I started to title this “What The Church Can Learn From Bikers”, but I realized that should is the word that fits. Now, a bit of explanation of my terminology. When I say “biker”, I mean BIKER! Not those people who wear spandex peddling those steel or some alloy tubes on skinny wheels. Those are called bicycles, not bikes. Cyclists are NOT bikers.
Bikers wear leather, not spandex. I know, because I am one. In 2003, after my divorce ended 29 years of a marriage, I set out to “redefine” myself. Decades ago I had a dirt bike and then a smaller street bike; but that was decades ago. I found myself drawn into a local dealer and started looking. Then I even went out price shopping at other dealers. Then I bit the bullet, and picked one out.
Being a preacher, it had to be black and it must have lots of chrome. I love chrome! I thought at the time I was redefining myself from the rubble of my life. It turns out, though, that God was taking me on a journey to DEFINE my life, the person HE created. For over 4 decades I allowed others to define me; that’s my fault. I needed God to define me, and He did. Not that I always got it right, but I kept coming back. And HE kept accepting me back. That’s how I became a biker. Now, back to what I’ve been learning. One thing I’ve learned is that many churches look nothing like the Body of Christ, but Bikers….they get it! And here are 6 things the church today needs, urgently needs to learn from bikers.
1. We Love What We Do!
We take great joy in what we do. There are few things more exhilarating than finding a winding road with the wind in your face. I never have heard a biker complain about going for a ride. However, I have heard bikers lament when they had to hang up their leathers. Now that’s a sadness that words cannot describe. No whining. No complaining. Just loving what we do at the end of the day and wishing for more time and planning the next ride. You will never hear a biker say, “You know, this morning I just don’t feel like riding today.” If you do, immediately dial 911 and get her or him to a level 1 trauma center. One of my Biker friends had this pillow on his book-case that said: “You never see a bike parked in front of a psychiatrist’s office.”
But church? Whining? You bet! Complaining? You can take it to the bank. Missing church? There is an unending list of really good sounding excuses. And when at church? Not much joy, except that it’s over for another week. Like Bikers, we should love what we do, but….here’s another lesson for church today.
2. We Are A Diverse Group
White collar, blue-collar, dog collar….a model of diversity. I’ve met factory workers, farmers, retirees, a federal judge, dentist, lawyer, small business owner….and yes, other preachers. But in leather, we are held in a common bond. Our backgrounds do not matter. There is a brotherhood and sisterhood that is not formed by how we are alike–but by our differences held together by a common passion. Whatever you do the rest of the week doesn’t matter when you fire it up, put on the leather and ride. It doesn’t matter how much money you have, what your politics are or where you live. The diversity adds beauty and strength to this ‘Hood of Bikers.
And church? Martin Luther King, Jr. was right then, and still right today when he said, “Sunday morning at 11:00 is the most segregated hour every week.” And today, segregation still happens. In some churches it’s race. For others, it’s political views, traditions, economic status, where you work, where you live. The church for decades has tried to be a cookie cutter factory, where we all look and sound alike. I don’t think those 12 guys Jesus hand-picked for the first disciples looked alike, talked alike and acted alike. I love seeing a congregation that’s gathered, reflecting the diversity of the community around it. But it’s rare to see it. Conformity rules the group. But like Bikers…we should be a diverse group. Another lesson we should learn from Bikers.
3. We Are Friendly
Bikers who do not know each other, never met before, meet at the gas pump , we talk to each other. In a meat and 3 diner, we talk to each other. If a biker is having trouble with their bike, we do more than just talk, we help each other. There’s a lot of people who act afraid of bikers. I don’t know why. They are some of the friendliest people I’ve ever met. Ever noticed how Bikers acknowledge each other on the road? Usually with 2 fingers down. It mainly means “keep 2 wheels down”; that’s important on a bike because you don’t want them on their side, because you will be, too. The bike, the leather, the road–is a culture of friendliness.
