The Greg Stier Youth Ministry Podcast
The Power of the Gospel with Skillet's John Cooper
As Christians we all know the power of the Gospel – but it is something we don’t sit and talk about a ton. In this second episode of The Greg Stier Youth Ministry Podcast, Greg sits down with John Cooper to talk about the power of teens and how the Gospel can help our world today.
0:00:07.5 Greg Stier: Alright, welcome to the Greg Stier Youth Ministry Podcast. I believe in the power of the gospel, the potential of teens. I believe that the best one to reach a teen with the message of Christ is another teen. I encourage you to subscribe to this podcast, get the word out, rate it, review it, spread the word. We wanna see a generation of teenagers on fire with the gospel, and that starts by having a generation of youth leaders on fire for the gospel as well.
So, so excited today to have John Cooper. He’s the lead vocalist, bassist, songwriter, producer of Skillet, one of the best-selling rock bands of the 21st century. Two-time Grammy Award-nominated, 12-time platinum band, recently invited in Pandora’s Billionaire Club after garnering 2 billion streams. Think about that, 2 billion streams. So excited. Over 12 million albums worldwide.
They’ve taken home a Billboard Music Award and more. Their breakout single Monster remains one of the most-streamed rock songs of all time with 285 million global audio streams. And I know I’ve worked out to that song in the gym. It is awesome, maybe the best workout song on the planet. Their tenth full-length project, Victorious, released via Atlantic Records on August 2nd. And John’s got a new book, Awake and Alive to Truth. John, thank you so much for being a part of this podcast.
0:01:36.5 John Cooper: Oh, I’m thrilled to be here. Thanks. What a nice introduction. I’m glad that Monsters helped you in the gym.
0:01:43.5 GS: I need all the help I can get.
0:01:45.6 JC: So do we. We all need it. There’s nothing as good in the gym as a good rock and roll song.
0:01:52.5 GS: That’s right.
0:01:53.5 JC: That’s not in the Bible, but I think it’s true either way.
0:01:55.0 GS: You know, John, let’s talk about that for a minute, because you kinda walk the border between this hard rock scene and Christian truth and relevance and theology. How do you walk that line effectively? You guys been able to do it for years. How do you walk that line effectively?
0:02:14.8 JC: Oh, well, thank you so much. I am very passionate, and in fact, I believe that when you just started the podcast, I think you started about saying that you believe in the power of the gospel, and that’s the same with me. The gospel is the power of God for salvation for all who believe. Right? That’s what the Bible says. The gospel’s what sets people free, and the gospel not only sets people free, but it changes your whole life from the inside out, doesn’t it? Everything in your life, the way that you treat your friends, the way you treat your parents, the way you act at school, the way you treat your wife, if and when you get married, the way you parent your kids, the way you run your business. Every aspect of your life comes under the Lordship of Christ, and so for me, playing music is just another aspect of, what does it mean for me to make art that is under the lordship of Jesus Christ?
0:03:08.6 JC: And so I always try to go, okay, what are the best ways to write a song about something that I feel, something that I’ve been through, but try my very best to communicate gospel truth, truth from the Bible that I hope can encourage people in their faith? Or maybe share the gospel in some way, or be a lifeline in some sort of a way, because He’s not just the Lord of my eternal life once I die, He’s the Lord of my life right now. So it’s always an encouragement to young people, whatever you do in your life, musician, artist, school teacher, bagging groceries, plumber. Everything you do, submit it to the lordship of Christ. Your life will be so much better once we all learn that in deeper and deeper ways.
0:03:56.1 GS: And it really sanctifies what you do. Long before I was an evangelist, I was a roofer. I was a roofer for eight years, and for four of those years, I was miserable ’cause I knew I was called to be a preacher. And my boss, who was a believer, said, “Stier, I know you’re called to be a preacher someday. Everybody on this roof knows you’re called to be a preacher someday, but you’re called to be a roofer today. So own it for the glory of God.” And you know what? For the last four years of roofing, I roofed every roof like it was the roof of Jesus Christ, and it sanctified your work, right?
0:04:32.9 JC: Oh, I love… I just felt the Holy Spirit on that story.
0:04:37.9 GS: There you go.
0:04:39.7 JC: I absolutely… I could not agree with that more. That’s a very Puritan-esque thing to say, as well. That…
0:04:45.7 GS: Puritans is how we roll at Dare to Share.
0:04:49.3 JC: Oh, is it? Oh, well then…
0:04:50.1 GS: We’re all about the Puritans.
