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Essay: Christian Motorcyclist Association
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Written November 2003

 The Christian Motorcyclist Association (CMA) is a world-wide organization of Christian motorcycle riders who get together in local groups to spread the Word of God to non-Christian motorcyclist.  They attend motorcycle rallies (both secular and Christian), church outings, public events, carnivals, fairs, and much more to bring attention to Christ.

I have been a member of the CMA for over 2 years, in a chapter based in Plano, TX, called the Faith Riders; I will draw on this experience as one of the methods to present the CMA and its mission.  Also, I will interview another CMA member who has recently joined the association and find out why he did so, and I will use internet resources to present a thorough study of the Christian Motorcyclist Association.

CMA And Its Mission

CMA is headquartered in Hatfield, AR where is was founded by Herb Shreve, a pastor who took up motorcycling to reach his son for the Lord.  Pastor Shreve retired from CMA in 1994 and was replaced by that son, Herbie, as the director of the organization.  According to Chuck Westgate, a pastor and CMA supporter, Herbie retired this year (Westgate 2003); he was replaced by John Ogden, Sr. who heads the board of six national directors. 

CMA describes itself as

A non-profit, interdenominational organization, dedicated to reaching people for Christ in the highways and byways through motorcycling.  Since it's beginning in the mid 70's, CMA now has had over 90,000 applications for membership and over 700 chapters chartered in the United States.

CMA is not a club, but a ministry. Our ministry team program is designed to make ministers of our members. We are involved in motorcycling events across the country and in taking the gospel of Jesus Christ into America's prisons. (CMA 2003)

Not only does CMA have over 700 chapters in the united States, it has chapters located in 13 other countries as well, with a current membership of over 96,000 bikers.

CMA's desire to be more than just another motorcycle club is expressed also through their mission statement: To inspire our leaders and members to be the most organized, advanced, equipped, financially stable organization, full of integrity in the motorcycling industry and the Kingdom of God. 

Organizational Structure

- National Level

In the United States, the Christian Motorcyclist Association is run by six directors, and is divided into six regions.  The job of the directors is to run the operational side of CMA as a whole, they are not assigned one of the six regions specifically.  Each state has a State Director to oversee the operations in that state, California is divided and has two state directors, one for the north and one for the south, they report directly to the National Board of Directors.  The six regions are: South Central, Northwest, Northeast, Southwest, Southeast, and North Central (CMA 2003).

Each region is assigned an Evangelist who lives in that region and travels to state rallies and other events throughout his region.  The purpose of a Regional Evangelists is that of a pastor who provides leadership, spiritual wisdom, and training in the ministry of CMA (CMA 2003).

Each year, starting 15 years ago, CMA has a major fundraising event called Run for the Son.  Each member solicits donations from their friends and relatives in the form of pledges each person pledges so much money per mile in the Run for the Sons 100-mile trek.  In 2003, total donations from Run for the Son equaled $2,440,617.69!  The moneys earn are used in the following way:  20% for Bibles to Restricted Access countries through Open Doors missionary organization; 20% for the Jesus Film Project, a ministry film shown in over 236 countries; 20% to buy motorcycles for native missionaries through Missionary Ventures; and 40% to reach motorcyclist through CMA (CMA 2003).

- Local Level

There are over 700 chapters in the United States alone, although each chapter is governed by the CMA bylaws, they are allowed to establish their own local policies and to set their own schedule of events.  Each chapter is therefore only as good as its leaders and members.  I know of at least one chapter that folded because of bad leadership and another that split because of internal strife; as in any organized group, leadership is of the utmost importance.

Chapter officials are elected yearly and include: a president, a vice-president, a secretary, a treasurer, a chaplain, and a road captain.  Office holders may hold their respected offices for as long as they are continually reelected.  Members must have had their colors (explained under the Requirement for Membership section) for at least 6 months, and have attended at least three-quarters of all yearly meetings, before they can vote or hold office.

