Many who heard Pastor Dave Thomas pray during Southeast Christian Church online worship services last month were asking the question, “Who is Dave Thomas?” 

They wonder about the African-American who prayed for unity within the church amid racial unrest across the U.S.

The answer is not complicated.

Thomas was ordained by Southeast and sent out by the church to serve in West Louisville with Pastor Darrell Wilson at Greater New Beginnings Christian Church.

“Pastor Dave Thomas loves the church and has the heart to see the church of Jesus Christ experience the oneness Jesus prays for us in the community,” said Charlie Vitttow, who leads the Missions Ministry at Southeast.

Thomas, 43, came to Jesus after years of traveling a long, broken road. When he was a teenager, his best friend introduced him to drugs, alcohol and gang violence.

“It started with hanging out, but that led to smoking marijuana, drinking and eventually selling drugs,” Thomas said. “I was raised in a two-parent home, taught morals and values. I had good grades in school until I got into the project environment.”

Thomas dropped out of school in the 10th grade. Classes could hardly compete with the drama and cash from selling cocaine. By then, he was making lots of money in full-fledged street life.

In and out of jail. Running from the police. Headed in the wrong direction. He wanted to turn it around, but good intentions failed to produce long-term change.

He didn’t know then that God was pursuing him.

Thomas calls Interstate-75 his “Damascus Road,” the place Paul had a life-changing encounter with God.

When he was arrested in January 2016 on I-75 on his way to Detroit to buy a shipment of drugs, Thomas asked for a cell in the hole, a place he could be alone with God.

“Alone in that cell for two weeks, my life flashed in front of my eyes,” Thomas said. “The Holy Spirit flooded that room and convicted me. I was so ashamed of what I’d done. I knew from there on, there was no more straddling the fence. It was totally God, or He wouldn’t allow me to breathe anymore.”

That was the beginning of a new life.

Thomas watched Southeast worship services on a television in prison. Once released, he came to Southeast, signed up for a Bible study, small group and weekend group. He began ministry in homeless shelters and with youth.

Every day, he talks with people from all walks of life: pastors, those who are homeless, incarcerated, doubting and lost. He understands the hopelessness of living one wrong turn after another and the hope that only Jesus gives. He’s seen and experienced most everything, and he tells everyone, “I’m never going back.”

One life goal is to be the bridge between churches, races, age groups and communities. Challenges don’t scare him.

“There is a total disconnect with youth,” Thomas said. “They are out of control, wild, they think they know everything. But they are the next generation. We have to be intentional about pouring into them. That requires sacrifice. It’s not just the black church and the white church. It’s not just the older crowd and the younger crowd. I try to help those who are older understand what youth are saying. I try to get younger people to seek guidance with an older mentor. I truly believe in order for transformation to take place, we have to come out of our comfort zones and sacrifice. The question is if we’re willing to do that.”

Thomas compares working with youth to newborn babies.

“Sometimes dealing with babies is nasty,” he said. “They poop all the way up their back and it takes more wipes than normal to clean them up. That’s the picture of our young people who are just now giving their lives to Christ. We will deal with some stinky stuff, but we must be willing to wipe them off and wash them with the water of the Word. It takes time and sacrifice. We need to invest in them, train them in the way they should go, mentor them like spiritual parents.”