0:04:51.4 JC: So am I. So see this, we have this in common. I didn’t even know it. That is absolutely a Puritan way… And not only Puritans, of course, but we see this in the Bible, don’t we, in the Old Testament? God had called people to come to build the temple. He called people that did… They cut down a certain kind of a tree, and He called carpenters. And they did the jewels and the gold. And the Bible says that there were people that were full of the Spirit to do these jobs. So the question becomes, does that mean that I can be full of God’s Spirit to do roofing? Yes, it does. Can I be full of God’s Spirit to go to school and be the best student that I can? Yes, that’s what the new creation is like. And I do think in Christianity, we’ve settled for too little. Which is, once I die, I’ll go to Heaven, and that’s what my salvation’s about. But no, that starts right now. And you’re right, it is about sanctification, holiness. Absolutely.
0:05:49.2 GS: I love that, and you guys have done that so well with your music, and when I was at Xtreme, probably two years ago, I stayed up for the midnight show. You guys brought in the New Year, and nothing like Skillet bringing in the New Year. And you guys, what I was impressed… It was actually my first live concert I’ve seen you guys in, is your messaging in between songs. You were preaching powerfully and, man, those young people were riveted and Ledger, she… I preached at Winter Jam, did a tour with Winter Jam. When she was singing and right before I preached, she did the same thing, her messaging was so powerful. And talking to you backstage, you and your wife and Ledger, it’s obvious that theology, God’s word has really crafted the way that, not you just bring it and sing it, but everything about what you guys do. And you wrote a book, Awake and Alive to Truth, and I think it was a spin-off on your song, Awake and Alive, and an add-in to truth about the authority, really the authority of God’s word. Tell us a little bit about that book and why you think it’s so necessary today.
0:07:15.0 JC: Oh, absolutely. I’d love to. In fact, I got it right here. So everybody that’s watching I hope can look at… Look how beautiful that book is. It’s very weird to see your own book. [chuckle] Anyway, no I did. Well, that’s a really big compliment. Thank you, and I’m glad that you were able to tour with Ledger. She’s awesome and family to us. We basically all live together on a bus, that is pre-COVID, we did anyway. Anyhow, so yeah, you know what I started noticing happening about 2012-’13. I know a lot of young people are listening to this, and you know for young people eight or nine years ago is a really long time, but once you become old, like Greg Stier, not like me, but once you become old like Greg, [chuckle] 10 years is nothing.
0:08:02.9 JC: Anyway, but I do remember this when things started changing so drastically in the church, and not just people that I did not know, I mean people that I do know, friends of mine, people that I’ve grown up into faith with, that I thought would never, ever give an inch on truth, would never give an inch on scripture. The nature of the way we view scripture began to change in the church at large in America, and that’s when I began getting very serious about being more outspoken, not just about Christ, ’cause it used to be taken for granted that if you spoke about Jesus, that what you meant was the Jesus of the scriptures.
0:08:43.3 GS: Yeah.
0:08:43.9 JC: You can’t take that for granted anymore. Now, it could just be a Jesus that… It’s almost like they stripped Jesus, His own words from Him, but kinda created this idea of a Jesus that is really nice and really loving and gives me everything that I want, and He’s always there for me. But they stripped Him of His own words in the Bible which means that they stripped Him of His lordship and His kingship, and the fact that He is ruling the world right now. He’s at the right hand of the Father, the Bible says. So they stripped that away, and now we kinda created this… It’s basically like an idol, it’s a new kind of Jesus. So I wanted to write a book because I thought, there’s a ton of great theology books out there for this, but maybe there’s not a lot of books that is like… I call it theology for dummies like me. [chuckle] This is people like me that… I love the Bible…
0:09:35.9 GS: Theology for roofers, like me.
0:09:37.7 JC: Theology for roofers, that’s what we should call it. I don’t know if I can sit down with a huge systematic theology book and read it, but you can read my book. It’s 100 pages and it’s said in language that teenagers can understand. And they can understand original sin. You can understand why you can’t trust your feelings, why scripture has to be the final authority of your life and why your feelings will try to lie to you and tell you that scripture isn’t right. Why you need to repent of your sins, and then the best news of all, what happens if you do repent for your sins? You become a brand new creation.
