by Diane Strzelecki
Rev. Lonnie Jacobsen, pastor of Christ Lutheran Church in Arlington, Tenn., and his wife, Penny, relish motorcycles and motorcycle riding. Several years ago the Jacobsens and a few like-minded friends formed a riding group. While allowing the Jacobsens to enjoy their hobby, the group has also offered them opportunities to share their faith and the Good News we have in the Gospel of Jesus.
“We’d meet at the church to grill some hot dogs and hamburgers, have some conversation, say a prayer, and then take a ride around town or to an event that we’d attend together,” says Jacobsen. “Folks may have gathered that I’m a Christian, but most didn’t know I’m a pastor. One man heard about the group through a mutual friend and came because he didn’t have a lot of friends who rode motorcycles. He’s an immigrant from the Czech Republic who, at that time, would have described himself as an agnostic. When he came, he actually asked me if it would be okay for him to be there–he wasn’t sure if this was a ‘church thing’ or a riding group. He didn’t understand the concept of a group of Christians that were open to anybody joining them.”
The man wasn’t the only unchurched person to join the group, Jacobsen adds, but at the time, the man wasn’t aware of the diversity of the group, or that the group included people who had drifted away from their church home.
“That first step he made was very exciting,” Jacobsen says. “Over time, there were a lot of little steps he took that were extremely significant for him. One day before a ride, he asked if he could look inside the church. He walked in the door, then almost immediately sat down in back and started to pray. Later, we learned that he believed in God, but in the Czech Republic there are all these magnificent, beautiful buildings with immense statues looking down at you–this made him quite fearful. He believed that Jesus Christ was a good example, but just one of many prophets.”
The Jacobsens and others in the group became friends with the man, and he continued to attend the motorcycle rides. “Over a year or so he would come to say that he believed Jesus Christ died for his sins,” Jacobsen says. “He is now a member of the church, worshipping regularly and continuing to grow in faith and understanding. Yet he never would have come to church if he had not had a group that appealed to his interests.”
Jacobsen says the motorcycle group is unique because there is no Bible study or similar formal activities. “We do spend time in prayer before our ride,” he explains. “We ask for prayer requests, and often we get pretty powerful requests about family and friends from those in the group who are unchurched.”
Opportunities also come in our workaday lives, says Rev, David Born, interim executive for LCMS World Mission’s Congregational Mission Revitalization/Groups Ablaze! initiative.
“Just the other day I had the courage to talk to somebody who worked in a lumberyard where I was picking a few things up. He said his back hurt, and I said I’d pray for him. I was kind of hoping he wouldn’t turn around and say something like, ‘Oh, yeah, you’re one of those.’ As it turned out, the guy was grateful. He said, ‘You would do that for me?’
“The hardest part about sharing my faith was getting over my assumption that he didn’t want to hear it from me,” Born adds. “There are an awful lot of people out there who would be thrilled that you’d pay attention to them.”