Arkansas FAITH Riders Reach Bikers
Article published in the Arkansas Baptist News
SPRINGDALE – A new ministry, formed with the goal of reaching out to motorcycle enthusiasts, has already done just that during several recent festivals – resulting in dozens of professions of faith.
FAITH Riders was commissioned in May 2010 as a ministry of Cross Church of Springdale and Rogers, said Jeff Hairston, co-director of the Northwest Arkansas (NWA) chapter. He said FAITH Riders started as a ministry of First Baptist Church at the Mall in Lakeland, Fla., and now has about 170 member churches. “While this ministry is primarily focused on reaching out and ministering to the motorcycle community,” said Hairston, “(the) group also is involved in outreach opportunities such as disaster relief, children’s events, bike nights, toy runs and Christmas outreach.”
One of the largest events in which FAITH Riders was involved in 2011 was the Bikes, Blues & BBQ festival in Fayetteville. Hairston said the festival is the largest charitable motorcycle rally in the United States, donating more than $500,000 to charities. An estimated 425,000 motorcycle enthusiasts participated.
During the festival, FAITH Riders members shared “3-minute testimonies” with participants and offered opportunities to register to win various prizes, including Kindles, iPads and a TV.
The strategy is similar to what is used by Dakota Baptists at the Sturgis motorcycle event, as reported by the Baptist Press in August. Festival attendees are asked to listen to a 3-minute testimony in order to register for the drawings. Arkansas FAITH Riders were assisted in testimony training by members from Oklahoma, including Jimmy May, associate pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Ardmore, Okla.
Additionally, First Baptist Church, Greenland, donated the use of its gymnasium to house some of the Oklahoma FAITH Riders, said Hairston.
“The group was able to share testimonies with 493 people, and 94 of those individuals accepted Christ as their Lord and Savior,” said Hairston. “In addition to sharing their testimonies with so many fellow motorcycle enthusiasts, they were also able to minister to riders who simply came in asking for someone to pray with them about specific issues.”
NWA Faith Riders co-director Don Vlastuin said he was amazed at not only the number of testimonies that the group was able to share, but also the affect that this had on their local FAITH Riders members who participated.
Both Vlastuin and his wife, Paulita, experienced apprehension about sharing their faith with total strangers – but rejoiced in seeing some of those same people become brothers and sisters and enter the family of God.
“For me, it was great to see these people who have a passion for the Great Commission go into an environment where most people would not expect to see a lot of evidence of Christ and boldly share their faith,” said Richard Cox, minister of community missions at Cross Church, Springdale.
“Then, we got to see how God had prepared the way and prepared people to hear from God,” said Cox. “It was an awesome experience to see how open many of the motorcyclists were to listening to our group of FAITH Riders sharing their faith.”
Hairston said the group already is making plans to participate in the 2012 Bikes, Blues & BBQ event.
Churches interested in starting a FAITH Riders motorcycle ministry may contact Hairston at firstname.lastname@example.org.