|FAITH RIDERS ask for 3 minutes in Daytona
By Barbara Denman
July 5, 2012
DAYTONA BEACH (FBC)—Would you trade three minutes of your time for a chance to win a black 2012 Harley Davidson Road Glide motorcycle, gleaming under a non-conspicuous tent?
That was the question posed to throngs of bike lovers ambling along Beach Street during the 2012 Bike Week in Daytona Beach March 10-17.
Parking their bikes in domino fashion along the road that leads across the intercoastal waterway, tattooed and leather adorned bikers strolled down the sidewalks to ogle the latest bike accessories in clothes and equipment as vendors hawked their wares and services.
Stopped by “catchers” wearing Faith Riders tee shirts who beckoned the crowds into the tent, the onlookers considered the request—three minutes of their time. Some left, but most were enticed by the prize—unaware that those three minutes may give them the ultimate prize of eternal life.
With a baby strapped in a carrier on his chest, Stephan and his wife pushed a second child in a stroller along the Beach Street. Cajoled into the Faith Riders tent, the young African-American began talking to Clayton Reeves, a biker from Harmony Grove Baptist Church in Blairsville, Ga.
Although he was “kinda reluctant” when Reeves began sharing, the Holy Spirit was working.
“I got to the question, ‘if he died today would he go to heaven?’ He answered that he was a good man. I explained to him that I was a good man, but good ain’t gonna get you in heaven.”
Reeves continued sharing the plan of salvation as massive machines cruised along the road, vibrating the ground and sending gas fumes in the air. At the conclusion, Stephan prayed to receive Christ under the Faith Riders tent.
“After he prayed, he didn’t look like the same man,” Reeves said. “His whole demeanor had changed. You could see it in his eyes.”
Given a New Testament Bikers edition, the young man grabbed Reeves before he left. “He hugged me and everybody else, he wouldn’t let go. He kept saying he couldn’t thank me enough for taking the time to talk to him.”
“He left here a changed man,” Reeves smiled.
As Stephan indicated his spiritual decision, a bell loudly clanged within the tent and a roar erupted from nearly a dozen Faith Riders staked out there, cheering for a life changed for eternity.
During the week-long effort, the bell tolled more than 519 times—as many as 20 times within an hour—for persons who prayed to receive Christ as their Savior. In all, the Gospel was shared with 3,744 bikers.
Now in its second year of ministry at the World’s Most Famous Beach, the event, sponsored by the Florida Baptist Convention and Faith Riders Motorcycle Ministry, drew 145 volunteers from at least 10 states.
“They are so passionate about Christ,” said Mike Stewart of Fleming Island’s Hibernia Baptist Church, who coordinated volunteers. “They come all the way down here, taking time from their vacations and paying their own way here to sleep on a church floor, all to share their faith.”
Housed at First Baptist Church in Daytona Beach, located around the corner, volunteers are trained to witness by using their own personal testimonies and then put to work in with the motorcyclists.
The volunteers themselves are young and old, male and female, and come from all walks of life. Many have overcome past addictions and failures in their own lives through their faith in Christ, said Chris Conley of Richmond, Ky. They represent an army of “laypersons who are ambassadors for Christ,” he said.
As they share their testimonies with “mostly receptive” bikers Conley said, the Holy Spirit provides just the right entre as their lives often mirror the needs expressed by the bikers.
“You can’t explain an experience like this. There is something different. If you feel God’s call to speak to a person and don’t, you know you are quenching the Spirit,” Conley said.
Within their three minutes time with the bikers, the volunteers seek prayer needs. They hear emotional stories, heartaches and heartbreaks and the tears often flow. Several have been on the brink of divorce; others have lost loved ones and jobs. Still others have found their addictions have cost them dearly.
This is the tenth anniversary year of Faith Riders, a national organization envisioned by Buddy Newsome, who was led to Christ as an adult through the ministry of First Baptist Church of the Mall in Lakeland. Newsome serves as the organization’s national coordinator which has grown to 226 Southern Baptist chapters in 21 states.
An avid biker himself, the quiet and reserved Newsome who wears tattoos of the cross and an eagle on his upper arms, said in these events, much like Moses, “the motorcycle is our staff, it is a tool, it is our avenue.”
With more than six million motorcycles registered in America, bikers are “an unreached people group” that need the gospel, the retired policeman said. “Ninety-five percent of them are average persons—doctors, lawyers and businessmen who come to a week like this and dress the way they do to assume a different identity. They are desperately seeking a new identity.” That new identity can be found in Christ, he said.
The witnessing model developed by the Faith Riders at Bike Week can be replicated in also most any setting, said Harley owner David Burton, lead strategist for the Florida Baptist Convention’s evangelism group. While few churches can afford a motorcycle, other items, such a gift cards and electronics, can used as a raffle prize in local fairs and events.
When he left Daytona last year, Clayton Reeves believed God was calling him to preach. He began serving in a jail ministry and chaplaincy ministry—determined to “be the church, not just inside but outside the walls. That’s what God has called us to do.”