If you take a look at the website for Crossroads Community Church in Madison, Ohio, you can find a picture of Pastor Mike Haury, dressed up in a suit and flashing a warm, inviting smile as he sits in front of an open Bible. Now imagine him wearing a racing helmet and traveling at speeds of over 100 miles per hour in his own supermodified stock car.
Haury, who has come to be known as the “Faster Pastor,” races his car once or twice a month at the Lorain County Speedway in Elyria, Ohio, where he also serves as the track's manager.
Growing up, he had the opportunity to watch his father race on the same track.
"Some kids like football, some kids like baseball, and I just took to racing," Haury told The Christian Post on Thursday.
His dad raced stock cars in the 1950s and ‘60s at the Lorain County Speedway and also at the Sandusky Speedway. He wasn't a professional driver, but cars were obviously his father's passion. In addition to racing, Haury's dad, uncle, and grandfather owned a store together called H&H Auto Parts.
Though he and his father have experienced life in the fast lane, his mother has a hard time supporting such a dangerous hobby.
“She didn't like it when my dad did it, and she doesn't like it that I'm doing it. She accuses me of...giving in to 'the wild side,’” he said.
Despite the passion he's always had for cars, the 51-year-old Haury has only been a race car driver since he was 40. Some might identify his behavior with a mid-life crisis, but he says he had to overcome some personal issues before he could enjoy himself on the track.
“When I got involved in ministry I had some misconceptions about ministry, even some legalism that kept me from experiencing freedom as a Christian, as a pastor, and as a man,” he says. “I had no hobbies. I was 24-7 workaholic ministry, and I didn't think at the time it was appropriate.”
Since he has allowed himself to pursue his passion, though, he says that he has seen an improvement in his ministry, and himself.
“They cannot believe that a pastor races,” he says, pointing out that a race car serves as an interesting conversation piece that can jump start relationships with those outside the church.
"It's easy for pastors to minister to the people that come through the door...you have to be real intentional about getting out into the world where you build relationships with unsaved people,” he said.
Coming to faith in Christ at the age of 16, Haury immediately felt led by God to work in full-time ministry. He received his Master's of Divinity from Grace Theological Seminary in Winona Lake, Ind. and began his ministry in 1985. In fact, it is his years of experience as a church pastor that eventually led him to his job managing the Lorain County Speedway.
He served as the track's announcer for three years, but had a vision for the raceway that was bigger than his position.
“I saw there were huge holes in the management of the track,” he said. He wrote those ideas down, and when the time was right he was asked by the owner to manage the track, but only after two other people turned the job down.
Though some people might be discouraged after being the third pick for a job, Haury sees it as God's providence at work.
He says that he and his race crew are “very active in ministry.” Each person from his crew, which has consisted of as many as 25 people, is a Christian who attends church. In fact, the crew chief and his wife were both saved as the result of a relationship with Haury, which began at a local show and developed until they had begun to attend his church and eventually put their faith in Christ.
Haury's son and wife occasionally come to see him race, though his two daughters and granddaughters have never watched him before. That's okay though, he says, because they have their own passions to pursue.
"As long as my kids know the Lord and are developing good character, they're free to pursue their passions, skills, and abilities.”