesus.
“For most men, it’s tough to surrender and not try to make it all happen on their own.”
“My enjoyment for the game is no longer defined by a number on a card,” says Bert Dargie, vice president with a real estate development firm in Nashville, avid golfer, and a member of Scott’s church. “Because of IHG I have many new friends and some really strong Christian relationships that encourage me to be my best. Golf allows me four or five hours of uninterrupted time with other guys whom I get to encourage and pray for.”
Scott acknowledges this kind of outcome is not the result of his efforts. “IHG is not mine,” he says. “It’s God’s. For most men, it’s tough to surrender and not try to make it all happen on their own.” Scott works to stay vigilant against the temptation to wrestle control from God. “The more I open my hands and release it all to Him, the more I see His power and plans unfold. God must receive all of the glory. Period!”
Clint Kelly is an adventure novelist and communications specialist for Seattle Pacific University. He has been the guest speaker for men’s retreats, including Promise Keepers. He keeps hoping someone will start a men’s ministry for Christian Bigfoot aficionados.