With a few pops and growls that quickly crescendoed into a roaring thunder bouncing off the concrete walls and floors of the cavernous Freedom Hall Civic Center Arena in Johnson City, Tennessee, some 19 roaring Harleys slowly snaked their way down the tunnel, circled around the platform area, and ground to a halt in front of the 1,000+ gathered worshipers.
“We call that sound a call to worship,” drawled the church’s colorful and charismatic pastor, Dr. Vic Young.
Young, a pot-bellied, pony-tailed Harley rider with an earned Ph.D. and an Oxford post-doctorate, proceeded to preach a folksy and pointed message entitled “Lift Up Mine Eyes to the Hills.” The audience was a combination of the Fountain of Life “Biker Church” of Johnson City and the 900-some delegates and denominational leaders gathered for the Celebration Conference of the National Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches.
Earlier in the day, at 7:30 a.m. at the conference headquarters Mariott Meadowview Resort in Kingsport, the faithful gathered for a breakfast honoring GBC military chaplains. A series of gripping testimonies from those on active duty and on home assignment reminded listeners of the enormous opportunities for ministry military chaplains have.
Following the biker service in Johnson City, many stayed for a KFC box-lunch meeting of CE National at which testimonies were given about Brethren National Youth Conference, Operation Barnabas, and much more.
Speaker for the 7 p.m. session was moderator-elect Dan Allan, pastor of the Ashland, Ohio, Grace Brethren Church. He will be the FGBC moderator for 2004-2005, following the tenure of present moderator John Teevan. Allan laid out two main challenges: (a) we must WANT God, and (b) we must want to do what He lays on our hearts.
Tomorrow, Monday, July 26, is a “free day” and a wide variety of excursions are planned, ranging from hiking and whitewater rafting to tours of Gatlinburg, Dollywood, Biltmore Estates, Dixie Stampede, and more.
General conference activity resumes Tuesday morning with a 6:30 a.m. breakfast for Grace American Indian Ministries and simultaneous sessions at 8:30 for women, men, and ministers. Fuller Seminary’s Sherwood Lingenfelter is the speaker for the 10:30 a.m. plenary session on Tuesday.