Ministry of CMA part 2

Image of CMA and its members

CMA has two saying that are frequently heard among members.  The first is the organization’s vision statement: “Changing the world, one heart at a time.”[1] The second statement is the unofficial CMA motto: “Here if you need us.”  CMA wants its members to be known as dedicated Christ followers with a heart towards ministry.  But members are not to be forceful in their ministry, but available.  When socializing with other motorcyclists, CMA members are to be a part of the community without taking part of some of the elements.

For example, a popular fundraising event for motorcyclists is a ride called a poker run.  In these events, riders make a donation, get an entry form, ride to five different locations, and receive a playing card at each location.  At the fifth location, the rider with the best hand wins a prize.  CMA members regularly participate in such rides.  However, many of the stops are bars and taverns.  CMA members will gladly go into the bars and taverns and socialize, but they will not consume alcohol.  It is vital that CMA members are a part of the community while showing their distinctiveness as Christ followers.  This is not a statement on consuming alcohol and one’s salvation.  However, it lends to the consistency of the CMA member’s individual witness as a Christ follower.  Because of this, most in the motorcycling community respect CMA members for their consistency in loving others and being distinct in their behaviors.

This image is vital for all ministries, not just CMA.  In his book Unchristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks About Christianity…and Why It Matters, David Kinnaman writes about Christians who shelter themselves from nonbelievers (whom he calls “outsiders”).  Writes Kinnaman:

“Outsiders think Christianity is out of tune with the real-world choices, challenges, and lifestyles they face. Only one-fifth of young outsiders believe that an active faith helps people live a better, more fulfilling life.”[2]

 

For CMA to bring the Gospel to other bikers and biker groups, they need to be involved, present and accepted.  CMA members cannot be Christian Bikers, but bikers who are Christian.

Maintaining the image CMA has to the motorcycling world is a carefully thought out process.  Organization and accountability are values that direct CMA in how CMA members are organized.  This organizational schema has a sturdy structure but allows members and chapters to have unique identities.  At the top of this organization is the ministry headquarters in Hatfield, Arkansas.  A leadership team oversees the ministry from a national and international perspective.  The next level is that International and National  Evangelists.  In the United States, there are 6 National Evangelist covering three northern and three southern regions.  These Evangelists operate in their regions by leading state CMA rallies and state winter gatherings called “Seasons of Refreshing,” attending major secular motorcycle rallies, and acting as authority for the state organizations.  Under the Evangelists are the State Coordinators.  These folks work with individual chapters, solving problems, clarifying CMA policies, helping new chapters form, and helping close down chapters that have diminished in activity.  State Area Reps are assigned regions within states and are the hands and feet of the State Coordinators.

The most basic CMA unit is the CMA chapter.  The CMA chapter is a local outlet for CMA and has their own identifying name.  For example, when I lived in Massachusetts, my chapter was New Life Riders CMA chapter #763.  Each chapter is made up of individual CMA members who once a year elect officers.  Those officers are President, Vice-President, Secretary, Treasurer, Road Captain, and Chaplain.  These officers keep the chapter organized and direct which events, rides, and ministries the chapter participates in.  What is important is that the local chapter be known to other motorcycling groups in that locality.  Most of these other groups have a similar local organization with similar officers.  When a CMA chapter President speaks with a Hells Angels local chapter President, they are considered equals and mutual respect are given. The hierarchy of CMA enhances its image to the motorcycling community and reflects the cultural organization of many secular groups.

Members of CMA walk a tightrope, balancing themselves between the biker culture and Jesus culture.  In this, CMA members can only wear the CMA back patch and no other one.  CMA members can belong to other riding groups, but they cannot wear back patches from those groups.  This solidarity is respected in the biking community.  For most biker organizations, the person wearing the patch reflects the chapter which reflects the entire organization. When a member disrespects the patch, he or she disrespects others who wear the patch.  For the CMA member, disrespecting the patch they wear has a more profound consequence as they are representing Jesus.

An example of this comes from a conversation I had with a member of the CMA national leadership team.  The headquarters received an envelope with two torn CMA backpatches.  Inside was a letter that was written by two Hells Angels members.  They were at a bar where two CMA members were drinking beers and wearing their patches.  Knowing that this was disrespecting the CMA patch, the two Hells Angels reminded the CMA members of this.  The CMA members refused to stop.  The letter read the Hells Angels then “relieved them of their patches.”  The patch, the colors, have significant meaning and represent the image of the member and the organization.

