A Tennessee pastor claims he was emulating the apostle Paul when he was called on to deliver the opening prayer at a NASCAR event in which he thanked God for his “smokin’ hot wife,” among other things. Some fans have called it the “best prayer ever” while critics are calling it disrespectful and possibly blasphemous.
Joe Nelms, pastor of Family Baptist Church in Lebanon, Tenn., insists that he was just trying to be like the first-century apostle, but some wonder how far Paul would go in his effort to become “all things to all men.”
Nelms, asked to do the invocation at the NASCAR Nationwide Federated Auto Parts 300 on Saturday in Nashville, had decided he was going to do something different, which meant thanking the Lord for his “smokin' hot wife tonight.”
The icing on the cake was Nelms’ closing of the prayer: “In Jesus' name. Boogity, boogity, boogity. Amen.”
The track might have erupted in applause and laughter, with some folks in the stadium even tipping their hat to the man, but not everyone was impressed with Nelms’ choice of colorful words for what is typically a solemn act.
The pastor, who has done the invocation at the Nashville event three times before, said he has received plenty of emails since the invocation and although most of them are positive, quite a few have been negative.
Critics have blasted the Tennessee pastor for being “disgraceful or disrespectful” but Nelms told The Christian Post Monday that he was just trying to change things up.
“It’s the same prayer that’s done every time,” Nelms said with emphasis, commenting on the typical kind of prayer heard every year at the event.
“We should definitely pray for the safety of our soldiers and public officials,” Nelms added. “But nobody seems very interested in it. We wanted to do something to get their attention.”
Although the prayer might have offended some people, Nelms said the prayer was not really for Christian audiences. He was more trying to reach out to the unsaved or those turned off by church.
“Our whole goal was to open doors that would not otherwise be open. There are a lot of folks who think churches are all [full of] serious people who never enjoy life and [who have] just a list of rules.”
His invocation was all about showing the world what Christian joy looks like, he said, sharing a bit of his testimony. “We who have been saved by Christ, we know that living has just begun. When I accepted Christ, that’s when I really learned what joy was.”
Despite criticism, Nelms’ evangelism effort has apparently paid off; several people have contacted him expressing a desire to give church a try.
“I think a lot of times Christians have turned people off by trying to give a list of rules and regulations before giving them Christ,” Nelms explained. “We have to give them Christ first.”