Bikers on a roll when it comes to mixing hobby with evangelism


John Alford, a representative with the Christian Motorcyclists Association, was witnessing at a scorching hot secular motorcycle rally when he handed one of the leaders a bottle of water. In return, Alford was handed an epiphany.

"He shared that small bottle with many of his 'brothers,'" Alford said. "I realized that while I'll never be a 'hardcore biker' if God can use me to reach one with Living Water, maybe that brother will share it with others, like the motorcycle officer did with the physical water."

Whether it is handing out water, hosting runs, or holding Bible studies and chapel services, the Christian Motorcyclists Association is devoted to using the love of bikes to show the love of Christ. It is the largest Christian motorcycle ministry, with chapters in all 50 states. In Southern California, the association operates eight chapters.

"Chapters balance fellowship rides with participating in secular motorcycle events at motorcycle dealerships, charity rides, supporting racing at both road and dirt tracks, and participating in prison outreaches with the Bill Glass Weekend of Champions ministry," Alford said.

Other ministry events include hospital visits for fallen motorcyclists, veterans' events like the annual Run for the Wall breakfast at the Southern California ride start point, and providing the helmet and jacket check at the International Motorcycle Show in Long Beach, Calif. each year.  Many CMA members, Alford said, participate in multiple motorcycle outreach events each month.

CMA was founded in 1975 after Pastor Herb Shreve purchased two motorcycles in hopes of patching up the fraying relationship with his son.

"In 1974 while riding, Herb went to a motorcycle rally and was overwhelmed by the lost and dying men and women," Alford said. "God convicted Herb that this was his new mission field and he began praying with other Christians about this great need."

While the groups share the basic vision and goals for the organization, each chapter has its own flavor.

"Some are well-known at one or two local shops and bike nights and have strong, long-lasting relationships with clubs in their area," said Alford. "Another chapter helps organizers at major local events like Desert Heat, providing bike blessings and a chapel service during this large rally. A few chapters have faithful men and women concerned for motorcyclists who have ended up in prison or that have been recently released.

"Reaching out to this broader audience is stretching many of us. While it takes courage to minister to a motorcycle club member, many of us have built long-standing relationships with these men and women after being at the same events year after year."

Alford said he was inspired to join the ministry because of its national outreach and the quality of its training materials and outreach tools.

"Being active with CMA has encouraged me to take the gospel into all my activities, whether work, church, or hobbies," he said. "I've been able to use my hobby—motorcycling—as a ministry. This has led me to encourage others to do the same. While 'Christian motorcyclists' stand out and seem a little abnormal, it's really just our way of using our love of motorcycling to build relationships and 'earn the right to speak' among other people who also love motorcycles. All Christians should do this, whether in their workplaces or in their children's sporting activities and schools, or in their hobbies."

Desert and sport bikes
Although long associated with cruise and tour bikes, ministry leadership has launched an intentional campaign to start chapters catering to owners of racing and dirt bikes.

"We just launched our first desert- and off-road-focused chapter in San Diego County," he said. "Christian riders and families that participate in desert riding, dual sport or motocross racing are encouraged to join with us as we grow in this ministry area."

 Additional off-road and sport bike chapters are expected to form in Los Angeles, Orange and Riverside counties.

"Almost 50,000 people go out to the desert-riding areas most holiday weekends," Alford said. "That is like taking an entire suburban community and relocating it, but not the churches.  So we are working on taking church to them—not just to have meetings, but to reach out to these riders and show them that God loves them and that Jesus died for their sins." One of its signature events is the annual Run for the Son fundraiser, which this year generated nearly $800,000 for the Jesus Film Project, Missionary Ventures, and Open Doors.

Targeting youth
Like many well-established Christian ministries, CMA is not only expanding its outreach by welcoming newer models of cycles, it is also working to keep the organization relevant to the next generation by intentionally targeting events that draw younger people.

"(It) has made us realize all over again what Herb Shreve and other CMA founders realized in the 1970s," he said. "If God doesn't open the door with other motorcyclists, all we are doing is converting gasoline into forward motion."

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