CMA and the World

With this image in mind, CMA members and chapters engage the biker world with a strong sense of belonging.  Like a Colombian Pastor who ministers to his congregation in Bogota, so the CMA biker can minister to other bikers.  They engage this world because they are members of the culture and have a healthy respect for that culture.  There are norms and customs that bikers share that CMA member understands. He or she contributes to that culture, all the while bringing the Gospel of Christ in word and in deed.

An example of this activity is observed at some of the most massive biker rallies in America.  Every August, hundreds of thousands of motorcyclists head to Sturgis, South Dakota.  This rally is known for raucous parties and high levels of debauchery.  Nudity, drunkenness, and loud music fill the atmosphere as riders from all over the world gather for one massive non-stop party.  Many Christians would not consider this a place for “good Christian people” to be.  For the CMA member, the rally is precisely where they want and need to be.

At these rallies, CMA is ever present. For the big rally at Myrtle Beach, SC, CMA members lead dealership test rides, have booths where members distribute cold water and have stations where CMA members who have mechanical knowledge help other bikers who are having problems with their ride.  CMA members also walk around the rallies and are there for those who may have partied too much and need some trusted help to get medical attention.  Each person who encounters a CMA member is in some way touched by the action of the Gospel.  Conversations may never even bring up God.  However, because the CMA member is wearing the colors of the CMA patch, there is a known distinctiveness.

CMA’s ministry is not offended by the biker lifestyle.  However, CMA is provoked by the demonic presence in these rallies and the emptiness that these lifestyles lead to.  In order to redeem and restore the souls that are lost in this lifestyle, the CMA member cannot be afraid to engage those who are caught up in it.  Gabe Lyons has written about this in his book The Next Christians: Seven Ways You Can Live the Gospel and Restore the World.  Christians, CMA or not, are more effective when they are provoked by the culture as opposed to offended.  Being offended is a pharisaic reaction that is more about religious rules and less about a relationship with Jesus.  Lyons writes:

“How did the Pharisees ever get to this place? Remember, they started with the right intentions: seeking obedience to God’s commands in an atmosphere of cultural patterns and behaviors that were growing increasingly contrary to those commands (sound familiar?).”[3]

 

Lyons further states:

“In this context Jesus came and exposed the shortcomings of the Pharisees’ response to the dirtiness and darkness of our world. Story after story in the Gospel accounts reveal God’s heart for the lost, the down and out, for those who were “dirty.” Jesus wasn’t offended by their actions or broken lives; he was provoked to engage them. He sought them out to find a way to restore them both physically and spiritually.”[4]

 

The CMA member is provoked by his and her love for Jesus to engage the biker culture in order to minister seeds of hope to those who are lost in it.

This heart for the world does not stop at America’s borders.  One of the main principles of CMA is a movement called “Run for the Son” (RftS).  This is a fundraising event that is so much more than raising money.  Through the efforts of RftS, money is raised for direct ministry.  100% of all funds raised are for ministry.  The money raised does not stay in CMA but is also used for ministry partners.  40% of all the money raised goes for direct motorcycle ministry  – attending rallies, having booths at motorcycle shows, having stands at motorcycle racing events, etc.  The 60% that is left is split three-way among CMA’s ministry partners – Open Doors, Jesus Film, and Missionary Ventures.  The ties with these three ministries are so tight that CMA members participate in short-term missions with these organizations.

Though Open doors, CMA members deliver Christian materials to closed countries.  I spoke with a CMA member, Yolanda, who participated in this event.  When she went to her closed country she actually stayed across the border in an open country.  Each day they loaded their suitcases with what they called “bread” – Bibles and books  – had a time of intense prayer, and then crossed the border to deliver these materials.  Yolanda said she was never afraid. However, she knew the Holy Spirit was helping her and her fellow bread carriers in His mission.

