Motorcycle minister finds his calling among other enthusiasts
By DAMIAN DOMINGUEZ
When Dennis Reynolds became a Christian, he told himself he was turning his back on motorcycles. That was in 1993. He had just made the choice to quit drinking and pursue a different life. “I had been in the army and nearly got kicked out because of my alcohol abuse.
I was barred from re-enlisting,” he said. “I told myself I was done with motorcycles when I became a Christian.” At the time, abandoning motorcycles and the culture that came with them seemed like the smart choice as Reynolds sought to right himself. That lifestyle, though, was something he’d been a part of his entire life. He and his brother grew up loving motorcycles — Reynolds wanted to be the next Evel Knievel when he grew up. He got his first road bike in 1981, a Yamaha 550 Maxim.
Even as he started thinking that leaving that all behind was how he needed to move forward, he said he could hear God calling him to ministry in his own community. He joined a local Christian motorcycle group in the Greenwood area, but it fell apart soon after. It wasn’t until 1998 that he learned about Bikers for Christ Motorcycle Ministry. “Bikers for Christ was more about the ministry, actually reaching out to people, than other ministries I had looked at,” Reynolds said. “I hesitate to call us bikers. It’s not broad enough. These people, motorcycle people, are our friends. They’re our neighbors.” There were three chapters of BFC in South Carolina when Reynolds joined — now there are double that, with Reynolds leading the Lakelands chapter and fellow Greenwood motorcycle enthusiast Jay Pruitt as the state elder. “As Christians, one of the things we’re asked to do is to reach out and spread the gospel of the disciples,” Pruitt said. “Everyone here has different skills. You can reach a different audience than I can.” There are about 20 members in the Lakelands chapter now, and Reynolds said they’re the first to admit that they are imperfect people. Every member is walking their own path toward righteousness, and some members come from backgrounds of substance abuse and similar. To that end, BFC serves both as ministry and support group. Members never travel alone.
“And that’s by design,” said Kevin Simpson, who said he quit drinking 15 years ago. “If I go to a clubhouse or a party, I might be tempted to have a drink — but if I’m with one of these guys, I have to answer to them.” Reynolds said the group is built with support and trust as its foundation. He can rely on any other member, just as they can rely on him. Through their steadfast efforts, they’ve built relationships throughout the local motorcycle community. “I can’t tell you how many times we get called to the hospital for someone who was just in a wreck, or someone whose mother is dying of cancer and they just need someone to pray with,” he said.
Reynolds said this is a mission field like any other — but the people in BFC are a part of this community of motorcycle enthusiasts, so their efforts don’t come off as proselytizing or pushing people toward giving themselves to Christ. Instead, Reynolds said he tries to share his love for Christ through his actions everywhere he goes. “The group holds an annual Blessing of the Bikes event. In its first year, the blessing brought in a total of 70 people, now bringing over 1,100 people” Pruitt said. Reynolds said while he was out there, a woman came up to him and introduced herself. “She said, ‘My boyfriend really wanted to come today. He had it marked on his calendar,’” Reynolds said. The woman’s boyfriend had taken his own life, and she came to Reynolds to tell him she was planning to learn how to ride so she could ride her boyfriend’s motorcycle in his honor. Reynolds said she asked to pray with him, which he was happy to oblige.
“Things like that happen often,” he said. When John Ruley and Tommy Burdette — the heads of the Lakelands chapter of a well known 1% motorcycle club — died in a May 2018 wreck, Reynolds said it caused ripples throughout the community of motorcycle lovers. Ruley had been to Reynolds’ shop behind his house numerous times. Ruley had even given Reynolds some of the tools he uses today. Reynolds had plans to take Ruley with him to church the morning after the wreck happened.
When it came time to eulogize both men, their families and the 1% club members asked Reynolds and Pruitt to proceed over the services. “It moved me and Jay beyond belief that his family and his club asked us to do that — both John and Tommy,” Reynolds said. “It’s these experiences,” Reynolds said, “that frustrate him when people carry the perception that all motorcycle people are drunks, addicts or womanizers.” “They’re the most giving, patriotic people I’ve ever known,” he said. “I had a wreck in 2015. I made a single phone call and not fewer than 15 people showed up.”
BFC’s motto is “some wish to live within the sound of church or chapel bells, we want to run a rescue shop within a yard of hell.” Reynolds and his fellow motorcycle missionaries go where they’re most needed, and the culture they’re all a part of provides ample chance to share their faith. “Just in riding my motorcycle, going around town, I know there’s a sermon in everything you see,” Reynolds said.
Editor’s Note: THANK YOU Dennis, for what you do and for your service Sir!