As you wander into the Seven Cities Church of VA you realize you are not in the average church. You see leather and tattoos and beards. You feel like you entered into a biker bar, but it’s Sunday morning and everyone looks sober!
“Our participants feel like they have been evaluated and looked down upon,” the pastor says after the service. “They recognize they can come right here and we will enjoy themselves right as they are. In some cases, where they go to is the sin they remain in.”
The “come as you are,” relaxed, no-frills perspective at the 7 Cities Biker Church is a major draw for its leather- and denim-clad members, many of whom bear tattoos, scars, shabby hair as well as major baggage.
“We draw a lot of addict, alcoholics,” said Mr. Rawls, 48. “However the riders here are a few of one of the most giving people you would certainly ever stumble upon.”
Seven Cities Biker Church is one of 10 such churches along the east coast. There’s additionally a Canadian church in Surrey, British Columbia.
The initial church was founded in 2006 in Raleigh, N.C., by a man named Mike Beasley.
Mr. Rawls said he and his wife, Chris, 45, were presented to Mr. Beasley by a mutual friend that was asked to be a part of the startup group.
Mr. Rawls already had started a motorcycle ministry at his existing church and collaborated with the Christian Motorcyclist Association, a national evangelistic outreach program.
Both pastors clicked and opened up the first Freedom Biker Church on July 9, 2006. Mr. Rawls claimed greater than 100 people attended the opening service. Now, Sunday attendance averages 350 to 400.
Six years after the church opened up, the Rawls and their 2 children moved to Virginia to begin another one.
“Our son, Max, was participating in Bible college in Virginia Beach, and also we would certainly travel up there a minimum of two to three times a month to check out,” Mr. Rawls said. “After doing this for concerning a year as well as a fifty percent, it ultimately dawned on us that God was calling us to grow a biker church in Virginia Beach. Each time we saw our son, we constantly observed all the motorcycles in the area yet never ever thought about planting a church there.”
Resting at the end of a big parking lot, the Chesapeake church births reminders of its previous life as a bar and a hip-hop club. The fellowship and eating location at the front feature high- as well as low-top tables in addition to a bar, where numerous coffee makers rather than alcohol containers are shown. Sunday services are held in the former dance hall– a two-story cave with mirrored walls, a disc jockey booth, reduced lights and also a booming sound system.
Long rows of chairs, divided by an aisle repainted to appear like a street lane, deal with a reduced stage where a motorcycle is parked in the edge as well as a silver “freedom bell” dangles.
The bell appears like the one that is sounded by the owner of a brand-new bike at a Harley-Davidson shop, Mr. Rawls claimed. The bike is like those that congregants rev to admire a participant’s baptism– an event executed in a galvanized horse trough.
On one wall surface, written in big block letters, is a paraphrase of John 8:36: “Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.”
7 Cities hosts several church occasions and solutions throughout the year, including a family meal after the last Sunday service of every month.
Cars and vehicles filled up about half of the whole lot this past Sunday, as well as concerning 2 dozen dazzling bikes were parked in the fire lane before the reduced building.
Prior to each service, members and visitors are welcomed to “hang out” and after that join a prayer circle in the car park.
Pastor Jeremy Scott’s flourishing voice greeted the group. He wore a black natural leather vest, a T-shirt, denims as well as a bandanna that covered a lot of his head– however not his half-dollar-size earrings.
“Great to see you today,” he screamed, his chin covered by a graying red beard. “If you have anything holding you back today, let it loose. Place it inside the circle and leave it right here.”
After a series of prolonged worship songs done by a guitarist and a drummer, Pastor Rawls launched into his preaching. For an hour, he regaled the congregation with self-deprecating wit, personal anecdotes and a fatherly guarantee that it was not too late discover Jesus.
Laughter, claps and also yells of “Amen” punctuated his talk. When folks stepped forward to call the freedom bell and rededicate themselves to God, the praise was thunderous.
After the prayer, the members piled right into the dining room, where they laughed and discussed bikes and the Bible with plates piled with hot dogs, beans, salad and also vanilla pudding.
In between bites of a hotdog, Brenda Day, 67, claimed she grown Pentecostal and began going to a traditional church when she transferred to coastal Virginia. Her kid saw a write-up in the regional paper about 7 Cities Church and recommended she go.
“He’s got leather, pants, and claimed he would certainly never feel comfy going to a regular church,” said Ms. Day, that was wearing a black sports jacket and matching long skirt.
The retired 911 dispatcher said she has actually enjoyed becoming a part of the church and also values that people do not need to be afraid or uncomfortable if they wish to sing loud as well as raise their hands in appreciation.
Resting at a high-top table, JoJo Blevins, 49, stated she started participating after a friend’s recommendation.
“My very first time I felt like I really did not fit in, yet whenever I returned, I liked it a growing number of,” claimed Ms. Blevins, putting on a black leather headband. “The message matters. Everyone’s genuine friendly as well as nonjudgmental.”
Feeling comfy and also welcome is why the church exists, Mr. Rawls said.
Some “old school bikers” that tried to connect with a local church found it challenging to overcome expectations of appearance and didn’t fit in with that spiritual community.
“A lot of were told to leave the outside after that return,” the pastor claimed. “But these guys enjoyed the liberty of the open road and wished to still ride their bikes. They’re looking for love and approval. It’s not our work to tidy ’em. It’s our job to get ’em in the baptistry as well as allow God do the rest.”
Find out more at www.7citiesfbc.com