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Pickleball Evangelism

Glenn Zimbelman

Pastor Glenn Zimbelman joined a gym to get back in shape — but ended up reaching people for Christ.




Pastor Glenn Zimbelman
Maricopa, Arizona
August 2015

When I was younger, being active was simply part of who I was. I spent much of my teens and early twenties climbing mountains. In my late twenties and early thirties, I played a lot of basketball and tennis. I even ran a half marathon. My body was thin and I was in pretty good shape.

Yet over the years I gave up cardio exercise, limiting my activity to mostly walking and some occasional hiking and tennis. While I wouldn’t be considered overweight by most people's standards, I was frustrated at not losing the pounds I wanted to. I also have borderline hypertension and wanted to address that through weight loss. So several years ago, my wife and I adopted a healthier, low-carb diet. As I approach my 60th birthday, I have begun to reflect on my next chapter. I am six years older than my wife Jan and I want to be around to enjoy my future years with her.

I am a mission developer in a brand-new community south of Phoenix, and my wife is an Associate in Ministry at another congregation in our area. Everything is new here, including a state-of-the-art recreation facility called Copper Sky. When the summer heat approached and we looked into the cost of joining Copper Sky, we learned that both of us were eligible for the fitness center discount. I decided to go back to my former habits and dedicate myself to regular exercise. This means going six times a week, sometimes twice a day. I vary my workouts between bicycling, stretching, and weight lifting. My wife has commented that my new commitment to the gym also encourages her. In this way we both benefit — but it doesn’t end there.

I love to play tennis, but it has been hard to find partners. The game of choice in my area (especially for older folks) is pickleball. Since my wife was also interested in trying it out, we could exercise together and meet new friends outside of our church circles.

Now, in addition to my regular workouts, we play pickleball two to three times a week. So far, I have met a dozen new friends through pickleball, a number I anticipate will go up dramatically when the "snowbirds" return in the winter. Not all of these friends know that I am a pastor. As a mission developer, I understand that above anything else God uses relationships as a vehicle for evangelism. I often pray and then wait on the Spirit for the opportunity to open conversations of faith with my new friends. Just last week two of them asked what time worship starts because they would like to come and hear me preach!

While I joined a gym to reboot my early years of exercising and maintain good health, the added benefit of reaching people for Christ is a bonus! God is very, very good!

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