John Cooper: Awake and Alive to Truth
About the Guest
On FamilyLife Today, Dave & Ann Wilson host Skillet's John Cooper--who knows the pull to succumb to a chaotic, relativistic world. But he's determined to stay awake & alive to truth & its unmovable source.
Skillet’s John Cooper knows the pull to succumb to a chaotic, relativistic world. But he’s determined to stay awake & alive to truth & its unmovable source.
John Cooper: Awake and Alive to Truth
John: The agent and the promoter of the gig said, “Hey, we want you to know: you guys, we think, could be the next biggest band in the world. You’ve got to stop talking about Jesus. Don’t do Christian shows; don’t do Christian interviews; don’t do Christian radio.” So we said, “You know what? Not only are we not going to deny Christ, we’re going to get louder for Jesus.”
Ann: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Ann Wilson.
Dave: And I’m Dave Wilson, and you can find us at FamilyLifeToday.com or on our FamilyLife® app.
Ann: This is FamilyLife Today!
Dave: Okay, I’ve got a question for you.
Dave: “Have you ever been in a situation, where if you denied Christ, it would be a good thing?—it would be a gain—like if you just deny Him—like say, ‘I’m not a follower,’—or whatever?”
Ann: Oh, yes; okay. You know, the thing that just came to my mind—I don’t know if you would describe it as that—
Dave: I’m setting you up for something.
Ann: I know! I’m ready! Okay, so—
Dave: I don’t know if you know what I’m setting you up for.
Ann: I just gave my life to Jesus—maybe, this is what you’re thinking—I just gave my life to Jesus: I’m in high school; I’m 16; and I know no other Christians. I had never gone to church, and I start reading the Bible. It is changing my life. So I go up to my best friend—you know, she’s like, “Why are you reading the Bible?”—I’m reading the Bible every day in this study hall.
So here I am, again, telling her about what Jesus says in the Bible. I push my Bible over to her; and I said, “Read this. Read this right here.” She looks at me; and she goes—and she is whispering because we’re in class—she goes [whispering], “I am so sick of you telling me about Jesus and this stupid Bible!” She takes all these pages in my Bible, and she rips them out.
I’m like, “Oh!” I was so mad and so upset. I thought, “I’m going to lose this friendship; I’m totally going to lose it.” I went home, and I started praying. I said, “Jesus, I must be messing something up, because I wanted her to want to know You; but I must be doing something wrong that would make her not want to know You.” Then I open the Bible; and I come to Matthew 5, where it says, “Blessed are you who are persecuted for My namesake.” I was like, “What?! What?!” I had my arms up like, “Yes! Yes, God!”
But I lost that friendship; she didn’t want to have anything to do with me. I wasn’t going to dumb down my faith and not talk about it, because He was my everything.
Dave: But there is more to this story that we can tell later,—
Dave: —because she ends up back in your life later.
The reason I ask you that question is because we are sitting here with John and Korey Cooper. I was going to say the front men and women of the band, Skillet. [Laughter] I guess there is a front man, which is John.
You guys, when I even watch you on stages with, it looks like tens of thousands of people out there—pre-COVID, I’m guessing—
John: Yes. [Laughter]
Korey: Yes; really.
Dave: —but it’s so cool to see a husband and a wife up, leading all these young kids in songs that glorify Christ. That’s got to be sort of fun to do that, as a married couple; right?
John: Oh, absolutely. I mean, it’s fun for me. What do you think?
Korey: Totally fun for me. [Laughter]
Ann: Oh, that’s good. I bet a lot of people ask, “Why Skillet?” How did you come up with that name?
John: People do ask that. It’s a question I’m always asking myself, too, “Why in the world did I go with that dumb name, Skillet?” [Laughter] When we first started, we were all from different bands. It was actually my pastor/he said, “Hey, John, I think that you would work good with this other guitar player from this other band.” He said, “You should start a side project and write some songs. See if it goes good. It’d be like cooking: taking all these ingredients from different things and throwing them in a big skillet.”
And then somebody said, “Dude, you should call this Skillet. That’d be funny.” [Laughter] I was like, “Yes; okay. I mean, it won’t last long.” [Laughter]
John: Twenty-five years later, I’m like, “You know what? Don’t be rash in your decisions. [Laughter] Think about the name of your band before you commit to a thing.” Yes, I think God is teaching me a lesson/He’s teaching me a lesson there about not being rash. Anyway, I don’t love the name Skillet; but it was the ‘90s.
