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Golf, hunting provide paths for the Gospel

GRAPEVINE, Texas (BP)–By personal experience, teaching golf professional Scott Lehman discovered a principle that many church men’s ministries are discovering as well: Where there is a common interest in an activity, there is an inroad to a man’s heart.

About 10 years ago, Lehman for the first time in his life entered a Christian bookstore seeking help for his then-failing marriage. He soon noticed a book with a golf theme — the devotional “In His Grip” by Jim Sheard and Wally Armstrong. He picked it up and began reading it.

“In golf, the most important key fundamental is the grip and how your hands are placed on the club,” Lehman told Baptist Press. “The book started to talk about how the key fundamental in life is living a lifestyle in His grip. God began to open my heart to the message.”

Now Lehman’s greatest passion is to reach other golfers through In His Grip Golf Association (inhisgripgolf.com), a ministry he founded that uses the golf course as a mission field and golf as an evangelistic tool. In 2006 Lehman focused full time on developing the ministry. He conducts leadership training workshops teaching churches how to organize an In His Grip Invitational and how to implement a year-round golf ministry.

Also, at his Pastor’s Masters Golf Retreats held at LifeWay’s Ridgecrest and Glorieta Conference Centers, pastors play golf. But, more important, they attend seminars on golf-related ministry and golf-centered life lessons — ideas they can take back and develop in their own settings.

Lehman says he presents a “reach, teach and send” message, believing that golfers can grow in the image of Christ “through Scripture passages at every hole, small group Bible studies [and] golf retreats,” and then be sent out to fulfill the Great Commission. Thus far Lehman has helped about 24 churches host In His Grip invitationals, which average about 100 men per tournament.

But Lehman isn’t the only person trying to reach men in their own environment.


Don Hamlin is a Southern Baptist education minister in Kearney, Mo., with a passion for ministry to men and boys. An avid outdoorsman, he has written two men’s devotional books: “Lock, Stock, and Barrel,” and a study guide, “Hook, Line, and Sinker,” both available on his website, dhamlin.hisurfer.net.

Hamlin has organized regular fishing and hunting events at his church for several years. Some are intended as outreach to unsaved men, others for fellowship and spiritual growth.

“Our church is very sports- and recreation-minded,” Hamlin said.

“People have a passion for [different things], and our church is open to reaching people any way we can that is reasonable. Being minister of education and outreach, my philosophy is that when someone mentions they want to start something, I respond like Rick Warren says, ‘Sounds like a good idea. You’re in charge!'”

The church has held deer-hunting clinics in the fall and turkey-hunting clinics in the spring to reach unchurched men. A church member with expertise in hunting a particular type of game will present his own tips and techniques, or possibly a talk on topics like guns or bow-making.

“We’ll also have a local wildlife official who is active in his church come and speak, and try to connect his topic with God’s Word. It’s more of a question-and-answer forum, and we might give away door prizes in that interest area,” Hamlin said.

Wild game feasts and “cowboy/horse-whisperer” events conducted in partnership with the local association are other outreach efforts in which the church participates. Three-day fishing retreats provide an opportunity for about a dozen men to fellowship and study Scripture together after fishing all day.


“Bikers Welcome” is a sign many churches are beginning to post, and Christian motorcycle riding clubs are rapidly forming to reach out to an interest group — many of them men — who often perceive they are not welcome in the traditional church.

F.A.I.T.H. Riders, a ministry that began 5 years ago in Lakeland, Fla., the Christian Motorcyclists Association based in Hatfield, Ark., and the Arkansas Baptist Bikers Association organized through the Arkansas Baptist State Convention are examples of a few of the chapter-based organizations for Christian bikers who want to use their leisure activity of choice to reach others for Christ.

Doug Hixson, pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Pampa, Texas, said his church is working to birth a club for bikers in his church.

“I probably have 15-20 guys in my church who have motorcycles. And this town is full of men who ride motorcycles, so we want to try to create a fellowship/camaraderie thing among bikers,” he said.

Hixson told of a somewhat rough-looking man — a biker with a pony tail — who had been out of church for 40 years. The man went to a Sunday School class where the teacher, who is also a deacon and a biker, had a pony tail as well. The idea for beginning the biker ministry was spawned from that event.

“We’re missing a whole society, and we want to blow the idea that they aren’t welcome out of their mind,” Hixson said. “We don’t care what they look like; we just want them to feel comfortable and come to church.”

Their initial goal for the ministry is to schedule a few one- to two-day day rides each year to which members can invite their friends. Another possibility for the club is participating in the evangelistic mission to the annual motorcycle rally in Sturgis, S.D.

But outreach to men doesn’t stop with golf, hunting or motorcycles.

Partnering with his 22-year-old son, Kyle, Don Hamlin’s most recent outreach effort has been to teenage boys in the form of a skate club. Each week the church takes about 25 boys to a skateboard park to just go and have fun.

“Boys were coming to our church parking lot to skate board, and we realized God had brought a mission field to us,” said Hamlin, the Southern Baptist education minister in Kearney, Mo.

“These kids know I can’t skateboard, but that doesn’t bother them. If I tried to be like them, they would quickly see that I’m disingenuous,” he noted, adding, “Like if I tried to fly fish with a group of fly fishermen. I try to just be open to being a learner of their skills.”

As a result, they were able to take about 20 of the boys to an Extreme Sports event where evangelist Luis Palau spoke, and 11 indicated an interest in receiving Christ.

“It isn’t just taking an activity and turning it into a social club,” Hamlin explained. “But making it a Christian one — to be Christ-honoring. We want people to know that we’re intentional about focusing on the cross, and honoring Christ.”
Kay Adkins is a freelance writer. This story first appeared in the Southern Baptist Texan, online at www.texanonline.net

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  • Kay Adkins