Dr Luke Schutz was sent to attend mass at church every Sunday until he was confirmed, and then he was free to make his own decisions.
“I was not a willing visitor to the masses. I would have preferred to watch the French Open tennis tournament or a different sporting event. I liked the songs of the church, but the religious instruction – no – I went through the motion and was not an active participant. Soon after confirmation I stopped going to church.
“I was doing a Master's degree in Science and most of my friends were into evolution and natural selection. Some of them were very militant. Amongst them were atheists that were followers of Dawkins’ theory. I was not completely against religion. I always thought there was some role for religion. Churches do a lot of charity work, but I thought organized religion had perverted some of the good beliefs and tenets of it,” he added.
“I thought I was very smart in my approach to the Bible. I said there were some historical facts that you cannot dispute.
“I always said that smart people learn from their own mistakes. Wise people have to learn from the mistakes of others, and that’s where the Bible exposes the mistakes of others to people so that they could learn from it,” he remarked.
“I still had an affinity to go to church. There was some pull that I could not dismiss,” he added.
Schutz moved to Cape Town where he met up with an acquaintance from Wits, Tyla. She invited him to her birthday party, but his car broke down at the gym. Tyla offered to fetch Luke with her sister, Brydi, and the chemistry between Brydi and Luke was tangible from the outset.
Tyla orchestrated a date for the two and they struck up a close friendship straight away. “She was convinced of Christianity and a committed Christian who came to faith a long time ago. She asked me after a month if we could go to St. Stephen’s Church together and I agreed.
“I enjoyed the message and liked the worship.
“At that time, I was working as a junior doctor – it was tough life-and-death situations that you had to deal with, and there was nothing to lean back on. Science does not give you all that comfort.
“I went to church with her and there were very interesting testimonies. I enjoyed the worship and the small group as well. But I was not completely convinced of the gospel.
“There were some fundamental and controversial tenants that I did not completely buy into.
“I knew Brydi was what I was looking for as a woman. We discussed our relationship and decided to get serious pretty quickly.
“But I discussed the gospel and gave her that line about smart people. I also could not reconcile myself with the resurrection. Nobody comes back to life after they die, I argued. From a medical point of view, I could not reconcile myself with it. But for Brydi, it was a big deal. She could not marry somebody who did not share her faith,” he said.
She suggested attending an Alpha. Schutz thought it was a counselling course for relationships, and he did not want to attend, but after Brydi explained, he agreed to attend. He was struck about the session in which Nicky Gumbel spoke of and debated about atheism and where they had it wrong.
During the third session, the group leader, a great facilitator, asked them about the hymn Amazing Grace and what they spoke about it.
“It was as if a switch was turned on. I felt something shifted in my mind,” Schutz reminisced.
“And I opened myself up to that grace. This was the beginning of the road back to faith. It brought me to Jesus.
“My relationship with Brydi blossomed. We did the pre-marriage course together. I just surrendered my life to Christ and got baptized.
“I do think a lot of things are thrown in your way in life, and some you just accept by faith, which I did with the resurrection.
“The Alpha was a deal-breaker for me. We would not have got married, and it would not have worked if I had faked it.
“There were changes in me like kindness, patience and less pride. I do think that at times I’m still head strong and struggle with stubbornness. Alpha and coming to Christ had a massive impact on my work as a doctor.
“Prayers and my faith have assisted me. In the hectic, scary moments, I ask God to help me in the situation. My faith also focused me. I started to embrace where I needed to be in the moment, instead of asking what if.
“Those prayers in tough situations have grounded me, because I feel as if somebody else is supporting me. I felt like I was dealing with my work a lot better.
“The first year of being a parent also opened up another part of our relationship with God. When Brydi went through the labour and delivery, we definitely leaned on Christ.
“Before I came to Christ, I had no idea of conflict resolutions and love languages, and Alpha really helped me."
"I have spoken to my father in law and friends and have invited them to Alpha. To me Alpha was massively important, and the turning point in my life.”