Dave: You know, as I pick up your book—which is just an awesome book, Awake and Alive to Truth, by John Cooper—you open/I think you call it preshow, where you tell this story about an agent, who came over to you as you were starting out. You weren’t big yet—well, I guess, you were sort of big—but it was an interesting discussion—that he says: “If you deny Christ, you’re really going to be rich and famous.”
Dave: Tell us that story; because it’s really interesting what went through, and it was the both of you making a decision.
John: Yes, I think what was interesting about the story—I did decide to open the book with it—because I was thinking, “A lot of people who, maybe, get their hands on this won’t know who I am. Maybe, they won’t understand why I am writing this.” This was the first and best example I had of when I started realizing, really, how deceitful the enemy is. I think what the enemy has really done a good job, unfortunately, in our culture—and Christian culture right now—twisting the truth.
Basically, we were, at the time, we had a song that was just hitting the radio—our first one, 13 years into our career, it was starting to hit—we were on a massive tour. We were the opening band; there were three other bands/all platinum artists. There was an after-show bowling party. They said, “Hey, all the bands are invited.” Truthfully, I didn’t want to go—because we had kids, and they would wake up at 6 a.m.—we couldn’t hang out. But I didn’t want to be the Christian band, who never has any fun with anybody; so I was like, “I’ll go bowling, just to show them that I want to be buddies; and I’ll leave early.”
While I was there, somebody said, “Hey, John,”—they called out to me. I cannot believe they knew who I was; because these were big, important people in the rock world—these were radio people there—promoters, agents. This was the agent and promoter of the gig; I didn’t know they knew my name; you know? They said, “Hey, we want you to know—watched the show—you guys, we think, could be the next biggest band in the world.” I was flabbergasted.
John: “I think you could be the next biggest band in the world. You guys need to strike while it’s hot.” He said, “Okay?” I said, “Alright!”
Ann: What were you thinking right then?
John: I was just like, “Wow! That’s just crazy. I don’t know what he means by ‘strike when it’s hot,’ but I’m here;—
John: —“I’m not bowling any strikes, but I’m ready to strike, baby! Okay, sounds good.”
He has this look on his face, like, “I don’t think this guy gets it.” He’s right; I didn’t get it. I was just like, “Cool!” He’s like, “Do you understand what I’m saying?” I’m like, “Yes, man!”; you know? He could tell I didn’t know what he was talking about. He goes, “Look, I’m going to say it to you straight, because nobody else is gonna.” He said, “Here is the deal: Skillet—you have the songs; you have the look; you have this uber-positivity about your music—Rock ‘n’ roll is just now looking for positivity, and you guys have it.”
He said, “To be honest, spirituality is—people are looking for that in rock music for the first time in decades—everybody is faking it, but you actually have it. You’ve got girls in your band—that used to not be popular; now, it’s popular—and you’ve been doing it for a long time.” He’s like, “I’m telling you: you could be the biggest band. You’ve got to stop talking about Jesus. Don’t do Christian shows; don’t do Christian interviews; don’t do Christian radio. Don’t talk about being a Christian band, because it makes you seem like fake Rock ‘n’ roll—not a fake Christian—it makes you seem like Diet Coke® instead of Coke; right?” [Laughter]
I was sitting there, staring at him, like, “Oh wow! Okay, I see what he is saying.” But then he went into this last thing. I’ll say about it: he went into this sort of thing, saying, “But look, I’m not saying you have to deny Christ; just deny Christian music as a title. Don’t talk about it.” Then he said, “Think about the good that you can do in the world if you don’t talk about Jesus. You can help the poor; you can be positive; you can tell people to be good people.” He actually said to me, “Everybody likes Bono. Do what Bono does; everybody likes Bono.” He said, “Imagine the good you can do for Jesus if you had a lot of money. You can do that [talk about Jesus] later.”
This is why I started the book with this, because the book is about relativism. It’s about the absolute truth of Jesus Christ that never ever changes. The world is telling us that the truth is not absolute. This was the first time that I had heard that sort of/man, that was deceptive; right?
