by Terri Nighswonger
Imagine having the opportunity to reach hundreds or even thousands of
lost souls in one place at one time. Now add to the scene a few thousand
motorcycles, lots of tattoos and one big raucous party. Most would
say, "That?s not my ministry!"
Fortunately, there are
men and women who aren?t afraid to share the love of Jesus to a
subculture of people who might not be welcomed in a typical church. These
Christians are able to share Christ, some because of their similar
background, all because of their love of motorcycles.
heart at a time," is the motto of the Christian Motorcyclists
Association, a national organization dedicated to proclaiming the Gospel
through rallies and activities wherever motorcycle groups gather, and
providing a source of Christian fellowship among motorcyclists.
There are more than
600 chapters in the United States with more than 700,000 members to carry
the Gospel to big rallies such as Sturgis, South Dakota or Daytona Beach
Bike Week. Local chapters such as Cleveland?s Messiah?s Knights help
on a national scale but also find plenty of opportunities in Northeast
"When we were
chartered we had 13 members and that was 18 months ago," said Rich
Bartley, chapter president. "Over the course of the 18 months we?ve
gone to different secular rally?s. When we rode in we would find the
organizers and just, with a servant?s heart say, ?do you need any
help?? We usually got put to work."
had been dream of Rich Bartley?s for a number of years before the
chapter came into existence. Little did he know, that dream was burning in
the hearts of several other motorcycle enthusiasts in the Cleveland area
as well. Only God could have put the group together.
Unknown to each other,
Bartley, Dave Cegledi and Alan Farley had been trying to put a CMA chapter
"We spent about
five years in different areas of the city trying to put a chapter together
and we never ran into each other," Bartley said. "Three of us
were trying to do things and we were in contact with people and nothing
really ever clicked. But none of us let it go."
Nothing clicked that
is until Bartley and Farley met on a bus to Washington, D.C. for Promise
Keeper?s Stand in the Gap rally. There was somebody on the bus talking
about motorcycles, Bartley said.
"We finally met
on the bus to Washington, D.C. We talked quite extensively, then we met
later on in the week and we started to put our efforts together," he
The group?s first
preliminary meeting was one month after Stand in the Gap. The Righteous
Rioters, a CMA chapter from Akron, came and helped Messiah?s Knights get
The group?s first 10
members, from different parts of the city and different denominations,
started going over the materials sent from the national headquarters in
Hatfield, Arkansas, and praying. At the next meeting there were 11 people
and the next 12 and 13. They grew one at a time.
Over the course of the
Messiah?s Knights first year and a half, the group has started to become
know in cycling circles. As word spread, the now 46-member group has
helped with secular rallies such as the Cleveland Clinic?s Teddy Bear
run, the Carlton Harley Pig Roast, and the visit of the Vietnam veterans
wall in Maple Heights, to name a few. They helped the United American
Veterans with a spaghetti dinner to help bring the wall to the area.
"With a servants
heart, trying to show the love of Christ, we just pitched in, bussed
tables and served," Bartley said. "We helped with the setup of
the wall and read names over the weekend."
The Victory for
Veterans picnic is another one of club?s outreach activities. Rolling
Thunder, a Vietnam veterans group dedicated to the POW/MIA issue, goes
into the VA hospital and puts on a picnic for the men who live there.
Messiah?s Knights lend a hand by transporting the patients from the
nursing home to the picnic, assisting patients with their meals, and
providing encouragement to the vets.
commanded to go out into the highways and the hedges and to talk to people
and to spread the word," Bartley said. "Inside the church you
can only minister to the people that come inside the door. You?ve got to
go to where the people are."
where CMA bikers can encourage each other, are organized by state and by
region but the organization also holds an annual event, which sees
millions of dollars raised for foreign and home missions.
The CMA "Run for
the Son" is held the first Saturday of May every year. Money is
raised through sponsorships and goes toward bibles to "restricted
access" countries, the Jesus Film project, motorcycles to native
pastors, and to reach motorcyclists in the U.S. In the past 11 years more
than $5.8 million have been raised to take the Gospel around the world.
A state Rally in
London, Ohio brings CMA people from all over the state. Messiah?s
Knights also minister with Teen Challenge in Perry, Ohio, at some of their
Social activities for
Christian bikers include a covered bridge ride in Ashtabula and a witness
tour around Lake Erie, which the group did last September.
Cleveland Friday morning and went to Leamington, Ontario and spent the
night there," Bartley said. "We did some street witnessing to
the migrant workers in their tomato factory. It was different and a lot of
fun. We rode across Canada Saturday with a stop in Port Stanley where we
set up and did some more street witnessing. Then we rode into Niagara
Falls. There we met a Canadian softball team in a national tournament. We
prayed for them, witnessed to them and have kept in contact with some of
also go to churches and talk about the group?s purpose, give testimonies
and answer questions.
"We show them
that all motorcyclists are not bad and we let them know there are some
Christian groups out in their areas," Bartley said.
With brightly colored
patches on the back and front of their jackets, other bikers know when CMA
bikers are around.
Often bikers will come
up to the CMA?ers to ask questions or if something is bothering them,
just to talk.
"They feel safe
talking to us," Bartley said. "At church you?re always told to
be that light in the world but how can people know that you?re that
light unless you turn on a switch somehow. Our patches give that outward
appearance. To take a 400-pound guy that?s 6?6" covered in
tattoos and just be able to get close and get a hug and hear him say that
he loves Christ. A lot of people wouldn?t approach someone like that.
They wouldn?t associate themselves with people like that. It?s just
something we?ve felt a calling to do. As a chapter we do it."
CMA encourages every
one of their members to be part of ministry teams. There are nine
different ministry teams with a teaching tape series for each. CMA members
are also taught personal evangelism. The ministry areas include the areas
of servant, women?s, prayer, prison ministry, music, hospitality,
mechanical, first aid, and children.
CMA also has a prison
ministry and ministry for women. Women like Reida Bartley, Rich?s wife,
and secretary of the chapter, have opportunities to minister at the
secular rallies. In fact, Rich said there are subcultures within the
biking culture based on the type of bike you ride or even how you look or
some rallies that I can?t reach people because I have short hair. I
might not be welcome in some places. That?s why our group is so diverse.
We have Japanese bikes and we have Harley?s and the big Gold Wings and
the Cruisers," Bartley said. "At Harley rallies this group
ministers and at Gold Wing rallies, this group ministers. There are
different subcultures within the culture. It?s all about reaching the