SPRING HILL, Tenn. (BP) — When Scott Lehman stands on the first tee of a golf course, he’s gazing out across one of the most manicured mission fields on earth — his mission field.
And rarely is one’s mission in life embroidered on every shirt, hat, wind vest and jacket one wears, with his logo for In His Grip Golf serving as a constant reminder of his purpose in launching the golfing ministry six years ago: to reach men with the Gospel through the game of golf.
Lehman lives the vision because he has lived both sides of it: an empty life constructed around golf, which nearly cost him everything, and an introduction to the saving power of Jesus Christ through golf.
He is wired for golf and wired for Jesus, and he knows there are a lot of other guys out there — millions of them — who are chasing empty dreams, living empty lives, and he wants to connect with them. Through golf, for Jesus.
“Guys are out there on an island dying to be a part of friendship and fellowship,” Lehman said. “There are 60 million golfers worldwide – 20 million male golfers in the United States. We’re looking to connect with these men and their passion out on the course, developing those relationships and ultimately sharing Christ, what He’s done in our lives and in our families.”
Lehman is a walking testimony to that statement. A dream trip to the 1997 Masters — and seeing a young Tiger Woods dominate the field on his way to his first major — became a nightmare when he returned home to hear his wife say she wanted a divorce two years into their marriage. Financial debt, isolation and loss of a job had taken a toll.
“It was the first time in my life at age 36 that I started looking to God and asking Him those questions of why am I here? What is my purpose? Do You really have a plan for my life?” Lehman said. “I came across a little devotional book called ‘In His Grip,’ and when I brought it home, I asked my wife Leslie if we owned a Bible.
“She was shocked. Neither one of us had ever cracked open God’s Word.”
Lehman came to Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Lean not on your own understanding but in all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your path straight.” It was the beginning of his faith journey with Christ, “from the deep, deep, bunkers of my life,” as he says.
Involvement in a local church and a men’s small group helped grow his biblical understanding. That small group faithfully prayed for Leslie, who recommitted her life to Christ nine months later.
In His Grip Golf actually began as a local church ministry in Iowa. Lehman’s pastor at the time encouraged people to find a ministry and get involved. Nothing fit Lehman’s personality so the pastor told him to start a golf ministry. For seven years he did, and it became obvious to Lehman that God wanted it broadened.
“We were seeing a lot of unchurched guys participate,” Lehman said. “That was the intent from the beginning. We saw a lot of guys coming to Christ as a result.”
Reaching men for Christ through the local church is still In His Grip Golf’s modus operandi.
“We want to equip laymen in the local church to own a ministry they’re excited about and is a natural bridge for them to share the Gospel with their friends,” Lehman said. “Statistics show that if a man comes to Christ, 93 percent of the time the rest of the family will follow. That’s a staggering statistic, especially when coupled with the statistic that only 15 percent of churches have a strong men’s ministry. The place those families are ministered to is in the local church so we want what we do to support the church.”
Michael Catt, pastor of Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Ga., the church that produced the movies “Courageous” and “Fireproof,” supports that approach. A resounding message in Sherwood’s movies is biblical manhood and leadership, a message championed by In His Grip Golf.
“The vision to reach men for Christ resonates with my heart,” Catt said. “I love the game and I love to see men come to Christ. I love to see their lives changed and their families changed. I believe as pastors and churches partner with In His Grip Golf, they will see some men reached [with the Gospel] that they would never see reached through traditional methods.”
Bert Dargie, a member of The People’s Church, a Southern Baptist congregation in Franklin, Tenn., has been involved with In His Grip since the church hosted its first golfing event.
“The effort is worth it,” Dargie said. “Guys who otherwise might stay on the periphery of ministry dive in and support [the tournament]. It’s a way to invite friends or co-workers who don’t go to church to something both you and them love. They hear the Gospel and get to hang out with other guys. It is definitely a highlight for me.”
Lehman envisions reaching 2 million men with the Gospel through the game of golf by 2020. While he has worked with a lot of churches and thousands of men, there is no question he sees the pristine fairways of America’s golf courses “white unto harvest,” and golfers as an unreached people group.
“I totally recognize it is a huge vision to reach 2 million men in the next eight years, but I believe that is the vision God has given us,” Lehman said. “It’s our calling to the Great Commission. I recognize that to get there God is going to have to provide and lead. It certainly isn’t going to happen because Scott Lehman made it happen.
“What we need to concentrate on is making sure everything we do through In His Grip Golf brings glory and honor to Jesus Christ. That means representing Him well in every aspect of our ministry and being faithful to share the Gospel while building authentic relationships with other guys.”
And for a constant reminder of that mission, Lehman doesn’t need to look any farther than the embroidered logo on his shirt.
Chris Turner is a freelance writer in Nashville, Tenn.