Bikers and Bars: Churches get creative to draw worshippers

March 1, 2010 4:34:29 AM PST
Thinking out of the box. That's what some local churches are doing to attract worshipers who may not feel comfortable in traditional church settings.

Case in point: Freedom Biker Church in Angier, a church aimed squarely at motorcycle enthusiasts. “Folks that are coming here just feel like sometimes they just don’t fit into other churches or just not welcome in the other churches,” says Associate Pastor Rusty Rawls. “We’ve got that atmosphere where folks just love one another.”

Each Sunday morning, FBC is packed with enthusiastic worshipers, many sporting black leather and tattoos. But don’t let outward appearances fool you. There’s a lot of love there, too.

Says Rawls: “If you don’t want to be hugged or anything this is definitely not the place for you. Because definitely when you come here, folks are gonna hug on you, and they’re gonna love you.”

Member Scotty Alston agrees: “You can feel the love when you walk up here, just feel the love.”

Some of the music may remind you of a Texas roadhouse, but the teaching is traditional Southern Baptist. Members like Helen Gibson love the casual, friendly environment. “I don’t have to try to put on the best clothes I’ve got, or anything else, to come and praise the Lord.”

Another church that’s thinking “out of the box” meets in Raleigh on Sunday nights -- in a bar. It’s called Another Level. Begun last fall, Another Level it’s an off-shoot of Benson Memorial United Methodist Church, aimed at 20-somethings who may feel ignored in more mainstream churches.

“We’re getting a great reaction,” says Pastor Ed Priestaf. “We’re finding people that have never been to church, might even not be Christians, or have not come for a long time. They are coming back, and they’re bringing their friends.”

Another Level meets at the Oliver Twist Lounge on Creedmoor Road. Sometimes live bands are showcased. At other times, a DJ plays eclectic music specially chosen to match the theme of the night – and Pastor Priestaf’s message. “There is a message each night,” he says. “It’s an invitation to consider something and add that to their worldview, and really think about how a relationship with God could enrich their life.”

Says member Erica Strother: “All my friends that have come so far love it. And when I first told them about the idea they said, ‘if that’s what church is then I would actually go to church.’ And a lot of them have been coming back, so it’s actually working.”

Freedom Biker Churchand Another Level may be very different in their worship styles but they both have the same goal: to reach out to the left out.

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