John Cooper: Kids Equipped for Not-so-Christian Places
How do we equip our kids so God thrives in them and spills over to others? Skillet’s John and Korey Cooper chat about losing fear and steering kids to God.
John Cooper: Kids Equipped for Not-so-Christian Places
John: We always told our kids that we don’t have any aspirations for them outside of them serving Christ—and whatever that looks like—loving the Word of God, adhering to the Word of God, loving the Law of God. If God calls them to do music, that’s fine. If God calls them to do something else, that’s fine; even when it comes to higher education and things. We’ve always been very clear with our kids: “We don’t really care what you do as long as you honor God.”
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: Alright, so I’ve been walking around the house, playing some music. [Strumming on the guitar] Do you recognize that?
Ann: No, but did it hurt your feelings when I came out—
Dave: That is an acoustic version of a heavy metal sound, but—
Ann: Yes; and I was reading my Bible, and that keeps playing on and on. I’m like, “What is happening right now?!” Why are you playing that?
Dave: Well, you know, because it’s my new band, Skillet; and you fell in love with it after you listened to it.
Ann: It’s good.
We’ve got the front man and his wife, John and Korey Cooper, who are in the studio at FamilyLife Today. Welcome to FamilyLife Today. You’ve never been here; have you?
John: Never been here—excited to be here; right, baby?
Korey: Loving it already.
Dave: You guys are on tour. They are from the band, Skillet. I’m sure many of our listeners know you/multiplatinum. I did not know this, when I’m studying about your life—the most downloads of any song?!—Monster; is that true?
John: Not the most—but for a rock song—it’s certainly at the top of the list.
Dave: I like how you are being humble, not the most in world history.
John: No, I’m not; it’s just the truth. No, no; but for a rock song, it’s very high up the charts. So, I always tell people, “Skillet is the biggest selling band that you’ve never heard of.” [Laughter] When I see the numbers, I’m like, “How many sold?! We’re not that big; people don’t know who I am.”
Ann: But John, you have two Grammys; that’s kind of big.
John: Well, actually, two Grammy nominations.
Dave: Way to go, Ann. She just brought up something—[Laughter]
John: No, you’re good; you’re good.
Korey: We always lose. [Laughter]
Ann: I think that’s pretty remarkable too.
John: Thanks for reminding us; I feel triggered again. [Laughter] That didn’t take long. [Laughter] I thought you were the nice people. I’m going to write a book on this: The Day I Was Triggered at FamilyLife. [Laughter]
Dave: That’s what we’re here to do.
Ann: Korey, you’re in the band.
Korey: I am in the band; yes, yes. I play guitar, keyboards—basically, whatever is needed—you know what I’m saying?—programming.
John: You call yourself a helpmeet to the Rock ‘n’ roll.
Korey: I am the helpmeet to—
John: —to whatever is needed.
Korey: —Skillet’s helpmeet. [Laughter]
Ann: I don’t think most wives could actually be doing what you’re doing, though. You must be an incredible musician. You guys have been married—how many years?
John: Twenty-five years. She is an incredible musician; she plays keyboards and guitar live. For anybody who knows Skillet’s music, they have probably noticed that it is sort of a mashup of really hard music; but it’s also melodic. It has a softness to it on the production. It can be—
Ann: It does? [Laughter]
John: Yes; well, some people will notice that—maybe, not everybody—for hard rock, it 3does.
Korey: You’ll like Refuge; that may be all.
John: Well, for hard rock, you would agree, though; right?
John: Sometimes, we’re considered a metal band—but we’re very melodic for a metal band—and we have a lot of strings and stuff. So Korey—I always say Korey brings that to the table—I’m the metal side.
Ann: That’s cool.
John: She is the softer, alternative side.
Korey: I call it the happy/sads.
John: She brings the emotion to the music. I bring the metal to the music. [Laughter] And we cook up something. You see how I did that?—we cook it up in a skillet.
Dave: There you go!
John: That’s it.
Korey: I’m like the onion and garlic; you’re like the egg.
John: You’re not garlic. [Laughter]
Dave: Well, Ann/when we were prepping for our interview with you, I put on your music; and I’m grabbing my guitar, and I’m learning your stuff. I tend to play it loud, and Ann—I mean, I’m doing this for half an hour—she’s like—
Ann: I told John: “I’m trying to work on and read all these books and prepare.”
Dave: She’s like, “Can you turn that down? Can you please turn that down? [Laughter] Can you play another song?” I’m like, “No, I’ve got to learn Monster. I’ve got to learn this song”; you know? “We may get to do it; you never know.”
