By Sherrie Norris
Thunder Sunday is fast becoming a tradition in the High Country as hundreds of motorcycles head to Boone for a unique Sunday morning service at Mount Vernon Baptist Church.
The mighty roar of the bikes, coming from near and far, will rattle the peaceful Bamboo Valley, but it’s all in good faith.
It’s the sixth annual gathering of its kind, taking place this Sunday, July 14, with a message of hope and inspiration to be shared with members and guests, alike.
It’s going to be a special kind of worship service, organizers said, and “not exactly your grandmother’s church service,” but she’s welcome to come, too.
Thunder Sunday at Mount Vernon Baptist Church is supported by the local Peacemakers chapter of the Christian Motorcyclist Association and offers the gospel message in a comfortable, casual atmosphere —ideal for those who might not otherwise enter a formal church setting, said Peacemaker’s President Keith Honeycutt, who is also the CMA’s North Carolina prayer coordinator.
Honeycutt will share a message based on the Bible passage found in Acts 9 about Saul’s conversion on the way to Damascus. “This message is one we all need to hear, including the bikers, and one we can all relate to,” said Honeycutt, “It will be a message of hope, in that we can be sure that anytime we deal with God, we always deal with God on His terms. In our life, or walk with God, we cannot go through life attempting to do good things and expect to get into heaven because of what we have done.
Salvation belongs to God and it is His way only to grace and peace.”
Special music will be provided by well-known contemporary Christian artist, C.J. Ballard, who, Honeycutt said, “will crank things up a bit from regular worship music.”
Each year, Honeycutt said, attendance increases each year, as well as life-changing experiences happening for many.
“We are always hoping for around 500 bikers each year, and are encouraging others to spread the word,” Honeycutt added. “This is an open service where we want everyone to feel comfortable — and it doesn’t matter what back patch you wear or what motorcycle you ride. Everyone is invited, even if you don’t ride, you are welcome.”
Thunder Sunday is an opportunity for people to come into the church who might not otherwise find themselves in a typical church setting, Honeycutt added. “These are good people who respectfully accept the invitation and feel honored that the doors of our church are open to them.”
According to the church’s associate pastor, Bud Russell, “We are looking forward to a good number of people in the biker communities in other nearby regions coming to join us for Thunder Sunday. Our aim is to welcome bikers to fellowship with us and come to a worship service which is specifically arranged with music and a message that relates to them. The hope of the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ will be shared and we are expecting a great turnout as hundreds have joined us in recent years.”
Several members of the Peacemakers are also members of Mount Vernon Baptist Church, Russell said, including Honeycutt, as well as road captain Danny Critcher and others.
A lifelong member of Mount Vernon and CMA member since 2006, Critcher said it continues to be an honor and privilege to help his home church host this event. “I am very blessed to be part of a ministry where we can ride our motorcycle and let others see the love of Jesus in our lives,” he said. “Thunder Sunday is a respectful, humble time spent on sacred ground, and one in which several people recommit their lives to the Lord each year.”
Each club represented at Thunder Sunday will be entered into a drawing for $200 cash.
“Registration will be a little different this year, since we will be serving lunch instead of the traditional doughnuts and coffee,” said Honeycutt. “Lunch will include BBQ, fries, slaw and drink. Lunch will be served from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., then the service will begin at 1 p.m. Church members, including the Peacemakers, will welcome guests and join them in the church sanctuary for the service.”
More about CMA
The Christian Motorcyclist Association is a nonprofit, interdenominational organization dedicated to reaching people for Christ through motorcycles. Its only membership requirement is a testimony of faith in Jesus Christ.
Since CMA kicked off in the mid-70s, it has welcomed more than 200, 000 applications for membership, and has chartered 1,300-plus chapters around the world.
CMA is not a club or a gang, Honeycutt stressed, but rather, it is a ministry in which conferences and rallies, conducted by staff evangelists, prepare members to be a shining light in a secular world.”
Critcher said that organization’s doctrinal statement drew him to CMA.
Peacemakers, Evangelists on Wheels
The Peacemakers, along with other CMA chapters from coast to coast, are easily considered “evangelists on wheels” who are seeking to change the world, “one heart at a time,” said Critcher.
Currently, about one-third of the Peacemaker’s members are actively involved in group functions on a regular basis, and new members are always welcomed to join — whether they have a motorcycle or not. Extra volunteer help is always needed at most of their functions.
The Peacemakers are respected wherever they go, easily recognized by their patches and their tent, both of which easily stand out as beacons, especially in secular settings.
With evangelism outreach efforts geared primarily to the motorcycling community, the group’s service to humanity knows no limits.
Members are often seen serving water or popcorn and cotton candy to youngsters at church and community functions, directing traffic and parking at rallies, providing first-aid or offering emotional and/or spiritual comfort to hurting individuals.
CMA and the Peacemakers host an annual Run for the Son, a ministry-wide fundraiser that, in its 30 years, has raised more than $65 million to help spread the good news of salvation through Christ.
As a direct result, more than 21 million known individuals have professed their faith.
Locally every year, the Peacemakers host the Dillion Critcher Memorial Ride, scheduled this year on Aug. 3, with registration, food and fun for the whole family at Hollar and Greene Produce in Boone. The entire community is invited to participate in this event with all proceeds going toward Run for the Son. A full line-up of activities is currently being planned and will be announced soon.
The Peacemakers also annually participate in the Boone Bike Rally, the William Mast Memorial Ride, Samaritan’s Purse’s Operation Heal Our Patriots and Bikers with Boxes, Combat Veterans Ride hosted by the Harley Davidson dealership in Wilkesboro, and Mount Vernon’s Fall Family Festival.
They also attend numerous state and national CMA events and participate in other gatherings, including Rolling Thunder, the annual Memorial Day ride to honor veterans in Washington, D.C., Biketober Fest in Daytona Beach, Fla.
It is not unusual for members of the Peacemakers to be summoned to Watauga Medical Center to offer support and prayer when cyclists are injured in accidents.
Another highlight for the local bikers is the CMA’s “Blessing of the Bikes, said Critcher. “We do this almost everywhere we go — pray over the bike and its rider. Once the bike is ‘blessed,’ an identifying sticker is placed upon the machine, with the owner’s consent.”
Being seen as men and women of integrity “is a must,” Critcher and Honeycutt agreed. “We are representing Christ and there needs to be no question about it when people see us with that CMA patch on our backs. Most people respect us for that and know that we can be counted on to help and not cause any problems, wherever we are. It’s important that we conduct ourselves in a manner that upholds biblical principles.”
Becoming a Peacemaker is Easy
Owning or riding a motorcycle is not a membership requirement, Honeycutt said, and there is no fee to join the Peacemakers. However, completion of an application with CMA National is required.
The Peacemakers meet on the second Thursday of every month at Ransom Eatery in downtown Boone at 6 p.m. for a Dutch-treat dinner, with a short meeting following at 7 p.m.
“The fellowship of a group of Christian motorcycle riders can’t be beat,” Critcher said, “but telling others about Jesus — and seeing someone come to accept the Lord as their personal savior —is priceless.”
For more information about Thunder Sunday, contact Mount Vernon Baptist Church at (828) 266-9700.
To learn more about CMA and the Peacemakers, contact Keith Honeycutt, president, at (828) 268-6010 or Danny Critcher, road captain, at (828) 964-2100.
Scenes from last year’s Thunder Sunday at Mount Vernon Baptist Church in Boone.