Church In the Dirt

By 7 a.m. on Sunday, June 12, bike enthusiasts were already gathering at Chesapeake BMX in Severn. Parking coordinators were directing cars with trailers and campers into the park. Bikers in their BMX garb were already riding around, others were standing in line to buy coffee and smoked foods, chatting and laughing — all through an intermittent drizzle that at times turned to a downpour.

C.J. Matthews and his son, Thomas, discovered BMX racing during the Covid shut-downs. (photo submitted)

In the midst of the daylight prep, a few folks navigated to the little sign pointing to “Church in the Dirt,” sponsored by BMX Ministries Christian Sports International. With umbrellas, raincoats, and slickers, they trudged through mud rather than dirt to climb onto bleachers near the finish line. Bethany Church Columbia Pastor C.J. Matthews was the guest speaker. Accompanying him were Tyler McVicker and Clara Lamberti, members of the BCC praise team, who led two songs as the rain started to pour, turning the song sheets into mush. The shower did subside as Matthews began to succinctly share the gospel, starting with the cross.

Many people wear crosses or have cross tattoos, Matthews said. Some say they are Christians who use the cross symbol as a witness. Others, he said, perhaps use the cross as a remembrance of a grandmother or other family member who was “religious.”

“But, have you thought about what a cross really is?” asked Matthews. “A cross is an instrument of death. It was the most humiliating and excruciating way to kill someone. When was the last time you saw someone with an electric chair tattoo or an electric chair on a chain?”

Matthews continued, “The cross commemorates something that happened 2,000 years ago outside the walls of Jerusalem on a hill called Calvary. It commemorates the day the innocent son of God died.”

C.J. Matthews shares John 3:16 with BMX enthusiasts. (Photo by Sharon Mager)

He shared John 3:16, explaining that God created the world, and he shared about the fall of man and the plan of salvation through the death and resurrection of Jesus. He concluded ending with an invitation for listeners to contact Matthews for prayer or more information. And he provided information about Bethany Church.

Opportunities at the Track

BMX racing has provided some interesting inroads for Matthews to share the Good News.

Explaining his introduction to the sport, Matthew said,  “During Covid, I was playing basketball, and my son Thomas and I were riding bikes, and then started mountain biking. Then we found out about the BMX track and started riding for fun. Now we’re on a race team.”

C.J. said he has had a blast and developed some great new friendships. Plus, the opportunities for ministering to people around him are amazing. At least 300 people come to the races each week, swelling to close to 2,000 during tournaments and championships.

“Once people find out I am a pastor, they begin sharing more about things in their lives and asking for prayer. People reach out to me on Messenger. One person wrote that they wanted to start reading their Bible and wanted to know where to start,” he said.

C.J. first shared at “Church in the Dirt” in January. He had contacted BMX Ministries to learn more about opportunities to speak and was told the person that was supposed to lead in Lexington, Virginia, couldn’t make it — could he possibly do it? C.J. said yes, and a few days later, he was the guest speaker. Eighty people showed up on a 12-degree day.

BMX racers and supporters show up at “Church in the Dirt,” at 7:15 a.m. in spite of intermittent rain. (Photo by Sharon Mager)

On June 12, in spite of the rainy weather, about 20 showed up, and C.J. was surprised to see several were from his team. One is from a Jewish background, and the others are unchurched. “They had to get there early for the service!” C.J. said. “I see these people every week, and now they’ve heard a clear gospel presentation. I’ll be looking for ways to follow up with them.”

One man, who heard C.J. in January, returned Sunday with his wife. That gentleman had contacted C.J. following the winter presentation and asked questions. C.J. talked with him and sent him a book. The man posted on social media about  C.J. and the book, and another person became interested.

C.J. is still excited and said,  “I can’t wait to do this again.”

Sharon Mager is a BCM/D communications specialist/reporter.