To many who ride, motorcycles represent freedom—the freedom of the open road. To many Christians, following Jesus means freedom. At Free Rider Fellowship in Plant City, motorcycles and faith come together. Not all members ride, but all members are welcome as they are—whether you are in shorts, khakis or leather riding gear.
Pastor Aaron Brown, a ninth-generation Floridian, founded Free Rider Fellowship 14 years ago. Free Rider Fellowship has more than 150 active members. Brown explained that bikers are often judged by their appearance.
“The Lord laid on our hearts a place where they could come and hear God’s Word without being judged and we welcome everyone,” said Brown. “As God has grown this ministry, we have realized that people dealing with hurts, habits and hang-ups were also searching for a place of acceptance and healing.”
According to Brown, 60 percent of the church attendees ride motorcycles, but the other 40 are non-riders that love the atmosphere and the concept of come-as-you-are.
“When we started this church 14 years ago, the concept of a biker church was unheard of, but today there are many,” said Brown. “Reaching out to people who feel less than welcome in a traditional or classic church format is now commonplace. I often describe us as a family. If you are looking for perfect people, you will not find any here. We are a hospital for the hurting, a home for the outcast and a help for the hopeless. We preach and teach the truth in love.”
As many churches were affected by COVID-19, Brown had to get creative. The congregation moved to the parking lot and implemented a very successful ‘Ride-In/Drive-In church.’
“God blessed and actually grew us during this time,” said Brown. “Our online views on Facebook have grown exponentially. We averaged several hundred views before [COVID-19], but now 1,000 views is the low-end and we have hit more than 2,900 views. It is interesting to see comments from New Zealand, England and all over the country. We are just a ministry in Plant City and it is humbling to see what God has done through online worship.”
Free Rider Fellowships hosts a monthly ride on the second Saturday of every month. The church also has a presence at the Plant City Bike Fest and rides every biker event in the area, including Biketoberfest, Bike Week, Leesburg, Gibtown, Sebring and more.
The church also has weekly Bible studies for men, women, singles and couples, as well as a Celebrate Recovery group. Dates and times are listed on its website.
Currently, the church is in negotiations to purchase 16 acres of property with multiple buildings on the north side of Plant City. Brown gives thanks that the Lord continues to bless and grow the vision for reaching the community.
Free Rider Fellowship is located at 2207 Mud Lake Rd. in Plant City. For more information on Free Rider Fellowship, you can follow them on Facebook or visit www.freeriderfellowship.com.