Reaching Folks for Jesus 2 Wheels at a Time
This article is part of our May emphasis on Delaware Baptist Association churches.
Freedom Biker Church (FBC) in New Castle, Delaware, is preparing for its Father’s Day event, “Ride and Seek.” They’ll have food and games, but following their M.O., they’ll be unique. Willis said they’ll roast a pig, throw axes, and have port-a-potty races. The events are lots of fun and bring lots of laughs. But they also offer opportunities for fellowship and evangelism. Last year, a man named Tommy was baptized — an incredible witness to the community.
Willis said, “Tommy came to us a few years ago. In his words, he once was ‘really, really lost,’ but now he’s found. Tommy wanted to get baptized at our “Ride and Seek” last year. He wanted everyone to know and see that he had truly given his life to Jesus and was ‘ALL IN.’” That baptism surprised many and opened their eyes. “So many in the biker community were shocked at how God has changed him. It was an incredible testimony to how God can change a heart and life.”
FBC’s story goes back eight years ago. Formerly Iron Hill Community Church, the congregation was working with Delaware Baptist Association Director of Missions, then Mitch Dowell, to discover their purpose and assess the health of their church. Were they being obedient to God? Where was their roadmap taking them?
Interestingly, maybe the question should have been what vehicle they should be using. After much discernment and prayer, they officially became a “Freedom Biker Church” (FBC) on August 18, 2014.
Willis said the church had been “spinning their wheels.” He said he initially scoffed at the thought of a biker church, thinking, “Yeah, that will never fly,” but after discussion and prayer, the idea became more appealing. Willis discussed it with his wife, Kathy, who he said was not a “biker chick” (though she is now). “She loved it and said it was the best idea she’s ever heard.” Willis laughed and said he was blown away.
He, Kathy, and several others from Iron Hill visited an FBC in Virginia. The group was immediately comfortable. “Iron Hill is a unique animal, but we walked in, and they were just like us,” Willis said. The church took a vote, and over 95% favored the transition. They became part of the Freedom Biker Network, partnering with other biker churches, gathering for fellowship bike rides and ministry.
Willis said FBC in New Castle isn’t different from most local churches, but they reach a niche — bikers. They come from all walks of life, from Christian backgrounds to outlaw bikers, searching for a place to belong and explore their faith.
Gathering, Growing and Going
Looking back, Willis says there are no regrets. Now with the focus on “gathering, growing, and going,” Willis is amazed at how God has blessed the church since the transition. Over 50 people have come to faith and been baptized.
The church now has a robust Celebrate Recovery group and partners heavily with its community. The church regularly ministers to those who are homeless, and they recently collected 100 “blessing bags” with hygiene and other helpful items. Twice a year, they ride to Wilmington to distribute the bags in areas where homeless people gather. “We pray and witness to them. It’s a big thing. People love it,” Willis said.
Another outreach is through their monthly coffeehouses, where they host bands and serve food, fellowship, and meet guests.
Since they’re a biker church, they love to ride. They have Sunday lunch rides each month, and they do rides to help the community with fundraising and support, including veterans’ events. They participate annually in the “Wreaths Across America” initiative to honor veterans. Also, they take part in “Ride to the Tide,” a Special Olympics fundraiser; Delmarva Bike Week; and Christmas toy runs.
They continue discipleship through their men and women’s groups — “Biker Babes” (Bold And Beautiful Eternal Sisters) and “Road Dogs” (Disciples of God). Willis laughed and said they like acronyms.
Ministry Through Covid
Willis said the pandemic took its toll, as it did with most churches. “Covid hit us hard; our numbers dropped,” he said. But they’ve pressed on.
During the height of the pandemic, the church sponsored a ride to show support to front-line workers at ChristianaCare Hospital. Intending it to be a small group ride-by, waving and holding signs, word of mouth resulted in 400 local bikers joining in and a police escort.
A local television news station broadcasted the ride.
Looking for Adventures God Brings Their Way
God has used the strong fellowship emphasis with evangelism, discipleship, and a loving welcome church community to redeem and change lives.
There are many stories of transformation in the church. A woman named Judy said, “FBC and God, through Pastor John, pulled me closer to God. I was baptized at the age of 69!”
Fred W. said, “I lost my faith and struggled severely with it. It took a long time, and I still had doubts. It wasn’t until I joined the FBC family that my faith was restored.”
Lee S. describes FBC as “A church for misfits, the unusual, the condemned.” Lee said the church is a place to feel safe and respected.”
So what kind of future is FBC Biker Church looking at? They’re heading out on the highway looking for adventure in whatever God brings their way. It may be a wild ride, but they know Jesus is in control.
Feature photo provided by ChristianaCare Hospital in New Castle, Delaware.
Sharon Mager is a BCM/D communications specialist and BaptistLIFE correspondent.