Lone Star biker rally to draw Gospel outreach

by Karen L. Willoughby, posted Tuesday, November 04, 2014 (3 years ago)

GALVESTON (BP) -- Now in its 13th year, the Lone Star Rally is touted as the largest weekend motorcycle rally in North America. At least 400,000 bikers, wannabes and gawkers are anticipated to roar into Galveston, Texas --- population 48,000 -- for this weekend's event.

Two types of souvenirs bikers like are to be passed out at the Lone Star Rally Nov. 6-9. Orange and black -- Harley Davidson colors -- playing cards and poker chips remind recipients of what they heard from a Southern Baptist volunteer.
 
Southern Baptists will be among the mass of people rolling onto the 28-mile-long Galveston Island Nov. 6-9. Their purpose through Mission Lone Star: evangelize as many as possible.

Mission Lone Star is a partnership of eight Baptist associations in Texas, who together want to reach bikers in Galveston with intentional evangelism, the way Southern Baptists do for events in Sturgis, S.D., Daytona Beach, Fla., and Myrtle Beach, S.C.

Many more volunteers are needed for this first-ever evangelistic thrust for the bikers, wannabes and others at the Lone Star Rally, said Jim Hamilton, executive director of the Golden Triangle Baptist Network (formerly association) and overall coordinator for Mission Lone Star.

Mission Lone Star volunteers will receive a bracelet to wear during and after Lone Star Rally.
 
"We need chaplains to minister to the more than 2,000 vendors, plus city workers and law enforcement personnel," Hamilton said. "We need people to work the booth, catchers to draw the people in, and people to share their personal story in three minutes or less.

"Getting volunteers the first year is always a struggle," Hamilton noted. "We saw this in Sturgis, Daytona Beach and Myrtle Beach. Once they hear the story of how things go in the first year, they want to sign up for the next year, but they miss the thrill of being part of the first year."

Hamilton was executive director of the Dakota Baptist Convention when he drew together a group of people to start the intentional evangelism ministry in 2006 at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. It expanded over time not just to Florida and South Carolina rallies, but also to churches and associations as people trained to use what has become known as the "Sturgis method" in local ministries.

The Sturgis method involves a big prize -- a motorcycle in Sturgis; $1,000/day in Galveston -- that people can register for, if they will listen to someone share a 3-minute testimony.

Evangelist Ronnie Hill of Fort Worth, whose ministry gave Hamilton the idea for the Sturgis intentional evangelism thrust, trained Dakota volunteers in giving their testimony in three minutes. He will be in Galveston for Mission Lone Star, again training people to share their faith in Jesus.

Don Hunter, a chaplain with the Oklahoma Baptist Convention's Disaster Relief, trained chaplains for ministry during Sturgis. He too will be in Galveston to train chaplains for Mission Lone Star.

"We'll have the original crew to pull the organization together," Hamilton said. "And with the partnership of the now eight associations in Texas, we're putting together something real solid for this year and for the future."

The associations are Galveston, Gulf Coast, Trinity River, and Bell, plus three associations that together comprise the Sabine Neches Baptist Area, plus the Golden Triangle Baptist Network and the Baptist General Convention of Texas.

More volunteers are needed, Hamilton repeated; at least 100 more than have already signed up. Free bunk bed lodging, breakfast, supper and showers are available on Jamaica Beach just a few miles south of Galveston. People can sign up at www.missionlonestar.com.

Booth space has been retained on one of the three main streets of the rally action. "Catchers" will invite passers-by to talk with one of the volunteers, who will share their testimony in no more than three minutes.

About one out of every six people who listen will make a profession of faith, according to statistics from the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, where this intentional evangelism method has been used for the last nine years. Sturgis 9-year totals: 6,430 professions of faith out of 38,189 who listened to a 3-minute testimony.

This intentional evangelism method also is now being used by associations and churches in their communities.

"This is the big difference in this model versus other models," Hamilton said. "Most of the time people want to run from an evangelistic encounter, but with the Sturgis model, they want to hear it.

"We've asked Ronnie Hill to lead our evangelism training for volunteers and to oversee the 3-minute testimonies in the booth because Ronnie is a gifted evangelist," Hamilton continued. "He helped us perfect the Sturgis method, and part of why it has been and continues to be so successful is because we used an evangelist who helped us build the framework."

People who listen to a testimony will be able to enter their name and contact info in a $1,000 daily drawing.

The information of those who make professions of faith will be sent to local Southern Baptist churches across the nation.

The Mission Lone Star intentional evangelism ministry has a $26,000 budget, all of which has already been given, including a sizable grant from BGCT.

"I prayerwalked and prayer rode in Galveston last year, about what to do," Hamilton said. "We're going to need 150 to 200 volunteers at the booth itself and 30 to 40 two-person teams of chaplains.

"This is [geographically] much bigger than Sturgis," Hamilton continued. "It's 16 to 20 blocks; Sturgis is six to eight. We're hoping to win several hundred people to Christ. With the training and experience volunteers will get in evangelism, we also anticipate much more one-on-one evangelism and decisions for Christ will be taking place in the future in our churches."

The Sturgis method will be used at the Lone Star Rally for two reasons, Hamilton said.

"It's a technique that works," Hamilton said. "And after these people are trained and have done it hundreds of time, they're not afraid to share anymore. It's something they'll take back to their home church."

Souvenirs are a tangible part of Mission Lone Star, with commemorative poker chips and a King of Hearts playing card serving as reminders to take home of the Gospel message recipients heard from the witnesses.

Hill said, "People are hurting, searching, looking for answers, even big, burly bikers. If we can get more workers out there, we can get more people saved and more people will hear the Gospel and more people will give their lives to Christ. The Gospel works. It still works. It's still powerful. It still changes people's lives."

Karen L. Willoughby is a national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention's news service.
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