It was a normal Friday night at Seven, our weekly youth program at New Haven Church. Everyone packed into the youth room worshipping God, singing and preparing their hearts for the Word. I stood in the corner watching the audience worship and lean into God, getting ready to walk onto the stage and preach the gospel.

We preach about Jesus’ gospel every Friday night. It is a part of our vernacular at Seven. I didn’t think this sermon was going to be any different. Yet, in the back of the room stood a guy named Lane.

Lane came to Seven that night with one of our team leaders, Ashley. Every Friday Ashley spends about two hours downtown. She parks under a bridge and invites as many of the homeless over to her van as possible. She gives them food and brings them to Seven to worship God with our community. Lane was a part of the squad of homeless people at the back of the room that night.

In his own words, he was dirty, he smelled, and you could tell he was wrestling with addiction and hopelessness. As soon as I finished the sermon, Lane came up to me and exclaimed, “Why has no one ever told me this!” I replied, “Told you what?”

He explained how he had never heard that the gospel of Jesus was for him. He went on to tell me about his mistakes, his failures and his addictions and sins. As I listened to him I realized that for the first time in his life he got what the message of Jesus was about.

Suddenly Lane looked at me and exclaimed, “I want you to baptize me right now!” As he said that my heart jumped, but I felt apprehension. Can I really baptize this guy? I thought. He hadn’t been through baptismal studies, and I could tell he was wrestling with some sin.

Yet as I looked in his eyes, I was reminded of the story of Jesus baptizing the eunuch. I was reminded that baptism is not the end, but the beginning. I was reminded that if Jesus is really for everyone, why can’t Lane be baptized into a relationship with Jesus?

Where do we find water?

The search was on. Where do we find water? I wondered. It was 9 pm on a Friday, and the baptismal pool was dry. As I surveyed the crowd, I locked eyes with two of our members, the Renks, and I remembered they had a hot tub in their backyard.

After briefing Lane on what baptism is, what it means, and making sure he understood the message of the Bible, I approached them. I explained that Lane needed to be baptized, and asked if we could use their hot tub. Their response was a resounding “Yes!” Forty people loaded into cars and we drove to the Renks to baptize Lane.

As we stood in front of the hot tub, Lane told us his story. His childhood was devastating, his infant daughter had recently died, and he was struggling to get off the streets. But he explained that he knew God was doing something in his life and he was ready to accept Jesus as his Savior.

As Lane and I stepped into the hot tub you could see the dirt dissolve off his feet and into the water. I put my arm around him, I said a blessing over him and I baptized him into a life with Jesus. As we climbed out, our community instantly surrounded him and we began to sing praises over him.

We prayed for Lane and told him he was one of our own now. He smiled and said he would be back. Then he hopped into his car and drove back to his home—under the bridge—to be with his friends.

The only commandment

A few weeks later Lane showed up again. He looked clean, and he was excited to see us. He explained he was living with his sister and was getting ready to head to Springfield, Missouri, to live with his mom. Also, it was his birthday. Lane wanted to spend his birthday at church.

We had a cake for him, prayed for him and sent him on his way. We haven’t seen Lane since, but he is a topic of prayer and discussion in our community. We don’t know when he might drop in again and grace us with his presence, but we know we will see him again.

As I reflect on my brother Lane, I am grateful for the challenge he presented to our community. We live by a vision to love more. It was the greatest commandment Jesus ever taught. In fact, many theologians would argue that it was the only commandment He ever gave.

That night I think God was asking us to put our money where our mouth is. Are we really willing to love all? Are we willing to let anyone be a part of our community, regardless of their flaws or if their sin looks different than ours? Are we willing to live life with the least of these?

May we all continue to be shaped into His image. May all our churches be a place for all.

Kyle Smith serves as youth pastor at New Haven Church in Overland Park, Kansas.