0:10:15.3 GS: Yeah. And actually, I would say more accurately, when you recognize the fact that you’re a sinner before a holy God and that Christ paid the price of all of our sin and by faith alone in Him, we have eternal life. We’re sinners, at the same time, sinners and saints because of what Jesus did, not because of what we do, because of what He did on the cross. I think, as you think about this, the authority of scripture, I think is the key issue of today. Back in the ’70s, there was a thing called The Battle for the Bible, and it was all about inerrancy. Is scripture fully inerrant? And it was a battle in the Southern Baptist denomination and other denominations. I think the battle today, personally, and this is why I love the thoughts behind your book, is behind the authority of scripture. Do we really believe God’s word is the authority? It’s the word of God that we conform our thinking too.
0:11:17.0 GS: And the authority of scripture, I think you see it with the LGBTQ issues. I say this often, it’s not where somebody stands on the LGBTQ issues that bothers me. It’s what you have to do to scripture to get there, ’cause scripture is very clear on those kinds of issues. The whole emergent movement that blew up to begin to kinda piecemeal, almost a Thomas Jefferson Bible. Do you remember when Thomas Jefferson took an penknife and took out all the supernatural stuff and penned together his own. It feels like we’ve kinda got some of that hodgepodge. You just take the Jesus you want and splice them together from the scriptures, and you can kinda create your own religion. The authority of scripture, why is that so important? And I’m gonna tie it in with youth ministry. With teenagers today, really helping young people understand the authority of scripture, why do you think that’s important?
0:12:18.8 JC: Well, I really agree with that. It is very important because I think that culture has lost… I shouldn’t say culture has lost. I don’t think the church has done a spectacular job of teaching worldview. And teaching these basic ways of thinking. And one of the things that a lot of young people don’t know, and I don’t mean it’s their fault, I don’t think the church has done a great job on this, is explaining that whatever it is that you believe, as an individual, is the very highest authority, whatever that may be. Okay, that could be the Bible, that could be natural law, just meaning like just in nature, we kind of know what is right and wrong or whatever. It could be Darwin’s evolution. It could be, fill in the blank. Whatever it is that you think is the highest authority, that is your god. So you can say that you serve Christ, but if the Bible is not actually the highest authority for what you believe, then you’re not actually serving Christ. So once you take scripture and you’re like, I don’t really dig that part. [chuckle] That’s not the Jesus that I really like. You’ve created a new Jesus, and so your highest authority is not Jesus Christ of the Bible, it is an idol. You may call it Jesus Christ, but it’s really just your feelings.
0:13:38.1 JC: It’s your emotions, basically. It means that you are your own god because you go, I just don’t think I agree with that, I just don’t think God would do that. And what that means is, is that you are god, not Jesus Christ. So I think you’re right, authority of scripture, which I do talk about in the book, which is really the foundation of the book is saying, if you don’t have authority of scripture, then you don’t have anything. All truth has to become relative at that point, and it has to become progressive, meaning it has to change next year, and the next year, and the next year. And then in 100 years from now, people will look back at us and say, I can’t believe that guys back then used to have beards. That’s sinful, or that’s evil, or it’s racist or whatever it is that they’re gonna say about us in 100 years. Truth just becomes progressive in that worldview, and so for the Christian, we have to come back to the authority of scripture, and if we do, all of life will begin to make more sense ’cause we will be blessed. We will be saying, God, You are the ultimate authority, not John Cooper.
0:14:46.7 GS: I really love that, John, ’cause with teenagers today, there’s so many sources of authority, whether it be their friend group or stuff that they’re believing through social media, entertainment industry. Scripture gives us a solid foundation to really build our lives on, and if you think of it as a kind of a yard stick, we measure everything we hear. I remember… I was reached by and raised in a kind of independent fundamentalist church, and there was a lot of legalism, but one of the things…
0:15:22.9 JC: I’ve got to say, I don’t they would have liked Monster, but go ahead.
0:15:25.2 GS: No, they would not have. Now, they used to say at our Christian school that you can’t listen to Christian rock because the beat of the music is counter to the beat of your heart. And I remember raising my hand in music class, and I said, hey, well, if you time it right, it’s like heart aerobics. And they said, go to the office. I’m like, okay, I will. I got in trouble for stuff like that, but one of the things the pastor who reached my… I’m so grateful for him because he reach my whole family for Christ. He spoke with a Southern accent, but his nickname was Yankee. He said something when I was 13 years old at a Sunday night service, I’ll never forget. He held up his Bible, his old Scofield King James Reference Bible, and he said, kids, I want you to know this book well enough to rebel against me, if I’m wrong. I want you to know this book well enough to rebel against me, if I’m wrong.
