ROSSVILLE, Ind. (AP) — Riding into small towns on his black and ice blue Harley-Davidson Electra Glide touring motorcycle, wearing jeans, earrings and a T-shirt revealing heaven’s gates tattooed on his left arm and hell’s flames on his right, some wouldn’t guess that was headed to church.
They’d pull their kids out of the way and give him “the eyeball,” he said. Once they saw him walk into the pulpit, their jaws would fall to the floor in surprise that the “Bull” was preaching.
But then they realized that although he might be wearing jeans or leather chaps, “he puts them on one leg at a time just like (they) do,” Phillips told the Journal & Courier.
As a Christian and longtime biker, Phillips found a calling that married his two passions – biker ministry. The minister-in-training – who’s working on his local pastor’s license through the United Methodist Church – started a biker appreciation day last year with the help other Christian bikers and is heading up a new biker worship service called Broken Chains Biker Ministries that will begin meeting June 1 at The Lions Den café and bakery in Rossville.
“I felt called to go the next step and create a place where bikers can go to church without going into a church,” Phillips said. “We will never meet in a church building.”
A lot of bikers have been misjudged and as a result they want nothing to do with church, he said.
“You don’t have to go into a church building to get close to God,” he said.
Initially, Broken Chains will be another outreach offered by Dayton United Methodist Church.
But the goal is to become an independent church in the near future, Phillips said.
Mike Dominick, lead pastor of Dayton UMC, said the church wanted the service to be relevant to people in the motorcycle community.
“We want to bring the love of Christ to them in a way that bikers can relate and not in a church building where they might be reluctant to come,” he said.
Instead of worshipping with a traditional hymnal during the new service, participants will sing Christian rewrites of classic rock songs such as Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Sweet Home Alabama and Steppenwolf’s Born to be Wild, played by a worship band. The service will be held inside The Lions Den and will include prayer and a short sermon delivered by Phillips.
Amanda Oakes, owns the Lions Den café and bakery in Rossville with her husband Brent. The couple opened the restaurant in June 2013 primarily as a way to share their Christian faith.
Amanda said they feel “blessed” to have been asked to host the new ministry, she said.
“We wanted to open our doors as a neutral location where they can come and feel comfortable,” she said. “To them, it would look more like a restaurant rather than a church.”
The vision for the new service was Phillips’ brainchild and it grew out of rides he organized with Dayton UMC to show bikers appreciation.
“I really didn’t plan this,” Phillips said. “I had no idea it was going to happen. (But) there’s room and there’s an interest. A lot of bikers are looking for something more and we just want to give them an opportunity to find out what that something is.”