STURGIS, S.D. — Ordinarily,
Sturgis, S.D., is a charming, Western-style tourist town on the northern end of
the Black Hills. People bound for sites such as Mount Rushmore and the Crazy
Horse Memorial might even miss it, with so much else to see and do.
But the town of about 7,000 people is expected to expand exponentially — maybe
to as many as 700,000 — this Aug. 9-15 for the 70th annual Sturgis Motorcycle
Southern Baptists plan to be ready — and “we need your help,” said Jim
Hamilton, executive director of the Dakota Baptist Convention, which for the
fifth year plans to have an evangelistic outreach at the rally. “We’re
expanding this year to three sites,” Hamilton said, “and that’s going to take a
lot of folks willing to talk with people about the positive difference Jesus
Christ has made in their lives.”
The evangelism strategy at Sturgis will include an opportunity to win a new
Harley-Davidson motorcycle for anyone willing to listen to a three-minute
Each morning during the Sturgis rally, Southern Baptists provide training for
volunteers on how to effectively and succinctly share their faith. By training,
and then doing, and seeing the people they encounter invite Jesus into their
lives, the volunteers return to their homes inspired and equipped to share
their faith in their own community, said Garvon Golden, Sharing Christ
strategist with the Dakota Baptist Convention and overall coordinator of the
“We have seen this to be true in the Dakotas,” Golden said. “Baptisms have
increased over the last three years, and last year we had among the largest
percentage increase in baptisms in the nation. While we can’t tie this directly
to our efforts in Sturgis, surely what we’re doing here is having a ripple
effect back to our churches.
“One of the benefits we see here in the Dakotas is a heightened motivation to
share our faith,” Golden continued. Dakota Baptists are seeing the potency of
telling the story “of how Christ changed their lives.”
In addition to the evangelism tent across the street from the hugely popular
Sturgis Motorcycle Museum and Hall of Fame, a second tent is to be set up at
the Harley-Davidson dealership on the edge of Rapid City, and a third in
Custer, S.D., near the Crazy Horse Memorial.
New this year: a relationship-building ministry at a camp for non-Christian
bikers that will involve nightly concerts of music not normally heard in staid
Southern Baptist churches.
“This camp is for hardcore bikers,” Hamilton said. “We began to realize these
bikers were the least likely to stop and listen to someone give their Christian
testimony. … We’re trying to make it low-key so we don’t mess up what God’s
doing. … This is about God touching people’s hearts and changing lives.”
By providing breakfast and supper at the “clean and sober campground,” along
with security services and relationship-building conversation, Dakota Baptists
hope to break through barriers that will lead to evangelistic conversations.
This is the first year of a five-year commitment by First Baptist Church of
Custer, S.D., to open its church camp to the biker ministry.
“We felt like God wanted us to share the gospel with more people; that’s why we
expanded,” Hamilton said. “On less money we expanded to more ministries, to
touch more people.”
Also new this year: a playing card evangelistic tract designed by Hamilton,
himself a former biker.
“Our poker chip was new last year,” Hamilton said. “It stops people dead in
their tracks when you give them a poker chip. It’s one of those things they
want, a souvenir. For us, it’s relevancy. They want it, and it gives us an
opportunity to engage them in conversation.
“They might not make a profession of faith then, but months later, when they
come across the poker chip in their things, the Holy Spirit could bring
conviction to their heart,” Hamilton said. “Same thing with the playing card.”
“Poker runs” are popular in biker culture these days. These are biker runs in
which the motorcyclist collects a playing card at each of five stops. At the
end of the day, the biker with the best poker hand wins the pot.
“To a traditional Christian, giving a poker chip or a playing card sounds
pretty sinful,” Hamilton acknowledged. “But it’s speaking the hard language of
a biker. That’s relevancy.
“Many people without Christ are familiar with a poker chip and a playing card,”
Hamilton continued. “Why not redesign them and use them to share the gospel?”
The poker chips on one side have “Sturgis Bike Rally 70th anniversary 2010,”
and on the other, a motorcycle and cross outline, with “SturgisBikeGiveaway.com”
around the edge.
The poker chips and playing cards are part of the intentional evangelism
developed by Dakota Baptists that involves a five-part process — relevancy,
receptivity, redemption, relationship, and reproduction, Hamilton explained.