John: I was like, “He kind of is true. I mean, I could just be positive and then, later, talk about Jesus. He’s not wrong in what he is saying.”
Ann: “I could just gain a bigger platform.”
Korey: “You could do good.”
Ann: There are so many ways that you could think through that.
John: That’s right, and he was giving me “good advice.” It might not be godly advice; it was good advice.
I started that story to say that, basically, that was a life-changing moment for me—not because it changed who I was—it was life-changing because it made me aware of what the enemy was doing. We made a decision—Korey and I—we talked about it. We just knew, right off the bat, “This isn’t the Lord.” God brought back the Scripture to my mind: “If you confess Me before men, I will confess you before my Father; but if you deny Me before men…”—ooh, that’s frightening to me!
John: So we said, “You know what? Not only are we not going to deny Christ, we’re going to get louder for Jesus; because this thing that is happening—that the devil is doing—is ripping our young people off; and to such a degree that there are so many people, who say they are Christians—who, I think, think they are Christians—but we don’t know: “Do they actually know Jesus? Do they have a relationship with Christ? Is there fruit of repentance or not?” It’s a scary place.
It’s time, I believe, for Christian-platform people—celebrities, artists, influencers—it’s time for us to be very clear about what the gospel is. That’s why I wrote the book.
Dave: That’s a beautiful story. Korey, do you remember that conversation? Was there any—
Ann: —temptation to follow that?
Dave: —any temptation, like, “Yes, maybe, we should”; or was it just, as soon as John came in and said, “Here is what this guy said…”—was it an easy decision?
Korey: Yes, I would say it was an easy decision. If somebody says to you, “Just deny Christ,” it’s obvious. We would be like, “No. In fact, now, we want to shout it louder; because you’re trying to get us to deny it.”
Korey: So when John came back, it was like, “Alright; this smells like the enemy,” because he is even trying to paint it in a good way, like, “Oh, wow; wait until you have bigger influence, and then you can come out with the Jesus stuff.” We were like, “No, this feels like compromise for us; and we’re just not doing it.”
Ann: Who would you be?—had you made the decision to be “famous.”
John: Oh, man!
Korey: Someone we hated.
John: Someone I hate. [Laughter] It’s okay to say that, when it is in terms of your own flesh; isn’t it?
Korey: You, yourself; yes.
John: Yes; I mean, I even said that in the introduction to the book. It was like, “What if we didn’t make that decision?” What I think, honestly, could have happened is, unfortunately, what I see happening with so much of Christian leaders right now, which is very much a watered-down gospel that is so tame that the world doesn’t hate it. It’s just friendship with the world.” I obviously want to be friends with sinners, but I’m not looking to make peace in terms with what I believe. I’m not looking, to say, “Hey, don’t worry about what Jesus says about ‘A,’ ‘B,’ ‘C,’ or ‘D’; because I know that feels mean to you”; so we ignore it.
I think what we have now is such a watered-down version of the gospel. I think the best way to say it is the world is kind of comfortable with Jesus as Savior, but they are not comfortable with Jesus as Lord.
John: I think we can see that happening.
By the grace of God, that didn’t happen, which I am so very thankful for; but I do have a load of friends, who have fallen into that trap. It just happens with a little bit of: “I think my ideas might be a little better than God’s.” [Laughter] It really is what it is; isn’t it? “I think there might be a better way to evangelize than what the Bible says. I think I have a better way to show that what sin really is than the Bible.” It just takes you down a bad place, and we are seeing the fruit of it now in the church today.
Shelby: You’re listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with John and Korey Cooper of the band, Skillet, on FamilyLife Today. We’ll hear more of their conversation in just a minute; but first, as you can imagine, we’ve had to make some tough choices, again, this year like everyone else. We’re hoping, that through the generosity of people, just like you, we can continue to reach your home and all the homes that need help and hope for the relationships that matter most.
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Alright, now, back to Dave and Ann with John and Korey Cooper and the temptation to hide our faith as Christians. Here is Dave.
Dave: All of us, followers of Christ, are tempted, almost daily, to be quiet—
Dave: —or deny. I mean, we’re not going to have an agent come up to us and say, “Hey, this is your future if you do this…”; but—
Ann: —or just to compromise.