But man, I love what you do. It is just what you said—it’s got this hard edge metal—but there’s this, even the cello and the strings. I actually played upright bass in the symphony orchestra in high school.
John: Oh, nice!
Korey: Wow; so you’re legit.
Dave: I have an appreciation for that; and you blend that, which is so rare.
John: Well, thank you. That’s so cool that you played upright bass. What a great instrument.
Ann: He’s so cool; you guys don’t even know how cool he is.
John: I think I have some idea now. [Laughter]
Dave: I’m just glad my wife still thinks that after 40 years.
John: The fact that he likes Skillet gave me an idea about how cool he just might be. [Laughter] That is how I judge all humans; do you know what I mean? That’s great.
Dave: I just remembered you’ve got kids. How old are your kids? Tell us a little bit.
Korey: We do; we have two kids. They grew up on the road. We were never going to have kids on the road; we were going to do Skillet. And then, when we got older/more mature, we were going to have a family and settle down, and probably be youth leaders—that was kind of the plan—roughly.
Then God was sort of speaking to us about kids on the road. John started having dreams about us having a baby. I was like, “Oh no!” Then God just started to speak to so many people, saying, “You know, I had a dream last night that you had a baby.” I’m like, “Oh man! It’s everywhere,”—everywhere we went—to the point where I’m like, “I don’t even need to pray about this; this is so clearly the Lord.”
So thus, my daughter was born. Three years later, we have a son. You know, they just love the Lord. They’ve grown up on the road with crazy rock bands, and crazy rock tours, and Christian tours: you know, it could be a Mercy Me; or it could be Godsmack, or who knows?
John: —Metallica. [Laughter]
Korey: And they are just great; they are great people.
John: Yes; sometimes, I tell people we’re having the—they are like, “What did you guys do this weekend?”—it was summer festival; I said, “It was a beer and Bible weekend. [Laughter] Friday night with Casting Crowns; Saturday night with Metallica”—it’s like the crowds are so very different. It could be very starkly Christian on the Friday and then a metal crowd on the Saturday.
Our kids had a good time, because they got to grow up around all kinds of different people. I think that was really important; because they would watch us be friends with people who don’t love Christ—people who are like, “I’m not really into that,”—but they saw us befriend people who don’t agree with us on things; and that’s a wonderful thing. That’s the way we have to share the gospel with people who are so absolutely needy.
I’ll tell you one quick story. My daughter was about six. We were going on tour with a band/a secular tour. One of the bands on the tour—his/the singer’s brother had killed himself about seven days prior to the tour—so as the tour was starting, it was known, “Hey, this has just happened…” People are suffering—not believers, not religious at all—we were praying for him at night.
As an adult, I mean, I don’t know what to say to him except for: “Hey, I’m really sorry.”
John: I don’t know him. It’s the greatness of watching kids, though, because—
Korey: —they are so disarming.
John: —they are so disarming. My little six-year-old daughter came up to him; she had never met him before. She said, “Hi, I’m Alex.” She said, “I want you to know we pray for you every single night. We pray that Jesus is healing your family, healing your heart.” I was sitting there, thinking, “This is the way you do evangelism! [Laughter] My daughter is teaching me,”—because you get older—and you start getting, like, “Well, I don’t want to this…”
Ann: “I don’t want to offend.”
John: It’s just the purity of: “Hey, I’m praying for you. Every night, we pray for you, and God can do a healing work in your life.” That was really beautiful.
It’s been a great experience with the kids on the road. I don’t know if they know how cool we are, but it’s okay. [Laughter]
Dave: You’re just Mom and Dad; right?
Ann: I wish the audience could see you guys, because you are beautiful people.
Korey: Oh, thanks.
Ann: You’re tatted up. I love that Korey has this gorgeous purple hair. [Laughter] Anybody who has a cool parent—it’s you guys are the coolest—yes. [Laughter]
John: Oh, that’s nice.
Dave: [You] talk about having kids on the road: “What about marriage? How does that work in your life? Has that been easy, hard, a struggle, good?—highs/lows?”
John: I will let Korey answer, because you always get the real answer when the wife answers. [Laughter]
Korey: I mean, I think it is: “All of the above; you know, with—
John: No, it’s not; it’s awesome. [Laughter]
Korey: I mean, in general, with us, 95 percent of the time, we’re on the same page; so that has made things easy, which is funny because we are very different personalities. Like, when we first started dating, all of our friends were like: “What are you guys doing?”—because he’s kind of crazy, and you’re so quiet and deep-thinker; and he’s just wild.” But I kind of wanted someone who was a little bit crazy and funny, because I’m just so serious.
