LOUISVILLE, Ky.(BP)–Guy Fredrick’s idea of fun may seem strange to some. He enjoys “breaking” his truck on rocks, spinning his tires in several feet of sludge, and slipping, sliding and smashing on deserted, impassable trails.
For most people, this might seem more like an impending insurance claim than “fun.” But for Fredrick, his weekend off-roading jaunts are not only his hobby; they have become a means of reaching an unreached people group — the unconventional “off-roading” community of America.
“It’s just exciting for me to have an opportunity to reach out to an unreached people group,” said Fredrick, a Wisconsin native and master of divinity student at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. “For me, as a church planter, as a cultural anthropologist, as a missionary, one of my goals is to find people no one else can reach. …
“Just because of my natural bent, my abilities as a mechanic and my love for a sport, I’ve found a lot of people that no one is reaching. On the weekends, they’re off in the woods; they’re out camping and doing things with their trucks and their bikes and their ATVs.”
Oddly enough, the medium of Fredrick’s witness is not primarily off-road. It’s online, though Internet forums frequented by fun-seekers like Fredrick.
He became aware of this evangelistic opportunity several years ago after taking up off-roading again following a brief seminary-induced hiatus from the hobby. The reason for the reintroduction to the sport was his son, who had just purchased a Jeep.
The two joined a secular 4-wheel-drive club, and they started searching on the Web for information on outfitting their vehicles. And they started participating in online discussions on adventure enthusiast websites. Every once in a while on these forums, other topics would come up and debates would arise.
“I would start engaging in some of these online debates — full-on apologetic [discussions] with some very bright individuals that happened to just like trucks,” Fredrick said. “But for the most part, [they were] people very secular and atheistic in their outlook.”
Using his seminary training, he would debate theological topics — ranging from evolution to the existence of God. Several of his posts were read by more than 15,000 people.
“That’s a lot of exposure,” Fredrick said. “They started calling me the ‘Pastornator’ because my arguments were kind of devastating to atheists. That didn’t mean I won a lot of people to my side, but I did lay out a full Gospel apologetic and shared my faith at every turn.”
God used his arguments to influence some, however. Three people told him that they accepted Christ and joined a local church in the last year because of some of the truths they read online.
“What I’m presenting for them is some serious apologetic arguments for God,” Fredrick said. “Apologetics don’t lead to salvation directly. But what they do is that they move people to a place where salvation is possible.”
Fredrick always encourages those in his conversations not to have an Internet-only faith, but a faith that is lived out in the real world.
“I see it as a way of taking people out of cyberspace and putting them into real space — getting them united with another believer in a city or a church somewhere, getting them hooked up with real people, because God works through real people,” Fredrick said.
Nearly 100 people have told Fredrick that some of the things said have caused them to stop in their tracks and come back to God.
“They are Christians, but they just kind of let it slide, because it was more fun to play with their trucks than it was to worship God,” Fredrick said. “And they didn’t realize the two things could go together.”
Also, more than 100 readers have sent private messages thanking Fredrick for his words on the family, morality or apologetics.
Based on this positive response, Fredrick started looking around for other Christian off-roading enthusiasts online and found some scattered around the country. He decided to try to get a central gathering point for the believers involved in the various off-roading clubs.
From that, United Christian Off-Road Alliance (UCORA) was born. He founded the organization with six other men and their wives. Currently, they have 135 registered members after only a few months of existence.
Members of UCORA helped organize the first West Coast Christian Off-road Jamboree, with 75 trucks and 150 people in attendance.
“They got together to drive their trucks over almost impossible terrain in the desert of California and at night to worship God,” said Fredrick, who was unable to attend due to earlier obligations.
Over the Memorial Day weekend, they held the East Coast Jamboree in Kentucky.
“We … take our trucks and break them on the rocks all day and at night … talk about the Living Rock,” he said.
The online forums also provided another evangelistic opportunity recently. One forum’s moderator and a Christian had asked Fredrick to perform his wedding. But it wasn’t a normal wedding.
The man wanted Fredrick to travel to Moab, Utah, a mecca for off-roaders. The betrothed couple would make their vows at the end of a particular path called the “Top of the World” trail — a difficult, rocky trek with a 3,500-foot drop at the top.
“We went out there with a bunch of secular off-roaders and did a very overtly Christian wedding,” Fredrick said.
Through all these evangelistic encounters, Fredrick is happy to have his seminary training.
“To have the solid base that I’ve been given here at Southern is absolutely critical, because I know that I can stand on the Scriptures and not have to worry about somebody defeating my arguments because my arguments are true,” he said.
Fredrick hopes in the future to keep growing UCORA and keep participating in these apologetic debates.
“There is a community there. And people who hang out there don’t hang out anywhere else,” he said. “… I don’t know where the seeds I’m planting will end up, but they’re planted and the Holy Spirit is at work and prayer is involved.”