Ever notice just how fast it is that people make first impressions of you? Google that subject online and you will find estimates ranging from 30 seconds all the way down to fractions of one second, all based on facial appearance, clothing, and body language. I became acutely aware of first impressions when I became part of the Christian bikers community. There is just something about wearing black leather motorcycle gear that evokes a gut level negative first impression with a lot of folks. Maybe its that classic stereotype of long haired, smoking and drinking, tattooed guys living on the “wild side,” or worse, riding with a “gang.” Introducing myself as a member of the Christian Motorcyclists Association often elicits a puzzled look, as though that might be a contradiction in terms.
! had one young fellow ask me “What do you guys do, pick fights with the outlaw bikers?” “No,” I replied, “We just show them the love of Christ” — and I watched that surprised expression turn into a smile. I’ve had older mature saints assume it was just an immature “phase” that I would eventually grow out of. Some thought I might be having a midlife crisis! Others simply assumed I was unaware of the great risk involved in riding a motorcycle on the streets with cell phone distracted drivers (believe me, we are aware)! Others thought we were simply blowing off tension and stress, or getting addicted to an adrenaline rush (aren’t those contradictory?) while finding other like minded Christians to have fun with. Very few ever thought of it as a “Christian ministry.”
In its 28 years of existence, CMA has raised over 63 million dollars to spread the Gospel throughout the world through cooperative missionary efforts such as Brother Andrew’s Open Doors Ministry, the Jesus Film Project, and Missionary Ventures International. We have chapters in 192 of 196 countries of the world. Over 21 million individuals worldwide have come to Christ because of those efforts, along with about 14,000 here in the U.S. Wouldn’t you say that is a “Christian Ministry”? If I let myself be affected by people’s first impressions of me — misjudgments and stereotypes — I would have missed out on playing my small role as chaplain in this ministry, the direction in which I felt God was leading me. All of us come from different backgrounds and have varying talents and giftings.
Somewhere in your lifetime you might feel the Lord directing you to invest a lot of energy, time, and money into a Christian para-church ministry congruent with your interests — whether it be sports, music, disaster relief, charity based efforts, profession related interests, etc. There is always going to be someone who misjudges your motives. Why are you spending so much time on the golf course — the “Christian Golfers Association ministry”? Sure — (wink). The one whose impression of you that you should really be concerned about is the one who calls you to it — your Heavenly Father. By this time most of those New Year Resolutions have already fallen by the wayside. How about focusing intently on that God-inspired passion birthed in your heart by the Holy Spirit and partner up with other similarly inspired Christians to reach the hurting members of your circle of influence, your community, with the hope of Christ? That has eternal rewards.
Stephen Rowland is chaplain for the Knights For Christ of Columbia (Christian Motorcyclists Association).