0:16:19.3 GS: When I ended up discovering what legalism was and leaving the church, he asked me, why are you doing this? And I was 18 years old. I said, because you told me to. You told me to know this book well enough to rebel against me if I’m wrong. And it was a hard. And actually, we’re friends to this day. I call them every month and thank him for the investment that he made in my life, and he’s lightened up quite a bit on some of rules and stuff. But he taught us the authority of scripture, and I’m so, so grateful for that. How do you think youth leaders can really help their youth groups resonate and believe in the authority of scripture?
0:16:56.1 JC: Wow, that’s a powerful story. I really like that. I feel bad for young people, and in a certain way, I feel bad for youth workers as well. I love youth ministry. By the way, people often ask me, if you weren’t in a band, what would you be doing with your life? I get asked that in interviews all the time. I assume I would have been doing some sort of youth ministry. I love teenagers. That’s what I…
0:17:18.8 GS: Oh, John. You would be the ultimate youth leader. I can see that right now.
0:17:24.1 JC: I don’t know if I would be or not.
0:17:25.1 GS: So if this music gig doesn’t work out, let me just tell you, just go into youth ministry.
0:17:31.0 JC: Okay, I will come to you and say, find me a gig. Well, that I don’t know. Anyway, but I do love youth ministry and I still have a heart for teenagers. That’s who I feel called to the most. I feel bad for young people because they are bombarded in a way that we weren’t. We didn’t have the Internet growing up. We didn’t have social media. Thank God, we didn’t have social media.
0:17:55.3 GS: Yeah, no kidding.
0:17:56.4 JC: They are bombarded at every minute of every day. We didn’t have the… Media’s always been a problem, but we didn’t have all of the media, the crazy volatility that we have now. We didn’t have that when I was growing up. I do think that young people… I think that our world is in a truth crisis, and so I think that young people don’t know what to do. What I would say for youth workers, if I could give some humble advice, I would just encourage youth workers to hold fast to the authority of scripture and be bold and realize, this is just my opinion okay, that it is more loving to be bold about the truth of the word of God, than to be soft on the word of God in order to…
0:18:49.0 JC: Make people perceive you as being a nice person, that’s actually not loving, and you see that… I’m a parent, I’ve got two teenagers. You see that once you have kids, it’s not actually loving. Somebody that I know right now is going through a major crisis with their 14-year-old and drug abuse and this and this, and I just look back on it. I go, man, you guys had a lot of opportunities to have stepped in over the last eight years. I mean, this has been going on since this kid was seven or eight years old. You had so many opportunities, but you always thought it would be mean. You wanted to be their friend when you should have been a father. So I don’t mean that hateful, I just mean when you have kids, you realize that actually having boundaries is actually loving.
0:19:33.2 JC: That’s what God does for us. He gives his boundaries so that you don’t run out and you’re one of the lost sheep and you end up getting taken away by a wolf or by a coyote or whatnot. So I would encourage youth workers, be bold with the truth. Obviously, we have to be loving. We have to be gracious to people who don’t know Christ, of course. If they don’t have the Holy Spirit in them, then how are they going to be walking in the Spirit? It’s impossible. They’re walking in the flesh. And that’s who they are. So we’re gracious with that, but we are also bold with the truth. And I think that it’s a hard time to do that because society is telling you that you actually mean and you are hateful if you don’t stick to the secular narrative. That’s a hard time.
0:20:17.8 GS: Well, John, I agree with you. I think some of the problem is the people that often times are speaking the truth don’t always speak it in love. And I think on the other side of that equation, we need to be loving as we share the truth, and we need to be uncompromising in the truth that we share. And finding that balance is really, really important. One of the things that you were talking about teenagers, I think one of the simple ways youth leaders can really lift up the authority of God’s word is actually teach from it. And I know that sounds…
0:20:53.3 JC: Don’t get crazy.
0:20:54.8 GS: I know…
0:20:55.8 JC: Don’t get crazy. [laughter]
0:20:58.1 GS: It sounds insane, but I really think when teenagers really hear their youth leaders unpack a passage and go back to say, hey, let’s see what scripture says, or they open it up for Q&A. Say, man, that’s a great question, let’s see what the Bible says. You’re almost implicitly showing them the authority of God’s word.
0:21:19.3 JC: I agree with that.
0:21:21.9 GS: And to give your teens a challenge like, hey, if I say something that’s out of line biblically, you have absolute freedom to show me and we’ll talk through it. And I think showing that willingness to grow, because we’re not born again as perfect theologians, we grow and we don’t fully know and grow ultimately until we are in heaven and have the mind of Christ. So we’re all growing, showing teenagers the authority of God’s word. Do you think the book, Awake and Alive to Truth is a book that teenagers themselves, not just youth leaders, but teenagers themselves need to read?
