by David Tolliver
MBC Executive Director
Not long after I began my service with the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC), I met Terry King, pastor to the First Baptist Church in Leasburg. He also is a member of CMA—Christian Motorcycle Association. As he was introducing himself, Terry told me that, through CMA, he knew my brother, Phil Tolliver.
A couple of years later, after I had been named MBC interim Executive Director, my good friend, Pastor King and I talked again. This time he threatened me—I hope you understand that I am using the word “threat” euphemistically and Brother Terry was smiling when he said that he thought that we ought to put a picture of my brother on the big screen while I was preaching to the convention. Terry wanted to put up a picture of Phil riding his motorcycle, with an arrow pointing to my brother and the words “his brother” on the picture.
Let me explain.
My brother, Phil, was an imposing figure. One of his often repeated nicknames was “Grizzly Adams.” Truthfully, he looked like Grizzly Adams’ older brother. Recently, I heard him described as an intimidating teddy bear. He, too, was a member of CMA. Phil was, in fact, the secretary of the Crossroads Chapter of the Christian Motorcycle Association (CMA). He was a Christian biker.
And, he looked the part.
Let me describe him, physically.
Phil was 6’ 1”. He weighed 375+ pounds. His wavy white hair was shoulder length. He really was a gentle giant. His beard was full—I mean really full. His “salt and pepper” beard was more white than black and hung down to the middle of his chest. Phil had an engaging smile. But it was hard to see through all the hair. “Biker garb” was normal attire for my big brother—in or out of church. And he was in church a lot. The denim, sleeveless “colors” jacket that Phil wore is filled with various patches including one that says “These are my church clothes.” And he wore those “church clothes” almost everywhere he went, including ministering through music and testimony, even a little preaching, in many Missouri Baptist churches.
On Wednesday, Oct. 6, my big brother, Phil, passed from this temporal life to eternity. He is now living with Jesus, in the glories of heaven. As I delivered the eulogy at his funeral, I retold the story about my exchange with Pastor King and his desire to publish the picture of Phil on his Harley. I then told the standing-room-only crowd gathered at First Baptist Church in Washington (FBCW) that I would have been proud to display that picture. I am proud to be Phil Tolliver’s brother. He was a godly man, a zealous witness for Christ, and a real prayer warrior.
But my purpose in this article is not to tell you about my brother. My purpose is to tell you about the outpouring of Christian love I witnessed and experienced through my contact with CMA.
Earlier I mentioned the standing-room-only crowd gathered at FBCW for the Home-Going service. As Myra and I were driving from Jefferson City to Washington, we encountered a “pack” of motorcycles. We were travelling east on Highway 50. At Rosebud, approximately 20 motorcycles were turning onto the highway. As the line of traffic progressed we ended up “cradled” in the middle of the “pack.” We were escorted from Rosebud to Union by the motorcycles. I noticed that the particular motorcycle we were following had a personalized motorcycle license plate that said “John 2.” I commented, to Myra, that we were likely being cradled by CMA bikers on their way to my brother’s funeral. When we pulled up beside the pack at a stop light in Union, we asked—over the roar of Harley Davidson motors—if the bikers were headed to Washington to the memorial service for Phil Tolliver. The “leader of the pack” shook his head “yes.” We identified ourselves as family members and an immediate bond took place. The bikers shouted to us—again, over the roar of the engines, they shouted, “God bless you. We are praying for you.” And, I saw one of them bow his head and pray right there at that intersection.
When we arrived at FBCW, other bikers were standing at the entrances to the church. They were standing at the parade rest position holding U.S. flags. I later learned that was the patriot guard. My brother was a Vietnam veteran and the patriot guard was there to ensure that no one disturbed the services. As the crowd began to gather, it soon became apparent that a very large crowd was gathering. After bringing in all the extra chairs that were available, the men of the CMA began to get up to offer their seats to others. The back walls of the church were lined with Christian bikers, in full regalia, who stood for the entire two-hour memorial service.
Following the service, the Christian bikers led a motorcade to the Missouri River where the chaplain of the Crossroads Chapter of CMA presented a stirring testimony and the Gospel, in no uncertain terms. There were 138 motorcycles in that motorcade. It was a phenomenal site. One of the bikes is pictured on this page. The significance of the picture is that, as a part of the service, Myra sang one of my favorite songs, and one that was fully appropriate for the occasion, “The Anchor Holds.” When we arrived at the RiverFront, one of the bikers came to Myra to show her the special paint job on her motorcycle which declared “The anchor holds.” The fact is, those Christian bikers are very obviously anchored in Jesus Christ. He is in their hearts and He shows up in their lives. Thank God, Jesus Christ, the anchor, holds.
I could go on and on about the day we said good-bye to my brother. I could talk to you about the great music and the celebrative atmosphere in the service. And, I thank God for His strength in me that allowed me to preach that day honoring my brother and my Lord. I could talk to you about the MBC pastors and Executive Board members who attended either the visitation or funeral—and thank you very much for taking the time and making the drive to Washington to attend. Thanks also to the MBC Staff—to those who have attended, to those who have called and/or sent cards or emails. And, thank you to everyone who continues to pray for us. I could talk to you about the number of Missouri Baptists who continue to send condolences through cards and emails—and, will you please accept this as my “Thank You” card back to you? There are honestly so many that Myra and I just cannot respond to them all, but we greatly appreciate your love and support.
Thank You!! Thank You!! Thank You!! And, thank God for everlasting life!!