The president sets the schedule for the chapter, he conducts the monthly meetings, and generally oversees all aspects of the chapter.  The vice-president stands in for the president in his absence, and performs any other task assigned by the president.  The secretary controls all paperwork, including applications, flyers, and the minutes of meetings; he/she takes a head count every meeting, and collects sign in sheets.  The treasurer handles all chapter funds and reports on the status of these fund at every meeting.  In most chapters, the secretary and treasurer are the same person.  The chaplain performs the prayers at each meeting and is called upon to deliver talks and sermons at many events attended by the chapter.  Once on the road, the road captain is the boss.  He is the one who has planned the route to and from events, he has scheduled the departure times, the gas stops, rest breaks, arrival times, and everything in between.  His bike is always first as he sets the speed and route of travel.

Ministries

As previously stated, CMA is not a club, but a ministry, the members join to worship God and to spread the His word to people who may never hear about it otherwise.  A lot of recreational motorcycle riders ride their bikes on weekends, so they never take time to go to church.  Hardcore bike riders, those whose primary means of transportation is their motorcycle, are typically not the type of people to attend church services.  CMA wants to specifically reach these people for Christ.

When a person joins CMA, they receive training in one or two of nine ministry areas, taken from the CMA web page (2003):

  • Servants Ministry Team - Designed for people willing to be used in a variety of ways by meeting practical and physical needs at rallies.  This ministry team member may offer help to the rally promoter in such areas as registration, security, clean-up, motorcycle games, working at the ticket office, etc.  This is the ministry that I am personally involved with.
  • Womens Ministry Team - This ministry team member attempts to build relationships with women by being active in one-on-one ministry and meeting women's spiritual needs by first of all meeting their practical and physical needs.
  • Prayer Ministry Team Members of this team not only prays for the basics of people's needs, but they also to put prayer into action by visiting downed bikers and others in the hospitals.  Members get the opportunity to minister to others who may not be near home, or may not be a Christian.
  • Prison Ministry Team - CMA has developed a program for those who wish to be more involved in prison ministry.  These ministry members will go inside prisons to assist prison Chaplains, witness to prisoners, pass out Bibles, mentor incarcerated youth, etc.
  • Hospitality Ministry Team - This is the team for those who naturally seem to draw a crowd around their camp.  These team members may provide popcorn, soup, snacks, water, coffee, or just good fellowship at their camp for the purpose of building relationships and sharing Jesus.
  • Music Ministry Team - The theme of this team is: Music to reach their ears, so that the message can reach their hearts.  Members of this team provide music for services at the evangelist's request or lead group sing-a-longs around the campfire.
  • Mechanical Ministry Team - Designed for the person with mechanical abilities and a servant's heart.  Members of this team use their abilities to meet the mechanical needs of motorcyclists attending rallies.  They become effective witnesses for the Gospel as they reach people through their practical knowledge of motorcycles and engines.
  • First Aid Ministry Team - First Aid Team members offer basic services to rally participants for minor emergencies.  To serve on this ministry team, members must have completed a CPR or first aid course and have a valid certificate.
  • Childrens Ministry Team - The Children's Ministry Team is geared toward reaching the little ones.  These members will do what children like to do and entertain them to keep their attention.  Members need to be sensitive to the needs of young people.

Requirements For Membership

To actually join CMA requires one to do is nothing more than to fill out a simple application and mail it to CMA headquarters in Hatfield, AR.   The applicant must, besides giving basic personal information, confess to being a Christian, because that is the only true and fast rule for membership.  In a few weeks the applicant will receive a small laminated card with their name and member number on it.  No membership dues are ever asked for, but each chapter is self-sufficient, so donations are accepted. 

At this point, the new member can ride with other members to any and all events, including all the meetings, cookouts, rallies, etc.  But in order for the new member to wear the CMA back patch, also known as colors, they must take a training course.  The training course consist of 6 audio cassette tapes describing CMAs history, philosophy, organizational structure, rallies, mission, and just about everything else concerning the organization.  Then, the member listens to an additional tape with information based on their chosen ministry team(s), up to two teams can be chosen.  After listening to all the tapes, the new member takes a test over the highlights of the information and mails the test to Hatfield.  In a few weeks, the CMA home office will mail out a certificate showing the member passed the test along with the back patch the member ordered and paid for at the same time as mailing in the test.  The member has the patch sown onto their vest and at the next monthly meeting, a small ceremony officially welcomes the person as a full fledged member with all rights and benefits as all the other members.

