I first met Pete in 2008 because of work. For the first few years, we became friends from a distance. Our offices sat parallel, but nothing else in our life was…so I thought. At the time, my wife and I did not have kids, but we wanted them. Pete was single and living the life of a bachelor. Occasionally on Monday mornings, we would laugh about what we did that weekend. For the most part, the stories could not be more different. I was happily married. Pete was happily not married.
The very next year, my wife and I had our first son. Surprisingly, Pete became “Uncle Pete” and treated my son like true family. I specifically remember thinking, “for a guy that claims to never want kids, he sure is good with them.” Time went on, we had another son, and the friendship between my family and Pete grew at the same time. Besides my two sons, Pete and I also shared an interest in reading. Often times, we would let the other know about a good book or two we had recently completed. The first time Pete saw me with the most important book, was a random Thursday morning. I was meeting some guys for a Bible study, and I forgot my Bible at work. It was early and I didn’t think anyone would be at the office, but as I was walking out, Pete was walking in. For a split second, I seriously thought about stuffing my Bible in my back pocket. I was not sure where Pete stood spiritually, and I did not want things to potentially get “awkward.” That is hard to admit. That is even harder to type. Thankfully, I went against my first instinct. Pete asked what I was doing, and I told him I had to grab my Bible because I was meeting some guys for breakfast. He simply said, “Good luck with that.”
Later that morning, I returned to work. As I walked by Pete’s office, he stopped me and asked, “Well, how did it go?” I jokingly replied, “Good. We talked about purity this morning. You should’ve been there.” Pete laughed and said, “Oh great, so a bunch of Christian guys sit around and talk about guys like me?” “No”, I replied, “actually the opposite. Your name never came up. It was a group of Christian guys sitting around talking about how hard it is to be pure. Even as a Christian.” Pete’s response was simply, “Really?” “Yep. Being a Christian does not mean you no longer sin. But it does mean you admit you are a sinner and want to change.”
That was the first time we ever discussed religion. A few months passed before it came up again. For years, I had invited Pete to come to the lake with us. For years, Pete had declined the invitation because he did not want to get up that early, especially mornings following a “fun” night out. For the past few years, I had also invited Pete to come over for Simple Church. For the same reasons, he declined. Out of nowhere one day, Pete asked what I was doing the next weekend. Before I responded, I thought, “if he is finally telling me he will come to Simple Church, there is no way I am saying we are going to the lake!”. “Why?” I replied. “Because I think I would finally like to come to the lake,” Pete answered.
We all woke up on Sunday morning at the lake. As we sat down to eat breakfast, my oldest son naturally grabbed a hand and started to pray. He was sitting next to Pete. As we often do on Sunday mornings, we ate, prayed, and read Scripture during breakfast. Before we cleaned up and headed back out on the water for the day, I asked Pete how he felt about finally attending Simple Church. “Seriously!?” he said.
Another month passed, and so did life. Someone in my Simple Church gave me a copy of the book Heaven is for Real. After reading this amazing book, I felt strongly about passing it along to Pete. Since I am admitting difficult things in this letter, I will go ahead and admit something else: I have a hard time listening AND hearing God. I am not the type of person that can rattle off countless times I have heard from God. This was not one of those times. As clearly as I have ever experienced in my life, God told me to give this book to Pete.
I prefaced giving the book to Pete by telling him I wanted his review of a book I just finished. When I handed over the book, Pete said, “Good. I’ve actually wanted to read this book. A lot of people knock it and say it is fiction.”
Two days later, Pete returned the book. “Well?” I said. “Good book. I figure ‘Why can’t that story be real?’ What I really liked was the little boy didn’t describe Jesus as the typical sandal-wearing, hippy that everyone likes to talk about,” Pete responds. At that moment, Pete and I discussed a few beliefs and he told me about his grandmother taking him to church as a little boy.
More time passed. It was another Monday morning and I was walking into my office. Another guy across the hall yelled out, “Hey! I saw something in the newspaper about a baptism at Woodland pool, and a skate church, and a simple church, or something like that. Isn’t that what you guys do?” Distracted by the million things on my Monday morning to-do list, I unconsciously and quickly responded, “Yeah, something like that.” It was at that moment, that I heard from Pete’s office, “I need to be baptized.”
My to-do list suddenly cleared out. I walked in Pete’s office and first asked if he was joking. As serious as I have ever witnessed, he told me, “No. I am serious. This is something that burdens me and I want to be baptized.”
37 Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? 38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
Over the next two weeks, myself and a few others had very in-depth conversations with Pete about the meaning of baptism. Like every Christian, Pete did not have everything figured out, but he grasped the most important concept: Christ the Savior. It was time to make this happen. When I asked Pete where and how he wanted to make this happen, he caught me off guard, “I want you to do it, and I want to be baptized down at the lake.” I was not ready for that.
We jumped into Simple Church two years ago for several reasons. A couple of those reasons were to step outside of our comfort zone, try to develop a more intimate relationship with Christ, and find a community of people who are experiencing a more meaningful life here on earth. At the time we did not have the concept, but now I can say God led us to Simple Church so we would no longer “go to church”, rather “be the church.” We chose Simple Church so the act of worshiping was no longer something we “did,” rather something we “are.” We chose Simple Church so we could gain the confidence to “be” a Christian, rather than “act” like a Christian. It is certainly possible to achieve all of those things in a traditional church setting, but my family needed something different. We needed something extraordinary. Is it possible that Pete asked me to share the experience of baptism with him because we are actually living 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12?
11 and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, 12 so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.
I had never beat Pete over the head with the Bible, but over the course of five years we certainly observed each other. Unknown to Pete though, a small group of people had been praying for him, out loud, by name for almost one year. My Simple Church group knew Pete, although he had never met them. Our prayer was for the Holy Spirit to stir in Pete in such a way that it could not be denied. Our prayer was for the softening of Pete’s heart. Our prayer was specifically for Pete to be baptized before the end of August 2013.
August 25th, the last Sunday of August in 2013, we gathered on the shores of Lake Cumberland and baptized Pete.
The original purpose of this letter was an attempt to capture the experience of my friend coming to Christ and making a public profession of his new life. As I recall the entire experience though, I believe this story is more about the greatness of the Holy Spirit.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
Pete’s name has been changed for confidentiality reasons.