Va. Bikers Transform Run-Down Bar Into New Church Home

Black leather, tattoos and jeans are the proper Sunday worship attire at a Virginia biker church that meets in a former troubled bar. Opening its doors to 55 worshippers, Sunday marked the first service in the building formerly used for late-night drinking and clubbing.

Seven Cities Freedom Bikers Church (SCFBC) in Chesapeake, Va., is home to bikers who share a common love for motorcycles and Jesus. They call the Bible their "Owner's Manual for life" and they ride for Christ's sake on the open road. Blakely's Nightclub is the former bar that the church now uses for Sunday worship services, and much like many of the bikers' lives, the bar is also transformed.

Associate Pastor Max Rawls told The Christian Post in an interview Monday that the new location for the church is "pretty cool." Rawls went on to say that the location is "turning into something that is for good. Bikers are known for negative things and we are taking a building that was used for negative and using it for good. We are doing something that is kingdom minded."

SCFBC began its search for a new facility on Craigslist, looking for a building they could call home for their small, growing congregation that is associated with the Sothern Baptist Convention. The pastors were looking for a building that they could expand and not have to move due to growth in two years or so.

The owner of the building that housed the former bar took the church leadership on a tour of the run- down building that had been closed for the last two years. Once inside, they saw leftovers from the last party, but also saw potential. They knew that this was the location for their church. The potential outweighed the current state it was in, they thought.

At SCFBC, there are worshippers who had patronized the facility back when it was a bar, and this is one of the reasons why Rawls is so excited. "It's fun to see them come back and help with the clean-up and the painting. It just shows the transformation in their lives too," Rawls explained.

On the first Thursday of every month, the church goes out to biker bars and cooks hotdogs for the bikers as an outreach. During riding season they go out for rides with the bikers. "We just try to consistently be a light in a dark place," Rawls emphasized.

Outreach is the biggest reason why "Seven Cites" was chosen as the church name. It represents the seven cities that the church is surrounded by and the hope that residents of all these cities will be members of the congregation. Rawls said, "I am a former student of Wave Leadership College here in the area. The church is in the Chesapeake area but we are also near Norfolk, Virginia Beach and Hampton. We don't want to just limit our outreach to only one of those seven cities."

The church professes to welcome anyone, regardless of if they are a biker or not. Responding to the commonly asked question of whether or not a visitor or member has to ride or own a motorcycle, they responded, "Of course not! Maybe you will never ride, you're still welcomed to join us. Just remember our vision and passion is to reach the motorcycle community. We are all about real relationship with Jesus Christ, and are passionate about the open road."

SCFBC's mission states that they are bikers reaching bikers, going out into the world, with the message of "real" freedom in Jesus Christ. Their motto is freedom according to John 8:36, "If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed."

There are currently 13 biker churches affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention. SCFBC's new location has the potential to hold 600 people and they plan to do a full launch to invite area bikers within the next month. The church holds "Hangout Time" at 10am and the "Worship Rally" at 10:30am on Sundays.

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