Me, The Maxim Party, and Other Super Bowl Stories

Not many people who might read this blog know that in college, I hosted a sports radio talk show for a couple years with a few friends. We thought we were big time because one time people recognized our voices at the bowling alley. I wrote a couple articles for the sports section of the school paper, and even got to review a brand new golf course after playing for free. Good times.

For two years in a row, my friends and I submitted our press info to the NFL and applied for media passes to Super Bowl week. Once in Tampa, once in New Orleans. Believe it or not, not once, but twice, the NFL approved our application and we headed down to stay at the cheapest hotel possible, while planning how to work in press conferences, media day, and strolls up and down radio row, in the midst of grasping to get comp tickets to celebrity parties. (The prices are in the thousands.)

I’m not sure what the Super Bowl week parties are like anymore, but the big deal back in 2001 and 2002 was The Maxim Party. That’s where all the celebs wanted to be, and so did we. Don’t get me wrong, attending the NFL events, hobnobbing with hall-of-famers and ESPN analysts was great fun. **Having Daunte Culpepper order me a drink (Cranberry and Gray Goose) is a random memory if I’ve ever heard of one.** But hanging with movie stars, rock stars, and TV stars was where it was at. So the first year, my friend Bret and I were denied tickets to the Maxim Party, but after some buttkissing (translation:begging) were included on the red carpet press list. We figured that to be better than nothing so headed off with our cameras, hoping to get pictures with Snoop Dogg, Britney Spears + Justin Timberlake (they were boos at the time), and Nelly. (Remember this was 2001).

Our cab pulled up to the valet area and dropped us off, right next to the long line of limos. We tried to squeeze our place onto the red carpet to prepare our attention-seeking questions and our VHS-C video cameras. (Somewhere I still have the video of Bret asking ol JT a Britney question that ticked him off.) I vividly remember the moment of seeing a piece of the makeshift wall open in an area where nobody was looking. The security guards were too busy watching the red carpet to pay attention to the two dummy college guys sneaking in to the $1500 ticket star studded event…so naturally we strolled right in like we owned the place. For the next few hours we (felt like we) did. We had drinks/danced/chatted it up with/took photos with/and felt like equals with Jermaine Dupri, Ludacris, Nelly, Tara Reid, N Sync, LL Cool J, 98 Degrees, Jerry Rice, Emmitt Smith, Joe Montana, Snoop Dogg, and tons more. P Diddy would’ve been on that list, but anytime you’d get close to him, his security guys would pummel (and I mean pummel) you out of the way. Great time.

Moral of that story…if you’re ever on the red carpet at a star-studded event, keep your eyes open for your moment to sneak in. I’m sure it’s easier than people think, just not everyone has the guts to try it.

But it was great fun. Those are some great memories from my college days, as you’d expect. I do love watching Super Bowl week media coverage remembering what it was like to be in the mobs of people. I love hearing people broadcast radio show from radio row. And I’d probably enjoy those things again. But as I have reflected on these experiences later in life, I realized that they were just one night, or one week out of many nights, days, and weeks. So what I realized is that Jesus gives is the only one who can give us those nights, weeks, years of experiences that will mean something forever. One moment with Jesus won’t mean the star-studded red carpet or photos with celebs, but it could mean eternity. (Cue Famous One – Chris Tomlin)

I have more stories to share about how we snuck into other events too. I will share more tomorrow.

2 People I’ll Meet in Heaven

“Can I interest you in a favor that might be a hassle but would ensure that the gospel reaches Cameroon?” – random text from my brother on Wednesday.

Of course I said ok without knowing what he was talking about…I mean how often to ensure that the gospel will reach the other side of the world.

Basically he knows two missionaries from Atlanta who are leaving for Cameroon today (Friday) and there had been some trouble with their passports at the Cameroon embassy in DC. So yesterday I drove down to DC through some snow and ice to the Cameroon embassy (which was actually closed because of weather) where a lady came in specifically to give me the two passports. I went to FedEx, overnighted them to Atlanta, where my two friends picked them up this morning so they could head on their mission to Cameroon.

So by my calculations, God used me to share the gospel through two people I’ll probably never meet, in a country that I’ll probably never visit, by simply driving to a building I’ll probably never even drive past again.

God must have something planned for Cameroon to orchestrate this the way He did. Small world. Big God.

3 Reasons I gave extra to Shaun Groves new record

For the past month or two (I think) Shaun Groves has been inviting people to help him make a new studio record by donating money. There were different levels of giving, with different “prize” levels depending on how much you gave. For example, giving $5 or more gets you a signed copy of the album when it’s released; or giving $500 gets you the opportunity to spend a day in the studio during the making of the record…you get the idea.

