Baptizing Rich

Baptizing Rich

In 1986, after spending an evening evangelizing on High Street, my friends and I went to eat pizza. It was one o’clock in the morning, and after we ordered, we noticed a former high-school classmate of ours sitting alone on the other side of the restaurant. We were still jazzed about sharing our faith just a few hours before, so we went over to talk to him about God as well.

He had not heard that I’d become a Christian since graduating high school, so it was kind of cool sharing the story of the way God was changing my life. Then out of nowhere I asked him, “Why don’t you become a Christian, Rich? Is there anything that’s stopping you?”

“I don’t know,” I remember him saying. “I have so many questions. I don’t even know if I believe in God.”

Fortunately, we were full of answers.

For almost two straight hours my friend and I tag teamed our spiritually questioning acquaintance. No question was too difficult. Each of his hesitations we perceived as a sign that we needed to share more information—not that he needed more time to process what we’d already shared.

“Today is the day of salvation,” we kept telling him. “This is your moment to get your life back on track.”

Finally, around 3:00 a.m., he caved in and said, “Okay, I’m in.”

Then I did what any normal Christian would do on a Friday night at 3:00 a.m.—I broke into the church I grew up in and baptized my friend.

Because we didn’t want to wait (for fear that Rich might change his mind), we took a crowbar from my trunk, pried a window open, and shimmied inside. Once inside we walked into the baptistery and I baptized Rich.

It was surreal.

We hugged.

We shouted.

We celebrated.

Then, because it was late, I gave our new brother in Christ the Bible I was using at the time and took him home. It was one of the coolest evangelistic moments of my life.

Ten years later, I bumped into Rich’s brother while traveling through my hometown to see family. Just a few weeks after leading Rich to Christ and baptizing him at 3:00 a.m., I headed off to school and lost touch with him, so I was excited to catch up on the past decade.

“How is Rich doing?” I asked.

“Not so well, I’m afraid. In 1986 he went to jail for possession of cocaine, and when he got out he fathered a couple kids and has been bouncing around from job to job ever since. In the meantime, I have come to the Lord and have been praying for him ever since. He’s just a really lost person right now.”

I was heartbroken.

“You know, I led your brother to Christ that summer. I baptized him at three a.m. in our church’s baptistery. It was a pretty amazing experience.”

“I know that,” he said. “Rich told me. He was really touched that you did that for him.”

“If you don’t mind me asking, what happened?”

He looked away for a moment, and then said something I’ve never forgotten.

“I guess what Rich needed more than baptism at that time was a friend.”

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