Bill and Kyle Thatch

Bill Thatch, left, baptized his son Kyle, right, during a worship service Nov. 24.

Bill Thatch and his wife, Pat, prayed for more than 20 years for their only son, Kyle Thatch, to make the decision to follow Christ and be baptized.

In November their prayers were answered.

“It all happened because of prayer,” Bill said. “Sometimes God doesn’t answer our prayers right away, but that never kept us from praying because prayer works, and God is always listening.”

During the 9 a.m. service Nov. 24 at Southeast Christian Church’s Blankenbaker Campus, Bill, 79, stepped into the baptistry with Kyle, 52, and finally got the chance to say, “Because you have put your faith and trust in Jesus Christ, I now baptize you in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.”

The road to a deeper walk with Christ was no walk in the park.

“I started coming here in August after facing some tough times in my marriage,” Kyle said. “I had really messed up, and things were in crisis mode.”

Kyle grew up attending church but stopped attending as a teenager.

“I had always had faith in God … but when I was about 12 or 13, I just didn’t want to go anymore,” Kyle said. “I was always asking questions, like, ‘Why do you believe that?’ or ‘Where did the Bible come from?’ I started fighting what I already believed in.”

Bill and Pat started attending Southeast in 1997 and finally got serious about following Jesus. Bill gave up drinking and got hired in Southeast’s Facilities Ministry, where he worked for 12 years.

Bill invited Kyle to church year after year.

“I would send Kyle sermons to listen to,” Bill said. “I don’t know if he listened to most of them, but (retired Senior Minister) Bob Russell would preach sermons, and I just knew God wanted Kyle to hear them.”

A couple years ago, Kyle started listening more seriously to the sermons his dad sent him, and in August, he went to a Sunday morning service with his parents. He had attended Southeast a few times over the years, but this time, he left eager to come back.

“I had always written off Southeast because of how big it is,” Kyle said. “I’ve always preferred smaller groups, so the idea of coming to such a big church never appealed to me. But this time, I was able to get connected to a small group, and that really changed things for me. The church went from being the size of the world to the size of an egg.”

Kyle was shocked at the level of kindness and empathy others at Southeast extended to him.

“I’ve met so many people who have been through the same things I’ve been through, and who are willing to help,” he said.

At the recommendation of a friend, Kyle started reading “The Purpose Driven Life” by Rick Warren.

“The book talks about five things every person needs in their life: To believe in Jesus, get baptized, find a church, have fellowship with other believers and engage in discipleship,” Kyle said. “I realized, ‘I already believe in Jesus. Why am I not doing these other things?’”

The waters of baptism

During the recent “Mantra” sermon series at Southeast, churchgoers were given the opportunity to fill out commitment cards in response to Senior Pastor Kyle Idleman’s “Grip the Plow” sermon. Many committed to be more generous with their time, gifts and resources; others committed to pray more, open their homes to a small group or even adopt a child.

Kyle wrote, “I commit to be baptized by the end of the month.”

The next weekend, he and his father were in the water together.

“I knew I needed to ask my dad to be the one who baptized me because I knew this was something he wanted for me for a really long time,” Kyle said.

As Kyle and Bill were getting ready to step into the baptistry, Bill started to feel woozy.

Bill had had surgery in October and was still recovering.

“I knew that I was supposed to be out there, so we made it together,” Bill said. “I’d waited too long to miss it.”

“As soon as we got in the water, I knew everything was going to be all right,” Kyle added. “I’m glad we were able to share the moment.”

The new Kyle

If you ran into Kyle Thatch at a restaurant or in the grocery store, you’d immediately make a new friend.

“Now, when I go places, I’ll try to talk to people,” he said. “I’ve always talked to people, but I’ll actually pay attention. I’ll ask them how they’re doing and see if there’s anything I can do to help if they’re not OK. This whole experience has given me a new perspective, and I try to teach my kids the same things.”

Kyle has gotten plugged into a couple of small groups at Southeast, including Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University.

He now volunteers alongside his dad on Sunday mornings as a communion server, and is eager to find other places to serve.

Kyle was surprised at how easy it was to say ‘yes’ to obeying God.

“I thought that there was supposed to be some light-hitting-you-in-the-head experience, but I just asked God to take over my life; I realized I couldn’t do it on my own anymore,” he said. “I kept saying, ‘One of these days.’ I’m grateful that day came sooner rather than later.”

His father believes his son is a new man.

“I see such a change in him,” Bill said. “The things that used to bother him don’t seem to bother him anymore. I knew if Kyle would see this through—if he’d get on board with this—he’d be the best salesman for Jesus Christ, and I think he’s starting to do just that.”

Kyle is a firm believer that faith grows best in the context of community.

“It’s hard to live a new life, but if you take that next step and get involved somewhere—whether it’s a group or serving—you’ll see that God put others in your life to help you through, one day at time,” he said.