0:22:04.3 JC: I do. I have two teenagers, as I said. My teenagers understood the book really well. They weren’t confused, we talked about it, but they didn’t have like, I don’t understand what this means. And that was really my goal, because like I say, there’s a bunch of great theology books, but they’re over the heads of 13, 14 year olds, they’re over the heads of 40 year olds. [chuckle] And so I do think that it’s a good book. It talks about some of the philosophies of the day. Relativism, post-modernism, why those things are different than they were 10 years ago, 20 years ago. Why that is actually, I don’t wanna say warping people’s perception, but people are looking at the world through a different perception than the majority of culture did 20 years ago. And I think that’s important too, for young people to go, oh yeah, I do see what relativism is. You’re right. That makes good sense.
0:23:01.9 JC: So I do think it’s great for young people, it’s got a lot of Bible in it, and most of the reviews that, when I do podcasts, people are like, I was really shocked how much Bible reference this had in the book, because usually Christian books are a lot of stories and opinions, and they have a Bible verse here and there, but there’s quite a lot of unpacking of scripture ’cause I agree with you, the word of God is where the power is at. I think it’s great to explain scripture, but the word of God is where the power is, and I love to quote scripture. I learned that from the great Billy Graham in his book, 30 years ago. How many times does Billy Graham say, the Bible says, the Bible says? And I’ve just come to believe that more and more of the older I get, you don’t have to say much, just quote the word of God, and it’s anointed to accomplish what He willed it to accomplish.
0:23:56.1 GS: I fully agree. Hebrews 4:12-13. The word of God is sharper than any two-edged sword. It pierces dividing the heart and soul, and divides between the bone and marrow of the heart, and it lays us open, soon as we mess up, verse 13, it exposes, lays up open. The illustration I’ve used before is if… ‘Cause people sometimes will say, well, I don’t believe the Bible is the word of God. So why would you use the Bible on somebody who doesn’t believe the Bible is the word of God? Well, if I have a sword and I’m hacking on somebody, which I would never do, but if I was and they’re like, well, I don’t believe that’s a sword. It wouldn’t change the fact that that sword was still powerful. And again, not pro-violence. I’m just using this as an illustration that the word of God, it does it’s job, it cuts, it divides, it opens us up, it convicts, it convinces.
0:24:45.1 GS: So we need to preach the word, unleash the power of the word of God and the gospel of Christ into our youth ministries. Like you’ve talked about, we had some questions from youth leaders, from Michelle Fields and Scott, Tim and Ben Phillips, talking about… You’ve touched on a lot of these areas. How do you continue to preach and share the gospel in the culture that turns away? What role do musicians play in promoting? You know, let me stop there. That’s a good question for Michelle, what role do you believe musicians play in promoting or encouraging the power of God’s word to go forth? Obviously, specifically Christian musicians, what role and responsibility do they have to really help young people lock in to the authority of God’s word?
0:25:41.1 JC: I do think there’s a responsibility there. I will say this, I know that God calls people to different things. That might sound trite, but it’s true. In other words…
0:25:51.9 GS: Yeah.
0:25:53.0 JC: I do think there are some Christians who are musicians who are called to work in the church, maybe that’s a worship team or a minister of music or whatever that is, for that particular calling. Then you have other Christian musicians, I think like myself. I see myself as a sort of a clarion call for the gospel into the world. Not every song I sing is overtly religious or overtly about the word of God. It’s a little bit of a different thing, but I do think if I could sum up all of Christian musicians. Anyone that’s a Christian that is a musician. One thing I will sum that we all have in common that we don’t see enough is what we started the podcast with, which is that we all have a call to holiness. Every single one of us will say, what is God’s will for my life? Well, I know one thing that’s God’s will for your life. Sanctification. We know that for sure, ’cause the Bible says so.
0:26:52.2 JC: So unfortunately, what we see a lot of the time are people that maybe they are saved and they wanna write Christian music or play in a band, or whatever they do, but they’re not really that concerned with holiness in their own lives, and that is why they’re not necessarily great role models for young people. They end up getting involved in sexual immorality or sexual impurity, or they’re caught on camera doing something they shouldn’t be doing and whatnot. And I always go, look, even if you don’t want to share your faith through your music, you are called to the Christian life, and there should be some sort of accountability for that and encouragement to it. That would be the first thing that I would mention that we all have in common, and then I just think secondly, again, whichever calling you have as a musician, I do think you have to say, God, what I want in my life, whether I’m a roofer or a musician or whatever, is for you to be glorified. How can you be glorified in what I’m doing in music? And I think that’s gonna be different for different kinds of people.
