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Biker Churches Lead Outlaws to God

TEXARKANA, Texas – Members of outlaw motorcycle gangs are coming together throughout the Bible Belt where bikers who once thrived on sex, drugs, rock ‘n’ roll and even a life of crime are now looking for calmness of Bible study and prayer meetings.

“Churches like this gather misfits,” Matthew Butler, who became the church’s pastor in 2010 after working in its music ministry, told Aljazeera America on Sunday, December 1.

“Without a church like this, there would be hundreds of people with nowhere else to go. We are literally reaching into the darkness.”

Dressed in jeans, leather jackets, biker boots and T-shirts, men and women scene in the churches’ pews was unfamiliar.

Being part of outlaw motorcycle gangs, which make up about 1 percent of motorcycle riders in the United States, those bikers used to have clubs with names like the Hells Angels and Banditos.

They are not recognized by the 235,000-member American Motorcycle Association because of their criminal activities.

Yet, in the Bible Belt, and across the US, the Biker-Friendly Church Network lists nearly 100 churches where helmets are welcomed on Sunday mornings.

Unlike traditional churches, they aren’t recognized within religious denominations, but rather focus on evangelism and discipleship – witnessing and training in the Bible.

Recently, several groups with names like the Iron Apostles, Soldiers for Jesus and Hallelujah Riders gathered in Kilgore, Texas, for fellowship and prayer at Living Word Church, whose pastor donated the space to bikers.

Motorcycles with Jesus stickers lined the churchyard, and tales from the road were shared in between preaching and barbecue.

“This is just a place where we wouldn’t be judged and looked down on,” said Russell Stewart, a deacon of a church at Texarkana, a town that straddles the Arkansas-Texas state line, and one of its founding members.

“At other churches, the way we dress, we would be judged. We are all just here to worship the Lord.”

New Life

The new churches offered a new hope of life for bikers, who were outlaws one day.

“All the men in my life were teaching me how to rob, steal, do dope and sell dope,” said David Vanbuskirk, a preacher for Bikers for Christ, adding he is the last person anyone expected to spread the Gospel.

“They had a lack of concern for life. I didn’t want my sons to be raised like that, and I don’t Leading a criminal life for years, he started preaching to change lives.

“I don’t have an education, and I’m rough around the edges,” Vanbuskirk said.

“But I preach with conviction around my heart. The Lord speaks to you in the hum of the motor.”

Keith Cannon, who attends Kilgore church, has also found a new life after abandoning crime.

Nearly nine years ago, Cannon was living in a homeless shelter.

He was arrested in 2004 for possession of drugs, and a year later arrested again on a drug and weapons charge “We were some twisted people before we got saved,” said Cannon, whose father was a missionary.

“You can ride your bike the same, but now you love Jesus.”

The United States is home to a Muslim minority of between six to eight million.

Muslims believe in Jesus as one of the great Prophets of God and that he is the son of Mary but not the Son of God. He was conceived and born miraculously.

In the Noble Qur’an, Jesus is called “Isa”. He is also known as Al-Masih (the Christ) and Ibn Maryam (Son of Mary).

As for his crucifixion, Muslims believe that Jesus was not crucified but was lifted up to heaven.

Muslims believe that Jesus will come back to earth before the end of time to restore peace and order, fight the Anti-Christ (Al-Masih Al-Dajjal) and bring victory for truth and righteousness.

The true followers of Jesus will prevail over those who deny him, misrepresent him and reject him.

Source: Onislam (AP, 12/02)