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This year's Sturgis rally goal: plant a church for bikers

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
STURGIS, S.D. (BP)--After this year's Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, Baptists in the Dakotas want to birth a church.

"We would like to have a church planter and core group in place in the Black Hills by the end of this year," said Garvon Golden, interim executive director of the Dakota Baptist Convention.


"What we envision is that this would be the first of many churches across the Dakotas and beyond started as a result of what we do here at Sturgis the first week of August each year."

Dakota Baptists' evangelism ministry at Sturgis involves about 250 volunteers from across the country who share their faith at the annual gathering of about 500,000 bikers and biker-wannabes -- arguably the largest motorcycle event in the world.

The volunteers are trained in giving three-minute testimonies of the change God has made in their lives to "the affinity group we call 'bikers,'" as Golden put it. Anyone at Sturgis willing to listen then can enter a drawing for a brand-new Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

The annual rally in the northern part of the Black Hills in western South Dakota has, over its 71-year history, enticed many people to move to the area, but few churches are ready to meet their specific needs.

"For some, Sturgis is where the healing begins," Golden said. "We have people come to the tent who are on the fast track to unmentionable places, and they know it, and we talk with them, and they see a way out.

"Their lives change, and it's a whole new world for them."

Some people return to their homes, but some start a new life in the Black Hills. The church that hopefully will start this fall in the Black Hills Area Baptist Association is for those who stay and those who made their home years ago in the area because of their biker interests.


"We need a church planter who wants to start a church for bikers," Golden said. "We're just waiting on God to send His man here, someone who is comfortable with people in the biker culture, someone who can start a church that multiplies itself."

And while Dakota Baptists are waiting, they're busy with the final details for this year's outreach at the Aug. 8-14 Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. The tent will be open from Aug. 6-13 in the usual location on Main Street across from the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum.

"It starts months out with prayer," Golden said, "praying while on our website -- -- virtually prayerwalking Sturgis and the Black Hills, and dedicated intercession by prayer warriors across the nation for the people we will be having contact with....

"About one out of every five people we talk with makes a profession of faith," Golden said. "The Holy Spirit takes the words of the volunteers sharing their faith, and somehow turns it into just exactly what someone is needing to hear."

Also during the rally, a "clean and sober" camp for bikers at a camp owned by First Baptist Church in Custer will be operated by Set Free Ministries leaders from South Dakota, Montana and Colorado.

"How to effectively share your faith in three minutes" training will take place Monday and Tuesday during the rally at First Baptist Church in Sturgis.


Chaplains from Oklahoma and Dakota disaster relief teams are set again this year to minister to vendors of T-shirts, tattoos and everything remotely interesting to bikers, as well as to police and fire personnel and other behind-the-scenes people who make Sturgis "happen," each year.

In Dakota Baptists' five years of intentional evangelism ministry at Sturgis, 23,779 Gospel seeds were planted and 4,933 people prayed to receive Christ.

For more information on Dakota Baptists' outreach at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, contact Garvon Golden at or 605-877-1163.

Karen L. Willoughby is managing editor of the Louisiana Baptist Message, Dakota Baptist Connections and The Montana Baptist, official newsjournals for those state conventions.

Copyright (c) 2011 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press

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