0:27:56.0 GS: Yeah, and I think the trifecta of that, personal holiness, God’s glory and the advancement of the gospel of Christ, which I know is right at the center of where your heartbeat is. I knew from listening to you at the Xtreme Conference, and you were just preaching the gospel, the good news of the gospel of Christ. So I wanna just thank you, thank you for your role in the body of Christ. There’s an old proverb that said the skilled craftsman will serve before kings, he will not serve before obscure men. And you and Skillet, you guys are skilled craftsmen for the glory of God, and I know you guys are seeking to live holy lives and you’re advancing the gospel of Jesus Christ. And I’m sure I’m speaking on behalf of thousands and thousands of youth leaders. Thank you for the quality of music, but the quality of life that you guys put behind that.
0:28:51.7 GS: Any last charge that you would give to youth leaders as we… We’re wrapping up a segment right now. It’s called the Greg Stier Youth Ministry Podcast, but I have not been in youth ministry for 30 years, so after this, I’m bringing an actual youth leader in to talk about what you just said and unpack it from a youth pastor’s point of view. So you’re welcome to stay on and listen, or you can drop off. But any last challenge you would give to youth leaders?
0:29:24.4 JC: Oh, sure. Well, that’s very kind words. Thank you so much. I love to see God’s church work. Everybody does their role in the church, and together we all come up and we make the Body of Christ, don’t we? It’s so wonderful to see all of us come together for the kingdom. So thanks for what you’re doing. To youth workers, I would say specifically, as I already said, this isn’t lip service, I mean it, I love youth ministry, I believe in youth ministry, it’s a major focus of my life before Skillet. And we still get involved in my own local church with our own youth, because this is such an important time for these young people, and if they can get arrested by the Holy Spirit now, changed from the inside out, it’s gonna last for a lifetime. So youth ministers, don’t give up the fight, and I know that it is a very dark time. It’s just different than it was 10 years ago. Things are more confusing, but I would just say this, don’t back down. I would say, double down. Don’t back down, double down.
0:30:29.7 JC: So go for it, and thanks for having me on and talk about my book. I probably should say also, you can only get my book on my website, and I always do a plug for it ’cause people always go look for it and you can’t find it anywhere except for my website, which is johnlcooper.com. I could not find anybody to publish my book. Can you believe that? And I had eight publishers that wanted to make a book with me, Christian publishers, until they read it. And after they read it, none of them wanted to make my book. And I just thought, I’m gonna make my book on my own, but I think it’s a little too much truth, and that should make us concerned about where the Christian publishing, music, entertainment, we should be concerned about where that is going. So all that to say, you gotta go to my website to get my book and, youth ministers, keep up sharing the gospel with those kids.
0:31:23.9 GS: Amen, amen. And yeah, I actually looked for it, ’cause I was gonna buy it on Amazon and I couldn’t find it, so that helps me know where to find it. How would people follow you on social media and maybe your podcast as well?
0:31:35.5 JC: Yes. Okay, my podcast is called Cooper Stuff. Cooper Stuff Podcast, I talk about culture… Philosophy and how it relates to the word of God to the best that I can. So go to Cooper Stuff. You can get that on Apple Podcast, YouTube, Cooper Stuff. And on Instagram, I’m not that active on social media, but I am on Instagram and Twitter and so John L. Cooper. And then, of course, Skillet is active on social media, and we’re gonna have new music coming out this summer. We have a tour that starts here in a few weeks. So go check out Skillet Music on all the platforms.
0:32:11.5 GS: That’s great. And next time I’m in Kenosha, visiting our mutual friend, Annie McGowan, we’ll all have to get together and grab some coffee.
0:32:19.4 JC: I’m into it, baby. Come on now. I’m into it.
0:32:24.2 GS: Let’s go. Alright. Thanks so much for being a part of it. And we’re gonna switch now to that Ask a Youth Leader segment, and we have Jeff Poland. You’re live, and so glad that you’re here. Jeff is what he calls a musician-ary and leader of Jeff Poland Music. He’s been a youth leader, he’s a preacher of God’s word, excellent musician, has done a ton of worship leading for Dare to Share events, Lead the Cause, our president’s gathering. Always does a phenomenal job. And just a good friend. I love Jeff. And God is using you in powerful ways. And that was a pretty powerful time with John L. Cooper. Wonder what L stands for. But anyway, man, glad that you’re a part of this and just tell us, make sure you’re unmuted and tell us what was your response to what John said?
