BETWEEN THE LINER NOTES
John W. Schlitt: A Rock Star Redeemed
By Cynthia Savage and Tim Branson
The 700 Club
In college, John W. Schlitt linked up with rock band Head East as the lead singer. After just one radio hit, record labels came knocking on their door.
But John’s good guy image didn’t quite fit the rocker mentality that Head East needed. His band manager advised him to party more like a lead singer. John was introduced to cocaine, and in just three months, he was hooked.
“I loved it. I thought it was fantastic,” John tells The 700 Club. “My whole day depended on how much coke I had in my little bottle.”
John couldn’t even function in the world that he lived in.
He confesses, “I’d drink beer to go down and cocaine to get up. It was a lousy way to live. I wasn’t living. I was killing myself.”
John addiction got so bad that his band asked him to leave.
“The band was always No. 1,” he explains, “next to my life and my family, everything, my health. All of the sudden the band’s not there anymore. I’m like a fish out of water. I didn’t know what to do.”
John spent the next six months singing, binge drinking and snorting cocaine. As John spirals out of control, his wife accepts Jesus as her personal Savior and becomes, as John says, “an on-fire heavy duty Christian.”
Dorla shares, “It was by the grace of God that we stayed together, because when all this took place, he was not a fun person to be around. He was miserable. Our church was praying for him; I was praying for him. There was a war going on for him. I knew it."
The bills were piling up, and John’s addictions weren’t backing down. One night he passed out on the couch.
“I woke up the next morning, and my one-year-old son was looking at me real strange like, ‘Why are you here, Dad? Why are you on the couch?' It was a sweet little innocent thing, but I realized that the animal that was on stage had finally made it home.”
He continues, “Then a little voice goes, ‘You know what John? You’re worth more dead than alive.’ And I thought, I sure am. That’s a great idea.”
While the children played on the carpet in the living room, John plotted his own death.
“I had decided in one quick instant that this was the best thing for my family. I finally thought of something that I could do for my family.”
That also happened to be the same day John promised to meet Dorla’s pastor.
“I went because I wanted her to remember that I tried,” he says.
The pastor challenged John’s view of God. He said, "’You don’t know the Jesus that loves you. You don’t know the Jesus that has a plan for your life. You don’t know the Jesus that knows exactly what you’re thinking right now.’”
The power of God’s presence knocked him to the floor. John gave his life to Christ.
“The minute I finished, it was like a ton of lead lifted right off my shoulders. I didn’t realize I weighed that much.”
He was instantly delivered from cocaine and soon lost his desire for alcohol.
John recalls, “I had a hold of my daughter’s hand, and I looked at her. I think the first thing that God ever said to me was, ‘John, you know those treasures that you were looking for. All that money you wanted to make, all those riches, they are right here. I’ve been taking care of them. Now you start.”
John put music aside. In time, he landed a job as a mining engineer. Life began to look pretty good.
“’Well, you got a beautiful home; you have a great church, great job; your kids are going to a Christian school. This must be the American dream.’ All of the sudden, ‘Nope, don’t be content with this. This is not it. This is not it.’ I got a phone call from Bob Hartman which was totally out of the blue.”
Bob wanted him to front as the lead singer for Petra.
John says, “The only way I would ever sing in rock’n’roll is if it was in a Christian band like Petra. You’re going out because you have a reason to do it. You want to see lives changed.”
In his 20 years with Petra , the band brought home four Grammy awards and 10 Dove awards.
In 2005, Petra said its farewells. John’s brand of retirement includes working on a solo album and perfecting his woodworking skills.
“He never gave up on me when He should have,” John says of God’s faithfulness. “I know that I’m going to see God but not because of what I did or doing or ever will do. I sin every day, but God’s blood was shed for me. That’s good enough to get me there.”
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