By Mitch Traphagen (firstname.lastname@example.org)
BRANDON - It is true that most of them were middle age. It is likely that most have been successful in both their careers and in their lives.
It is even true that pretty much everyone in the room was a Baptist.
These people were, however, rebels. Despite the age group, the careers and even the Baptist affiliation, there was a plethora of black leather, tattoos and earrings, among other piercings. A large number of their motorcycles were parked outside of the church sitting on a quiet suburban street.
This was a group of rebels but they most certainly were not without a cause.
On August 7, several members of the Bell Shoals Baptist Church in Brandon officially became a part of the F.A.I.T.H. Riders Motorcycle Ministry.
Members of the F.A.I.T.H. Riders from the First Baptist Church at the Mall in Lakeland were on hand to present the charter and to present the colors, the official patch of the F.A.I.T.H. Riders.
The Lakeland F.A.I.T.H. Riders began more than a year ago. Their ministry has become successful beyond their expectations. The Bell Shoals group is looking for the same success.
The mission of the group is to spread the word of God to segments of the population that is out of the reach of the more traditional aspects of the church.
They are committed to motorcycles but they are far more committed to their mission.
The Lakeland F.A.I.T.H. Riders meet for Bike Night on the third Thursday of each month. They also meet for a group ride on the first Saturday of the month. Additionally, they have completed longer rides to Georgia and to New Orleans.
They are not just out for the fun of it. Their mission comes first, they volunteer their time and money along the way.
At Bell Shoals Baptist Church, things were off to a good start. According to ministry organizer Jim Wigh, more than 100 people were in attendance for the inaugural event, the groupís first Bike Night. The Bell Shoals Bike Night will be held on the first Thursday of each month and group rides are already being planned.
Motorcycle ministries are increasing both in number and in members. In addition to the F.A.I.T.H. Riders, the Christian Motorcycle Association and Bikers for Christ are among the larger organizations. Despite some differences in style, there is little in the way of competition between the organizations. They all have the same goal, after all.
After the charter and the colors were presented, the Bell Shoals Bike Night concluded with a thought provoking lesson by the church chaplain, Charles Young. His plain speaking style resonated with the leather and tattoo clad audience. It provided an indicator that Bell Shoals Baptist understands their new mission and is prepared to carry out their new responsibility.
Pastor Dave McClamma of Lakeland also provided a reminder. "This is not a gang or a club or a group, per se. This is a ministry," he said. "This is awesome and we thank God for it."