“Retirement” is something most think of as a time to throttle down, relax, re-prioritize, and enjoy the people, places and activities most important to them. For those fortunate enough to retire, it can indeed be all of that. However, retiring from a career doesn’t mean retiring from ministry. I was reminded of that, in no uncertain terms, by my wife when I started discussing retirement with her 14 years ago at the age of 55. I think these were her exact words: “You can’t retire unless you have a ministry to retire to.” Uh…okay. Not necessarily exactly what I had in mind, but if you knew my wife you’d know she wasn’t someone to trifle with. Besides—I knew she was right. So I agreed to her terms.
I had 60 in mind as my target age, so there was plenty of time to get my “ministry” ducks in a row, with nothing but a vague idea about what that might entail. Possibly something related to my love for golf. About that time, I was invited to assist my church in Naples, FL with an outreach dinner for golfers coordinated by Search Ministries. The keynote speaker was Larry Mize, a prominent Christian golfer and winner of the 1987 Masters Tournament. My role was to follow up with those who completed response cards indicating an interest in participating in conversations about faith with other golfers and to lead a series of small-group discussions using Search materials. So, maybe there was a “ministry after retirement” awaiting me….in about 5 years? Worth keeping a light conversation going? The Lord had a different schedule in mind.
Over the next two years, a combination of business circumstances opened up an opportunity for me to take early retirement from the firm I had founded in 1977. I had also been discussing the notion of a golf ministry with my pastor, my wife, and with my new friends at Search. After much prayer and confirmation, I formed the idea of Men’s Golf Fellowship (MGF) with the mission of Growing In Faith With Golf Friends—and I left my firm.
The first task was to review and develop my MGF vision with a group of Christian friends and acquaintances in Naples and formulate a plan. About 15 – 20 of us met weekly for several months to flesh out a workable approach for engaging golf friends in discussions related to faith…not exactly an easy or natural topic. We decided to start by hosting a breakfast with Larry Moody (Search Founder and PGA Chaplain) as our speaker, and each invited some of our golf friends. About 100 attended. Larry spoke about the faith-lives of famous tour players and challenged us to meet together in small groups to discuss our own faith journeys. A card was left for everyone to indicate their interest. Many responded positively.
Thirteen years later, we have about 1,500 men actively involved in southwest Florida golf clubs and in several other areas. MGF is composed of an annual speaker series and small groups where golf friends meet together to discuss God & Life issues, the challenges and opportunities facing us, and what the Bible has to say about those.
This account would be incomplete without highlighting a representative story of a man whose life was changed by the Lord through MGF. Allow me to introduce my friend and co-laborer, CG King.
I was a semiretired 60-year-old living in Michigan and spending my winters in Florida when Steve invited me to attend a Men’s Golf Fellowship meeting. My faith then was not much more mature than what it was when I graduated from Sunday School. My family went to church but faith was personal and wasn’t talked about a lot. There had been, however, a little spark in me that wanted more. Now that I had some time on my hands, I accepted Steve’s invitation—with some uncertainty and trepidation.
At MGF I heard distinguished business men talk about their careers and their Christian faith. These men had a mature and genuine faith and were examples of how I, too, could grow in Christ. I committed to reading the Bible cover to cover. I exchanged Christian books with other men and each week I attended in-depth discussions about life and faith in an MGF small group.
Becoming involved in Men’s Golf Fellowship began a journey which changed my life. My retirement years are now exciting. I have new friends, a new purpose and more peace. My wife Pam is a woman of strong faith and she encouraged my involvement in MGF. Our marriage is now more firmly grounded in the Lord and is full of new vitality and richness.
What I found in MGF, I had never found before. The difference for me is the fellowship with other men around the common theme of learning about and growing in our Christian faith together. We have sports, golf, business and family experiences in common, but all of us are hungry for something deeper. At MGF we learn and grow together in our faith.
Three years ago, with the help of four golfing friends, I started an MGF group at my home club in Michigan. Sixty men now attend our dinner meetings and watch MGF speaker videos. We then discuss faith and life issues related to the talks. We are all on various levels of faith and knowledge of the Bible, but it is a joy to me, who started my journey in much the same way, to see other men begin to take their faith seriously—just like I did 12 years ago.
It’s stories like CG’s that confirm for me that starting MGF has been the best decision of my life. While my 35-year business career was great, it pales in comparison to this. With God, the rest of our life can be the best of our life. All we have to do is ask Him to show us what He wants us to do, pay attention, and get about doing it. What’s He asking of you?