By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector
CLARKSVILLE — That distant rumble that is being heard in some areas of the state is not always thunder followed by lightning. It just might be a group of Tennessee Baptist F.A.I.T.H. Riders (FR), followed by prayer.
F.A.I.T.H. Riders is a national motorcycle ministry that is passionate about sharing Christ with the world, according to its website. The organization, which is rooted in Southern Baptist churches, has more than 350 chapters nationwide, including 38 in Tennessee.
Jerry Jeter, pastor of Pleasant View Baptist Church in Clarksville, is part of the chapter based in his church. He is an active member himself and has had a role in planning five “Prayer Rumbles” across the state.
The inspiration for the prayer rides came in early March when Jeter was attending a national F.A.I.T.H. Riders event in Daytona Beach, Fla., where 222 people prayed to receive Christ during an event that was cut short due to the pandemic.
On his return trip to Tennessee, Jeter had a burden for churches that were going to have to suspend live services due to COVID-19.
As he rode home, whenever he passed a church, he would stop briefly and pray for the pastor and congregation.
After returning to Clarksville, he felt compelled to ride each day, praying for seven churches daily for about 40 days. He estimated he prayed for between 200-250 churches during that timeframe.
He would take a photo of his motorcycle in front of a church and post some occasionally on his Facebook pages. As other riders learned about what he was doing, they expressed an interest in joining him on some of the rides. As a result, the idea for “Prayer Rumbles” emerged.
“We are trying to cover the state in prayer,” Jeter said.
So far the events have been held in Maury County and the Greater Nashville area in Middle Tennessee, and in Dyer in West Tennessee. Events are also scheduled in July in Dandridge and Tullahoma.
Jeter noted that in motorcycle rider’s terminology, a “rumble” is a battle. “This battle is against Satan and we are fighting him with prayer,” he said.
The riders meet at a local Baptist church and set off to area churches to pray, Jeter said. Recently, the group has added law enforcement officers (LEOs) to its prayer list, stopping at local police and sheriff’s departments.
Jeter noted that law enforcement officials are in a pressure-packed situation with the risks they face daily in addition to a culture that is becoming “anti-police.”
“We want to lift them up to the Lord and support them. They have a job that is hard to do,” Jeter said.
Randy Clifton, a member of Hermitage Hills Baptist Church, Hermitage and coordinator of F.A.I.T.H. Riders in Tennessee, participated in the Prayer Rumble in the Nashville area which also included Gallatin in Sumner County and Lebanon in Wilson County.
“It was an awesome experience,” Clifton said. In addition to stopping and praying at churches with FR chapters, the riders were encouraged to “open our eyes and pray for churches we passed,” he said.
Clifton credits Jeter for “bringing a breath of fresh air” into the ministry. “He is getting everyone focused on what’s important — praying for each other,” he added.
In addition, Jeter and others have found that a motorcycle opens doors to share the gospel.
“Time and time again, a motorcycle provides an opportunity to share the gospel,” Jeter affirmed.
The Clarksville pastor noted that the church in general “has isolated itself from the common, lost person. “This is one way we can take the gospel to them,” he said.
Jeter said that riders are trained to find a way to share the gospel in the first three minutes of a conversation. That may be all the time you would have while filling up a gas tank, he observed.
In addition to taking the gospel to people who might not enter a church, the chapters have proven to be tools for outreach and discipleship, Jeter said. He knows of at least two families that have joined Pleasant View as a result of FR.
In addition, he shared the story of Mark Whitt, a man who was dying of cancer and was diagnosed as having only six months to live. As one who used to ride, he was interested in the biker’s ministry.
Through God’s grace, he actually lived more than a year and was able to go on one of the chapter’s rides. While doing so, he was able to share his testimony and the gospel with the owner of a motorcycle dealership in the area, Jeter said.
After his death, the Pleasant View chapter named one of their two major rides in his honor (the other is named after Sid Harris).
Because each FR chapter is connected with a church, people they witness to or who make decisions for Jesus can be referred back to the local chapter for discipleship and follow up, Jeter said.
“God is using this ministry,” he affirmed.