December 4, 2020

Kyle Lake: Laughter In The Waters of Death

Kyle Lake died in the waters of Baptism at the University Baptist Church in Waco this past Sunday. You’ve all read the story, and I’d like to, respectfully, say a few words about a fellow minister whom I did not know, but whose life, ministry and death represent all preachers, and all Christians.

One of the things that occurs to me is that every one of us who preach and teach are leaving behind a legacy that will interpret our own death. Kyle Lake’s thoughts on Romans 8:28 were recently published in Christianity Today. He knew the Good News of the soveriegnty of the God of Jesus Christ. He was, as we might say, “good to go.”

The absurdity and shock of Lake’s electrocution have to be considered rightly. God never mandated that we invent electricity, fly in planes or travel in metal machines hurdling down highways inches from other, similar, machines. The electrical equipment in a modern church can kill a person. That’s a fact. Every parent knows it when their child approaches a socket. It’s not a fact we like to think about while we sit in air conditioned comfort watching the pastor baptize. It’s not a welcome fact. It’s not one we want to contemplate any more than we want to contemplate the diseases growing in our bodies, the accidents that can befall us walking across the street or the evil that may reside in our neighborhoods.

But that doesn’t change anything. We are mortal. Physical limits exist. We tease them, and God doesn’t stop them from killing or hurting us. His victory is over death, not instead of death.

Thomas Merton lived his entire adult life dreaming that, one day, he could have the freedom to travel in and out of the monastery, speaking and teaching. When he finally received that freedom, he left the bathroom, tripped over a fan in his room and was electrocuted. On his first trip. If that makes you want to be an atheist, I understand, but you need to medidate on the cross a little more often.

God knows about this, as surely as he knows about the deaths of small children on the mission field and the passing of beloved wives in childbirth. I’ve been to the funerals of many a young man who died playing basketball or riding motorcycles or drowned fishing. When asked if he wanted prayer for healing from liver cancer, James Boice said that was fine, but he assumed God could stop these things from occuring if he chose to do so.

Kyle Lake lived his life passionately for Jesus Christ. That, not his death, is the great fact of his passing. It is his legacy; his life’s meaning. His church and family will grieve, but we dare not grieve as those without the hope of the Christ story. Kyle stood in the waters of the death of Christ and became, for a moment, the picture of literally dying with Christ in those waters. This was his testimony and message, and it became his reality.

He believed that dying was the prelude to resurrection. He was in that water because he bet it all….ALL….on Jesus. God didn’t promise him or any of us that our death will not be sudden, shocking and absurd. God promised that death would not be the end, but merely a servant to the beginning of another, far greater, chapter of the story.

If I could choose to die in the pulpit, preaching, as opposed to passed out in a nursing home, I would choose it in a minute. I’m sorry for the shock to the audience, but preaching as a dying man to dying men means something. Kyle Lake surely knew that, as any good preacher should.

God loves Kyle. He loves his family, children and friends. He doesn’t, however, offer any comfort for death itself. He offers comfort in victory over death and resurrection beyond death. He offers Christ, the dead and risen one. But death- right there in the baptistry- is still with us.

I believe, however, that God laughs at death now. Christ has defeated it, and he rides in triumph over its gatekeepers. I believe the saints and angels laugh in heaven every time death strikes, and God wins. Death’s poison is pathetic; God’s victory is grand and glorious.

God took Kyle Lake at the least likely moment….and he arrived- soaking wet with the waters of Baptism-to the uproarious laughter of the party.

To Kyle….what a way to live….what a way to go….and what a way to arrive home.

Romans 6:3-5 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.


  1. Good words.

    We continually walk in this valley of the shadow of death.

    Praise God that shadows cannot hurt us.

    I have prayed for the family and will continue to do so.

    Thanks for the post.


  2. Michael:

    This is a very thoughtful essay.

    Honestly, I couldn’t process this one easily when I
    read about it. I chose to deal with it by “not dealing
    with it.” Thanks for the good perspective.


  3. That is exactly what I thought when I saw this.
    What a way to go!

    Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.


  4. I am just floored. I am new to this whole “vintage” slash “emergent” think. (at least in a public sense), and Kyle was one of those guys whom I just felt, well, knew me and got me. Even though I never met him, I had conversations with him when I was stuggling with my faith this past year while reading understanding God’s will. The profound thing about reading and conversing with him, was that I never really got to a point where my understanding increased. But I did get to a point where I felt peace in the midst of my lack of understanding. I don’t understand this, but in some strange sense…there is peace.

  5. This event has been hard, real hard for me. On one hand I understand where he’s gone and I know he has received he gift that we all long for. But, on the other hand I’m overwhelmed at time with grief and anger. I either want to laugh about the jokes and stories Kyle used to tell over a burger and shuffleboard at Crickets, or cry, no sob, over the loss of perhaps one of the most influential people in my past, or I get so pissed off I cuss at God and want to give up this whole damn thing we call religion. Why would our God allow something like this to happen to a man of God who is doing His work?? Just makes no sense to me…

    I think what pains me most is that I never took the opportunity to tell Kyle how much he meant to me and how much he influenced me. It’s funny how we don’t realize those things until something tragic happens.. We get so wrapped up and caught up in ourselves, and our own pursuits that we forget to pause and thank the ones that got us here. So, I want to take a moment and publicly thank Kyle for what he was and is to me.