Ann: How old were you guys when you started dating?
John: Yes; when we got married, you were 24; and I was 21.
Korey: He’s younger than me.
John: So we were probably 23 and 20.
Ann: And where was your faith? Where were you spiritually?
Korey: We both got born-again when we were around five years old. I was a PK, but I wasn’t a wild one as most of my PK friends were/went a little crazy.
John: We were both absolutely sold out for Christ, so that wasn’t something that happened later.
John: I think that’s how we—we connected based on one thing and one thing alone—and that was that we both wanted to live for Jesus and, not just live for Jesus, we wanted to make a difference in the world for Christ.
John: So all the other differences, our friends were like, “What?!” We were like, “Yes; but that’s all that matters: living for Christ; make a difference in your generation for the kingdom; make His name more famous.”
The fact that you are a really deep-thinker, and pensive, and quiet—and I’m insane, and not a deep-thinker, and no filter—it was like: “We’ll work on that later”; [Laughter] right?
Korey: We’re definitely very much united in our passion for the Lord, like, “This is everything. If I don’t get married, that’s fine. If I do get married, that’s fine. Whatever will serve His kingdom better in my lifetime,”—that was it—“If it is better, joining me with someone, and we can be more effective for the kingdom that way, then let’s do that too.” That was kind of like sold-out, basically.
Korey: All in.
John: It’s very kind of passion and purity. You were very influenced by that, too; what was her name?
Dave: Elisabeth Elliot.
John: Thank you; Elisabeth Elliot.
Dave: We’ve had her on here, years ago, before we were the hosts.
John: Oh, really?
Korey: What?!—so cool.
Dave: She was a great friend of FamilyLife.
Korey: So you guys pretty much won a Grammy, like Elisabeth Elliot Grammy.
John: Yes; Elisabeth Elliot’s, baby: “You’ve won a Grammy.”
Ann: That’s exactly what we’ve done. [Laughter]
As I listen to you, I think, “Man, it is so cool. Our story’s so similar. We wanted to get married, and we wanted to glorify God and reach everyone we could with the gospel—
Ann: —“and expand God’s kingdom, whatever that could look like.”
Ann: So it’s really cool to see. God took your gifts of using music to reach people for Him. I don’t know if we have any gifts; but we’re like, “Whatever we have God, we’re giving it to You.” [Laughter]
Dave: “They are all Yours,”—you know—“Here I am; send me,” which sounds like your story.
Did your [Korey’s] dad/your pastor dad like, right away, say, “John is the guy; I’m excited about this”; or was there a little pushback?—because her [Ann’s] dad barred me from the house, based on my reputation. [Laughter] I’m not kidding.
Korey: Wow; okay.
Dave: So he wasn’t a pastor; but he knew: “This Dave Wilson guy is a wild man. I don’t want him near my daughter.” What about you?
Korey: My dad—he didn’t say much—he just prays. He’s like, “Okay, if this is where God is leading her, you know, we’ll see.” John met with him and said, “I’m into your daughter; I kind of want to date her.” He was like, “Hmm; okay, we’ll see.” He never really said much to me. I think he talked to John’s pastor because John was from Memphis. I was from Kenosha, Wisconsin. He called his pastor just to make sure: “Is this guy okay?—because he seems a little crazy.” They were like, “He is great.” So that was fairly seamless.
John: He was always awesome to me—always, from day one, he was just great—but that is just Tim. Tim is just—he’s a Holy Spirit man; you know? He’s like, “We’re going to pray, and the Spirit is going to lead; we trust.” He never/he never gets worked up about anything.
John: Otherwise, he would have been worked up about me; I’m sure. [Laughter]
Ann: Your music is pretty intense. He never had any—
Dave: —or the road life?
Ann: —pushback or the road?
Dave: Of course, you didn’t know probably then that you’d end up, here on the road and stuff.
John: He just really never sweated those things. Tim never seemed to have any issues with the whole/like, “That music is too loud,” or “too this…” He just was—like when I say—I’m not joking—when I say a Holy Spirit man. He’s just like that kind of guy, that: “God can move through this.” He’s just always full of faith. He’s one of those guys that’s always optimistic, always full of faith, always kind of—maybe, he didn’t quite understand the music—but he knew that God was in it. I think that’s what I’m trying to say: it might not be his thing; but he’s like, “God is in this. God can work through a donkey. God can work through John,” [Laughter] which is good, by the way.
