John Schlitt’s Testimony at Paradise Café

John’s testimony at his solo concert at the Paradise Café, Sheboygan, Wisconsin, Feb. 26, 2000

(John is speaking here)

Everybody having a good time so far? (audience claps and cheers)

You know, I’ve shared my testimony many, many times but what’s cool here, especially - my gosh, this was like my second home—Milwaukee, Sheboygan – this whole area was like… my old band, my secular band was here so much, it felt like my second home.

And I wish that I could make a very good report and say “you know what? All my memories were fantastic here.” The truth is, I don’t remember much, because I was a fried vegetable. I was a cool fried vegetable: looked great, walked on stage, drank a six-pack of while I was singing, because I was cool – and I needed it for my voice, of course. (audience laughs) I’d jump off while Roger, our keyboard player, was doing a song called “Jefftown Creek”; he did a solo that lasted forever. It gave me a chance to go down – we had a system here. My road manager would open up a way. He had a path set for me, room by room, we’d run in there – great big line of coke. I’d snort the line of coke, and by the time Roger was finally done with his solo, we’re ready to do “Never Been Any Reason.”

And I mean, by this time, I’m so hopped up I don’t even feel my feet; I’m like “yeah, I’m ready, let’s do it all day” and just….. it worked great. The only problem is, when I get off stage, I’m so burnt that I need another line. And then they hand me a bottle of , a big can of tomato juice, a gigantic glass and I poured a little 50/50 and I’d say “OK, I’m ready for interviews!” Go. Another hour. Interviews. Meanwhile, I’d do about two or three more lines of coke.

By this time, if you guys have ever done coke, you realize there ain’t gonna be no sleeping’ in John’s case. He won’t be sleeping tonight, because it just don’t happen.

So I go through that for a while, for about, oh, four or five years – actually no, it was about two years; two years of heavy duty use. And I get tossed out of the band. All right? Now this is my life. My whole life is the band. It comes before my family, before my health, before anything. And all of a sudden it’s gone. So for the next six months I go on this binge, this -o coke-o binge with the excuse that I’m building a new band. The truth is, I was just in a haze and it was just a great excuse to get high.

At then end of this, I was this close to suicide. I mean, I really feel, looking back on it now, like hindsight, I can see the enemy going “Ha, Ha, Ha, you poor sucker! I had you all the way – now it’s time to collect!!!”

But the enemy keeps forgetting that we have a God who loves us so much; He knows the plan. He knows the plan! You’re not fooling Him, ! You’re not fooling Him at all! You don’t have free rein, ! You may talk a big talk, but God is there saying “Ah-ah. Ah-ah.”

So my wife gets saved in this same six month period that I’m going on this binge – and if you wanna see a weird household! (audience laughter) I mean, you got Mr. Depresso here that’s just going, down…. down… down… feeling like the life…. Like there’s nothing left. And she says “la da dee da daa dee laa doo dee daaa, everything’s cool” and I’m going “AUGH!”

She’d try to tell me about the Lord, and I’d say “Get outta my face! I don’t need this Jesus stuff; I’m too cool for Jesus. I’ll tell ya, I’ll become a Christian when I’m rich, famous, done everything, too old to have any fun, and do it just… hmmm….. to be safe.”

She goes “Oh, buddy! No, it don’t work that way!”

“Well, it works that way for me, so don’t bother me.”

She’d lay back; she knew I was hard-headed. So I just keep on going down, down, down and finally, about August of 1980 - I’m serious, I actually sat down and said “OK, it’s time.” My son saw me wake up on a couch – plowed. My son was one year old at the time, and I kept that away from my family until then. And I said “That’s it. That’s final. I’m not gonna do it.” And instead of saying “I’m quitting,” I said “I’m gonna end it,” which was a whole lot more final.

About that time my wife comes up to me and says “John, you promised you’d come and talk to my pastor.”

I said “when?”

“When you were drunk last night.” (audience laughs)

I said “OK. Cool.”

And I went and talked to the pastor. Now, my wife tried to tell me about the Lord; I wouldn’t listen because I’m a husband. (audience laughter) (John laughs too) I love it – it’s always the ladies who giggle first, like “ha ha – yeah, we know!”

Anyway, this pastor hit me between the eyes with the truth, the boldness – not just truth, but with a boldness. I mean, just a in-your-face, I’m not messing with you buddy, I’m not impressed with you, here’s your truth and you can take it or leave it, but I’m not gonna have your on my shoulders. It was like “whoa!”

Says “Do you know Jesus?”

“Yeah, I’m an American! I go to church twice a year. I’ve read - I know what the bible looks like! I even read it – parts – maybe couple pages! I go to church Easter and Christmas. Every year. Almost.”

Says “No you don’t. You don’t know the Jesus who loves you, you don’t know that Jesus has a plan for your life, you don’t know that Jesus is here right now.” I mean, the boldness blew me over.

Next thing I knew, I’m sitting in the corner – no, laying in the corner, going “WHAT hit me?”

