Dave Schmelzer: An Atheist’s Way Home
By Christine Wilson
The 700 Club
In college, Dave Schmelzer had a strong belief about God. There wasn’t one.
“I would kind of seek out people who were church go-ers and I would ask them why,” Dave tells The 700 Club. “I would not ask them why neutrally and in a friendly way. It would have an edge. ‘Why do you do this?’”
Dave didn’t start out as an atheist. In fact, when he was a child, his family occasionally went to church. But Dave says the preacher spoke in jargon that he didn’t understand.
“Sunday was one of the worst parts of out week. It was really one of the days I looked forward to the least.”
By the time he turned 10, the family had stopped going.
Over the course of his teenage years, Dave began to search for meaning in his life. Religion, he says, didn’t give him any answers.
“I think a Godless world made the most sense to me,” Dave says. “I was looking for a sense that the actual experience of living meant something beyond just ‘find a good job, find a good spouse, raise a nice family, and die.’”
By the time he got to college, he had the reputation as one of the most outspoken atheists on campus. But his grades were failing, he had no friends, and he questioned his purpose in life.
He began to ask, “What if I’m a mediocre or less student at a good school? Is this whole life over? I’ll never find that great spouse and those great kids, and I’ll die poor. Is that what my life means?”
That’s when Dave began to look for answers.
“I thought back to those thoughtful Christians,” he confesses. “What they would tell me, 'God is a guide. God speaks. God answers prayers. God has a future for you that will work out.'”
Dave went back to his dorm room and did the very thing He mocked his Christian friends for doing. He prayed.
“I prayed something almost exactly this. I still remember it. ‘God, I don’t believe You exist. But on the off chance that I’m wrong, today would be an outstanding day to show me. Amen.’”
That night on the way to a movie, Dave took a wrong turn and got lost. As he studied his map, he hit a wooden post. But it wasn’t a post, it was a giant cross.
“I’m remembering that day I [prayed]. Normally that wouldn’t mean anything, but I thought, ‘How many crosses have I rammed in my lifetime?’”
Dave’s car wasn’t harmed so he continued driving. He got lost again. This time, he pulled into a parking lot to look at his map. When he pulled out of the parking lot, he noticed something strange.
“So, as I pull out I think, ‘That’s a giant flood light cross. That’s two in ten minutes.’ Then I felt something that surprised me I suddenly had a strong impression. ‘Dave, you always thought that, if there was a God, the good news would be that I cared about humanity. I’m here to tell you that there is a God and I care about you.’”
Dave didn’t know what to make of this new experience. So he talked to friends and took a class on religions. During his studies, he found only one place that explained what happened to him: the Bible.
Dave says , “I read Acts 2 in my little Bible group. After the Holy Spirit comes, what’s going to happen? ‘Anybody who’s trying to follow Jesus will start hearing God’s voice.’
“I remember saying, ‘Jesus, I think it’s about You. I’m in. Help me do that. If there’s anything about sins that need to be forgiven, consider that asked.”
Dave learned more about Jesus by studying the Bible and praying regularly. He says he learned that God had great plans for him.
“My whole issue in life had been, ‘Where’s my life going? Why is it going to be good?’ It seems like one of Jesus’s key promises is: “Oh, I’m on it, Dave. I’m there. I want to give you whatever it feels like life is. I want to do that. I want to do it so much more than you can hope for. Let’s try it out together.’”
Since then, Dave has never looked back. He now pastors North Cambridge’s Vineyard Church. He also leads a group called “Seek”. It’s full of students that want to learn more about God. You can hear more about Dave in his book, Not the Religious Type.
“What all those Christians in my youth were trying to tell me is I needed a relationship with God. God has been for me a guide into a life that I want to live. All those things have been true.”
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