Biker-Style Evangelism Combats Negative Stereotypes
Hundreds of bikers recently protested in Waco, Texas, arguing that many of the 100 bikers in jail after May's bloodbath are being wrongfully imprisoned.
Nine people were killed in a shoot-out between biker gangs on May 17 at a restaurant in Waco. The protesters said they're battling negative stereotypes about motorcycle riders.
A Biker Church with a Mission
Pastor Rusty Rawls of Chesapeake, Virginia, is on a mission to help change the negative image of bikers through his ministry called Seven Cities Freedom Biker Church.
His church is offering bikers a new way of life while sharing their love for God and the open road.
"If you're in the car and you're riding down the road and you see a group of them, first thing you think is 'Oh man! That's a group I don't want to be around,'" he said.
"[It's] because they've got that negative connotation about them that they're a bunch of bad boys and they're doing bad things out there," he continued.
Seven Cities Biker Church is part of the Freedom Biker Church Network. So far, the network has planted 12 churches, including one in Vancouver B.C. The Canadian Baptist Convention has plans to plant 10 more FBC churches in Canada.
"God has brought us here to show people that you can still ride a motorcycle and you can love the Lord and you can follow Him," Rawls told CBN News.
Rawls has been riding motorcycles since he was nine. He found Jesus when he was in his 30s. He uses the motorcycle as a vehicle for sharing the love of God.
From Bikers' Pit to God's House
The church's location was once a rowdy night spot where police were often called.
"Yeah, I use to party in here," William Moore, a church member, said. "It was a big 'ol cowboy bar when I went in here."
"Lot of fights in here. It was pretty crazy," he added.
"This is a place that Satan had a hold of for quite some time, lot of criminal activity," Rawls said. "God's like, 'It's time to come here and take this building back and this property back, and I'm going to take this place and ask it to be a house of God and we're going to reach people for Christ and start changing lives around.'"
Outreach to un-churched bikers has been key to Seven Cities Freedom Biker church's tremendous growth and success since its start early in 2013. That's because members are passionate about the open road and about sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Motorcycles: Vehicles for Evangelism
"We operate the same way as a motorcycle club. Only thing is we do it for God," church member Sean Watt of Chesapeake, Virginia, said.
"Bikers still need to be saved so somebody needs to go out there and witness to them, and they'll receive us more than people with three-piece suits," he added.
Church member Lee Strader said, "We'll show up someplace and people again whether they're bikers or non-bikers, will look at us and before you know it, they're sitting at the table talking and it's a pretty awesome thing."
Rawls said lives are being impacted.
"It's just awesome. Marriages and stuff have been restored," Rawls said.
"We got a gentleman who came here one Sunday morning and this was going to be his last Sunday at church. Actually, this was going to be his last Sunday on this earth," he shared.
"He had already made a decision that he's going to come to church one more time and that after that he was heading home and he was going to commit suicide," he recalled. "He gave his heart and soul to Christ, and God turned him around and changed him and stuff. And he's just out there doing great things for God now."
Member Timothy Samulak told a similar story.
"When I came to the church I was going through a lot of personal issues in my life and since I've come here, I've been saved and baptized," he explained.
"If it wasn't for the church and having God in my life, I don't know if I would have made it through it," he added.
A Bad Rap
Meanwhile, many believe the actions of the bikers in the Waco, Texas incident that left nine people dead, don't reflect the character of all bikers.
"Most motorcycle operators are law-abiding citizens. It's the 1 percent that we try to keep under control," Vance said.
"We just get together and we ride. We're not a bike club; we're not a gang or anything like that," Strader said. " [We're] just a bunch of guys who get together and ride and have a good time."
Seven Cities Freedom Biker church isn't just for bikers. Those who attend say while the atmosphere is what draws them, it's the church's message that keeps riding them for good.
"The Holy Ghost is thick in here," Moore said. "They love on you like family."
"You can just come in here, like you get off work and dirty, and still come to church," he added "You ain't got to feel like you got to get all cleaned up -- just show up."
***Originally aired November 2013.