Christ continues to leave a legacy, working through Christians in all areas of society. Bikie John ‘Bullfrog’ Smith is one man He has used to minister to the bikie gang movement in Australia.
Outlaws and Rebels
There are many motorcycle clubs in Australia, but some are known as bikie gangs. A gang is defined as “a group of criminals or hoodlums who band together for mutual protection and profit”.
According to the Australian Institute of Criminology, bikie gangs or Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs (OMCGs) are among the most identifiable components of Australia’s criminal landscape.
Australia has an estimated 6000-plus bikies belonging to more than 100 chapters of around 45 outlaw gangs, stretching from Darwin to Tasmania. This number is growing both nationally and internationally and has police concerned. Among the OMCGs of interest to them, many have links with notorious overseas gangs.
Formed in Brisbane several decades ago, the Rebels are the only major home-grown bikie gang. Significantly, they boast by far the biggest membership of around 2000 and have been tied to various execution-style killings. What is behind this lawless and rebellious lifestyle?
Bikie gangs are almost entirely a male phenomenon. Everything about them screams for attention. Their gang names and mottos, the colourful club patches on black jackets, tattoos on face and body, long hair, pony tails and beards, hordes of roaring motorcycles.
John Eldredge, writing about the masculine journey (a motorcyclist himself), maintains that
“the warrior is hardwired into every man. This is true because he is made in the image of God, who is the Great Warrior. Like Father, like son. It is also true because it constitutes a great part of man’s mission here on earth – to join the Great Warrior in his battle against evil”.
Nevertheless, in his books, he alerts us to the tragic reality that Western society is full of ‘unfinished men’. Many men carry what he calls a ‘father wound’ due to having an absent or abusive father.
The big question to their human fathers (one vital to their manhood) is ‘Do I have what it takes?” This question has not yet been answered.
Instead of fighting against evil, bikie gangs perpetrate it. Their criminal activities include the production and supply of illicit drugs, car and motorcycle theft, and firearms trafficking. Stand-over and drive-by shootings, extortion, arson, money laundering, and prostitution are also widespread.
Bikie gangs can trace their origins to the period after World War II when returning American veterans began to organise themselves into clubs. Right from the start, in 1945, the first clubs had offensive and self-deprecating names. This reflected the fact that many veterans returned from the horrors of war as disenfranchised, disillusioned, damaged and wounded men. Vietnam and other war veterans continued to swell the ranks of these gangs.
Sons of Whom?
Almost all the names of bikie gangs are intimidating. There are anti-social names like Finks; criminal names like Bandidos; warrior names like Mongols. However, perhaps the most striking are names like Hell’s Angels, Red Devils, Diablos, Satan’s Riders and Devil’s Henchmen.
Tattoos, which are also are synonymous with bikies, permanently mar their faces and bodies with skulls, demons and other vile and satanic images.
Knowingly or unknowingly, many bikies have shown that their true allegiance is to Satan. Jesus revealed this shocking reality to those who wanted to kill him:
“You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him” (John 8:44).
Tragically, the rivalries and alliances between bikie gangs often result in bikie wars, like the devastating Father’s Day Massacre of 1984 in Sydney between two bikie gangs that resulted in seven deaths. The murderous lifestyle of bikies bears out the truth spoken by God that “whoever sheds human blood, by humans shall their blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made mankind” (Genesis 9:6).
However, in Australia, Christian bike riders have started several of their own “gangs”, known as Christian Motorcycle Clubs (CMCs). One of these, God’s Squad, is thought to be the oldest Christian back patch club in the world. It was founded by John ‘Bullfrog’ Smith, former Baptist minister, teacher, author and anthropologist with a PhD.
God’s Squad began during the counterculture Jesus Movement days of the late ’60s. After passing a group of riders tinkering with a bike on the roadside, John Smith felt called to work in the bikie scene. He thought “I wonder if anyone ever gets to talk to these guys about faith, the meaning of life, about what love really is”.
Since then, John Smith has had an amazing chaplaincy to bikies, recognising that “riding in convoy had a magic that was hard to explain to outsiders” and that “clubs gave men a sense of identity”.
John Smith’s Legacy
When “Smithy” went to be with God in March 2019, the Wave Baptist Church in Ocean Grove, Victoria, was full to overflowing, with more than 1000 people from all walks of life in attendance. Amongst those gathered were patched members of rival outlaw bikie gangs, including Hell’s Angels, the Bandidos, the Gypsy Jokers, the Coffin Cheaters, the Rebels and the Immortals.
Today, John Smith’s message is more powerful than his Harley Davidson at full throttle. On the God’s Squad website we read what John Smith calls “the bottom line”. This is his powerful statement:
“…the Bible tells us that we are made in God’s image. Because God made us, He knows just what we need. Just like a manufacturer’s service requires the right oils, filters, plugs and grease, so too we have certain needs and an ultimate purpose and reason for living.”
The Challenge for Christians
The challenges we face as Christians in today’s increasingly secular — even hostile — society are similar to those faced by the God Squad.
Whatever our sphere of influence might be, we all require courage to identify ourselves as Christians, following the example of Jesus who, when criticised for eating with sinners, said “it is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:31-32).
Father in Heaven, We thank You that You created humanity in Your own image so that humankind could have a right relationship with you for all eternity.
We pray for Aussie bikies, that they will become your Beloved Sons, knowing You as their true Father and Jesus as their true Brother. We pray that they will reject lawlessness and rebellion, and that they will shed the club names, mottos, colours and tattoos inspired by Satan.
Open their eyes to see that Satan is a murderer and a liar and all his ways lead to death. By your amazing grace, restore the damaged image in them and make them complete and finished men in Jesus. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.
Three photos by Rachel Claire on Pexels (Image 1, Image 2, Image 3), edited and compiled by Cody Mitchell.