Meet the Leader of a Winning Team: Todd Christopherson
By John Wells
Trackside at Madison International Speedway is a long way from the streets of New York City, but for MIS Track Chaplain and founder of Team Jesus Racing Ministry Todd Christopherson, that’s where it all began.
“I was literally on the street in the inner cities of New York City and Philadelphia sharing the word,” said Christopherson. “I saw some things that really put life in perspective.”
So how did Christopherson find his way to MIS? “I grew up going to the races at the Dells in the late-1960’s and remember watching guys like Trickle, Reffner, and the other greats from that era. I really enjoy racing so it seemed like a good match to connect with tracks, teams, and the fans.”
Christopherson got his first opportunity to be part of racing in the late-1990’s when former MIS owner Jerry Fillner gave his ok for him to give the invocation provided it wasn’t preaching and he kept it short. “I came out that first Friday and kept it under thirty seconds as instructed and was invited back the next week.”
From that point he became a weekly fixture at MIS giving the invocation prior to the races. After Terry Kunes purchased the track, Christopherson was invited to speak at the nightly drivers’ meeting and be more visible in the pits. “The response from the drivers was positive so I knew right then and there that I had found my place and the Lord began opening door after door.”
It wasn’t long before he found his way to the scoring tower where he performs a variety of jobs from scorer to scoreboard operator.
“I guess the word got out and pretty soon I was going to the Dells to do the invocation and pretty soon I was helping out various traveling series including the Mid American Stock Car Series,” said Christopherson.
“People ask me why I do this. The answer is quite easy. This is God’s call in my life. I also see a need in the racing community plus I love being around the sport. We all know that racing is a risky hobby / business. Many don’t or can’t get to church so we bring it to them,” he added. “I love being around the people in this sport. I know there are some who may never enter a church yet I can be with them and show them a little of what it is to be a Christian.”
Christopherson has started Team Jesus Racing Ministry (TJM). His organization is affiliated with the National Fellowship of Raceway Ministry.
“Team Jesus Racing Ministry is a ministry here to serve the racing community. Our purpose is summed up by the verse, ‘However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me- the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.’ (Acts 20:24).”
“Our purpose is to share the Word of God and the gospel contained in its pages. We are here to serve the racing community by sharing hope and truth as racers and those in need. I believe in the power of prayer, so much of the ministry is praying with drivers, teams, and families as well as being there in times of crisis. It’s also about being there to share the joys,” added Christopherson.
“It is amazing to see the connection Todd has made with the teams, fans, and employees. I have seen him race out of the tower to go comfort a driver following a wreck,” said MIS General Manager Dave Grueneberg. “I have seen him make hospital visits and speak at funerals. He is such an important person in our racing family at MIS.”
In 2011 Christopherson’s ministry outreach at MIS added a pre-race chapel service. “Last year we had a regularly scheduled chapel service prior to every race and I am hoping to continue it again this year,” he noted.
It’s all about the people that keeps him going. “Knowing that I can reach out to a group with real needs and just hanging out with a neat group of guys and gals that enjoy the roar of the engines is what it’s all about. Another highlight is the Faster Pastor Charity Race. What a super event to be able to race and to raise funds for charities. I’m also thankful that my kids have an opportunity to sing the National Anthem,” he said.
Grueneberg added, “Todd has done a great job coordinating the Faster Pastor event and working with area churches and chaplains and connecting it to area charitable organizations.”
So what does Christopherson want people to expect from him and Team Jesus Ministry? “We are here for you. We want to help answer some of the big questions in life. Whether that be about relationships, how to handle illness, how to handle work, how to bring balance to your life, or how to handle challenges brought on by the economy. I may not be an expert and have all the answers, but I know the One who does.”
The next time you’re at Madison International Speedway please take the time to say hi to Todd Christopherson.