The Day I Met Arnold Palmer

by | Sermons and Preaching

Known as the ‘King’ of Golf, Arnold Palmer had his own ‘Army’ of fans. I was one. When I heard of his passing a few years ago, it brought to mind a summer day in Lexington, Kentucky, 35 years ago. Arnold was playing in a tourney there, where I was a youth minister. I managed to talk my way into the parking lot closest to the golf course (surprise!), and after watching for a few hours, was walking back to my car and lo and behold, guess who was also walking to his Cadillac rental car with his caddie and parked right next to me? One Arnold Palmer.   

I was so nervous about speaking with him. I asked him if he would sign my hat for my dad (who loved Arnie, too), which he gladly did. It was Saturday, so I said to Arnie, “I don’t know your tee time tomorrow, but I want to invite you to church where I go.” I continued, “I figure you need the Lord, too.” He was very gracious and said he didn’t think he could make it, while adding “I need the Lord more than you know!” I happened to be preaching the next day and I started my sermon by asking if Arnold Palmer was in the audience that morning. He was not, but you never know!  

Ever since then, I have never hesitated to ask anyone to come and visit church. If I could ask Arnold Palmer, I figured I could ask anybody! How about you? Do you get nervous about inviting? I understand, but you can do it!  Just start asking questions and listening. It’s possible to connect with a culture without compromising yours. Lost people are not the enemy, they are victims of the enemy. One of the greatest barriers to evangelism is that we, as ministers, spend almost all of our time talking and hanging out with other Christians. That has to change if we are to fulfill the Great Commission and fish for men. If we are expecting people to show up at our church simply because we have a nice, up-to-date building or simply because we hang out a “We’re Open” sign, we are in for a rude awakening.  Fish don’t jump into a boat, and people don’t walk into a building just because we have one. We have to ‘go where the fish are’ and be willing to meet them where they are, not where we think they should be.  

This is a vital task in light of Jesus’ last command to His followers in Matthew 28:18-20. His last command should be our first priority. Sadly, the Great Commission has become a Great Omission by many of us. 

I heard an old-school preacher say “On the Titanic, there were millionaires, there were middle class folks, and there were poor folks down in steerage. But after it was all over, in the Cunard offices in New York, there were only two lists: ‘Lost’….and ‘Saved.’”

Still is.