Bikers, leather and church
This article was originally published on ADvindicate.com. It is reprinted with permission. ADvindicate Inc. Copyright © 2014. All Rights Reserved.
The word biker conjures wild images of long-haired men sporting weathered leather cuts with skulls and crossbones tattooed on every inch of their body. So imagine what some pastors think when approached about starting a biker ministry at their church. Some embrace the idea, but others can’t get past the image of the Hells Angels sitting in their pews, dropping cocaine in the offering plate and insisting the tattoo parlor move next door.
Sunday, this image got a little revision, as Sabbath Keepers Motorcycle Ministry’s (SKMM) National President Tony Lambert explained what they’re about after assisting the Mt. Rubidoux Seventh-day Adventist Church form a new chapter. Lambert had agreed to meet for breakfast.
Mimi’s Cafe offered an amusing contrast between the leather clad SKMM members and the senior citizens in their Sunday best. The bikers settled into their booth to order breakfast and discuss all things SKMM.
Lambert said SKMM is the oldest and largest Adventist motorcycle ministry in the world. The Hollister, Calif., based ministry currently has 20 chapters and nearly 300 members, but the original SKMM members didn’t even own a motorcycle. Their first motorcycle was donated by National Sunday Law author Jan Marcussen.
SKMM members focus on the major biker events that attract hundreds of thousands of bikers annually. They’re all about bringing Jesus to the motorcycle community, using literature, prayer and testimony.
“We pass out a lot of literature during these events,” said Lambert.
The biker events have a combined annual attendance of over 1,000,000, which is more than 300 SKMM members can reach, but they keep at it, and not without results.
While at biker event Reno Street Vibrations, Kevin and Kellye Simpson stopped by SKMM’s booth. Kevin had left the Adventist Church in high school and Kellye had never been Adventist, but her grandmother had taught her Saturday was the Sabbath. Intrigued by the group, the couple took some literature. Later they were baptized into the Ceres Seventh-day Adventist Church, Calif., where they soon began a new SKMM chapter. SKMM’s influence has gone well beyond ex-Adventists, even touching the upper echelons of the Hells Angels and Mongols.
About six years ago during a biker event in Los Angeles, a biker gang member killed a member of a rival gang while wearing the cut (leather vest) of another gang. In an effort to find the killer, the Hells Angels and Mongols began a shake down of each club in the surrounding area. However, the word was out the SKMM and Christian Motorcycle Association were not to be touched. God was looking out for them.
There are other motorcycle ministries involved in spreading the gospel to bikers. Adventist Motorcycle Ministry (AMM) is another one. AMM is based in Florida, but has a presence in 13 states and eight countries with around 215 members. National President Juan Santos enjoys connecting with other bikers and sharing literature.
Once he was headed to church on a Sabbath morning when he needed to stop for gas. Two other bikers rode up to the gas station, and one of them had the same bike as him. Santos made an instant connection with them. The bikers asked why he was wearing a tie, so he explained he was headed to church. Before parting ways, Santos was able to share some literature with them.
That’s usually how it works. Literature is placed in the hands of bikers because of a common interest. However, Santos said there isn’t a lot of biker friendly literature, and many bikers are turned off by religious-looking books and tracts.
Steps to Christ was the first book reimaged for bikers. The book was born when Ohio Chapter AMM President Pastor Tom Hughes caught the attention of the General Conference when his ministry Bible Biker was featured in Colombia Union’s magazine. The Review and Herald General Manager Howard Skoggins soon received a phone call from a guy at the General Conference, asking what could be done for Hughes’ ministry.
Skoggins contacted Hughes and “Steps to Jesus: The Ride of Your Life” was the result. Hughes wrote the blurb for the back cover and a picture of his Harley-Davidson was used for the cover. Over 500,000 copies have been sold since it was published in 2009.
AMM and SKMM aren’t the only Adventist motorcycle ministries. A relatively new ministry just chartered its second chapter in Yucaipa, Calif. Three Angels Messengers Motorcycle Association (3AM) originated in Seguin, Texas, with Pastor Bill Hunt. The SoCal Sentinels chapter in California just voted in a new president as Hunt is headed to West Virginia where he hopes to start a third chapter.
3AM doesn’t require members to be Seventh-day Adventist like AMM and SKMM. Hunt uses membership as an evangelistic tool. Non-Adventist members participate in a 90-day probationary period, during which they study 3AM’s 12 tenents, which reflect the fundamental beliefs of the Adventist Church. Hunt hopes to expand the ministry beyond motorcycles though and has a dream to eventually use his helicopter license for mission work overseas.
Whatever the individual methods are of each ministry, one thing is apparent: Revelation 14 is the focal point of their mission, and they love to ride. They are testament to what Adventists can do when life passions are consecrated to the service of God. If you ride, and are interested in using your passion for motorcycles for Christ, visit SKMM, AMM or 3AM's website or jump on your bike and head to one of these camp meetings to learn more:
- Rev it Up! Camp Meeting, Mt. Vernon Academy, Ohio, June 6-8
- Northwest Motorcycle Camp Meeting, Gladstone Conference Park, Oregon, Aug. 22-24
- 7 Thunders Camp Meeting, Barton Flats Campground, California, May 23-26