Motorcyclists extend grace to homosexual protesters

INDIANAPOLIS (BP)--Buddy Newsome and Dave McClamma are having the ride of their lives.

The two are part of "F.A.I.T.H. Riders," the traveling motorcycle ministry of First Baptist Church at the Mall, Lakeland, Fla., that rolled into Indianapolis for the Southern Baptist Convention's annual meeting.

Newsome, who serves as director of the ministry, and McClamma, who is associate pastor and staff liaison to the group, do not look the part of a typical messenger and pastor at the convention. Then again, their evangelism strategy is different from most.

The group's mission is to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with the motorcycle community and anyone else who will listen to their message.

"We're not a riding club; we're a ministry," McClamma said of the group that has seen more than 270 professions of faith during their two-year history. "Everything we do is focused on sharing the Gospel."

One such opportunity came on June 14, the group's first day of activity in Indianapolis. Arriving outside convention headquarters at 6:15 a.m. in order to secure 15 coveted parking spots in the city's busy downtown area for their motorcycles, the group was approached by a member of Soulforce, a homosexual activist organization on hand to demonstrate against the SBC's well-known stance against homosexuality.

The man, who identified himself as "Steve," said he did not realize the bikers were part of the SBC gathering and just desired to take their photograph as part of the local scenery.

McClamma, Newsome and others entered into conversation with Steve, during which they learned he formerly was a minister before becoming involved in Soulforce.

The bikers emphasized to Steve as well as two other members of Soulforce who approached them that while they did not approve of their lifestyle, they still cared for them and loved them as people.

"It was phenomenal," McClamma said of the 20-minute Gospel-centered conversation he had with the Soulforce members who were open to dialogue. "[Steve] said to us, 'If you're telling me that you love me but don't approve of my lifestyle, would you pray for me?' So we ended up having prayer for them."

Another member of Soulforce, Beth, began to tell her story to the group, breaking into tears as she described her fear that she might lose her 14-year-old son because of her lifestyle.

"She was reachable. She got touched during the conversation," Newsome said. "What do you say? It's one of those encounters where you plant a seed. God scripted it. We didn't."

The interesting thing about the riders' conversation with the Soulforce members was that they had not planned in advance to engage them. McClamma and Newsome simply attribute the opportunity to God's providence, or what they like to call "God encounters."

"God just gives us incredible opportunities through this ministry," McClamma said. "It's just amazing how a motorcycle attracts people. We prayed today for some 'God-encounters.'"

For all of the riders' exchanges with members of Soulforce, none of those with whom they talked found a negative thing to say about their method, even if they did disagree with their Gospel message.

"They were very gracious toward us, and they listened," Steve said. "They feel that they have the answer because they know what the Bible says, but they are still willing to tell us they love us."

"There was a sense when I looked at the group and when I looked at their eyes that I appreciated," another Soulforce member, Kristin, said.

A third member stated her appreciation that when the group pulled up on their motorcycles, they waved and showed a friendliness toward even those with whom they disagreed.

Newsome said a demonstration of Christ-like love even to those involved in a lifestyle of sin was a key aim of the group.

"We love the people," he said. "It's the sin we don't love. You try to share with them what's biblical. We both know Scripture says homosexuality is against God's will."

McClamma said that although an evangelistic motorcycle ministry may seem like "out-of-the-box ministry" to many churches, he hopes others will see how God is using it and consider forming a group of their own.

"If you're willing to do it, God will use you in amazing ways," he said.


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