Says “do you wanna to know Jesus?”

And all I did was (John nods head).

The seed was planted, folks. The seed was planted with my wife, who kept getting on me, but then laying back; telling me the truth, then laying back. And then it was finally – it took a one/two punch for this hard head. But it was the beginning of a new life for me. It’s why I’m still here. It’s why I’m still breathing.

And when I got that second chance, I walked out with a burden that lifted off of me… I still can’t really describe it, except it felt like tons had lifted off…. And I realized then that I didn’t have to face this stupidity any more. I didn’t have to face this world of stupidity any more, and that I was gonna win. You know why? Because Jesus was gonna do it for me. He was gonna use me (audience claps)… Yeah, praise God! And that is a reality. That’s not some little “oh, that’s a Christian thing; isn’t that sweet! Isn’t that sweet how they just believe that kind of stuff!”

I just wanna go “You think you’re sweet?” (makes hitting sound) “Here’s some sweet!” (makes hitting sound) Now, that’s a Christian! But, of course you’re not supposed to… (audience chuckles) …but I’m not perfect – I’m human, so that’s my excuse.

But I’m telling you right now, it is fact – it’s truth – we need, if nothing else, we need to receive it as truth. We need to get it in here, we need to get it here, we need to get a confidence back that says “you know what? Whatever I face, it’s not me, it’s Jesus going before me and HE can take anything!” Praise God, you know what I’m saying? (audience claps)

Well, I want you to know, I wish I could say “from then on everything was just great. I was a perfect individual.” Ha! I mean, I did more stupid things right after I got saved than I had for the six months before then. And I mean, it was freaky! It was like every opportunity to do anything I’d ever wanted to do showed up. Why? Because the enemy is freakin’ out! He’s losing! I’m not his mark any more, and he’s freakin’! He goes “I gotta get.... oh … no, no, John – here’s some coke, here’s some…. blehblehbleh” and he’s just handin’… and I slipped two or three times.

But you know what’s cool? I walked back – I had a church who loved me so much – KNEW that I’d blown it, ‘cause I smelled like a brewery…. They said “ah, John – back, huh?” “yeah….” “Ok, come on.... come on, brother. Let’s pray.” And they would. And I was received. And they loved me and they kept loving me and kept loving me and I saw the love of Jesus through them. It was so cool…. so cool.

And one day I realized: the coke went. Didn’t want it any more. You gotta understand: for anybody that’s ever been in , it ain’t easy to let go of. For me, it was… it was weird. I just… it was just one of those things.

And was even worse than that! I refused to let – we prayed for it… finally the pastor says “you don’t’ wanna let go, do you?”


“You know what? In God’s timing, it’ll go.”

Like “Wow! OK, cool, you mean I can still drink?”

“Yeah. In God’s timing, you won’t want to.”

“OK, cool! I can have it… and…” …anyway, you know, typical.

But what was so cool, was that one day (John chuckles) there was a six-pack of my favorite kind of sitting in the back of the refrigerator. And I realized it had been sitting there, for like, two weeks! And it hadn’t been touched! And I go “hold it! I haven’t drank nothing for two weeks?!?! No wonder I feel good! All right!” (audience claps)

No, no – listen: I said to my wife “Babe! I haven’t drank anything for two weeks!”

She says “I know.” (audience laughs).

Like she has little marks… “I know.” (more laughter)

Oh…. but see, she’s the power part of our half, of our team; she’s the power part. It’s been so cool to watch. You’d think I’d be the human dynamo. Nah! She’s 5’1” of human dynamo. But I just watch her, ‘cause God knows my weakness and He knows her weakness and her strengths. We work together, because that’s how God does it; that’s what marriage is about too. (audience claps). Yes, praise God! It’s so cool.

I’m giving this testimony; I’m telling you a little bit of why I am the way I am now. For five years, I assumed I’d never sing again, because I’d blown it with so much garbage, so much stuff I’d done with Head East. Never thought I’d sing again – that was cool, ‘cause I knew God had a plan for me and I was cool – I was anxious to see what it was. I thought it was gonna be, I was going to be a cost and scheduling engineer for a mining construction company (audience chuckles).

Well, don’t laugh – that’s what I was doing! And it was like “Oh boy! I’m excited about this – thank you Jesus!” And, I’m serious – I was trying to be excited, but the truth was, way down deep, I’m going: “There’s something not cool here because I’ve got a voice and I’m wasting it. I’m not sure if this is really God.” But I said “OK, tell ya what: if this is God’s plan, praise God. I got a great family, kids are going to a Christian school, I got a great church, a new home I just finished re-building, dadadada… nice home, nice job – that must be the American dream! Oh, thank you, Jesus – that must be it!” And all of a sudden He goes “Ah-ah. Don’t you sit here thinking this is it, because there’s big changes gonna happen.”

