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Motorsports ministry: Winning souls at the track

Tractor-trailers, representing some of the largest auto manufacturers in the world, line the paddock at Portland International Raceway in Oregon. Under the watchful eyes of race fans, mechanics huddle over engines, discussing ways to boost their cars’ performances. Among the droves of spectators, race officials and media members is Richard Anderson, an Assemblies of God minister and founder of Motorsports Ministries.

Richard Anderson at the Portland International Raceway.

He has not come to compete or win any races. Instead, he has come to win souls for Christ, which is difficult in this ultra-competitive, affluent and ego-driven world.

"I am not going to impress these people with what I have. I’ll never have enough," says Anderson, who spends most of his year traveling around America and Canada ministering at races. "They have all the world can offer, but it still hasn’t satisfied them because the God-shaped void is still empty."

Anderson moves through the paddock like a good neighbor. He stops to visit a race official in one of the many corporate hospitality centers. Later, a driver stops him and asks for prayer. A few minutes later he gives a race-crew member some pointers on building a solid marriage.

"I am overwhelmed by their need," says Anderson. "They’re always on the road, and meeting with a pastor is not always possible."

Melanie Correll, a timing and scoring official, says she met Anderson when a friend of hers was run over in the pit and Anderson was the only one who went to the hospital.

"If it wasn’t for this ministry, the racing community would be severely lacking for any kind of spiritual guidance," says Correll. "I admire him. He has a tough crowd to minister to."

Correll and others say time constraints, stiff competition and intensity drive many individuals to the point where they lose touch with the outside world, their families and God.

"There are those who are very strong in their faith and those who are not," says Jim Roller, a television network producer. "But, we need a signpost of normalcy, and that is what the ministry provides."

Dick Martin, a pit control official, says working at the track can be overwhelming because people’s lives are at stake. When he feels stress, he depends on God for strength.

"Sometimes I pray by myself, and other times Richard and I find a quiet place to pray," he says. "We’ve experienced eternal things here at the track."

On Sunday morning, Anderson speaks to a room overflowing with team members, media people and fans. Each week from 40 to 150 people attend the chapel service. His sermon is short — time is of the essence on race day, but his words hit home with pinpoint accuracy.

"I’ve been going to the chapels since 1994," says Alex Job, a team owner. "If Anderson had not been [ministering] here, I don’t know if I would have given my life back to the Lord. This ministry has been an inspiration to the people in the paddock."

One of the most rewarding aspects of the ministry, says Anderson, is that it extends far beyond the paddock.

"If we are going to impact the culture for Christ, we need to reach these people," he says. "As they become more Christlike, they become salt and light where they are."

— Kirk Noonan

 

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