Did you see Jim Furyk’s $11 million golf shot? The man with a golf swing like “an octopus falling out of a tree” made a great shot out of a wet sand bunker, leaving a two-and-a-half foot putt to win the Tour Championship and the FedEx Cup playoff.

His win was especially sweet because of a disqualification at the first FedEx tour event; he was late for his tee time because the battery died in his cell phone so his alarm didn’t go off.

The $11 million sand shot was no fluke. Furyk is the leading candidate to claim Player of the Year honors based on his three tour wins, no one else on tour has more than two wins. The $11 million shot came on the heels of thousands of practice shots.

Occasionally in ministry we “hit an unbelievable shot” and others notice. Maybe it is a timely and well-spoken sermon, a fantastic musical by the choir, a great youth retreat or some other event that simply encapsulates thousands of “practice hours.” And when it happens in ministry, you just know it is special.

Successful ministry stands on hours and hours of unnoticed labor for the Kingdom. I offer a few suggestions for practice.

Become a minister, don’t just do ministerial things. Doing ministerial things is a sure recipe for burnout. Becoming a minister is life sustaining. This is much more than semantics. In a call to ministry, the first goal is for the individual to be transformed by the Grace of God. Before we try to “save” others, we might benefit from conversion ourselves. And so, we embody Gospel truth in our living. The incarnation happens all over again in the minister.

I have little patience for “ministerial molds;” we are different creations in Christ Jesus. Yet, part of what makes for successful ministry is a successful minister – someone who is successful in the Life of the Spirit.

Dream the big dream. Why do you go to your ministry job? Are your primarily drawing a paycheck? If so, I am profoundly sorry for you. In ministry, are you just doing what the board or the deacons want you to do? Why not go to work every day thinking, “I am working to change the world. I am a laborer in the Kingdom, and the fullness of the Kingdom is about to emerge for all to see!”

Why not dream the big dream? It beats settling for the little nightmare: “What I do doesn’t matter.”

Practice the $11 million shot. Most any golfer will tell you, “The beach (sand bunker) is no fun!” A wet sand bunker is well beyond terrible. Furyk practiced his wet sand shot a few thousand times. He played the shot over and over in his head for at least a decade, to say nothing of the hours spent in a real wet sand bunker.

I am fearful that ministers don’t practice the work they are to lead over and over in their heads. I am fearful that part of the reason so many modern sermons fall flat is because no one is practicing the $11 million shot (sermon). While it may be impossible to get every part of the sermon in tip-top shape, memorize the introduction and conclusion, word for word, expression for expression, hand movement for hand movement.

Finally, sometimes we get it right. Sometimes ministry, which can look like “an octopus falling out of a tree,” comes together in a splendid and wondrous fashion. In a brief moment it all comes together, partly by hard work and partly as a gracious gift from God, and the minister knows, “It doesn’t get any better than this!”

Ron Crawford is president of the Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond. This column first appeared on his blog.

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