0:33:26.2 Jeff Poland: Man, I love everything that John said. I’ve been following John for a while, myself. My youth group loved Skillet. The first time I ever heard Skillet was Comatose. And man, one of my kids brought this song and I was like, oh, this is good. And so we went and saw them in several events. Cooper and the guys at Skillet, they just became a part of our youth ministry. We loved it. I loved this whole last bit, just some great conversation there. I actually have John’s book, so I must have found it at johnlcooper.com. So thankful for it. We need voices like that. I don’t think I could emphasize enough how much media and music impact youth. And when you’ve got someone who is doing something so skillfully, so well, it’s already getting the attention of the youth, and then packed into that are these truth bombs of who God is and the power that comes from following Him, the power that comes from living out His word. Our teens need this, and one of the things I love about Skillet and what John’s doing is that it reaches beyond the church walls, so our church kids, our youth groups, we need this kind of music, we need this kind of influence, but I love that what they’re doing… This is the kind of stuff…
0:35:00.0 JP: So I’m also a runner, and I really wanted to qualify for Boston. And I ran and I had an amazing half marathon, and then I had a half marathon to go, and I started fading a little bit, and thankfully my wife handed me some earbuds and my phone and Skillet was locked and loaded. And for that second half marathon, man, I listened to Victorious and Monster, and it just got me so excited and I realized, kinda like you working out with this stuff, man, this stuff is powerful. This music is powerful, and there’s so many messages that I could have had in my head at that moment as I was running that second half of that marathon, but I am so thankful that what was loaded on my phone was really this music about what Christ has done, what Christ is doing in our lives, the fact that He wants to strengthen us for the task at hand. And I only share that story because as kids are going through life, it’s like a marathon, and we need that message of Christ, we need that message of what He’s doing, and the power of the Holy Spirit to infuse our… Just like in that race, I needed something to help get me to the second half of that race. I did qualify for Boston, by the way. I ran the marathon in three hours. I feel pretty good about that.
0:36:32.9 GS: That’s pretty good.
0:36:34.4 JP: Thanks, I did my best.
0:36:35.6 GS: I drove it in about three hours, but it’s fine. [chuckle] Jeff is always trying to get me to run. Was it five miles a day?
0:36:44.2 JP: 5k every day in the month of May.
0:36:47.6 GS: 5k. No, no, I’ll drive 5K a day.
0:36:49.6 JP: I believe in you, Greg.
0:36:49.8 GS: I respect you. I respect your run-ability.
0:36:55.0 JP: Seriously, but we need that. And one thing that was really cool too, was I ended up blogging about that run, and I shared about that Skillet song, and a bunch of my friends who are runners, who are not believers, started listening to Skillet, and they’re like, hey, this is really awesome. I’m like, yeah, let me tell you a little bit more about these lyrics. So anyway, we need that we.
0:37:15.8 GS: What a great evangelism. Kind of salvation segue. Skillet. They’ve been on what? NFL commercials, all sorts of… Their music is phenomenal, but knowing that they’re all rock solid committed believers, what a great way to turn a conversation toward Christ through hard rock music. So one of the things that he really, really talked about again and again was the authority of scripture and the necessity of that. As a youth leader, do you resonate with what he said? I know you do, but tell us why you resonate with what he said about God’s word being central.
0:38:00.6 JP: Yeah, I do. I completely resonate with what he said, not just in theory, but in practice. There are so many opinions out there and just look at our current culture today. I’m not gonna weigh in on the good or the bad of the current culture, I just wanna quickly take a snapshot of the current culture and the things that we think are right right now, culturally speaking. And then compare that to 10 years ago. Imagine that someone came up to you 10 years ago and they describe today’s culture perfectly and said, that’s what we’re gonna be. You would have never believed us. You’d never believe that person. But the prevailing ideas, the prevailing culture, it just blows like the wind, but God’s word stays secure for ever. It is foundational. It can’t be moved. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. And so as we’re leading youth, if we want to just help them know how to navigate simply only today, then maybe sharing those popular opinions and views would be helpful for them today. But it’s not gonna help them tomorrow. It’s certainly not gonna help them 10 years from now. Rather, if we share with them the truth of scripture and also help them to understand…
0:39:20.2 JP: And there’s one of the things I love about John’s book too, because he doesn’t just say, the Bible says, take my word for it, but he helps unpack it. And I really think that’s what we’re called to do as youth leaders. That’s what we’re called to do, period. That’s what I try to do with my kids. But we wanna not help them just go straight to Scripture, which we do wanna do, but also help them understand how to actually understand what the scriptures are saying. We really wanna get them depending on the Holy Spirit and praying as we open the word. God, give us insight into what we’re about to read. Wrestle through some of the stuff that doesn’t initially make sense.
