Adventist Pastor/Biker Reaches
Out at Motorcycle Event
Special edition of Steps to Christ handed out at Sturgis rally
BY MARK A. KELLNER, news editor
Hundreds of participants at the 2010 Sturgis motorcycle rally, held in and around Sturgis, South Dakota, in mid-August, could have collected any number of souvenirs, not to mention photos of activity at what is believed to be the nation’s largest biker event, with an estimated 600,000
But along with whatever else they took home from the event, which celebrated its seventieth anniversary this year, about 1,200 bikers packed something else in their saddlebags: a special edition of Steps to Christ, Ellen G. White’s book on developing a relationship with God. The biker-themed book, titled Steps to Jesus: The Ride of Your Life, features a picture of a Harley-Davidson motorcycle with an air cover on which a picture of Jesus is painted.
Combine the photo of a Harley with a stylized book logo on the cover, says Tom Hughes, a Seventh-day Adventist pastor and motorcycle enthusiast from Zanesville and Newark, Ohio, and you’ve got something a biker won’t easily throw away. The 1,200 or so copies he and others handed out during the Sturgis rally are destined to be read, he maintains.
Hughes, 60, knows his bikes—and his bikers. He rode his own Harley the 1,300 miles from Ohio to South Dakota, and a similar distance back, in order to witness to people. A member of the Christian Motorcyclists Association, he worked with church-owned Review and Herald Publishing Association (RHPA) to develop the special giveaway book.
STURGIS WITNESS: From left, Adventist pastors Clarence McKey, Tom Hughes, and Brad Traxler are shown during the 2010 motorcycle rally in Sturgis, South Dakota. Working with local members and others, the pastors helped distribute approximately 1,200 copies of an edition of Steps to Christ aimed at bikers.
Hughes collaborated with RHPA executive Howard Scoggins, himself a motorcyclist. Other Steps to Christ editions are available for distribution to truckers and NASCAR fans. More than 43,500 copies of the biker edition have been printed so far, a total expected to more than triple over the next year, Scoggins said.
Why reach out to bikers? “Ninety percent of bikers are men, and 70 percent or more of them are unchurched,” Hughes said. “I just found a great big old fishing hole” in going to motorcycle rallies to witness, he added.
Hughes said bikers who travel to events such as the Sturgis rally are “looking to find an exhilarating experience—what they really need to find is Jesus.” He spoke of witnessing to one heavily tattooed biker who remonstrated that “God wouldn’t want to have anything to do with me.”
The Adventist pastor said he assured the biker that God would very much want to reach out to him, and moments later the two were praying for the biker to receive Christ as Savior.
Hughes did not undertake his mission without help: the Ohio Conference has previously voted to designate him as an official “Motorcycle Evangelist,” and allows him to go to rallies such as the Sturgis event and a similar one in Daytona Beach, Florida. In South Dakota, Hughes said, he stayed with church members Raylene and Mike Connelly and worked with pastors Brad Traxler from Spearfish, South Dakota, and Clarence McKey from Rapid City, South Dakota, as well as independent Adventist evangelist Jim Wood. Traxler and McKey told Hughes they’ll continue the book distribution in coming years, he said.
As for Hughes, whose work has been featured on the church’s Hope Channel television programming, he said he would like to see pastors nationwide use the book to reach out to bikers, either one-on-one or by placing copies in hotels and restaurants during rallies. He also has a Web site, www.biblebiker.com, that details the outreach.
And while it was exhausting to work “12- to 14-hour days” during Sturgis and then ride 1,300 miles home “in 110-degree heat,” Hughes said the effort was worthwhile, for the simple “thrill of sharing Christ and seeing a biker come to Jesus.”