The thunder is about to roll into the peaceful Bamboo valley in Boone when an estimated 500 motorcyclists are expected in town for a special kind of worship service on July 10.
The third annual Thunder Sunday at Mount Vernon Baptist Church, supported by the local Peacemakers chapter of the Christian Motorcyclist Association, offers the gospel message in a comfortable, casual atmosphere, perfect for those who might not otherwise enter a formal church setting.
“It won’t be your grandma’s church service,” said Keith Honeycutt, Peacemakers’ chaplain, who is also the CMA’s North Carolina prayer coordinator and will be delivering a message based on the life of Peter.
“The message will be something that we, as bikers, can all relate to,” Honeycutt said. “It’s about how, like Peter, we are often called to get out of our comfort zone, how we’ve got to get out of our boat, keep our eyes on Jesus, trust him to help us walk through difficult waters — and save us from drowning.”
It is also important, Honeycutt said, that everyone realizes there are no problems God can’t take care of — and that there is nothing we’ve ever done that God won’t and can’t forgive.
Contemporary Christian music provided by C.J. Ballard and the 13th Tribe, Honeycutt said, “won’t be regular worship music. It’s going to be cranked up a bit.”
Attendance has grown with each new Thunder Sunday, Honeycutt said, with many participants reporting “life-changing experiences.”
“We are hoping for at least 500 this year and are encouraging other bikers to spread the word. This is an open service where we want everyone to feel comfortable — and it doesn’t matter what patch you wear or what motorcycle you ride. Everyone is invited,” he said.
“These are good people who respectfully accept the invitation and feel honored that the doors of our church are open to them,” he said.
According to church pastor Greg Heisler, “Mount Vernon is excited to host Thunder Sunday again. This event continues to grow as word gets out about this great opportunity to ride to the mountains, listen to some good music, hear some great preaching — and leave feeling loved and appreciated. I am very thankful for our members who have taken leadership roles in this ministry. It’s a great way for Mount Vernon to keep reaching out with the good news of Jesus Christ.”
Numerous members of the Peacemaker’s club are also members of Mount Vernon Baptist Church, Heisler said, including Honeycutt, as well as road captain Danny Crithcer, current president Matt Connell and vice president David Trivette, as well as their wives and several others.
For Critcher, a lifelong member of Mount Vernon and CMA member since 2006, it is a joy to help his home church make this event possible.
“I am very blessed to be part of a ministry where we can ride our motorcycle and let others see the love of Jesus in our lives,” he said. “Thunder Sunday is a respectful, humble time spent on sacred ground, and one in which several people recommit their lives to the Lord each year.”
David Trivette considers Thunder Sunday as an opportunity to serve and befriend those you might not necessarily get to experience the love found in the Christian family.
“That would be exactly what I want to see happen — folks receiving the love of Jesus and the opportunity to hear the truth of what Christ has for us,” he said. “Namely, the gift of forgiveness through the cross and accepting Jesus Lord and Savior.
Each motorcycle club represented at Thunder Sunday will be entered into a drawing for $200.
Registration begins at 10 a.m. in the church parking lot with coffee and doughnuts.
Church members, including the Peacemakers, will welcome guests and join them in the church sanctuary for the 11:15 a.m. service.
More about CMA
The Christian Motorcyclist Association is a nonprofit, interdenominational organization dedicated to reaching people for Christ through motorcycles. Its only membership requirement is a testimony of faith in Jesus Christ.
Since its beginning in the mid-1970s, CMA has had more than 160,000 applications for membership and nearly 1,300 chapters chartered globally.
CMA is not a club or a gang, but is described by local members as “a ministry in which conferences and rallies, conducted by staff evangelists, prepare members to be a shining light in a secular world.”
It was the organization’s doctrinal statement, Critcher said, that drew him to CMA.
Connell, who has been a motorcycle rider his whole life, was unfamiliar with CMA, he said, until Critcher invited him in.
“I came into it looking for friends, a brotherhood, of sorts, and I definitely found it,” he said. “We enjoy spending time together sharing Jesus with others — and if they come to know him through our ministry, it’s icing on the cake.”
About the Peacemakers
Acknowledged as “evangelists on wheels,” the Peacemakers, as well as CMA chapters across the country, seek to change the world, Critcher said, “one heart at a time.”
About half of the Peacemakers’ membership of 60 is actively involved in group functions on a regular basis, and new members are always welcomed to join — whether they have a motorcycle or not. Extra volunteer help is always needed at most of their functions.
The Peacemakers are respected wherever they go, easily recognized by their patches and their tent, both of which easily stand out as beacons, especially in secular crowds, he said.
While their evangelism outreach is geared primarily to the motorcycling community, their service to humanity is without borders, according to Critcher.
It’s not uncommon to see the members serving water to marathon runners, or popcorn and cotton candy to youngsters at a church or community event, directing traffic and parking at rallies or providing first aid or offering emotional or spiritual comfort to hurting individuals.
The CMA hosts an annual Run for the Son, a ministrywide fundraiser that in 29 years has raised more than $58 million to help spread the good news of salvation through Christ.
As a direct result, 21 million known individuals have professed their faith. The group also hosts the Dillion Critcher Memorial Ride, and assists fellow members, Kris and Becky Fowler, in raising money to buy Christmas gifts for less fortunate children through their High Country Toy Run.
They also participate in the Boone Bike Rally, the William Mast Memorial Ride, Samaritan’s Purse’s Operation Heal Our Patriots and Bikers with Boxes, Combat Veterans Ride hosted by the Harley Davidson dealership in Wilkesboro and Mount Vernon’s annual Fall Family Festival. They attend numerous state and national CMA events and participate in other gatherings, including Rolling Thunder, the annual Memorial Day ride to honor veterans in Washington, D.C., and Biketober Fest in Daytona Beach, Fla.
The Peacemakers are often called to Watauga Medical Center to offer support and prayer when cyclists are injured in accidents.
“Blessing of the Bikes” is a highlight of CMA for the Peacemakers, said Critcher. “We do this almost everywhere we go — pray over the bike and its rider. Once the bike is ‘blessed,’ an identifying sticker is placed upon the machine, with the owner’s consent.”
It is vital, the members said, that their group conduct itself in a way that upholds biblical principles.
“When people see us wearing our vests with that CMA patch on the back, we need to be representing Christ and to be seen as men and women of integrity,” Critcher said. “Most people respect us for that and know that we can be counted on to help and not cause any problems, wherever we are.”
Join the Peacemakers
The Peacemakers meet at 8 a.m. on the first Saturday of every month at Dan’l Boone Inn in Boone for breakfast, fellowship and a short meeting. Owning or riding a motorcycle is not a membership requirement.
“The fellowship of a group of Christian motorcycle riders can’t be beat,” Critcher said, “but telling others about Jesus and seeing someone come to accept the Lord as their personal savior is priceless.”
For more information about Thunder Sunday, contact Mount Vernon Baptist Church at (828) 266-9700.
To learn more about CMA, contact Connell at (828) 773-0180 or Critcher at (828) 964-2100.