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What was the motorcycle ministry really like?
I have only very briefly even mentioned this on my blog before, but approximately five years ago while I was senior minister at a church, I started working as a professional piercer in a tattoo shop. This happened slowly over the course of several months.
I met the owner of this tattoo shop in my bowling league. At that point, I had only been in a tattoo shop once in my entire life and that was just to look around out of curiosity. After getting to know him, I dropped by his shop once to check it out. I quickly discovered that his clientele was a totally different kind of people than I normally crossed paths with in my minister job.
I started hanging out there more during the day to talk with people and built a few relationships with his regulars. It suddenly became apparent to me that this was a mission field not being reached in our area. I was daily talking with a lot of people who would never go seeking out a preacher. I felt drawn to reach out to these people. I soon learned that hanging out in the shop would not be enough to have a real impact.
In order to get to spend real time with them, I needed full access, so I started apprenticing as a body piercer. Piercing was only meant to be the tool I used to evangelize, but it turned out that I was actually pretty good at it. Within the next year, I resigned from my position at the church and bought the shop to do this as my full time ministry. It was amazing the credibility and respect I gained as a preacher just by walking into and living in their world. These same people would not have given me the time of day had I approached them on the street. In the first six months, we had over a dozen baptisms, saw two marriages healed, reunited a child with her parents and I counseled with several people every week. It was the most exciting and successful ministry I had even been a part of.
We were very intentional in our presentation. We did not want to be known as a Christian group who likes to ride. We decided it was very important to be recognized as bikers first. We went to all the biker events we could get to. We regularly rubbed elbows with several 1% clubs, their support clubs and affiliates. In fact, our associations got us into some pretty hairy situations at times.
We had already been forced to change the patch on the back of our vests because it originally gave the impression that we were claiming a territory despite the word HEAVEN rather than a city. These patches and their meanings are taken very seriously by clubs. I, personally, had received several death threats after an interview I had done for the local paper about our club and several of our members reported being followed by rival clubs when out riding while wearing their colors.
Debauchery aside, there were several advantages to being absorbed into an established club. There was a sense of protection. We would become part of a larger group making it harder to intimidate us. Another big draw was the fact that it was already established. It was not a brand new club that would require as much work. After several meetings and lots of discussion, our club decided to merge with theirs, despite my objections. In a matter of moments, the club I had co-founded no longer existed.
The club changing hands seemed to be the pivotal moment for the entire ministry. Almost immediately, overwhelming financial crises hit the shop, my partnerships dissolved, my customer base died off and I had to walk away completely.
Despite the abrupt halt and apparent crash n' burn, I still consider the experience to have been my most successful ministry. I saw a lot of lives changed and was blessed to get to help a lot of people. I still have many close friends from that adventure and don't regret resigning from the church position to follow this path.
"And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."
Acts 2:21 (NIV)
Everyone includes bikers, metalheads, punks, skaters, emo kids, scene kids, headbangers or any other group that would not stereotypically be associated with faith.