What the Church Can Learn from Harley-Davidson

A five-part series about successful churches by David Cole.

Be Fearless

“We don’t do fear.” 

That’s one of Harley-Davidson’s mottos. Fear comes naturally when riding a Harley because riding a motorcycle is much more dangerous than riding in a car. Yet, their riders don’t let fear hold them back; instead, they race along the open road at high speeds, enjoying the adventure. 

Imagine a world in which Christians had no fear. 

The book What the Church Can Learn from Harley-Davidson: Connecting with Today’s Culture by Dave E. Cole uses Cole’s experience riding a Harley to suggest ways the Church could encourage more passionate followers. He writes about focusing on Jesus, encouraging a healthy community, pausing for deeper connection with others, and adapting to better reach people. His final suggestion is to be fearless, or, as Harley-Davidson would put it, “Don’t do fear.” 

The Need for Control 

Fear threatens our feeling of security. We don’t like feeling insecure or unsafe; that would mean that we have lost control in some way. 

But, we’re not in control. God is. He has always been in control. In Isaiah 37:26, when the king of Assyria is invading Judah, God said, “Have you not heard that I determined it long ago? I planned from days of old what now I bring to pass….” He planned Assyria’s attack against Judah, and He also planned that Assyria would turn back. He knew what would happen, and He made it happen. 

If our incredibly good God is in control, why are we hesitant to let go of fear? 

Fear in the Psalms 

The biblical psalmists struggled with fear. Their psalms are filled with descriptions of dangerous, frightening situations and overwhelmingly negative feelings. However, the psalms are also filled with great joy and worship even when the psalmists’ situations were difficult. They were able to let go of fear despite their situations. 

King David wrote, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4). In another psalm, he said, “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me?” (Psalm 56:3-4). 

Because he knew that God was with him, he did not fear. He surrendered his life to God’s control. He admitted that God was stronger than he was––and that God was stronger than the problems he faced. He let go of his security and let God do what He wanted to do. 

Where Will Surrender Take Us? 

Cole said, “Becoming a disciple of Jesus means surrendering our desire for security to love our neighbors as we love ourselves” (p. 61). When we surrender to God, we become His vessels on Earth that He will use to show Himself to others. He is love. So, in order to show others who He is, we must love them. Jesus said the two greatest commandments are to love God and to love people (Matthew 22:36-40). 

But, His call to love is dangerous. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 describes a love that is drastic and difficult, requiring selflessness and dependence on the Holy Spirit. 

We are called to love the unlovable and the broken, the unseen and the hopeless. Our love will bring us to “clothe the naked, feed the poor, visit the prisoner, care for the sick, and take in strangers (Matthew 25:31-46)” (pp. 60-61). It will call us to take up our crosses and follow Jesus (Mark 8:34). 

When Jesus said to take up our crosses and follow Him, He was telling us to be willing to die for His sake. He continues, “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it” (Mark 8:35). 

Jesus’s charge is a terrifying one. But, because God is in control, we don’t have to fear. Even if our commitment to God will cost our lives, we can trust in the fact that Jesus has overcome the world (John 16:33). 

Why, then, should we fear death? Why should we fear at all? Death could not hold Him (Acts 2:24), and now it cannot hold us either. 

When the world looks at us, may they see people who live and love fearlessly.