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Meet Dr. Timothy McNeil

License No. MH3217
(Located in our Ormond Office)

Dr. Timothy L. McNeil has been published and written about over the course of the last decade. Information about his book, Discover Your Destiny, can be found at the link on the left. Dr. McNeil has been actively involved with prayers at the Daytona Beach Speedway, preaching at various United Methodist Churches as well as countless other groups in the Halifax area. You can view samples of his writing and press coverage below. 

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SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 14, 2010

Ministries find Speedway fans open to faith message

By MARK HARPER
Staff Writer

DAYTONA BEACH -- If there's a sign outside heaven's pearly gates, a lot of folks in these parts would feel comforted if it reads: Welcome Race Fans.

Faith takes a more visible role at racetracks than at, say, the Super Bowl or the World Series. In addition to the "Star-Spangled Banner" and the obligatory flyover, Daytona International Speedway has a minister give an invocation before every race.

That may be the most visible showing of faith to NASCAR television viewers, but there's much more to racing's connection to a higher power.

Bill Carpenter, national track outreach coordinator for Motor Racing Outreach, believes the sport is unlike others because NASCAR races take an entire weekend or week. Unlike a football game, when fans routinely drive to a game then drive home, NASCAR fans camp out or stay in hotels and come to the track for several days in a row.

That creates opportunities for those wanting to share the word of God, such as MRO, a 22-year-old nonprofit organization that supports Christianity within the racing world.

Carpenter said MRO's mission is modeled after the biblical tale of Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well. At the time, Jews did not associate with Samaritans, but Jesus asked the woman for some water, then told her salvation is coming.

"She came to the realization she was speaking to the Messiah," Carpenter said. "We aren't Christ, but we can tell his story and model his plan."

MRO and other faith outreaches hand out hamburgers to hungry fans, entertain children with concerts and games, and comfort people in difficult times. Some of the outreach efforts at the track are not as open-minded. One of NASCAR's part-time chaplains, Timothy McNeil, recalls a group that walked around carrying a sign reading, "You Deserve Hell. Repent or Else."

But most of the outreach efforts are sensitive to other faiths.

Jennifer Woods, outreach pastor for Calvary Christian Center, oversees a tent at the Speedway infield, which NASCAR officials compare to a city.

"The way they put it to us . . . 'Every city needs a church. You're out there to be the church," Woods said. "We try to go far beyond Sunday morning services."

McNeil, a licensed mental health counselor and ordained minister, recalled one of his first nights working as a chaplain in 2005. At the end of the truck race, a man having heart pains died, and he comforted the family. Later, a 19-year-old man fell off a golf cart and was run over by a transport hauler and seriously injured. McNeil and another NASCAR employee went to the hospital. While he was there, the employee fainted outside the emergency room.

"I got home at 3:30 (a.m.)," McNeil said. "I was due back at 9 a.m."

McNeil succeeded the beloved late Rev. Hal Marchman, who retired after saying the invocation at the Daytona 500 for 46 years. The organization has since begun rotating the invocation assignment to ministers of different faiths.

Delivering the right message in 25 seconds, McNeil found, requires walking a fine line.

"A chaplain should be able to speak to people in their language," McNeil said. "It's an ecumenical outreach and should have no bias, in terms of religious preference."

But given an audience of 200,000 fans at the track and millions on television, McNeil said there is a desire to say something meaningful, too. He writes about that challenge in his new book, "Discover Your Destiny: The Soul, the Self and the Search."

"Praying for the safety of the drivers was also strange to me. How do you pray for the safety of someone who is driving an 800 horsepower billboard traveling 200 mph aerodynamically hooked together bumper to bumper in a 43-car train?" he writes. "God does not suspend the laws of gravity or physics, and is not responsible for the flaws in human error in order to grant us 'safety.' "

One of McNeil's successors, the Rev. David Uth, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Orlando, thanked NASCAR for even having the invocation: "They still believe in prayer."

mark.harper@news-jrnl.com


Publications. Memberships, and Licensure

  • Certified Instructor, L.E.A.D. Consultants, 1982
  • Member, American Association of Pastoral Counselors, October 1991
  • Licensed Mental Health Counselor, (MH0003217) State of Florida, January 1994
  • Adjunct Faculty, Flagler College, St. Augustine, Florida 1995-98, taught Death and Dying in the Department of Sociology/Gerontology
  • Fellow, American Association of Pastoral Counselors, October 1998
  • Circuit Rider, United Methodist Publishing House, June 1989, "Is The New Age the Old Age? "     New Age teaching tends to replicate ancient Gnostic heresies. However, the popularity of New Age teaching may be indicative of how mainline Christianity is missing the opportunity to scratch the spiritual itch in contemporary culture.
  • A Kohutian Construct for Understanding a Congregation, Doctor of Ministry Project, 319 pages, Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, May 31, 1992
  • The Daytona Beach News-Journal, Sunday Edition, February 21, 2001, A Tribute to Dale Earnhardt, The Man in Black, “We Loved Dale Earnhardt Because He Drove For Us All” Archived at:  
    http://www.news-journalonline.com/speed/special/dale/DEDOCTOR.htm
  • Palm Coast Magazine – Summer Edition 2002, “Parenting In Tough Times,”  Flagler County publication printed quarterly.
  • Palm Coast Magazine – Spring Edition 2003, “As The Wedding Approaches – The Dance of Compatibility”
  • Numerous Guest Appearances on WCEU, local cable public broadcasting station from Daytona Beach College, video available on request
  • Daytona Beach News-Journal, Sunday edition June 17, 2007, “A Call to the Nation: Voices Without Violence.” A call to make Father’s Day a national day of non-violence
  • Daytona Beach News-Journal, “Have We Become Comfortably Numb?” Voices Without Violence – The Lakeland Video Violence, First printed April 17, 2007 archived at HBO http://boards.hbo.com/blog/Voices-Violence-Lakeland/1900081318
  • Workshop Presenter, 28th Annual Charles Gerkin Institute of Pastoral Care, “Caring in a Violent World,” Candler School of Theology, Emory University, October 2007
  • 1st Annual Meeting of the Society for Spirituality, Theology, and Health, June 25th-27th, 2008, Duke University, poster presentation
  • “No DSM IV Diagnosis for Poor White Trash and Southern Cultural Schizophrenia,” Journeys Magazine, Winter-Spring 2009
  • Numerous workshops, teaching events, consulting with clergy, district workshops, hospitals, private businesses, etc.