Several years ago, I was sitting at a table with a number of security contractors having lunch. We were all involved in some intense weeklong training, hoping to end with a series of technical certifications. During this lunchtime, in order to clear our heads from all the technical studying we were doing, we talked about our hobbies. The subject of motorcycles came up. Several of us rode motorcycles for enjoyment, and we started sharing stories from the road. One of the contractors, who had just returned from overseas (no specific location other than he called it “the Sandbox”) told a motorcycle story that I will never forget.
He and his team were in a car going from one city to another when a tire went flat. The men in the car got out, took security points around the car, and the interpreter changed the tire. All of a sudden, they heard the sound of a motorcycle off in the distance. On that bike were a man and woman. The woman was dressed head to toe in a burka with her face covered except for her eyes. The man was yelling, and the woman was yelling as they were speeding towards the car. Needless to say, the situation was pretty tense, that is until the interpreter started laughing. The bike sped by the car, and the man and the woman were still yelling at each other.
“What were they saying?” asked my lunchtime friend to the interpreter.
“He was yelling at her, ‘when I turn, lean the way I lean!’ and she was yelling ‘I am, I am!’”
The toils of the motorcycle rider and a non-leaning passenger is apparently an international problem. But what this story displays is that those who ride motorcycles form a unique community of comradery. All of us who rode motorcycles laughed at the story while others politely chuckled. Some got it; others did not. If one rides a motorcycle, he or she is a part of a particular community that knows no barriers in brand (although many riders are loyal to their brand to the end), country, gender, ethnic background, or even language. If one motorcyclist passes another on the road, they will wave to each other.
In 1972, Herb Shreve was a part of that culture. He was a follower of Jesus Christ, and he loved to ride his motorcycle. When his son ran into some troubles, Herb decided to share some time with him by teaching him how to ride and then taking some trips. In 1974 he attended a motorcycle rally and saw many people who never darken the doors of a church. What Shreve saw was a new mission field. The formation of an organization whose mission it was to reach this mission field began to form. These people needed to hear about Jesus, and in 1975, the Christian Motorcyclist Association (CMA) was born.
Since its founding, CMA has grown to over 160,000 members in over 1,200 chapters all over the world (second largest number of CMA members to the USA is South Africa). These members and chapters are focused on bringing the good news of the Gospel of Jesus to the motorcycling community. Whether the motorcyclist rides a Harley Davidson and hangs with an MC (more on that later), is a weekend rider with a nice comfortable Honda Goldwing, rides for performance on a Kawasaki Ninja sport bike, or is on a three-wheeled Can-Am Spyder, they all need to hear the Gospel and are accepted as friends of CMA.
This paper will review the ministry of CMA. Fist I will look to how CMA relates to the motorcycling community, then I will explore the image of the CMA member. After that, I will explore CMA attitudes to the world. Finally, I will explore the different sub-ministries of CMA and how they reach motorcyclists around the world.
The world of motorcyclists
While motorcyclists are tied together by a bond of loving to ride, there is significant diversity in the community. There are many different riding groups, and all of them have distinctive qualities. First, there are riders who strongly associate with Motorcycle Clubs or MC’s. The Hell’s Angels, Devil’s Disciples, Red Devils, or the fictitious television MC Sons of Anarchy are examples of these groups. These are firmly bonded riders who share a common culture that can involve criminal activity but is mostly a shared comradery. There is a stringent system for membership, and that is exemplified by the patches they will wear on the back of their vests and jackets. The “fully patched” member will have three or four patches indicating their organization and location.
Example of Hell’s Angels vest with the “fully patched” 4 patches.
Next, there are motorcycle riding groups. These riders and organizations are not as stringent in their rules and culture and are usually bound by a particular brand. Goldwing Road Riders Association, Indian Motorcycle Riders Association, and many others allow the casual rider to associate with like-minded people. Back patches are also crucial to these groups, but they will usually be limited to just one patch on the backs of their vests. The rides they take may be long trips, or they may be outings for lunch. What draws them together is the need for community in their shared love of riding.
While these two groups are not the only kinds of groups in the motorcycling community, they do display the diversity of riders and groups. Into this fits CMA. CMA is a riding organization built on membership and chapters. To be a member, one needs to be a confessing Christ follower and go through a prescribed ministry training (usually a DVD and workbook done at home). After one becomes a member of CMA, they can wear the CMA back patch. In the motorcycling community, the back patch is a significant indicator of who the rider is and what they represent.
CMA patch on the back of my riding jacket
For the CMA patch, there is significance to each aspect of the design. From the CMA Handbook:
“Triangle Shape = Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
Praying Hands = The way God would have CMA grow
Cross = The message and statement of faith (I Corinthians 2:2)
Bible = God’s direction for CMA
Blue Color = The way of the cross leads home (to Heaven)
Yellow Color = The crowns and rewards that will be for the faithful Christian
Red Outline = The blood that makes everything it encloses effective”
CMA is agnostic to motorcycle brand, and this is important in relating to the community as a whole. CMA chapters can have touring bikes, sport bikes, trikes (three-wheeled motorcycles), or even scooters all riding together. CMA members mix freely with other groups and other riders regardless of their backpatch or motorcycle brand. There is no judgment on the part of the CMA member as to the style of motorcycle or the way of life of the motorcyclist. Whether it be a massive motorcycle rally or just stopping for gas on the highway, the CMA member belongs to the motorcycling community. CMA members are not outsiders but fellow riders who happen to have a message and a ministry.
 Christian Motocyclists Association Handbook 2018 (Hatfield, AK: CMAUSA.org, 2018), I:5.