I go “oh-oh” ‘cause I’d gone through three or four changes. This was a mining construction company; I had gone through three or four major moves and I didn’t wanna do no more moves any more, so I’m going “Oh no, God – no! No God – I don’t wanna move any more!” And He goes “No, no – this will be your heart’s desire.”

I looked at my wife and go “Babe! I think God just told me that this isn’t it!”

She goes “So what do you think it is?”

I said “I have no idea.” ‘Cause by this time music was gone… it was five years; hadn’t sung in five years! No possible way – who in their right mind would have me sing for them? (John grins, audience laughs)

Anyway, by this time I’d discovered Petra. I think they’re unbelievable. Really; in fact, when I was working in the mines… the miners – they don’t like engineers, but they ended up liking me because they realized what my past was, and I was actually a “celebrity.” And so, they thought it was sorta cool that I was riding down in the bucket with ‘em, and carrying transits and stuff, and I was an old rock star.

And they’re going “what are you doing here? Why are you here? Why don’t you just go out and sing rock ‘n roll and forget this stuff a mile underground?”

I says “Tell you what, guys, the only way I’d sing rock ‘n roll is if it was a band like Petra.” Like, “the only way I’d ever fly is to fly directly to the moon and back with out any help.” Because there was no possible way, you know what I’m saying? And I said it two or three times, remembering it. Gotta watch out what you say! (laughter) ‘Cause God will take you up on it!

Out of the blue, Bob Hartman calls me and says “John, you know who I am?”

I says “Huh! Who in the world doesn’t?” And I said “Yes, Bob, I know who you are.”

He goes “Would you consider singing for Petra?”

I looked and go “You gotta be kidding! I haven’t been singing for five years.”

He goes “All I wanna know: are you still a Christian?”

I said “Well, actually I’m a heavy-duty Christian.”

He goes “Good. That’s all I wanna know. You wanna come and talk with us?”

“No, no – I’m ready!”

He says “No, no – don’t you think you should pray about it?”

I go “Oh, yeah….” (audience laughs) “Yeah, I guess so.”

But I knew; I knew, my wife knew. And then they had to figure I was – for six long months they had to figure out that I was. I finally called them; I said “Guys, is there another person, and you’re just using me as a spare? It’s OK, it’s just - I just need to find out if I need to tell my boss I’m gonna quit or not.”

“No, we haven’t tried anybody else; you’re perfect.”

“Then WHAT’S the big deal?”

“Well, we, ah… we need to come and talk.”

So they brought the guys up; there’s three of them – John Lawry, Mark Kelly and Bob. They come up, and they, I mean, they put us through the RINGER! It was Investigating City. They talked to my family, they talked to my kids, my wife, they looked me over, looked my home over… it was like “Gees, I didn’t know I was joining the FBI!” (laughter)

I finally said “Cool, you know – whatever. Whatever.”

My wife’s a great cook, OK? So we had this gigantic roast. I mean, it’s great!… something that usually lasts our family like two weeks. “Hey , why don’t we invite them for supper?” She says OK. I say “Hey guys – you wanna have supper? We got this roast!”

They had this (gasp), this look on ‘em, “OH! Ah…. Ah…. Just a minute, we gotta talk.”

And they go out and have a meeting! And I go “Gee, gotta have a meeting just to eat roast?! (laughter) I’m not sure if I wanna join these guys or not!”

They come back and say “yeah, we’ll eat.”

They devoured that roast. That roast was gone before I got a chance to look at it! I mean, I got this little sliver and I’m goin’: “it’s GONE!” …..find out later they had been fasting. (audience laughter) They hadn’t eaten for a while…. And they decided “Well, we’ve fasted enough. That roast looks too good.” (more laughter & applause)

So they gobbled it down, walked out and later, about a week later I became part of Petra. And I’ve seen unbelievable things in this ministry. I’ve seen God work in mysterious ways. I see Him working here tonight. I see Him working here tonight, folks – God never stops working. It’s us who stop listening. And I’m telling you right now – I’m telling you right now – if God is dealing on to your hearts, anybody here tonight: if you’ve been walking the walk but faking it – God’s here tonight. If you’ve been straying away from God a little bit – God’s here tonight.

How many chances do we, in the body of Christ, get to join in Jesus’ name? How many times do we get to join together and be part of a family in Jesus’ name? Tonight is a night of cleanin’ house. If there’s something not cool in your walk, let’s walk right.

If nothing else – I’ll tell ya what – I’ve got nothing else to do… I wanna pray with you. Sign autographs and pray. Something’s tugging on your heart and you need to pray about it, you need to pray about…..maybe walked a little far from God, you wanna get back…. tonight. If God’s dealing with you and you’ve been faking it, you wanna get real, you wanna know that you know that you know that if you died tonight, you’d be with Him, but you’re not sure now – let’s pray.

We’re gonna make this evening not only fun, but productive for eternity. That’s what’s cool about being a Christian! We not only have fun, we can change lives for eternity in Jesus’ name! You show me somebody in the world who can do that, and I’ll show you a liar. Praise God! Praise God!

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