0:39:56.0 JP: As a youth leader, one of the things that I tried to do was go through this thematic thing, just kinda doing topical studies, and for me, maybe it was just my personality, I don’t know, but it was impotent. Kids liked it, but it just was powerless and then I was like, you know what we’re gonna do? We’re actually gonna walk through the Gospel of Mark, and every time we get together, we’re gonna walk through the Gospel of Mark, and I’m just gonna create a commentary of the Gospel of Mark, and for one hour, every Wednesday night, we would walk through a chapter of Mark and questions were flying and we’ve got this Strong’s Concordance, we’ve got a commentary sitting there and when great questions come it’s like, oh, I wonder, I wonder that question too, and we just looked and, man, from Mark 1 to Mark 16, we grew twice in size. People showing up because it was the Word of God. And I think people are actually hungry for substance. You can only live on Snickers bars for so long before it’s like, man, I need the full meal. And that’s what the word of God is, it’s a full meal.
0:41:08.3 GS: I really love that idea, ’cause when I was a pastor, we would do a topical series and then I would do an expository series, which really took a lot longer, but I’d kinda come up for air with a short topical series. But that rhythm, it really was… Topical preaching can work as long as the word of God is going forth. But I’ve said it before, it’s like topical preaching is like using a shotgun. Expository preaching is like using a rifle. Both will get the job done, but one’s a little messier. [chuckle]
0:41:45.1 GS: And the Word of God, if it’s going forth, whether it’s in a topical series or unpacking a book is powerful, but what I love is maybe youth leaders listening to this right now, would say, you know what? Let’s dive into a book and let’s just unpack it. I don’t know if you remember, years ago, we used to train in what we called Alternative Teaching, ALT. Ask, listen and teach. So you’d go through a passage of scripture, ask questions, you’d listen to their response and then you’d teach God’s word, and then you would ask, listen, teach again. And then teenagers begin to really recognize the word of God as that authority. Any final encouragement you would give to fellow youth leaders about really making God’s word central to what they do in youth ministry?
0:42:32.6 JP: Yeah, John said something when you were talking with him that really stood out to me and he said, we’ve settled for too little. And man, I just think that is so true. I think so many times, the students really meet the expectations that we set, and I think it’s really sad that these high school students, they’re going to college prep classes. They are going to calculus and all these advanced language classes. They’re in Spanish 3 and all this stuff. But we don’t think that they can understand scripture. That’s messed up. It’s time for us to actually raise our expectations, and I just think about Jesus, when he called out to the fishermen, He said, I’m gonna make you fishers of men. You’ve been fishing for fish, now I’m gonna help you fish for men, and there was this expectation there. It wasn’t like, hey, come follow Me and maybe you’ll pick up some scraps here and there, and maybe with any luck in four or five years, maybe you’ll know a thing or two. He set that expectation right away and I think John’s right. We have settled for too little. And it’s time for us to get serious about the word of God, to actually believe in the youth.
0:43:53.1 JP: It’s sad when our football coaches believe in the youth more than our youth pastors do. It’s sad when our college admissions people believe that the youth are more capable than we believe they are. Because, man, God looked at us, and he loved us so much that He sent His only Son to die for us. He filled us with His Spirit, and He has a plan and He has a purpose for our lives. And I think we believe that God wants to do great things through us, and it’s time for us to start looking at the youth and really believing God wants to do great things through them as well. But let’s start expecting great things.
0:44:33.0 GS: Amen. Amen. And so we gotta unleash the word, the word of God, and when you unleash the word, you’re gonna get to the gospel because the whole centerpiece of Scripture is Jesus Christ. Jeff, thank you so much for being here. Just so you guys know, he’s got CDs. You can find out more about Jeff at jeffpolandmusic.com. He’s also authored weekly worship thoughts that you can check out. So go to jeffpolandmusic.com. Jeff again, thanks for being a part of the podcast. It’s so fun to listen to John Cooper just talk about his passion for truth and the gospel and holiness, and teenagers, youth ministry. And it was exciting to hear your take on that as well. Youth leaders, just remember that building a thriving youth ministry means building a gospel-advancing youth ministry. Let’s reach every teen everywhere in every way, until every teen has every last chance to put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ. Thanks so much for tuning in.
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