Sacred Journey: Taking God to the Golf Course
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- The Masters golf tournament is about to kick off in Augusta, Ga., this week. But a group of Christian golfers there are working to make the home of the Masters more famous someday as "The Home of the Master" -- Jesus Christ.
This move began when sports psychologist David Cook wrote a book about a fictional golfer meeting God. That book, Golf's Sacred Journey was made into the movie "Seven Days in Utopia."
Both ended with a cliff-hanger, and the movie invited the curious to go to DidHeMakeThePutt.com to find out what happened.
More than a million signed on, and 10,000 wrote to Cook that they'd come to salvation after reading his book and watching the movie.
Cook described what he was hearing over and over again from so many newly-saved golfers, "'I have asked Jesus to become the Lord of my life.'...10,000. We had 69 last month, 129 the month before -- and this is two years after the movie," Cook told CBN News.
Revolutionizing Golfers' Games -- and Lives
Much of this has come about because Christian golfers have realized what an evangelistic tool Golf's Sacred Journey and its sequel, Johnny's U.S. Open can be.
The books offer the kind of game-improving tips golfers crave. And both read like thrillers, but at the same time point to how adventuresome life can be with God.
Augusta resident Jim Sechrist has given away some 500 books and orders them a hundred at a time. He says others have been doing the same.
"People were buying the books -- 10, giving them away -- buying 100, giving them away," Sechrist said.
Cook added, "80,000 of the first 100,000 books went out in packs of 10. And that's what we call 'The Johnny Project.'"
Johnny is the golf guru in Cook's books who not only revolutionizes golfers' play, but points them to eternity.
So who exactly buys these bundles of books?
"It's a guy who says, 'I want to be a Johnny. I want to make a difference in other people's life,'" Cook explained.
And it's not just guys. Augusta resident Madeline Turner, who estimates she's given away 50 of the books, carries them with her everywhere.
"I've got two in my bag; I've got two in my car," she said, and added with a laugh, "And when I start running low, I get the shakes."
Turner's friend, Tom Sorrells, has passed out about 40 copies of Golf's Sacred Journey.
When he gives a copy to someone, he doesn't tell them it's a Christian book, but that it can help their golf game and their life, saying, "This little light book may show you how to find rhythm and balance in your life."
'The Home of the Master'
Pastor David McKinley pushed golfers in his church to go even further and start an actual golf ministry since their church was less than two miles from the Augusta National golf course, home of The Masters.
"It is a place that is known around the world," McKinley explained. "And so I realized that we had an international platform in Augusta."
Sechrist agreed to head up the new ministry, Warren Golf Augusta. He said his friend, David Cook, insisted they use that last word in the name of the organization.
"He said 'Augusta' is the name that will draw people to you from all over the world," Sechrist told CBN News.
According to Sechrist, Cook predicted that, "One day because of Warren Golf, Augusta will be known for the Master versus the Masters."
This group of Augusta golfers has made itself the home and heart of the Johnny Project, that spontaneous movement that began using Cook's books to reach the lost on the links.
"What a wonderful way to share the love of Christ and to be able to change somebody's life," Turner said of the movement.
Chills on a 100-Degree Day
Carson McDaniel is a Charlotte, N.C., golfer. He witnessed the power of Golf's Sacred Journey to change someone's eternal destiny up close in the life of Tracy, the man who helped Carson learn the brokerage business and became his good friend.
McDaniel told CBN News he'd been praying for Tracy for years.
"I just have a tremendous respect for this guy in my life because he was my mentor and he got me in the brokerage business," McDaniel told CBN News.
Then one day they were golfing in Oklahoma.
McDaniel recalled, "We were on the third green and Tracy came to me and said, 'Carson, I need to tell you something.' And I said, 'What's that?' And he said, 'I gave my life to the Lord.' And on a 100 degree day in Oklahoma, it really gave me chills."
Tracy told McDaniel it was because of Golf's Sacred Journey, and then gave McDaniel a copy. McDaniel loved the book so much, he became a Johnny Project all by himself.
"I ended up ordering probably 150, 200 books, " he said.
Taking It Up a Notch
Johnny Project groups like the one in Augusta are now starting to form around the country.
Recently, in an effort to take this golf evangelism up a notch, Warren Golf Augusta held a national retreat, featuring David Cook.
The rationale? Since many golfers will never go into a church to find God, Christians need to take God out to the golf courses.
"It really is a very relaxed opportunity to have natural conversation with people and for long periods of time," Pastor McKinley explained.
Turner said of God and time out on the golf course, "You feel His Presence. It's such a peaceful, quiet environment."
Sorrells said of those hours playing in such a place, "What better way to find out where a man or woman is in their life and are they having any trials or tribulations?"
McKinley agreed, saying, "You can share your life. You can share your testimony. You can build a relationship."
The retreat Warren Golf Augusta hosted gave those attending a chance to get plenty of golf tips up close and personal from Cook. But it also gave him and other Christians the opportunity to lead three more men to the Lord.
Cook said that's the best thing that happens to him in life.
"I know that will always be with me," he said of those salvations. "The golf tournament I won when I was a teenager means nothing now. What means something is that there will be another set of feet in eternity because God used me somehow."
Cook said golfers, just like everyone else, yearn for God and heaven.
"Ecclesiastes says that God has planted eternity in the heart of every man," Cook said. And Christian golfers, he added, need to be ready to point the way.