Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Faith on the Frontstretch: Church in a tent, NASCAR style

Chaplain Steve Keller leads worship for the racing community.
Credit: Beth Bence Reinke/Skirts and Scuffs
“...and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” Hebrews 12:1b

Have you ever wondered where NASCAR drivers go to church on race day? With traffic congestion surrounding the track and fan activities on the frontstretch, it can be difficult for them to leave the infield to attend services. Even if they could get out, it would mean seeking out a different church each week and possibly being swamped with fans when they’re trying to worship.

Thankfully, the staff of Motor Racing Outreach (MRO) provides a weekly chapel service for drivers and their families, conveniently located in the infield adjacent to the drivers’ RVs. The goal of the MRO staff is to meet the spiritual needs of drivers, crews and their families.

I was privileged to attend the MRO worship time on Sunday at Dover. The set-up was simple: a plain white pole tent and rows of folding chairs. A few minutes earlier, the tent was used for the driver and crew chief meeting, but now the seats were filled with a variety of racing folks. I spotted pit crew members, NASCAR employees, and drivers with their girlfriends, wives and children. Some wore street clothes, some were in uniform ready to dash to pit road afterwards. With the drivers’ meeting at 11:00, then church, the drivers and crews barely had time to grab a snack before driver introductions began at 12:30.

MRO Chaplain Steve Keller
Credit: Beth Bence Reinke/
Skirts and Scuffs
The service began with music leader Scott Holley playing an electric keyboard while leading the group in praise songs. Offering time made me smile, as an appropriate substitute for an offering plate - a driver’s cap - was passed around. Then MRO Chaplain Steve Keller took the microphone to deliver the day’s message about God’s forgiveness and forgiving others in our lives.

“Unforgiveness is like a cancer that eats us alive,” Keller said. He said if anyone has the right to hold a grudge, it’s God. Why might God be upset with us? Because we often reject Him and forget about Him, even though “He has gone over the top to bless us.” But instead of holding a grudge, God loves us unconditionally. Keller read a scripture passage from Micah that shows us God’s love and compassion, and how He shows us mercy by casting our sins to the bottom of the ocean.

Keller shared an example from his own life where forgiving someone was difficult. He compared unforgiveness to a prison and encouraged us to forgive anyone we have a grudge against and thereby escape the prison.

Chaplain Keller described a two-step process, first accepting the forgiveness of God and then extending forgiveness to others. By accepting the love and forgiveness of Jesus, we are forgiven. By forgiving our brother, we are free. “Get free and stay free,” he said. “Get forgiven and stay forgiven.”

Keller closed the service in prayer. He made it relevant to racing folks, praying, “Help us to forgive those who put us into the wall.”

Has anyone put you into the wall lately? Don’t let unforgiveness eat you alive. With God’s help, you can figuratively toss the offense into the sea and let it go. Accept God’s offer to get forgiven and get free.

You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea. ~ Micah 7:18b-19
From the MRO website: “It is the mission of Motor Racing Outreach to introduce the racing community to a personal faith in Christ, to growth in Christlikeness, and to active involvement in the church through relationships that provide care in times of stress, knowledge of God's word, and assistance in the development of leadership skills.”

Want more racing devotions? When you donate $25 or more to Skirts and Scuffs, we’ll send you a complimentary copy of Beth’s book, Race Fans’ Devotions to Go. See you on the frontstretch!

Beth Bence Reinke is the author of Race Fans’ Devotions to Go, a month-long, pocket-sized devotional book for female racing fans, available in paperback or eBook. “Faith on the Frontstretch” appears every 1st & 3rd Wednesday and explores the role of faith in motorsports. Beth also writes “Gibbs Garage,” Sprint Cup race recaps for Joe Gibbs Racing teams. Comments or twitter follows welcome: @bbreinke.


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