Strapping on a pair of boots, putting on a leather jacket and taking to the road on a motorcycle can be a spiritual experience.
â€œTo me, I see the beauty of what God has created everywhere, from the wind to the smell of the flowers,â€ said Shirley Morris, a Christian biker.
Looking at Morris, one wouldnâ€™t immediately think she was heavily involved in church. Like her biker friends, she enjoys black leather and walks around with a helmet tucked under her arm.
Morris and other bikers like her, however, believe their rebelliousness is in the spirit of Christ.
â€œI think if Jesus was alive today he would be a biker,â€ said Eddie â€œDuniorâ€ Dean, who founded the Lincolnton chapter of the Uncaged Biker Ministries at Christian Life Church of the Nazarene.
â€œThe government didnâ€™t like Jesus. The church didnâ€™t like Jesus. He rebelled against everything.â€
This past week, Deanâ€™s church held a special â€œBiker Sunday,â€ and bikers from surrounding counties came for fellowship, food and the blessing of bikes.
â€œItâ€™s a way to reach people for Jesus Christ, and itâ€™s a way to open the door of the church for people who normally wouldnâ€™t be accepted in a church,â€ said the Rev. Mark Wotjal of the Christian Life Church of Nazarene.
Bikers wore jeans, leather pants and vests with patches stating â€œThese are my church clothesâ€ to the service.
Dale Brooks, a former hard living biker, was a special speaker. He originally fell into the lifestyle because it was a place he felt accepted. Eventually, however, he knew things had to change.
â€œAfter a long time of drugs and alcohol, I knew I needed to get away from it because it was really killing me,â€ he said.
One night he saw an advertisement for a Billy Graham book, and he picked up the phone to order one. He ended up telling the operator his life story, and she told him he was a sinner.
â€œRight there on my living room floor on the telephone, I gave my life to the Lord,â€ he said.
Not every Christian biker went through such an extreme experience. Dean grew up in the church and has always identified as religious.
That said, he enjoys the biker lifestyle, including the risk he takes when riding.
â€œThatâ€™s part of it,â€ he said. â€œDangerâ€™s everywhere.â€
When he learned about biker ministries at Hog Happening in downtown Lincolnton, the idea immediately appealed to him.
He eventually found his place in â€œUncaged Biker Ministries.â€ The organizationâ€™s name comes in part from the feeling of independence people have when riding motorcycles.
It also has to do with the freedom that people have found in Christ.
â€œYouâ€™re not hemmed in by sin, youâ€™re not hemmed in by what people think about you,â€ said David Middendorf, a biker pastor with Uncaged Ministries.
Middendorf believes that religion should be taken to the streets, which is what Jesus did.
â€œJesus hung around with the common people,â€ he said.
Uncaged Ministries also gives bikers a place to feel comfortable as they are.
â€œThe average person that rides a motorcycle down the road, itâ€™s hard for them to just walking into a church,â€ said Brooks.
For more information on the Lincolnton chapter of Uncaged Biker Ministries call Eddie Dean, Jr. at (980) 241-9598 or Pastor Mark Wojtal at (704) 241-2699.
by Sarah Grano