As someone who has only been able to make albums through fundraising, I clicked on Shaun’s homepage multiple times throughout the past month…just to see how the donations were coming along. It was great to see the $21k goal was passed with plenty of time to spare. Yesterday I felt God leading me to give to Shaun’s new project anyway, so I considered giving $5, but in the end gave a bunch more even though he probably didn’t need it.

Why? Here are 3 reasons, outside of God nudging me.

1. Shaun was the first artist I heard (or at least paid attention to) share about Compassion’s vision. A few years ago I heard Shaun speak about Compassion at Dove Week. **If you’re too young to know what Dove Week is, look in the encyclopedia. If you’re too young to know what an encyclopedia is, Wikipedia that junk.** Anyway, Shaun talked about his journey through the music biz and how Compassion and their programs gave his music greater purpose. I wanted that too. That day, God opened my mind/heart about Christian music being about more than just filling the seats in a church. A year later (when I was just getting started as an artist) I opened for Shaun when he came in to do a concert and share about Compassion. Since then, my wife and I began sponsoring two children, (Shebra in Haiti, and Nayeli in Ecuador), I also started partnering with Compassion as an artist, and we even went to Ecuador with Compassion to see some of their sites in action. (See more about our trip here: My Ecuador Blog) So now you know where our journey with Compassion began.

2. Shaun has encouraged me. When I as about to present Compassion for the first time, Shaun sent me a couple of encouraging DMs with words of wisdom. **If you’re too old to know what DMs are, check out** He really does spend a lot of time encouraging other Compassion artists and working hard to promote the gospel of Jesus through Compassion.

3. I know that the extra money will go to do something to spread the message of hope. I know that Shaun raised $5k more than his goal. His family won’t have a new 60 inch 3D TV. He won’t take a fancy vacation, at least not on my dime. What he will do is put that extra money towards making the album that much better with the intent of getting that many more kids sponsored and giving them the message of Jesus. And if the album doesn’t require that extra cash, it’ll go towards children in poverty, or someone with a greater platform than me, who can be the voice of children that don’t always have a voice, or something to further the message of Jesus.

So I guess 4 would be: Why not?

These are also the reasons you should buy the record when it comes out.  Keep your eyes and ears open this summer.

Until then, check out Compassion and pray about sponsoring a child today! Compassion

Fatal Attraction

WARNING: Yes. This is another blog entry about church consumerism.

As I prepare to start a new position worship leadership at a church plant next week, I’ve been asking myself (and God) a question.

What makes a church attractive? The answer: Getting to know Jesus.

Don’t get me wrong…as a musician/worship guy/mac lover/etc., I love fancy-schmancy loops, lights, and fun videos. But also don’t get me wrong…a church whose main attraction is not Jesus is not actually a church. The Biblical Church is how Christ’s message grew from 12 Joe Schmoes to us. The Church is the “bride of Christ” for God’s sake. (I really do mean for God’s sake.) Just because it says 1st Street United Bretheren Community Church of Christ on the big stone water feature entrance sign, doesn’t mean it’s what God created the church to be. If excellence is the end goal, rather the means to an end goal (promoting Jesus), then what is being created is nothing more than a showy community gathering. Nevermind that people are typically charged to get into shows (that’s a whole separate post), but shows can lead to the glorifying of people, not God. Shows lead to temporary enjoyment, not usually transforming change.

Churches have the honor and responsibility of showing God to people who live in a world that doesn’t. Great energy, creative planning, and intentional moments are an important thing in our church today…but it’s not THE important thing. People can make eternal decisions, and we have the responsibility to help lead them there. If we do not, the results could be fatal.

Question O’ the Day

Ok so yesterday, on my facebook page, I asked, “What is your favorite ice cream flavor?” A bunch of people responded, not only by posting, but my mentioning it to me personally. I speculate that this was for 2 reasons:
1: People want a distraction from the typical daily grind (even though it was only Monday)
2: We’re designed to be in community, and a simple question about ice cream brought people together. (The cool thing is that it connected people who otherwise would probably never hear of each other.)

So I like it. I like connecting people. I like getting to know them better. I like ice cream. So let’s see if we can’t all keep learning more about each other.

In light of the muggy and humid weather, today’s question is:

What is your refreshing drink of choice? Mine is a nice fresh large cup of Chic-Fil-A lemonade. You?

Goodbye Christ Church

Today and tomorrow will be my last days leading worship a Christ Church, a place where I’ve been on staff for 6+ years. Here is a letter I wrote to the congregation explaining where I’m headed.