    Thanks for being a free spirit.
    Thanks for making me laugh and laugh alot.
    Thanks for being the one back when we started the 2nd or 3rd married couples group at UBC to break the backward silence when topics got tough (and by breaking the silence I mean breaking wind at times!)
    Thanks for being there for Lisa and I after our first miscarriage, with a smile on your face and a casserole dish in hand!
    Thanks for letting me yell at you and your God.
    Thanks for letting me get angry and not telling me I was going to hell for telling God to fuck off.
    Thanks for healing me and showing me how to trust in God again.
    Thanks for being at the hospital at our 2nd miscarriage and making fun of Lisa’s socks as she went under anesthesia.
    Thanks for your prayers.
    Thanks for the lunches at Cricket’s and for letting me whip you at pool a few times, although I think you always won at shuffleboard, too much of a girlie sport like soccer for me!!
    Thanks for letting me cry on your shoulder, snot and all.
    Thanks for buying me breakfast at Barry’s Bagels one morning so we could discuss me getting into youth ministry.
    Thanks for telling me it was ok to mess up and just be me, the kids will appreciate honesty instead of political correctness.
    Thanks for being my reference as I applied at churches and putting your reputation on the line for me (although at the time your reputation wasn’t that good! It was 1999 afterall!).
    Thanks for crying with us as we left UBC, our home, to pursue what God had in store for us.
    Thanks for wearing those goofy zip up padded vests. I thought only my trucker dad wore those, somehow you made them look cool.
    Thanks for being just a phone call or email away when I wanted to catch up every couple of months.
    Thanks for preaching from your heart.
    Thanks for not taking yourself seriously at all.
    Thanks for showing all of us that pastors aren’t hypocrits.
    Thanks for being honest.
    Thanks for being an author.
    Thanks for being a movie watcher.
    Thanks for wiping a booger on me once during a prayer!
    Thanks for being a husband and for showing young college students how to love your wife.
    Thanks for being a dad, I wish I could have seen you with your kids, I know you were great…
    Thanks for being my pastor.
    Thanks for being my friend.
    Thanks for being you…..

    I’ll miss ya man, enjoy Heaven, and save a place for me at the pool table.. I get winner…

    Grace and Peace,

    Scott Ayres
    Minister through Sports and Recreation

    [ Lisa and I started going to UBC, less than a year after it started, in early ’96. The church grew so fast in that first year, that during the Baylor school year it had to meet at the Hippodrome (an old civic theatre seating close to 1000). Now when Baylor was out, we went back to reality and met at this tiny, old church house with maybe 25-40 of us there. Kyle came on staff shortly after this (maybe a year or so) and fit right in with us. It was an exciting time when we bought the building on Dutton and started renovating it and making it our own. Lisa and I went to church there for 4-5 years and left the church maybe 6 months after Kyle took over for Chris (Chris moved back to Houston to start Ecclesia). It was hard for us all, but Kyle filled his shoes well and didn’t miss a beat in pastoring the community there. Lisa and I had a hard time leaving in late ’99 as God called us into youth ministry at this small country church out in the sticks, but it was what God wanted for us. And I remember Kyle being so supportive of it and helping me through it. We got to know Kyle and Jenn well the previous year or so in our married bible study group. Kyle and Jenn were a part of our 3rd year of meeting and were freshly newlyweds, man they would make me sick!!! I can’t think of any other couple besides Lisa and myself that were more in love..]

  6. Jeffrey Kyle Lake was special. He was different and for those who were fortunate enough to be close to him, they knew this. I love Kyle. I miss my brother and one of my best friends. I was blessed to have been close to him for 33 years. It pains me to live life without a friend that brought me so much joy in live life.

    For years we teased Kyle that he was adopted. He was so different with his sandy blonde hair and calming blue eyes. He was a sparkling and radiant person. Of course, Kyle was never adopted by my parents. We are full blooded brothers. No, Kyle was on loan to us for 33 years. I thank God for that time together, but I wish I had more.

    We played soccer together. My senior year in high school, Kyle made the varsity soccer team as a sophomore. During one practice, coach selected me as one of 6 captains for a 5 on 5 drill. My first selection was Kyle. Many of the other guys on the team made fun of us for my selection of Kyle. I next chose Joel “Bubba” Smith. We faired very well. The truth was that I knew Kyle was good, very good. We played soccer together since the time I turned 5. I miss playing soccer with Kyle.

    Today is a different day. It’s quieter today than it was 18 days ago. I wish Kyle were here to visit with over a cup of coffee. I would love to send him a funny text message. He was such a good brother, friend, counselor and pastor. I’m going to miss Kyle. Although I believe he is in our presence and I will someday see Kyle again, I miss him. In the days, weeks, and months ahead I ask for your continued prayers over Jenn, Avery, Jude and Sutton and our entire family. I pray for each of you that mourn my brother’s loss. God bless you.

    Jody Lake

  7. I can’t believe christians aren’t struck by the absurdity and irony of Kyle Lake’s death. What sort of god do you worship? This god allowed Kyle to die while he was trying to perform a ritual that jehovah god condones. (lower case intentional) Wow. If there was ever a slap in the face by reality, this is it. Thanks.