Links Daily Devotional

The Pace of Play

As for other matters, brothers and sisters, pray for us that the message of the Lord will spread rapidly and be honored, just as it was with you. (2 Thessalonians 3:1, NIV)

We rest on the verge of a new season, whether you play your golf above the equator or below it. Times like these mean transitions for golf courses. In milder climates, it’s time to aerate and overseed and prepare for the turf for warmer weather—or cooler. Where greater harshness is coming or has gone, it’s moving toward the date to close down for the season—or reopen to the joy of golfers who’ve been anxiously waiting through long winter months.

Golf courses are certainly what we might call “controlled environments” when it comes to growing. The wild isn’t welcome, except where it’s supposed to be: in the untamed trouble along the edges.

All the same, a golf course superintendent must “go with the flow” when it comes to the weather. A rainy year requires different care than an especially sunny and hot one. Droughts are never good for growing, but monsoons don’t make for good play. A knowledgeable superintendent recognizes the signs of the season, consults with others in the business, and does the best work possible for the club that pays him.

In recent decades we have heard much excellent discussion about “relational evangelism.” The expression implies that you don’t often find favorable hearers when you walk up to someone who does not know you and start “givin’ ’em the gospel.” What you need to be doing is spending quantity time with others in commonly enjoyed activities like golf (or investing or community service or traveling or some other affinity-linked endeavor). Then, after you have established a friendship and opened the ears of those who would listen, you may speak respectfully toward your listeners and honorably of God’s kingdom life for those who embrace the outworking of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. It’s the gospel—salvation by faith in the only One who can rightly offer it—but it’s delivered in the course of human events, we might say.

The trouble some have with this method is that it is so glacial in its pace. There is so much dormancy before the sprouting. And when we read 2 Thessalonians 3:1, we see their point, for Paul asked that the message of Jesus would “spread rapidly.” These are eager brothers and sisters who recognize an urgency to evangelism, as everyday thousands die without Jesus.

The balance lies somewhere in-between. Like excellent golf course superintendents, we need to become experts at understanding the condition and personality of those we hope to reach. Some are hardened to any words about God, and the softening work may indeed be slow. But others may be moved more quickly into the most important conversation we can ever have with them.

A great superintendent has methods at the ready for every possible condition. We must be the same, operating at God’s pace, not our own, as we keep in touch with the Holy Spirit and receive Christ’s words to pass on to others (Luke 21:14-15).

Jeff Hopper

September 20, 2011

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