When Christians learn that I am both a pastor and a member of a secular motorcycle club, they are curious. But usually, in the course of our conversation, they tell me how they could never do what I do.
To the contrary, I want Christians to know that they can and should be doing something very much like my outreach to bikers. We are called to be salt and light in the world (Matthew 5:13-16). How do we expect the world to see our works unless we are among them (1 Peter 2:12)? Or are we merely expecting them to come to us? Jesus has sent us all into the world in the same way that He was sent (John 17:18).
Here are some tips for building meaningful relationships with those who do not share your faith:
Pray. When I first came to realize how poorly I was doing, in responding to God’s call to live among non-Christians, I focused on Matthew 9:38: “Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” Every day I begged God to show me whom I was to be involved with and how to go about doing it. Within a few weeks it was as if the opportunity came to me. Joining a motorcycle club had not been on my list of possible opportunities. But when God allowed my path to cross that of a few of these men, it was obvious.
Do what you love. Starting with prayer does not mean that you simply sit back and wait. Begin to put yourself in places where relationships might start. Most likely, where God uses you will involve an interest you already have. I love motorcycles. You may love golf, cars, hunting, fashion, reading or crafts. There are others who love these things, too, and they also need Jesus. You may be knee-deep in involvement in a hobby, but perhaps you do it alone or with other Christians. Go find non-Christians who love what you love and share life with them.
Invite them in. As you share common experiences, do not just leave it at that. Invite your friends to go deeper in relationship with you. Start by inviting them to a meal. Have their family over for dinner. Begin to do more life together. Remember, the point is for you to get to know them and for them to get to know you.
Live a life worthy of the gospel. You will be getting to know people very well, and they you. Are you upholding a lifestyle that reflects the character of Jesus, while at the same time allowing them to be completely non-Christian in their lifestyle? You do not get to judge them. Jesus will do that sometime in the future, which is why you are doing this in the first place.
It may get boring. Really, it will. You would think that hanging out with bikers is always exciting. Yet at times I want to move on to something else. I think the boredom mainly comes because we do not share a common faith. I must continually remind myself why I am there: This is not a short-term mission trip; it is a relationship. When you share life with people, they will naturally see the effect Jesus has on your life. If you put time into this journey, you will find yourself giving a reason for the hope that is in you.
A word for pastors:
Hold your staff to this. Imagine what your church might look like if your staff modeled this kind of life and your people began to follow. Years ago I was an associate pastor in a church where outside evangelism was in the job description of each lead staff member. We were even allowed to carve time out of our workweek to make it happen.
We began every staff meeting with brief reports of where we were investing our time—celebrating and holding each other accountable. One staff member believed there was no place for her to get involved with non-Christians. Every meeting she was challenged to keep trying, until she found herself developing relationships in a quilting group. She had found her place.
Find your place in the world—with nonbelievers who love what you love—and share life with them.
Drew Arliskas is lead pastor of Mountain Vista Bible Church (EFCA) in Mesa, Arizona, and a member (former president) of his local chapter of Sober Riders. Read about his first introduction to the bike club at EFCA Now.