When you meet Dave Schnitter, lead pastor for Saddleback Berlin, you quickly realize that Saddleback has placed quite the tall order when choosing its leaders for the 12 Cities Initiative. Dave truly fits the "tall order" bill. At 6’7”, he towers over most people in any room he enters. But Dave’s height isn’t the only big thing about him. God has bestowed in Dave an immense passion to reach the unchurched in Germany and all of Europe.
Dave was born and raised in Germany and grew up as the child of missionary parents. His father was a music evangelist in Germany, which helped develop a passion for music and evangelism in Dave. After watching Jurassic Park for the first time when he was nine years old, he prayed to Jesus for the first time. Sure, it may have been a prayer of protection from dinosaurs, but it was the start of a journey with Jesus. When Dave was 19, he went on a mission trip to Kosovo, and that’s where he felt God’s calling in his life to become a pastor.
“I felt God tapping on my shoulder, saying, ‘Hey, I want you to do this for the rest of your life,’” Dave recalls. “I didn’t know exactly what that meant at the time, but I knew that God was calling me into fulltime ministry.”
From that moment, Dave has pursued God’s calling by preparing himself to lead in the church. After attending a Bible college in Switzerland, Dave was hired as a worship leader at a church in Belfast, Ireland.
“I knew I wasn’t ready to lead my own church yet,” Dave says, “so I went to work for a lead pastor who could mentor me and help me become the leader I needed to be in the future for whatever God had planned for me.”
The next three years for Dave were a time of learning and experiencing life as a pastor, until he felt God leading him to plant his own church in his home country, Germany. He began to pray that God would provide some guidance, and in the meantime acquired a temp job at a Christian publishing house. Shortly thereafter, a friend informed him that Saddleback Church in California was planting churches in London and Berlin. Having been familiar with Saddleback in the many years that he had been doing ministry, he quickly checked it out. After reading Pastor Rick’s vision for reaching every tribe for Jesus and about Saddleback's vision to plant 12 churches in 12 cities around the world, Dave immediately got in touch with Saddleback PEACE team leaders.
“I sent an email to the PEACE team indicating I was interested in knowing more about the planned Berlin campus. Abraham Muelenberg [a pastor on staff at Saddleback] was going to be in Germany within the next few weeks and asked me to meet with him.”
After a few months of conversations and interviews with Saddleback leaders, it was clear that God has chosen Dave to lead Saddleback Berlin. While Dave knows the challenges ahead of him, he trusts that God is in control, and expects that He is about to do something big in Europe.
When asked why Saddleback members should pray about going to Berlin, he said, “God is up to something in Europe, and that’s exciting. But it’s more exciting to be a part of it!”
Dave is married to Jenny, and they have two kids, Naemi (4) and Liam (1).