Dear Christ Church Family,

Recently I have felt a stirring in my soul, which is only from God. As I read scripture about the disciples (Luke 5:11), I asked myself “What if Jesus called me to drop everything and follow Him in a new direction?” As I felt this stirring, my wife Emily and I prayed for God to open and close the right doors for me. Within the past two weeks, He opened a new door for me. As of July 5th, I will be leaving my role as Worship Leader at Christ Church and heading to The Vine, a church plant, where I will be the Director of Worship & Creative Arts.

I want you to know that this was not an easy process nor did I make this decision lightly. As I felt God leading me, I prayed with Emily, sought Godly counsel, and discussed this new possibility with Christ Church’s Senior Leadership Team. They affirmed me as a leader and made it clear that they would be personally sad to see me go. Through our discussion, we were all able see God’s blessing for everyone involved, including Christ Church.

Many of you know that The Vine’s Lead Pastor, Todd Schlechty, was the Associate Pastor at Christ Church from 2003 to 2007. I want to be sure to clarify that he did not recruit me for this position. In fact, only two weeks ago I consulted with Todd regarding their open worship director position, and actually discussed potential people for the opening. Through that process, God revealed to me that I would be a great fit the opening. As I discussed the possibility with Todd, we prayed about it both together and separately, and both felt that this was the best decision for the kingdom as a whole.

Many of you also know that my brother, Nate Elgin’s, last Sunday as the Director of Student Ministries at Christ Church will be on June 27th. Please know that his leaving plays no part in me making this decision. As surprising as the timing may feel, I’ve learned over time that my timeline doesn’t always line up with God’s. Last month when Nate announced to the youth that he would be leaving, they asked if I’d be staying. I confidently said, “Yes,” because at the time this change was nowhere on my radar. Though not working with Christ Church’s youth will make me extremely sad, I am confident that God will bring the right person aboard to continue leading the students toward closer relationships with Christ.

Because Christ Church has played a vital role in the first eight months of The Vine’s existence, I see this being a smooth transition from a congregational standpoint. I have thoroughly enjoyed getting to know so many of you, but most importantly worshiping with you each week. Christ Church is where I led worship for the first time back in 2004, albeit a last minute fill-in for the sick worship leader. I recorded two full-length albums and was given many opportunities for God to stretch me as a part of this church. I, without a doubt, feel very blessed and loved by you. Many people don’t know that eight years ago I attended Christ Church for the first time, never having played the guitar or sang for a church. I started serving in the music ministry, learning as I went, and God used my willingness to cultivate gifts in me. He has given me exciting opportunities and used me in ways and far beyond my human abilities. I hope you feel the same and that God has worked through the gifts He has given me to connect you to Himself in a deeper way. I also pray that my testimony is an example that God can do amazing things with a willing heart.

Please keep me in prayer as I take on this new adventure. I feel like I’m just the right combination of nervous and excited…with a holy anticipation…exactly where God wants me. He will undoubtedly shine through during this whole process and transition. Because of the relationships that you and I have built over time, I hope to still be around as opportunities arise. I really hope that we’ll have the opportunity to worship together. I’d love to keep in touch via Facebook or my blog. Thank you for your support, prayer, and kind words. Please know you hold a special place in my heart. Keep rockin’ for Jesus!

Your brother in Christ,

The Official Top 10 Late Night Thoughts of an Insomniac Worship Leader during Easter Week

Here is a blog post from last year around this time (note we added an additional Saturday service this year):

So as you would expect, the two busiest weeks of the year for church staff (especially worship guys) are the week prior to Christmas Eve and Easter week. This year we added a Easter Saturday night service to try to clear out space for the CE visitors who will undoubtedly come to the 11:15 service on Sunday morning. Did Jesus really rise after 2.5 days? No, but whatever. We can celebrate on Easter Saturday just like we should celebrate His aliveness every day. So it’s 2:30am. I’m leading a service tomorrow night, Friday night, Saturday night, and 3 on Sunday. So here are the Top Ten Late Night Thoughts of an Insomniac Worship Leader During Easter Week. (feel free to add your own)

10. Did I finish the creating the slides?

9. Should I save the real guilty-type songs for Good Friday or use them for the Communion service on Thursday?

8. I hope the drummer gets there on time…the last thing we need is a soundcheck running up to the service countdown.

7. Wait, are we singing Nothing But the Blood Thursday or Friday…I can’t remember. I think it’s Friday, no wait, it’s tomorrow. No it’s Friday, right before Lead Me to the Cross. Yep, Friday. Wait, is Lead Me to the Cross on Thursday or Friday?…

6. I wish I could stop thinking about all of these details that will work themselves out and focus on Christ.

5. Wait, did I finish creating the slides?

4. Maybe we should shift the song order so the powerful response song can become the powerful sermon set-up?

3. Are these song possible song order changes the Holy Spirit? or am I overthinking?

2. I wonder if other worship leaders have these same problems or if it’s just me.

1. I’m taking Monday off to make up for lost sleep!

Changing the Oil

I’m sitting here in Meineke waiting for my oil change to finish and yes I have a coupon. I’m thinking about how I’ve recently been so inspired to increase my biblical knowledge. Partly because I’d love to be able to recite more scripture from memory. I also want to better apply what I learn to my life. And understand the theology behind a lot of scripture. I could go on, but you get the idea.

