“There are golfers teeing up at 8 a.m. who do not know the Lord Jesus,” said Jim Sechrist, the director of Warren Golf Augusta.
The ministry of Warren Baptist Church, on Washington Road just 2½ miles from Augusta National Golf Club, held its inaugural golf tournament at Mount Vintage Plantation last month. Other events, including tournaments and retreats, are scheduled throughout the year.
Each is an opportunity to build much-needed connections between men in the church and the community, said Al Nelson, the tournaments and events coordinator for Warren Golf Augusta. He’s part of a four-man team – including Sechrist, Shane Pangle and Tom Sorrells – that leads the ministry.
“As men we get caught up with work. We don’t get ministered to,” he said. “We saw this as a way to engage men, to minister to them.”
The potential for a new golf ministry in Augusta came up as early as 2009, when Sechrist met with the church’s newly called senior pastor, the Rev. David McKinley, for a round of golf.
“He was surprised there wasn’t a golf ministry here in the home of the Masters,” he said. “We think there’s a great need for it.”
Men of the church began to pray for an opportunity to reach the community through golf. The ministry launched on March 18, 2012.
Author and sports psychologist David L. Cook spoke to more than 400 people at a “tee-off ” dinner in Augusta, at which pimento-cheese and egg-salad sandwiches were served.
Cook, the author of Seven Days in Utopia: Golf’s Sacred Journey, preached the morning services at Warren Baptist Church and spoke again that evening. Twelve men made professions of faith that night.
“We knew something was happening with this ministry,” Sechrist recalled. He now serves as the director of the Johnny Project, a “revolution” inspired by Cook’s book.
“I wept at the story,” Sechrist said of Seven Days in Utopia.
Through The Johnny Project, men and women who read the book are encouraged to buy 10 copies to give to others in their sphere of influence.
“Since he came out here, we have sold or given away anywhere from 3,000 to 4,000 books,” Sechrist said. “Some people who won’t pick up a Bible will pick up that golf book.”
Sechrist always keeps a few in his golf bag in the hope that he will run across someone who would also be encouraged by the story.
“Our vision is pretty big,” Sechrist said. “We feel our ministry is strategically placed in Augusta. Cook agreed. He said, “I see Warren Golf Augusta will make the world know the Master, and not just the Masters.’ ”