Ann: What great advice for parents—as we are listening to you guys—when our kids come to us with this crazy, wild plan: that we are praying.
Ann: We’re asking God, “What do You think of this, Lord?” Instead of—“This is what I think…”—we’re asking Him first.
Korey: Yes, I would say that was a huge strength of my parents. They both were like, “Alright; my kids are in God’s hands.” So they prayed for us all the time. They led by example more than they led by giving counsel and advice—not that they didn’t—but it was kind of like: “Alright, you have a path; and I want to put you in a position, where you can hear God’s voice for yourself, and read the Word and find Him, and then, have the faith to just do the crazy stuff if that is what God has called you to do. If God calls you to face a giant, you have faith to face that giant.”
They were kind of much more hands-off as far as counsel, but they were definitely prayerful—and in faith, like—“If this is where God is leading them, we will pray for them and watch what God does with their lives.”
Dave: Have you found that you are able to do the same with your kids? Are you like seeing that? I mean, you’ve got a 19-year-old and a 16-year-old; they are starting to get ready to leave.
Dave: What’s that like, as a parent, for you guys?
Shelby: You’re listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with John and Korey Cooper of the band, Skillet, on FamilyLife Today. We’ll hear their response in just a minute; but first, I want to let you know about a special group of friends who help make conversations like today’s possible. They are called FamilyLife Partners. Partners are a generous community of people, who believe in our mission and give financially every month.
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Alright, now, back to Dave and Ann with John and Korey Cooper and what it is like having [children], who are getting ready to leave home.
John: I mean, we talked about this—but we just naturally both agreed on this—that we would never push our kids into something because it’s what we wanted them to do. We always told our kids, ever since they were tiny, that we don’t have any aspirations for them outside of them serving the Christ—and whatever that looks like—loving the Word of God, adhering to the Word of God, loving the Law of God. And if God calls them to do music, that’s fine. If God calls them to do something else, that’s fine, even when it comes to higher education and things.
The reason I say that is because there was an incredible/an immense amount of pressure, when I was growing up, upon all of these aspirations that you are meant to do, whether it’s higher education, or this, that, and the other. I’m not even saying I’m against higher education—except that I’m not smart enough to have been higher educated [Laughter]—but you know, there was this feeling of: “If you don’t go to college, then your life is forfeit,”
John: “If you don’t get a job, making a lot of money, then your life is forfeit.”
I had this feeling, sometimes, in the church that I grew up in—to be frank—sometimes, I thought, “I think some of these church leaders would rather me wear a suit and make money than to actually live for Christ.” I found that disgusting. I found that—that kind of raised up the John the Baptist spirit in me, if there is such a thing—that sort of feeling, like, “That is absolutely not what Christ has saved us from. He didn’t save us from a dressing code situation; He saved us from sin and death.”
I very much rebelled against that because it smelled like Pharisee to me, and I didn’t dig that. So we’ve always been very clear with our kids: “We don’t really care what you do as long as you honor God.” For both of my kids, that is going to mean higher education; because they are both really, really smart. [Laughter] But that was our thing; right?
We just made it an issue when they were young: we would worship with the kids; we would teach them how to pray when they didn’t—“Well, I really don’t know what…”—“Well, then, we will show you how to pray.”
John: We’d teach them. We would say, “Go to the Bible for answers,”—and this, that, and the other.
At this point, by the time they were 12/13 years old, they were very/they would definitely sense the leading of the Spirit. My daughter has always been wise, beyond her years sort of thing; you know?
Korey: Yes; I mean, I think as a human being—right?—you don’t reach a certain place, where suddenly I can understand God because I’m smart enough or I’m mature enough; right? He relates to you wherever you are at. He meets you where you are at, to where you can have an understanding of Him.
For us, it was like: “Alright, you have God forming people together in the womb. You have John the Baptist, who is filled with the Spirit in the womb. You have God relating to babies and children.” And so, for us, it’s like: “Alright, as soon as my kids are here, we’re going to be facilitating them being around God, and His presence, and His Word. All that I can feed into them, while I have them with me, we’re going to.”
So yes, we would have worship times with them—two/three years old—we’re like: “Here we are,” for whatever their understanding was, even when we would go to church. It’s like our church doesn’t have a separate little kids’ church, so they are just there and worship with us, which can be boring for kids; because they are like, “I don’t really get what’s happening,”—whatever. A lot of families near us, the kids would be playing with toys or whatever. We’re not going to do that, because I wanted to teach my kids to be reverent in the presence of God: “This is His presence, and He is holy.”
