Black Sheep: Harley-Davidsons for Christ was born out of a burden and vision to take the Gospel where it was not well known. In 1999, there were more than a dozen Christian motorcycle organizations in Southern California and yet all would recognize that they were either not involved with or effective with Harley Owners Group (H.O.G.). While some groups were spending most of their time and efforts with outlaws, prison ministry and drug recovery groups, other organizations were involved with starting churches and serving the greater motorcycle community. While all of these are good and noble approaches to ministry, the largest motorcycle organization in the world (2 milion) was still going unreached by the greater Christian community.
Marty Edwards was a pastor and overseer of eight churches in Southwest Riverside County in Southern California. He called the local Harley dealership one day to come and retrieve his Heritage Softail because it had a flat tire. The young man who arrived with the truck was named Michael Butters. A young man in his late teens or early twenties, tall and skinny with long shoulder length blonde hair, quietly and carefully loaded the bike into the truck. As Pastor Marty rode with Michael back to the shop, he was deeply impressed to strike up a conversation and share with Michael the truth about Jesus Christ. New in the motorcycle community and intimidated by the opportunity, Marty remained silent on the subject and settled for small talk.
A week later, Michael Butters was dead. Riding to work one morning, Michael attempted to pass a long line of stopped traffic on the right side; a practice known as “white lining.” At the intersection, the lead vehicle, a large truck, decided to turn right and in doing so struck and killed Michael. News of Michael’s death hit Marty very hard. The pastor could not escape the question, “Where was Michael now?”
When Marty heard about Michael, he came to the local dealership and approached owner Rich Quaid. After explaining that he was a local pastor and HOG member, Pastor Marty asked if there was anything he could do. Rich and the employees were devastated by the morning’s news. The answer that Rich gave to Marty Edwards was received as almost prophetic; a personal invitation from God. Quaid said, “You can do anything you want.” From there, the pastor moved from the mechanic’s shop to motorcycle sales to then clothing; speaking and praying with the employees. Some opened their hearts. Others cried. All welcomed the opportunity to talk. A ministry was born.
There was no intent or plan to start a statewide ministry, let alone a international one. A few friends from Pastor Marty’s church known as “The Lamb’s Fellowship” (Murrieta) began riding together. They spoke of designing a patch and coming up with a name. Being members of a church named the LAMB’S fellowship, the small group of Harley riders was often teased for being the “black sheep” of the congregation. The name not only stuck, but seemed to make perfect sense in light of Biblical passages which described Christians as outcasts, aliens and foreigners.
The original design of the Black Sheep patch was as you see it today; a circle with a shield and cross, with a banner crossing its’ center. The words of Roman’s 1:16 circle the border: “I am not ashamed of the Gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes…” A horse and rider, a Crusader actually, are at the top of the patch. Two capitol “M’s” are on either side of the cross signifying that this is a motorcycle ministry and not a club. The patch encompasses the themes of the Cross of Christ, Salvation, Spiritual Warfare and Mission.
The original colors of the patch were black, red and silver. A local outlaw gang decided that the colors were too close to theirs, a practice that we later learned was applied to any new group lobbying for permission to ride under a banner. Under the threat of retaliation, the colors were changed to shades of brown and gold, reminiscent of the HOG patch.
The first hint of Black Sheep becoming something more than a Southern California phenomenon came when a group of riders road through the Temecula Valley on their way to San Diego. Bill and Cathy Dumas (Livermore, CA) led the group who stopped at the local Harley dealership for a rest. Cathy Dumas picked up one of the Black Sheep newsletters and announced to the group that this was exactly what they had been looking for. This was the beginning of a statewide ministry.
From this humble beginning we have now grown into an international ministry. We are excited to watch Black Sheep spread across this country and across the world. We now hold an annual International Leadership Summit with representatives from each chapter world wide.