Through Missionary Ventures, CMA members have gone to countries to help deliver motorcycles to pastors and missionaries serving in those countries.  I spoke with a CMA member Glenn who told me of the process to get these bikes to the pastors.  Glenn went with a team to Colombia where Missionary Ventures had screened 12 indigenous pastors and missionaries.  Each of these folks was taught how to ride a motorcycle if they did not already know how.  When Glenn and his team arrived, they were responsible for going to a dealership in Bogota and purchasing 12 bikes.  As they presented the pastors and missionaries the bikes and blessed them with prayer, many tears flowed.  Motorcycles are an incredible tool for these folks who serve many people over a wide area.  They are cheap to run and easy to maintain.  They can also go where cars sometimes cannot.  Bob, a long time CMA member, told me a story of when he went to a southeast Asian country to deliver a motorcycle to a pastor.  The pastor could not stop crying because his circuit to all of his churches took two weeks to walk. The pastor stated that he will still take two weeks, but he can stay longer with each congregation.

With the Jesus Film, CMA members have gone into remote areas, on motorcycles provided by Missionary Ventures, with a package that includes a projector, screen, generator, and fuel.  When entering these remote areas, teams set up this portable movie cinema and show the Jesus film in the area’s native language.  Many people who might not have otherwise heard or seen the Gospel have come to faith because of this ministry.

RftS is not just a money raising venture; it is an effort at the pure ministry to the world.  Through RftS, many motorcycles have been delivered.  Through 2017 6,147 motorcycles, 6,803 bicycles, 34 boats, 36 horses, 3 horse and buggies, 2 snowmobiles, and 1 camel have been delivered to pastors and missionaries in 105 countries.[5]  Through the power of the Holy Spirit using RftS, it is estimated that 24.6 million people have come to faith through CMA motorcycle ministry and the three ministry partners.[6]

The Ministries of CMA

As stated above, CMA members and chapters have many avenues of engagement to the biker culture.  Some of these engagements are formal, some of them are informal.  But the key to all of them remembers that CMA is there to change the world one heart at a time and to be there when a biker needs any kind of help.  Ministry can be spiritually focused overt actions or practical assistance to bikers in need.  But every action is done in the name of Jesus.

One overt ministry of CMA is bike blessings.  Bike blessings are not prayers over objects (motorcycles) per se, but a prayer for bikers and their riders.  Blessings can be done as a group, but the more effective encounters are individual CMA members approaching individual bikers.  CMA members pray for safety and mechanical soundness of the bike.  But they also pray for individual and personal needs as well.

As an example, on a recent ride, I stopped at a gas station to fill up and get a cold drink.  While I was there, another rider rode up to do the same.  I approached that rider and started to talk about how great a day it was to ride and complimented his bike.  He complemented mine, and we had a brief conversation on motorcycles.  As I was wearing my colors (as I always do when I ride) I mentioned I was with CMA and offered a bike blessing for him and his rider.  He agreed.  I asked permission to lay hands on his motorcycle (asking permission is one of the unwritten rules – never lay hands on someone else’s bike without permission), and I asked him if there was anything specific I could pray for him.  He did mention something personal, and we had a brief time of prayer.  As a part of the blessing, I gave him a small sticker to place on his helmet or bike that stated he was blessed in 2017 and had the CMA logo.  After that, we both rode off.

Another example was when my wife and I were ministering at an open house at a local motorcycle dealership.  Our CMA chapter had set up our tent, and we were offering bike blessings as bikers came by.  One fellow, whom I will call Adam, came by and was interested in what we were doing.  He was wearing a Red Devils patch on the front of his vest and had two probationary patches on the back.  His goal was to become a fully patched member of this hardcore MC.  As we talked with him, we learned that he had just come back from the Middle East and was a soldier.  We listened to him as he talked and we could sense that he was struggling to adjust to life back here in the states.  Riding his motorcycle with the comradery of his fellow club members was the only thing that gave him solace.  Instead of condemning him and telling him to stay away from such people, we encouraged him to talk about his feelings and his struggles.  We asked to bless his bike, and he agreed.  As we prayed for him and lifted up his struggles, Adam started to cry and was very thankful for what we did.  He tried to get other members of his club to come have their bikes blessed, but they were not quite as open as he was.  Another small seed of the Gospel was planted that day.

These are the kinds of encounters that fuel the CMA relationship with the biker community.  Not every biker wants a blessing, but the fact that we approach any biker on any bike with an offer for prayer and no expectation of anything in return allows CMA to be respected within the culture.  The Biker Blessing is a powerful tool for spreading the seeds of the Gospel and breaking down barriers.  It allows CMA members to have spiritual conversations that have the potential of opening spiritual doors for people who might never encounter another Christian believer in any other venue.