I know that churches like to say they are friendly. And they are friendly–if you talk like them, act like them, believe like them. They are friendly, as long as you don’t sit in their pew or try to change something in their church. Then it’s Katie bar the door. Friendliness stops. Bikers are friendly because they don’t focus on the surface things. They focus on what matters the most to them. But we Bikers are more than friendly–we are friends–even if we don’t know each others names. It’s unconditional friendliness, a lesson the church should learn. Another lesson we should learn from bikers is:
4. We Are Loyal To Each Other
Bikers have each other’s back. They stand up and support one another. Even among the “One Percenters” (that’s outlaw biker clubs for the uninformed) there is a loyalty for those in their club. If someone gets hurt and can’t work? Forget Aflac, they hold a Rally, a Poker Run, or simply pass the helmet to help the one who’s hurt and their family. Bikers stand with and by each other, through good times and hard times. They even help others. There are Rides to benefit St. Jude’s, March of Dimes, Toys For Tots, and the list goes on.
And the church’s track record on loyalty? As long as everyone behaves themselves, and does what they are told to do, yeah. they’re loyal. But when one falls, when one is hurting, when one is struggling–many churches either kick them out, or even worse–they simply ignore the fallen and the hurting. Speaking as one wounded (more than twice) by the church, I didn’t see a lot of loyalty. Honestly, I didn’t expect it because their track record had already been establish–and it wasn’t good. But there should be a strong sense of loyalty to each other in the church.
5. We Don’t Worry About What Others Think About Us
We accept that some people will never accept us because, well, we are different. We look different, act different, talk different. Though I’m a preacher, truthfully when I have 3 days growth of beard and in all my leathers on my loud bike, I can see why some good honest church folks who don’t know me might think not so nice things about me. One Saturday I went riding with some friends, all of us with at least 2 days worth of beard, full leathers and we stopped at a little diner for lunch. As we walked in I noticed people staring at us, and not in a good way. Know what? I’m OK with that. I’m not out trying to win the approval of others. There’s only One whose approval I need. We don’t care about external stuff, well maybe except for our bikes. We are comfortable in our own skin and do not need validation through the approval of others.
And in the church? Nearly, if not everything is about appearances and outward stuff. Emphasis is on the external, the very thing that angered Jesus about the Pharisees. Being a Christian becomes more about what one does NOT do than what one actually does; more about how they look more so than who they are deep inside; more about certain beliefs than Kingdom Living. When it’s all about appearances, we lack the substance of the Kingdom Life. Bikers teach us not to worry about appearances and what others think. Here’s another thing that Bikers can teach the church.
6. We Know The Risks And Ride Anyway
We realize the being a Biker isn’t for everyone. It is risky. There’s a motto often seen in our community. “Live To Ride. Ride To Live.” There are inherent dangers. In my part of the world one of the dangers is deer. You’ve seen the damage they inflict on a car, think about a bike. Then there’s the dangers of car drivers. Road conditions. And when we are inattentive to those dangers. Honestly, there are tons of reasons not be to a biker. Yet, each day we gear up and ride. Are we oblivious to the dangers? Absolutely not. But we believe that the rewards most definitely outweigh the risks. Do I pray before I ride? While I ride? Is the Pope Catholic? We respect these machines but we don’t allow the fear to keep us from riding. When fear does override the joy, they sell those bikes and buy a convertible. What should the church learn from this?
A malady that has inflicted the 21st Century Church is the unwillingness to take risks for Jesus and the Kingdom. They want to play it safe. They want to know the outcome before venturing out, and that the outcome is worth it; meaning, the church will get new members. If you can’t get new members then it’s not worth the risk. The Devil knows he can’t defeat The Kingdom; he’s already tried and failed. Remember that empty tomb? Instead of attacking The Kingdom, he has filled many local churches with the need for playing it safe, and avoiding the risks. He won’t win the final victory, but he takes great delight in the impotency of churches unwilling to risk it all for Jesus. People risk eternity for the sake of time. Why not risk Time for the sake of Eternity?
Well, that just 6 of the lessons many churches should learn from Bikers. It’s 5 lessons the church MUST learn if it is ever to escape the current “survival mode” and once again THRIVE!
Love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to HIM!
Now, if you will excuse me, I think there’s a curvy road calling out to me….