Conversation with a Golf Shop Owner

Some time ago I was the only customer in a golf store right after it opened. Several times I looked at the man at the cash register, who looked depressed. Eventually, I felt certain that something was bothering him, so I said, “You’re having a rough day aren’t you?”

He was a little shocked and said, “How did you know?”

“I don’t, but I was watching you for a few minutes and just felt like I should encourage you. Do you have a difficult situation going on?”

“Yes,” he answered. “I just took my brother to the emergency room; he’s vomiting blood, and he’s going to die if he doesn’t get off the booze.”

I still can’t remember exactly what I said, but it must have been something like, “He needs to know Jesus.”

He immediately asked, “Can we talk?”

“Yes”

Since he was the owner of the store, he went over and locked the front door. “Let’s go upstairs to my office.”

We talked for just short of three hours and I will give you a synopsis. I asked him why he responded so quickly when I said his brother needs to know Jesus. He said that he had been thinking a lot about Jesus himself recently. Since he was that open, I took the opportunity to explain the gospel to him in some detail. It included a lot of dialogue because he had some basic knowledge but also had a number of questions he was wrestling with.

After an hour or so he said, “I want to know Jesus like you do.”

“Great! Some people would have you pray the so-called sinner’s prayer, but I think Jesus prefers you to pray your own prayer. You and I have discussed the basics of salvation, so why don’t you tell God what’s in your heart right now; just talk to Him.” I bowed my head and waited for what seemed like a minute or two, but I didn’t hear him say anything.

I thought he might have prayed silently but when I looked up, he was looking at me and asked, “Do I have to speak in tongues when I do this?”

I was very surprised. “Why do you ask; we didn’t discuss that.”

“I was at this same point with a man in Oregon ten years ago, and he said the minute I receive Jesus I will start speaking in tongues, and that will be the evidence that Jesus is in my heart. It scared me so I didn’t pray.”

I said, “I have never spoken in tongues, but am certain of my salvation. The Bible says that the Holy Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God. (Rom 8:16) That has happened to me and it’s all the evidence I need.”

This was yet another example of a zealous person getting ahead of the Holy Spirit, and I admit that in years past I have done it myself. When I was active with a para-church ministry, I relied more on getting people to respond to the four spiritual laws booklet than on being in sync with the Holy Spirit. I now believe that many of those I encouraged to pray the so-called sinner’s prayer” were spiritually “stillborn,” not genuinely born again by the Spirit. I guess I knew at that time that people can only be genuinely born again when the Spirit draws them, but I was too focused on reporting how many people had prayed to receive Christ.

After much more conversation this man gave his life to Jesus, and are you ready for the irony of this particular story? He sold his shop and I lost track of him for a while. A few years later he was back in town and let me know that he was now a Calvary Chapel Pastor of a startup church in Southern California and speaks in tongues.