Kenny Crosswhite got an unexpected surprise at the NASCAR year-end awards banquet several years ago.
Crosswhite, who was the chaplain of Motor Racing Outreach NASCAR, was asked to deliver the opening prayer and invocation at the Waldorf Astoria gala. Crosswhite had to think fast. It was 15 minutes before show time on national TV.
The often spontaneous preacher turned the tables on the audience by asking everyone to turn to the person sitting next to them and say: "You're precious."
Most were completely flummoxed and did nothing. Others just mumbled the words.
It might be OK to turn to openly Christian Rick Hendrick or Joe Gibbs and say that, but Jack Roush or Tony Stewart? That's an entirely different matter.
Crosswhite's point was everyone is precious in God's eyes.
Anyone who knows Crosswhite wasn't surprised. That's because Crosswhite has an engaging, though sometimes unorthodox, teaching and preaching style. He is a regular figure at NASCAR tracks.
Today, he works the same "mission field" under the auspices of PMC Life Ministries, an outreach group he founded after he left MRO.
Every other Wednesday, three groups of NASCAR team members gather at the Mooresville and Concord Golden Corrals for CHOW. It stands for Chew On (God's) Word.
Crosswhite and PMC Life also host a weekly Bible study at the former Reds Athletic Club on Raceway Drive in Mooresville's Lakeside Business Park.
Each venue is geared to build community with people working for NASCAR teams or businesses associated with the sport.
"It's like tossing a rock into a pond," said Crosswhite. "We throw the rock in the racing community and it ripples out to touch more and more people."
Crosswhite's vision will eventually include the whole Mooresville community.
Crosswhite set up an attendance contest between the three noontime CHOW groups in January.
The group with the highest quarterly headcount would win a plaque on a custom-designed traveling trophy. The winning group can also choose what to do with any extra money collected every week.
Team Red Bull won the inaugural contest and donated more than $300 to the Patriot Guard, a local motorcycle club that honors deceased veterans and families of those killed in action in military conflicts.
A "competitive" God seems like an oxymoron.
When asked, Crosswhite chuckled and answered: "Robert Yates (a NASCAR legend) has said 'God in his essence is competitive.' We used to laugh about it, but I do think God is creative.
"And in his creativity, he has made the world competitive. ... Competitive not in the sense of you're worth more, or less, or finishing first or second, but that we drive ourselves towards excellence.
"We are trying to appeal to what drives these guys into racing and bring them into a closer relationship with God in a positive way."