Pastor & family head to track for dirt-bike racing & ministry
FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)--Members of this church wouldn't be surprised to find their pastor looking a little beaten up as he steps into the pulpit on Sunday mornings. And they wouldn't be surprised to look around and see a few fellow members with similar wounds.
Randall Easter, of First Baptist Church of Briar in Azle, Texas, has been a pastor -- and dirt-bike racing enthusiast -- for the past two years. Easter and his family have turned nights at the races into a family fun and ministry event.
"I ride because I like to ride, but we're able to do ministry while we're there," said Easter, a graduate of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth.
Easter rode motorcycles while growing up in rural Texas, but he had never raced them. Soon after he became the church's pastor, however, he became interested in racing when he learned that several church members were avid Motocross racers.
"We picked up some dirt bikes and started riding so my family and I would have something to do together," Easter said.
Today the family can be found at a local racetrack almost every Friday night and on various weeknights. Although Easter's first priority is his work as a pastor, Friday nights are generally free of responsibilities. Several members of the church can be found at the races as well.
Southwestern Seminary student Alissa Comer, a member of Easter's church, said she believes that the ministry provides ways to minister to people who might not normally go to church.
"I think it's encouraging to have a pastor who is willing to share his faith in different avenues of ministry," Comer said.
Easter recalled an occasion when he passed out tracts after a Motocross practice. The church's contact information was listed on the tract. Not long after that, a new couple came to the church. It was only after Easter referenced Motocross racing that the couple realized it was the pastor who had given them the tract. They are now active members of the church, Easter said, and they continue to race as well.
The Easter family arrives early for the races, takes along a picnic, and offers a prayer of "Lord, we're available" before settling in for the evening's events. Easter said he races "if my bike is not broken and I don't have any broken bones." His 8-year-old son, Caleb, races as well.
"You build a network of people just by being there for the races," Easter said.
Easter's wife of 14 years, Beverly, can be found on the sidelines cheering on the family as they race. She also takes the opportunity to share with those around her. Their daughter Samantha provides moral support, Easter said, while 2-year-old Joshua provides comic relief and an open door for conversation with other parents.
"He draws people just because of who he is," Easter said.
When Easter is not racing on the track himself, he can be found talking with fellow race enthusiasts and newcomers on the sidelines.
"There are literally hundreds of people at the racetrack every week," he said.
Prior to each race Easter leads a prayer over the public address system, and several people meet in a small group for prayer prior to the races. Easter said his son has been praying consistently for his hero -- a local dirt-bike racer who is not saved. His hero recently joined one of the prayer sessions.
"The guy came to our prayer circle and joined hands with my son in that prayer circle," Easter said, noting that they continue to pray for the man's salvation.
Normal conversation with fellow race enthusiasts provides numerous opportunities for Easter to share his faith in Christ, but most spiritual conversations are the result of accidents that occur during races.
"When somebody goes down, we try to get out there on the track with them as quickly as we can, praying," Easter said.
Should the person require medical assistance in the hospital, Easter will likely be close behind to offer his prayers and a message of hope.
Easter's presence provides a direct avenue of influence in the lives of injured riders. During each hospital visit he shares the gospel with the person and any family members or friends who might be with them.
"That's a pretty big impact on folks, and that's something that they will remember," he said.
Easter has seen injuries ranging from broken bones to life-threatening internal bleeding. On one occasion he watched as a fellow rider failed to make a jump. "It's one of those jumps that if you don't make it, it's bad," Easter said. "I thought he was dead."
Easter was immediately at the man's side and praying for him. That night Easter and his wife found the man and his girlfriend in a hospital downtown.
"So we ended up in the trauma unit downtown and I got to share the gospel with him and with his girlfriend," Easter said.
Easter himself has broken both collarbones and both shoulders but continues to ride. While he said he doesn't attempt to justify Motocross racing with evangelism, Easter said that his ministry should be viewed in light of the New Testament or seeing ministry as going where the lost people are.
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: PASTOR-RACER and MINISTRY IN THE EXTREME.