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Bikers roar into Nashville on a mission

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Youthful Tammy Bugg stowed her motorcycle helmet in a compartment of a powder-blue Harley and headed toward the hostess’ stand at the Spaghetti Factory when another diner pointed and sighed, “It’s one of those orange people.”

Although the orange people, or FAITH Riders, are but 100 or so in number this week in Nashville, their presence is leaving an impression with bikers and non-bikers alike for more than the orange T-shirts that say, “The Gathering 2005” and “Sharing life’s answers across Nashville.”

The motorcycle ministry is showing love in action through rallies, church-sponsored block parties, a parade and a toy drive.

Testimonies of riders like “Jim,” a former drug runner in Brazil who sports tattooed biceps and buzz-cut hair, attract an audience who hear about God’s forgiveness.

The FAITH Riders rumbled down Broadway past the city’s most visible honky tonks to rev up interest in Jesus. One of the group’s leaders, David Burton, even showcased the ministry by roaring into the convention hall on his silver “Fat Boy” Harley during a celebration rally that concluded the June 18 Crossover evangelistic efforts preceding the Southern Baptist Convention’s June 21-22 annual meeting. Burton’s bike with its Python Three chrome exhaust will be on display in the SBC exhibit hall.

By June 19, FAITH Riders reported their members influenced 10 professions of faith, reported Alan Bugg, director of a motorcycle ministry at Heartland Worship Center in Paducah, Ky.

Bugg looks every bit the part of the hardened biker with his shaved head, beard stubble and his black sleeveless leather vest decorated with colorful patches. But when he speaks, his steely eyes soften and he shares easily of the compassion of his Savior.

“We handed out red shop towels with a tract rolled inside them,” Bugg said, explaining the group’s approach to witnessing to other bikers. “One tough guy took it and thought I was passing him some stash and said, ‘Oh, man, thanks buddy.’ Then he realized what it was and he dropped all the obscenities. He really cleaned up his language and he appreciated the shop towel.”

On Monday, June 20, the group was scheduled to distribute toys to patients at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital; Tuesday it hopes to visit the Tennessee Baptist Childrens’ Homes and continue their witness throughout the convention.

The group will distribute orange “One Way” stickers to children and use EvangeCubes to present the plan of salvation. Burton, director of evangelism for the Florida Baptist Convention, estimates his state group distributes about 75,000 of the “E-cubes” each year.

Based on a kind of Rubik’s Cube from nearly 40 years ago, the hand-held EvangeCube is a flexible multi-sided block that shows a series of images illustrating Christ’s death and resurrection and explaining the Gospel.

For the most part, the response the FAITH Riders received was warm, unlike the stiff reaction the group received from their witness to a homosexual protest group at the SBC’s 2004 annual meeting in Indianapolis.

To help promote the FAITH Riders’ events, the group handed out flyers at a Harley Davidson bike show in downtown Nashville. Dave McClamma, administrative pastor at the Church of the Mall in Lakeland, Fla., gave a flyer to a Road King rider at the Harley-Davidson bike show. The man stopped, read it and said, “I have a soft place in my heart for kids and I’m going to do my best to come” with the FAITH outreach to children during the week.

The man and his wife are typical of a new generation of middle-aged riders, often husband and wife, who enjoy motorcycle riding as a leisure activity, McClamma noted. According to the Motorcycle Industry Council, the median age of motorcycle owners currently is 42, up from 27 in 1985, while the median income of motorcycle owners is $55,850, more than twice what it was in 1985.

“It is the start of something big,” Burton said of the FAITH Riders’ goal to tap into the growing interest in motorcycle riding. “I think what God is going to do is to allow a lot of churches to step into a venue to reach people who won’t come to church because we all dress like preachers. But they’ll come if they think they are welcome.”

As he spoke, the roar of a touring motorcycle grew louder in the background.

    About the Author

  • Michael Ray Smith