Sober Rider

Taking my faith outside the walls of the church

I thought I had evangelism mastered. I had been involved in a ministry to Marines for 13 years on Okinawa. But when I transitioned to a staff position in a stateside church, I lost sight of what meaningful evangelism should look like in my life. Six months after moving back to the states, I came to realize that I did not have one significant relationship with a non-Christian.

The prayer of Jesus nagged at me: “As you sent Me into the world, so I have sent them into the world” (John 17:18). As much as I saw God at work in my church, I knew that I was expected to live an intentionally missional life on a personal level. It was also my responsibility to lead my family purposefully into the world for the sake of Jesus and the gospel. So I began to pray that God would lead me into relationships with people who did not know Him.

God began to answer my prayers one afternoon when I parked my motorcycle at a Starbucks next to two other bikes. I was there to meet a friend who was the outreach pastor at another church. As the men were getting ready to get on their bikes and leave, they asked me a couple of questions about my bike.

The two men were wearing vests with patches, indicating that they were in a motorcycle club, and I learned they were members of the Sober Riders MC. Noticing the recovery symbol in the patch, I identified myself as being in recovery from drugs and alcohol. They stepped around their bikes and each hugged me. They told me where they hung out on Friday nights, got on their bikes and left.

The friend I was meeting watched the entire scene and encouraged me to go on Friday night. He had earlier attempted to start a conversation with the two men but failed. That was when I had pulled up on my bike. Within three minutes they were hugging me and inviting me into their circle.

When I went to find my new friends that Friday night, I was determined not to let them learn my occupation, or even that I was a Christian. I felt they were so different from me that it might not be the best way to begin our relationship. The problem was, I was so different that they figured it out.

I found myself in a group of about 25 people in the back room of a Denny’s: bikers and their wives and girlfriends. I made a point not to ask any of them what they did for work so that they would not reciprocate the question. Yet one of the older bikers asked me directly, “Drew, are you a pastor?”

I have no idea how he came to that question, but when I said yes, the room erupted with response. I am not able to repeat most of what they said. A man next to me pressed down on my shoulder and said in my ear, “This is my family, and I won’t have a Christian come into it with his agenda.”

Eight months after that night, they voted me into the club. I became a patch holder in a traditional motorcycle club. That was eight years ago. The relationships that I have are deep. We have shared our lives. They know my faith. Some have embraced it. Most have not. But they all know that I love them, and they love me.

Weekly they fill our home and backyard for what we call “family dinner.” Cans are put out for cigarette butts, bikes line up in front of our house, and our neighbors must wonder if a pastor really moved into the neighborhood as the “colorful” language rises over the back wall with the smoke. It is not uncommon for one or two each week to stay longer than most. That is when some of the most wonderful conversations about our love for Jesus take place.

The best part of this is watching church members follow suit by seeking intentional relationships for the sake of the gospel.

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