The back patch is a beautiful yellow and aqua design, with a Bible and praying hands in the center and the words Christian Motorcyclist Association and Riding For The Son surrounding the outer edges of the patch.  The patch is very distinctive and memorable, I personally have had several people, when Ive said that Im a member of CMA, say something like, Oh, thats the club with the big yellow patch.                

Three Types Of Members

The common bond between the over 96,000 members of CMA is there love for Jesus Christ.  But like in everything else, that love for Christ is not equal in all people.  Ive found that the people who join CMA generally fall into two categories (with one exception):  Christians who just happen to be motorcycle riders, and motorcycle riders who just happen to be Christians.  The two sound very similar but they are actually quite different.

Those in the first group, Christians who just happen to be motorcycle riders, are typically the high-energy, evangelical people who cant wait to go to secular rallies to spread the Word of God.  They come to all the meetings, go on all the rides, and get involved in almost every aspect of CMA.  They use their ministry teams as a way to meet non-Christian bikers and as an excuse in order to strike up a conversation in order to present the gospel to them.  At rallies, the people in this first group are the ones seen going off in ones and twos to mingle in the crowd, looking to meet as many new people as possible.  Most of the time, they are quite successful at being able to present the gospel to many different people over a short period of time.

Those in the second group, motorcycle riders who just happen to be Christians, are typically not as involved in the organization as those in the first group.  These members join CMA because they dont belong to the rowdy, partying type of crowd, but want to ride their bikes with others.  They may be marginal Christians who either attend regularly but are not involved beyond Sunday morning, or they may be Christians who have gotten out of the habit of attending church regularly.  While the people in the first group go to rallies to witness and be used of God, the people in the second group go just to be with friends and seldom venture out of heir little intimate circle.

Most all CMA members have been law-abiding citizens all their lives, the type of person who buys a house in the suburb and has a 9-to5 job.  But there is a small group of members who, at one time, were know as One-percenters, they dont really fit into either one of the two above groups.  These people got their name when, years ago, the American Motorcyclist Association stated that 99% of all motorcyclist were law abiders, while only 1% were the outlaw element in motorcycling.  The name eventually became a badge of honor among the worse of the worse of bikers.  When a former One-percenter accepts Jesus as his Savior and eventually joins CMA, they are most always very evangelistic minded with a heart for other bikers, especially the outlaw biker.  Some still live on road full time as before, but instead of breaking the law, they witness and minister to those bikers in need.

Conclusion

The Christian Motorcyclist Association is a ministry for Christian motorcycle riders to witness about the grace of God to other bikers.  CMA members attends a wide variety of events, knowing that the motorcycles themselves, at non-bikers events, will draw a crowd and provide an opportunity to witness.  Individual chapters enjoy the right to choose what events to participate in and how often to do so.  Members get involved in one or two of nine ministry areas with the purpose of helping others and demonstrating Christ in their actions.

In closing, here is the last paragraph of a short essay by Bob Arrington, a CMA member:

A biker will spend hours on his or her knees next to the bike cleaning off the grime and filth of the world, working a rag in many small, tight places around the engine and wheels and frame.  The biker will polish the chrome so light from the sun will reflect brightly for all to see.  A Christian biker also spends hours on his or her knees.  The Christian biker prays to God confessing sin to clean the grime and filth of the world off his or her life (I John 1:9).  The Christian biker keeps his or her life as polished as the chrome on the bike so the light of THE SON can reflect for the entire world to see. (2003)

 Bibliography

Arrington, Bob. A Christian Motorcyclist. 2003. Retrieved November 14, 2003, from http://www.hisclearpath.net/knapsack/christian_biker.htm

CMA Web Page Christian Motorcyclist Association. 2003 Retrieved November 7, 2003, from http://www.cmausa.org/cmausa.html

Westgate, Chuck. Missions. 2003. Retrieved November 7, 2003, from http://www.thefc.org/missions.htm