Dave: —sitting on an airplane, I don’t know how many times—sitting beside some guy I don’t know, and he asks this simple question: “So what do you do?” There are many times, it goes through my mind—you know, I could say, for years: “I’m a pastor,” or “I’m the chaplain of the Detroit Lions,”—there has been a time or two, where I didn’t want to offend a guy; so I’m like, “Yes, I do marriage stuff for pro-athletes,” which is true.
John: Right; right.
Dave: But I’m afraid to acknowledge, in front of some guy I don’t even know and will never talk to again. Sometimes, we—in a subtle, small compromise—deny; and who knows where that little thing will lead?
I was thinking of a story. When I was in seminary, our president, Ron Jensen, told this story I’ll never forget. This is decades ago about being on an airplane. He is the president of this theological seminary. He is sitting beside some guy, a businessman. They are just hitting it off, talking/having a great time, laughing. He said, “Man, we’re 20/30 minutes in. We’re really enjoying each other. All of a sudden, the guy asked, ‘Ron, hey, so what do you do for a living?’” Ron says, “I’m the president of a theological seminary in Southern California.” The guy goes, “What?! Tell me, again, what you do.” “I’m the president of a seminary that develops Christians that go into ministry.”
He says this guy looks at him; he goes, “You mean to tell me you’re a Christian?!” He is all mad. I’ll never forget. Ron just says, “I sat there, and I looked back at him. I turned to him, and I go, ‘You mean to tell me you’re not!’” [Laughter] The guy looked at him; and I’ll never forget Ron just went on. He goes, “I turned to him. I go, ‘Do you realize I’m forgiven of all my sins?! What do you got? Do you realize’”—and he goes through—“‘I have a purpose and a destiny to my life? That is what Jesus has given me. What do you have?! Do you realize that my marriage is based on the Rock of Jesus Christ? I know why I’m married; I know where we’re going. What do you got?’”
He goes, “I just went on for like four or five minutes:—
Ann: —and he [Ron] wasn’t combative.
Ann: He was really compelling.
Dave: —“’This is why,’ and ‘This is what I’ve got. What do you got?’” He goes, “Literally, the guy, after about a minute of that, looked at him and goes, ‘Wow; I guess I really don’t have much, do I?’”
Dave: I’ve never forgotten that; because I thought, “So often, we’re so soft, and we want to be gentle,”—and I get it; we do,—
Dave: —and we want to be tactful and loving to people—“but to be bold, and to stand up and say, ‘I’m going to do the opposite of deny. I’m going to proclaim, boldly, who my Lord and Savior is,’—like you said, John—‘not just my Savior, but my Lord, who is in control of my life. Man, I want to compel you, by the love of Christ…’ to the same guy.”
That is pretty powerful what you have done with your platform to do that.
Ann: And you guys are compelling. I’m listening to you; and a lot of times, we hear stories, even in our own lives, like, “Man, when I gave my life to Christ”—even like me—“I’m going to follow Jesus, no matter what: if my friend doesn’t like me, I don’t care; I’m going to follow Him.”
You guys still have that love and passion for Jesus; why? How is that true still?
John: May it never end; right, baby? [Laughter]
Korey: May it just increase.
Ann: Yes; and I think people are listening, like, “How are they still like that?” You’ve been believers a long time, most of your lives.
John: Well, thank you; and likewise. I’ve been meeting so many people with this same fire, and the same zeal; and it’s been so amazing. I think the times we are in, also, are making more people aware. It’s almost—like you just said a second ago—we do want to be nice, of course; but Christians have been kind of playing by rules in a game that the world is not really playing by right now; right?
If I sit down on a plane, the person next to me, in no way, is embarrassed to tell me—
John: —about how much they hate Christianity; or how much they hate traditional marriage; or they hate “X,” “Y,” “Z.” They are not embarrassed at all about pushing, what I would call, a humanistic, atheistic agenda; and I’m playing by this rule: “I just want to be nice and love people.” It’s like, “You know what? Maybe, it’s not time for that. Look at what it is producing,”—especially our young people.
Our young people are completely untethered from any sort of absolute truth/any sort of absolute morality. What is okay in terms of the culture—what they are told is right and wrong changes on a daily basis—according to TikTok®, according to the most unimpressive people, and most immoral people on the planet—are telling all of our young people how to live.
