Fresh off of another international trip early in 2016 I found myself sitting across from my Pastor and dear friend, Darren, at one of my favorite local eateries.
As our conversations traversed from one topic to another, I began to lament about the area of ministry I find myself as a part of.
Traveling into an impoverished nation (or confronting the poverty within our own communities) heightens one’s sensitivity of the urgent needs that overwhelm so many. With each trip I take, that awareness is sharpened within me.
It changes the lens through which I look at life.
In a few weeks I would be stepping into my thirteenth season of motor sports ministry with Motor Racing Outreach, and my second year as Chaplain for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. At a time that I should have been filled with enthusiasm and excitement, I found myself conflicted.
With the images of the dear, desperate people of Steer Town, Jamaica burned into my memory, I would soon be pulling through the tunnel at the beautifully renovated Daytona International Speedway. Once inside this famed Superspeedway I would find myself amidst a much different picture than the poverty and needs of that hillside community.
I would be ‘living’ among a community of people who are paid to work on and with high-tech, expensive race machines. These machines are adorned with the livery of businesses and corporations who have paid substantial sums of money for brand positioning. The people would be dressed nice and when the day was over would retreat to high-end motor homes or well accommodated hotels.
From the outside looking in, NASCAR doesn’t appear to be a demographic of people with needs; rather, to much of the global population, it could be seen as a community of excess.
As a whole, the Christian church has painted a picture for us of who Missionaries should be called to serve.
In more cases than not, this picture is painted of the least of these. It’s third-world and poverty stricken areas, it’s areas ravaged by natural disaster, it’s inner city and homeless communities, it’s addicts and prisoners; but seldom is the missionary reaching out to the average or affluent.
I have a friend that left everything that was comfortable in order to be a conduit to the people of Togo, Africa. Another friend and his brother are giving their lives away for the dear people of Port Au Prince, Haiti. One of my life mentors walked away from a successful practice to begin an outreach to the addicts and homeless in our city. Friends and acquaintances who have moved to Guatemala, Haiti, Africa, Mexico City, India, Italy and beyond to serve ‘the least of these’.
It is certainly easy to come to a place of wrestling with your purpose when surrounded by men and women who are sacrificially giving their life away in such beautiful, uncomfortable, extraordinary ways.
It was in the middle of our conversation that Darren, who himself exemplifies a life of service unto ‘the least of these’, looked me in the eyes and said, “well, don’t racer drivers need Jesus too?”
I knew this, but so deeply needed his reminder.
God’s love is just as much for the middle class and affluent as it is for the low income and impoverished people-groups we often feel the strongest emotional appeal to support and serve.
God’s love for the people of NASCAR is just as vibrant, just as real and just as alive as God’s love for the homeless, the destitute, the impoverished and so many other people groups that missionaries are called to serve around the globe.
I was reminded that, along with the rest of team Motor Racing Outreach, we are right in the middle of a group of people that God is mad crazy about. A group of people for which God placed us to be a conduit of His love, truth and joy.
NASCAR is a grand sport, one that I fell in love with nearly 28 years ago, one that countless men and women have found themselves observing, pursuing and participating in since February of 1948. It’s a sport of competition, but also of family and teamwork. One in which the competitors use their platforms to give to others in remarkable ways. It’s a premier sport, bringing along with it all of the glitz, glamor, prestige and fame one could hope for.
It holds the lure of money, significance and success; but not without the risk of fatigue, stress and personal ruin.
Amidst a sport that gauges our worth based upon our success, we get to paint a different picture of our value in Christ.
In an industry that can ravage relationships and marriages, we get to model a way of respect, honor and fidelity that nurtures and restores love and commitment.
In a business that is largely driven by the dollar, we get to remind that what we have (or what we’ve lost) does not define God’s goodness or His promises to provide for us.
Surrounded by the enticements of carnal pleasures of all kinds, we get to point a spotlight at the truth that only God will ever fully satisfy.
Alongside men and women who are living out their life in pursuit of Jesus within NASCAR we get to lock arms and encourage them as they march forward.
The needs may not always be outward and needs like those that other missionaries are called to serve (though sometimes they can be), but they are just as eternally desperate.
Like so many missions and ministries that are faithfully serving God’s children around the world, MRO is faithfully acting as a conduit of God’s love into the community He has placed in front of us.
Racers, crew guys, officials, sponsors, VIP’s, executives and their families need Jesus too.
It’s okay for us to give our lives away to the lives within the sport of NASCAR because Jesus gave His life away for them too.
Yet the only way for us to remain present and relevant to this group of people that God loves so much is for you to fall in love with them too.
For you to see them the way that God sees them, not as an industry of ‘have enoughs‘ who don’t need our involvement or charity, rather as a community of people with the same eternal needs as you and I.
In a sport that can be seen as excessive by many, we are not a ministry with excess. We have very real financial needs in order to keep us on the road where God has called us. We need you to send us where we go.
It isn’t simply a financial investment, it’s a partnership in sharing the love, truth, joy, hope, peace and security of Jesus Christ with a community of auto racing friends.
So my challenge to you, the casual observer, the NASCAR fan, the sponsor, the vendor, the NASCAR member, the NASCAR official, or the passionate Christian, is to participate with us in loving on those that God loves by investing into our ministry financially into the new year; helping us continue to love on those that God has called us to love on.
I challenge you to participate with us in the extending of God’s love to the people of NASCAR. Whether it is a monthly investment or a one time Christmas gift at year end, together we get to extend God’s love to our dear friends.
To make a donation, please visit www.go2mro.com; and please continue to partner with us by sharing this post and praying for our team as we head into 2017!