So then, John would explain, while the music is happening, he would explain a concept that they couldn’t understand—like the love of God, within this song, they can understand that—it’s like: “How you love your Care Bears,” or “How you love your toys. They are precious to you. That’s how God loves you,”—whatever—so they could understand and so that they can respond, in their understanding to who God is and His character.
We would just feed them with that all the time, praying with them at night, pointing out—it’s kind of your job as a parent—God is going to be all over your kids; and it’s your job, as a parent, to kind of point those moments out. So my kids on the road would be super encouraging to people, and really bless someone. I would say to them—“Hey, that’s God using you; that’s actually God using you.” “Oh, wow! That’s so cool, Mom,”—pointing that out/pointing out who they are/their identities. Because, as a father/as a mother, you can see what their strengths are: pointing those out, strengthening them; and strengthening them in their weaknesses. That’s kind of been our goal, all along: is pointing them to God, because He actually loves them more than we do.
I think parents can be fearful of like: “I’m going to mess up,” “Maybe, I haven’t done enough,” “Maybe, I’ve done too much,”—blah, blah, blah. Alright, what I don’t want leading me in my parenting is fear. So if that’s at the heart of something, I just want that out; I want faith to lead me. I know that God cares for them more than I do, and He is going to complete the work He started in them. I just kind of have to like keep steering them in the right direction.
John: Yes; that’s right.
Dave: You know, it’s interesting: as I’ve listened to you for the last few minutes, I’ve thought, “Man, we just had a parenting clinic.”
Korey: Yes, we did. [Laughter]
Dave: No, seriously; I’m listening to it, like, “If I’m a parent, listening today, rewind and listen to the last three or four minutes”; because you just walked Christian parents through a vision of what our call is, as mom and dad, to raise sons and daughters who are warriors for Christ and the kingdom.” I mean, that’s what I just heard.
Dave: Part of me thinks, “Well, you had this vision because you are on a bus, and you are touring together: ‘That it is our role.’” Well, parents, who aren’t on a bus, touring together: it’s still your role. It’s not the Christian school;—
Dave: —it’s not the church—
Dave: —although those are awesome and wonderful, and they help—but we are called, as mom and dad, to raise warriors for the kingdom. It’s on us to even take a worship song and say, “Hey, let me help you understand this, if you are five.”
Dave: When they are 15, it may be different; but I mean that you just rolled out a beautiful picture in my mind of a vision for Christian parenting. Way to go!
John: That’s beautiful; yes. Well, I was always passionate about teaching my kids what the songs mean, as you just said, because, when I was growing up—and this isn’t/I’m not dissing or anything—my mom did all of this for me; my mom was awesome and taught me about the Bible and stuff. But I do remember singing these hymns—which I love now/I absolutely love those hymns now—but I remember, as a kid, thinking, “I just don’t know what this means:—
John: —“…plunged into victory,’—like, ‘What are we plunging? I don’t know.’” [Laughter] I love that song; but as a kid, I was like, “…plunge me to victory?” So now, I’ve always made it, even when my kids were two and three, I would say, “When we sing this lyric, this is what it means…”;
John: —so that your kids/they, “Oh!” Then I say, “Now, what I want you to do: I want you to say to Jesus, ‘Thank You for’—and what the song means—‘Thank You that You gave me victory through Jesus through the cross,’”—you know, things like that.
It really is very much a Puritan model, actually. I’m a big fan of the/we’re a big fan of the Puritans. I think that it’s a great encouragement, as you just said—I’ll just say this real quick—for Christian parents, the Puritan model was/that’s what you do: you learn the Bible from the time you are in diapers, and that’s the job of the parents. That’s not the job of the school/the Sunday school; it’s not the job of the church; it’s the parents’ job. “So let’s do our jobs, and let’s raise up this generation, man. Come on now!”
Shelby: That’s 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.”
If you know anyone who needs to hear today’s conversation, you can share it from wherever you get your podcasts; and while you are there, it would really help us out if you rate and review us.
All of us are tempted, daily, to be quiet, or deny, or compromise our faith; because the world today is comfortable with a watered-down Jesus. Well, tomorrow, Dave and Ann Wilson are going to be talking, again, with John and Korey Cooper about the temptation to be silent when we know God wants us to speak up for Him. That’s tomorrow. We hope you can join us.
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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