I think, for us, it is the passion of the Word of God/of: “If you adhere to the Word of God, you’re not just pleasing God, there are benefits. Your life is stable; because it is covenant blessing, and it’s covenant law-keeping. Then God gives you covenant blessing, because you are living in accordance with the design of God; and it’s such a peaceful place to be.”
I meet these young people at shows, and they are completely chaotic. They are—I’m sure you have seen all the same stuff I am—young girls, suicide up 51 percent, year to year. The depression rate is up; anxiety rate is up. People are pulling their hair out—these young people—because they are not tethered to anything. That’s what gets me going/is: “Oh, if you only knew how wonderful it was to know Jesus.”
John: So we are both passionate about that; right?
Korey: Yes; and I would say, for me—obviously, by the grace of God who chose you and made Himself know to you—for me, I have always felt that very deep ache of like, “Something is wrong if I don’t know Him.” The great thing about God is: if you seek Him, you will find Him, when you seek Him with all your heart; right? It’s like the treasure in the field. If you are willing to give up everything, you will find something that is so far beyond what you could ever get on your own. I’m like, “That is what I want. I don’t care about anything else. I just want Him in my life; the more that I have of Him, the more I want of Him.”
It’s like the crazy addiction, of like, “I’m just so passionate for You. I can’t believe You chose me. I can’t believe You love me. The idea that You love me and have broken into my life just”—[emotion in voice] it just gets me; you know?—“I want to live for You, and I want other people to see You, and know You like this; because it’s the greatest, most deepest fulfillment, just knowing Him; period.”
Ann: It is.
Ann: So good.
Korey: I don’t ever want to not feel like this; you know? I didn’t use to cry when I was younger. Around the time I was 13 years old, I was at a youth retreat. I knew Jesus as my friend—I would journal all the time, like, “Lord, what’s going on?”—whatever—“These are the things I’m feeling…”—blah, blah, blah; very much so open with Him and just praying that He would do something in my life more.
I went to this youth retreat, and one of my friends wanted to go up and get prayed for. I’m like, “Yes, I’ll go up with you; because everything is cool with me.” I was always like cool and not emotional. I go up with her; and suddenly, somebody comes up to me: “I just feel like I need to pray for you.” I’m like, “That’s cool.” I don’t want her to feel embarrassed that she missed it, because I was totally fine. She starts praying for me; and I just start weeping. It was like one of the most intense God experiences for me, and God just started doing stuff in my life.
Since then, every time, I talk about Him, I cry, which—reading the Bible to your kids/reading a Psalm to your kids—and you’re crying. Like, my son is just putting his arm on me, like, “It’s okay, Mom.” I’m like, “I know. I feel Him/I feel love for Him so deeply—and such gratitude for Him so deeply—I just want to know more, and I just want to serve Him with my life”; you know?
Ann: That’s awesome.
Dave: That’s the beauty of, as a parent, trying to reach your children for Christ, when they see it’s real in mom and dad, like, “We’re not doing something we’re supposed to do because the pastor of the Bible study, we’re…”—it’s an overflow of what God is doing right now in me, and our child sees that. That’s something hard to walk away from.
John: Yes, it is.
Dave: You can walk away from the Commandments and things we say; but man, when they see mom and dad, and it is real, it draws them back.
I’m sitting here—I’m just inspired by your life—
Ann: Me too.
Dave: —thinking, “Man, God has called you to be on stages, and on buses, and in cities. He has called us and our listeners in different ways to do the exact same thing. The way God has made us and gifted us in our cul-de-sac, or our apartment, or cubicle [at] work to fall in love with Jesus and then shine in whatever way—you’re doing it through music; we’re doing it our way—man, whatever God has called you to do, follow Him!
Dave: “Follow Him fully! Watch God use you in a powerful, powerful way.” It’s not going to look the same as your life or our life; but it is going to be a legacy that changes the world.
John: Amen; I believe that.
Shelby: That is Dave and Ann Wilson with John and Korey Cooper from the band, Skillet, on FamilyLife Today. John’s book is called Awake and Alive to Truth: Finding Truth in the Chaos of a Relativistic World. You can get it at FamilyLifeToday.com or by calling 1-800-358-6329; that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
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On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Shelby Abbott. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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