Leader in Emerging Church movement electrocuted in baptistery

WACO, Texas (BP)--Kyle Lake, pastor of the University Baptist Church in Waco, Texas, and a leader in the “emerging church” movement, was electrocuted as he stepped into baptismal waters and reached out to adjust a microphone during the Sunday morning service Oct. 30. He was 33.

More than 800 people were present when the tragedy occurred during homecoming weekend at nearby Baylor University, according to a report by the Waco Tribune-Herald.

Several doctors in the congregation rushed to Lake when he collapsed, but efforts to revive him were unsuccessful and he was pronounced dead at Hillcrest Baptist Medical Center around 11:30 a.m.

The woman Lake was set to baptize also was rushed to the hospital, but she was not seriously injured and it is believed that she had not yet stepped into the water when the electrocution happened.

“At first, there was definitely confusion just because everyone was trying to figure out what was going on,” Ben Dudley, community pastor at University Baptist, told the Tribune-Herald. “Everyone just immediately started praying.”

University Baptist Church was founded in 1995 by Chris Seay and Christian recording artist David Crowder, who is a main worship leader in the collegiate Passion movement. The congregation has grown to about 600 members, according to the Tribune-Herald.

Lake, a leader in the emerging church movement seeking to develop new forms of worship and theological inquiry for a new cultural context, was the author of the books “Understanding God’s Will: How to Hack the Equation Without Formulas” and “(re)Understanding Prayer: A Fresh Approach to Conversation with God.”

In an interview of Lake by The Leadership Blog at blogspot.com on Oct. 17, the first question asked what gave him the greatest joy in being a leader.

“As of today, I think the thing that probably attracts my attention more than anything is seeing someone genuinely explore an aspect of life, ministry, God beyond the commonly held assumptions that their culture has provided for them,” Lake responded. “Not for the satisfaction found in being a renegade but because there’s an authentic pursuit of truth about the world in which they live.”

Another question asked Lake to name his goals as a leader.

“I carry the expectation that I will always be (and my church will always be) in a truer place -- truer to God, ourselves and our mission year after year ... a more thoughtful place year after year ... an emotionally healthier place year after year,” he said.

Lake is survived by his wife, Jennifer, a 5-year-old daughter and two 3-year-old sons.

At a remembrance service at First Baptist Church in Waco Sunday evening, about 1,000 people gathered to comfort one another and share memories of the pastor who was especially well-liked among college students.

Baylor administrators, including interim President Bill Underwood and Samuel W. “Dub” Oliver, interim vice president for student life, attended the gathering, the Tribune-Herald said.

“Kyle and the other staff have been very gifted in reaching students and making the Gospel come alive for students,” Oliver said. “It is a huge loss for the university community.”

Lake was a native of Tyler, Texas, and earned a bachelor’s degree in speech communications and religion from Baylor in 1994 before receiving a master of divinity degree from Truett Seminary in 1997. Two years later, he became pastor of University Baptist, which is heavily attended by Baylor students.

“Not only did we lose a pastor but we’ve lost our friend,” a statement posted on the church’s website Oct. 30 said. “... We are confident that Kyle is in heaven today because of his trust in Jesus Christ as his Savior.”

Funeral plans were pending, but visitation was set to begin at 6 p.m. Oct. 31 at Wilkerson-Hatch-Bailey Funeral Home in Waco, according to the church’s website. In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to University Baptist Church, 1701 Dutton Avenue, Waco, TX 76706.

“We will move forward as a church,” Dudley said Sunday evening. “I don’t know how, when, why, where or what’s going to happen, but we will continue as a church in the community because that is what Kyle would have wanted.”

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