Now on his third summer “Rock” tour with Franklin Graham and the BGEA, John Cooper of Skillet believes music is a big force in drawing people to hear the Gospel and addressing real issues of life.
Although Esther is in her mid-20s and she doesn’t think she quite fits in the “youth” demographic, she is headed to Rock the Lakes this weekend to see Skillet. “They are my all-time favorite band — awesome lyrics, awesome music,” she said. “They are the reason my husband and I are going.”
Marcus, an 11-year-old visiting his aunt in Milwaukee, said he is completely “stoked” and super excited about seeing Skillet.
Lead singer John Cooper would be glad to hear the band is drawing fans of all ages this weekend. “We are really excited about being a part of Rock the Lakes,” said Cooper. “I am a huge Billy Graham fan. I have a real heart for evangelism and have since I was a kid. That’s what gets me going.”
Cooper said when he was 18, he wanted to be an evangelist, so he would watch Billy’s television specials and try to emulate his style. “I’ve been so amazed at his steadfastness. He broke the mold for evangelism in the United States.”
Now Cooper is excited about working again with Franklin Graham in Milwaukee and Denver. “Having these kinds of events is a good way to go because young people love music. The truth is that young people are defined by music. If you go to a school, you can tell which kids like hip-hop, which kids like rock. People hang around people with similar musical tastes.”
He also knows that unsaved people won’t come to something they feel is “churchy.” If it feels disingenuous to them, they stay away.
In fact, one of the songs on Skillet’s release, Awake, deals with being real.
According to Cooper, the song “Sometimes” says: “Most of the time, I do what I know I should do and I try to be who I know I should be. But if I had to be honest, sometimes I am stubborn, sometimes I feel like a failure. Sometimes I just don’t want to be better. Sometimes I want life to be easy.”
It’s hard to live the Christian life, Cooper acknowledged. “It’s easier just to be a selfish sinful person. Sometimes you think ‘I want to be that way today.’ It’s not a nice thought; it’s certainly not pretty. It’s like the monster that lives underneath.”
People who have heard the song identify with the lyrics and find it therapeutic. “I guess that just talking about your problems or knowing that someone else is going through what you are going through makes you feel normal,” said Cooper.
“I think for young Christians especially, they may look up to a person as a believer. If that person admits they sometimes go through hard times, that gives kids hope that they too can live the Christian life.”
A Heart for Youth
Cooper shared that he has always wanted his music to affect people and point them toward Christ. He draws songwriting inspiration from the fans themselves. “I talk to people after shows about what they are going through.”
Sometimes, what he hears shocks him.
One song on Awake called “Never Surrender” was born after Cooper talked to a 14-year-old girl who seemed totally normal — “just a cute girl who could have walked out of a mall. She told me she was addicted to drugs and addicted to alcohol. The reason she did these things was because she hated the way she looked. She was anorexic and was going to be hospitalized for that and for the alcoholism.”
Cooper added, “That is how I get ideas for a lot of my songs — talking to these young people — and my heart just breaks for them. I try to write a song from a Christian worldview of what the Bible says about their issues, and give people some hope.”
A Reason to Rock!
As we concluded the interview, Cooper wanted to let two groups of people know why they need to come to either Rock the Lakes or Rock the Range.
“My encouragement would go first to people who are believers — bring as many unsaved people as you can. That’s the great thing about an event like this. Those people you think would never step inside a church could come and feel totally relaxed and totally comfortable. Then, all of a sudden, they hear the truth of Christ and make a life-changing decision on that day.”
Cooper’s second encouragement is for parents. “I’m a parent; I have two small children. So I know why my parents were a little overprotective. I get all of that. But my encouragement is that young people are always going to want to see something cool, and see something edgy, and be part of something fun.
“I believe that music is a big force in drawing people to hear the Gospel,” Cooper concluded. “That’s my encouragement to older people. Don’t blow this off as some crazy thing for the young. But see it as an opportunity for your kids and your friends to hear the genuine Gospel and be at something fun and cool at the same time.”
Skillet will join Lecrae, The Almost and The Afters at Rock the Lakes Saturday. Charlie Daniels plays with Michael W. Smith and Canton Jones Sunday. You can see all the bands both days and watch Franklin Graham as he shares the Gospel during our webcast.