With a cheesy metaphor fully in mind, what would our cars be like if all we got was an oil change? If we get regular oil changes, our vehicles will actually function very well. It will make everything mechanically run smoother in the car for 3000 miles. But it will not protect our brakes or our tires. It will not keep the windshield wipers from rusting. It will not keep the windshield from cracking and needing replaced. (Yes that’s me and that is where I’m headed after the oil change is done.)

If I spend time gaining biblical knowledge, it will undoubtedly make my relationship with God somewhat deeper, but it will not protect me from attacks. Reciting scripture from memory alone will not keep my faith strong. Neither will better understanding theology. In the same way oil changes without getting gas will not keep your car alive, and the same way faith without deeds is dead (James 2), knowledge is only a starting point. And it will more than likely lead to pride. The same way an oil change alone will not cause a car to run, gaining biblical knowledge alone is not enough to make a Christian run. So I can read read read and learn learn learn until the cows come home, but it will also take prayer, worship, etc., to make me run smoothly.

Who knew an oil change could be so deep?

Faces From the Equator Part 4

Lunchtime at Compassion Project EC-478 is a high intensity activity. Within 45 minutes, 300 kids eat their lunch in 3 shifts of 100. Roberth, one of our translators and Compassion tour guides, explained how the project lunch is the only meal some of the kids will have. Our group had the pleasure of serving lunch to these wonderful kids. They were so thankful and patient with us. Check out the video.


To sponsor a child or learn how Compassion works, click HERE.

Faces From the Equator Part 3

Today I want you to meet Andrew and Marcelo. Andrew is a super-talented 19-year-old pop artist from Colorado. Marcelo is a 14-year-old aspiring guitar player from Compassion project EC478 near Otavalo, Ecuador. Last week they shared a moment that neither will ever forget.

A few years ago, Andrew wrote a song called Compassion (Change the World). After Marcelo and I exchanged guitar exercises through the translator, his mother Maria asked me to sing a song. I felt a nudge from God to have Andrew sing. I never knew he had written a song inspired by Compassion’s work, but God did…and He wanted this perfect moment to unfold.

Here we all were, about 8 of us, crammed into this tiny little homemade house with no floor, plastic lining the walls, and one bed for the 5 people in their family.

We sat and listened as Andrew sang the song, and it was amazing. The lyrics, the melody, and especially the line, “I have seen a grateful smile shining on a child’s face,” as he could glance over and see a child who has been changed. When the song finished, we all had tears in our eyes. The joy on Maria’s face, that somebody would be willing to sit and play and sing with her son, was overwhelming. She asked if Andrew had a CD, which he just happened to have on the bus. Maria’s family had a old CD player connected to one old speaker. By American standards this would’ve been considered cheap, but by their standards: a blessing. Eventually we left and got back on the bus for the ride through the town back to the Compassion project.

After about an hour, Maria showed up. She had walked so far to tell us that we had blessed her so much, she wanted to give us gifts. She gave Emily and I a Feliz Navidad decoration that her oldest daughter had made (and by American standards, it was totally impressive). The only other thing she had to give was eggs. A lady who had nothing, was giving what she could find. (To see what Jesus says about this, go HERE.

We presented her with a box of gifts for her family. Food, water, etc. She had the biggest smile on her face, and even sorta jumped up and down when we told her we’d be taking it back to her house because it was heavy. So we all got back on the bus and drove to her house. We walked back through the field past and heard music coming from inside. We walked in and Marcelo was sitting in the corner by himself in front of the speaker, listening to Compassion (Change the World) over and over. Wow. And once again, we all lost it. A story that only could’ve been orchestrated by God. A story that none of us will forget, especially not Andrew or Marcelo. We prayed through the tears for Maria, Marcelo, and the rest of their family. We asked that Marcelo be able to thrive in his love for music and travel the world telling his story and playing for God.

As we walked away, Maria said “My home is now your home. The door will always be open for you. I will be waiting to see you all again.” And she turned to Andrew and said, “I hope you will come back again someday…with a new CD in Spanish so I can understand.” The way God works, don’t be surprised.

To give hope to a child like Marcelo, click HERE.

To check out more of Andrew Witt’s music, visit