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CMA members participating in Bike Blessings

 

Other ways CMA members and chapters minister to the motorcycling community that are not as overtly spiritual involves practical assistance. This practical assistance comes in many forms.  One way CMA members have been a blessing to other bikers is with the mechanical ministry.  These CMA members have a passion for the mechanical end of motorcycling. They are able to help with small repairs and diagnostic work.  The help they give is freely offered, and nothing is ever expected in return.

A few years ago I received a call from a motorcyclist.  His bike had broken down, he had little money, and he needed to get it fixed.  He said he was traveling through our state on to Florida and was in desperate need of help.  He knew that CMA members lend a hand to any biker and he called a friend who knew a friend in CMA.  Through that relationship, they searched out our chapter on the Internet and found my number.  We had a member who is very adept at repairing motorcycles.  I called him, and we got out to the stranded rider.  Soon enough we were able to repair his bike, and he was on his way.  This was a practical ministry that sowed a seed of the Gospel that this biker will never forget.

CMA members also participate in charity events, frequently handing out bike rags for bikers to wipe down their motorcycles.  The rags have the CMA logo and an encouraging message for the biker.  CMA members and chapters will also offer free beverages during charity events.  Cold water on a hot day or a hot cup of coffee during the fall riding months goes a long way with bikers desiring liquid relief.  Ministry is the heart of CMA and is in the DNA of CMA members.

Conclusion

            I have reviewed how CMA relates to the world, the image it portrays to the motorcycling community, how CMA engages the world, and how CMA ministers explicitly to motorcyclists and passengers.  As stated above, ministry is the central focus for CMA.  I have been honored to hold several offices in two different CMA chapters.  I have been Secretary, Vice President, and President.  Currently, I am Chaplain of the Warriors of Fire CMA chapter #1254 out of Rock Hill, SC.  Each time I held an office, I was keenly aware that my skills and talents were used for the building of the Kingdom.

Now that I am a Chaplain, my goal is to encourage other chapter members to take the risk of reaching out to bikers.  Going up to strangers and talking to them and asking them if they want prayer can be a little scary. Thoughts of “will they laugh at me?” or “will they reject me?” come to mind.  But as I have found, each time I approach a biker, complement his or her bike and show him or her the respect of a fellow biker, they are then open to having a brief spiritual conversation that may open doors for more profound spiritual impact.  My role now as a chaplain is to encourage and challenge our chapter members to ministry without fear.  God gave us the love and passion for motorcycles and riding.  Now we need to use that passion through CMA to bring God the glory.

Missionaries are called to people.  These people have cultures and values that may seem different or at odds with what we are used to with our American Evangelical Christianity.  But if the missionary is to be genuinely successful in bringing the Gospel to those whom God has called him or her to, then they need to have an understanding and a sincere appreciation for that culture.  The world of bikers and motorcyclists, while very diverse, is indeed a culture.  There are many unreached people who have rejected religious and regular societal norms.  CMA is one of many different ministries to this culture.  However, was the first and has trailblazed a path that many now have followed.

The last image I will present was at an event held in Spartanburg, SC called The Gathering of the Tribes.  At this event, held in the spring before riding season started, many different Christian motorcycling ministries, churches (yes, there are biker churches), and clubs came together to worship and to pray.  We were preparing ourselves for the riding season and the ministry that was to come.  God was calling us together to prepare for His work.  As we came together, we took a picture of all the backpatches represented. The Holy Spirit inspired Herb Shreve to ride for Jesus and carry his message to those would otherwise never hear it.  Looking at these patches, it appears what God started in Herb has spread and flourished.

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[1] Ministry of CMA,” Christian Motorcyclists Association, www.cmausa.org/ministry/  (accessed January 23, 2018).

[2] David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons, Unchristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks About Christianity– and Why It Matters (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books, ©2007), 121.

[3] Gabe Lyons, The Next Christians: Seven Ways You Can Live the Gospel and Restore the World, trade paperback ed. (Colorado Springs: Multnomah Pub., 2012, ©2010), 76.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Jesus to the World: 2018 Run for the Son PowerPoint (Christian Motocyclist Association, 2018), Slide 15, http://www.cmausa.org/run-for-the-son/ (accessed January 26, 2018).

[6] Ibid, Slide 8.

Christian Motorcyclists Association Motorcycling

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