“I think we have discovered an intentional evangelism ‘process’ that will work
one-on-one or at any event where large numbers of people gather,” Hamilton
said. “Its biblical base is found in John 4, where Jesus engaged the woman at
the well in a conversation.”
South Carolina Baptists have been using Dakota’s intentional evangelism process
for two years during its Myrtle Beach Bike Week; Florida Baptists are looking
to implement it at the Daytona Bike Week next year.
“Our problem is not our message,” Hamilton said. “People are open to the gospel.
… At some point we have to stop inviting people to church and calling that
evangelism, and invite them to become a follower of Jesus.
“I believe we need a national emphasis — a strategy — on intentional
evangelism, on ‘sharing your story,’“ the Dakota executive director said. “In
fact, I think we’re desperate for it. We as Southern Baptists have always been
at our best and most effective in doing Kingdom work when we cooperate and
partner together to do more for God than we could ever do alone. … A national
emphasis on intentional evangelism would not only focus us on every Christian
being a missionary, it could also be the catalyst that helps us return
evangelism in the local church to its rightful place.”
With beautiful scenic drives through the Black Hills, attractions like Mount
Rushmore, Crazy Horse, Custer Park, wild buffalo herds and the mining town of
Deadwood, S.D., the Black Hills lure bikers, wannabes and Southern Baptist
volunteers to some of the most fascinating scenery in the nation. For those
interested in traveling a bit further, attractions like Devils Tower in Wyoming
and the South Dakota Badlands add to the area’s appeal.
Southern Baptist ministry at Sturgis will focus not just on hardcore bikers but
also the “people groups” of motorcycle enthusiasts and the people who provide
support services for the week, including vendors of the 1,700 or more tent
businesses catering to bikers, police officers, sheriff’s deputies,
firefighters, emergency medical technicians and personnel who pick up more than
half-million tons of trash tossed during the week.
“You don’t even need to come to Sturgis to have a part in the intentional
evangelism,” Golden said. “We are still looking for teams that can come and
share testimonies under one of the tents during the week of the rally, either
in the morning, afternoon and evening shifts. We also are looking for prayer
teams to prayerwalk or drive Sturgis during our 30 days of prayer for the
rally, but if you can’t be here, we have three other ways you can be a part.”
Golden spoke of prayer, providing printed materials and financial support.
“You may do the Virtual Prayer Walk on www.sturgisbikegiveaway.com,” Golden
said. “A booklet — 30 Days of Prayer for Sturgis — is also available. Prayer is
so vitally integral to what we do here. God works through the prayers of His
people, and we’re asking Him to move in a mighty way. …
“More than 100,000 bikers will pass our booths each day during the rally,”
Golden continued. “We will need biker New Testaments and tracts to distribute.
Any donations toward the purchase of these items would be appreciated.”
Volunteers for the first time this year will be asked to donate $50 to offset
the cost of printed materials.
“Also, we have a budget of $55,000 for the rally,” the DBC Sharing Christ
strategist said. “This budget provides training, booth and vendor spot rental,
a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, housing, city fees, licenses, and other expenses.”
Checks can be made out to the Dakota Baptist Convention, specified for “Sturgis,”
and mailed to DBC-Sturgis, P.O. Box 770, Sioux Falls, SD 57101.
In the first four years of the Sturgis strategy, at least 16,777 people
listened to someone give a personal testimony, and 3,753 first-time professions
of faith in Jesus Christ were made. Names and contact information of those who
make a profession of faith is sent each day to the Evangelism Response Center
at the North American Mission Board, which redirects the information to a
Southern Baptist church near the contact’s home.
“People are walking away from Sturgis with Jesus in their hearts and He is
going to begin to change their life,” Hamilton said. “With this intentional
evangelism, we have been obedient witnesses in a place that desperately needs
Not everyone leaves with Christ as personal Lord and Savior, Hamilton
acknowledged. Some say, “That was a good story” or “I’m at a different place in
my life right now.”
“It is not up to us to save them,” said Buck Hill, SBC Starting Churches
strategist for the Dakota convention. “It’s the Holy Spirit’s job to draw them,
and then God to save them. However, we are called to spread the Good News, and
that’s what we do in Sturgis.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE — Willoughby is managing editor of the Dakota Baptist,
newsjournal of the Dakota Baptist Convention, and of the Louisiana Baptist
Message, newsjournal for churches in the Louisiana Baptist Convention.)