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SKILLET: SEVEN SIZZLING SECRETS... To Living Your Faith
“There's been kind of a spiritual awakening in my own life, and a lot of things have changed for me,” says Skillet’s lead singer John Cooper. He incorporated some of those life-changing lessons in his current album, Comatose, and shares seven of them with Breakaway.

By: Tiffany Ross of BreakAwayMag.com

Some call them “music missionaries,” while others say they are a “band of Christians with a passion for rock.” Regardless of the labels, Skillet has spent more than a decade influencing the mainstream while holding firm to its faith-based roots.

Their latest CD serves up something for every rock taste: hints of an old-school, progressive sound mixed with a modern, alternative style—topped with a sizzling dose of adrenaline-laced metal. Comatose follows the band’s 2004 Lava/Atlantic debut Collide, which launched the group into the mainstream and garnered them a Grammy nomination in the Best Rock Gospel Album category.

To date, Skillet plays more than 200 shows a year and tours with bands like Flyleaf, Three Days Grace, Saliva, Shinedown and 12 Stones.

No doubt, this Chicago-based foursome is one of the hardest working, heaviest rocking, most boldly witnessing acts of its generation. But what’s behind the message of Comatose?

Breakaway recently caught up with the band—vocalist/bass player John Cooper and his wife/keyboardist, Korey; guitarist Ben Kasica and drummer Lori Peters—and uncovered seven messages these artists live by. Or, as they put it, “seven secrets to living authentic faith in the real world.”

Secret No. 1: “Be relevant to real people and real struggles.”
John: As I was writing the lyrics for Comatose, I was struck with the realization that bands like Linkin Park, Staind and Korn seemed more relevant to people than I was. So I began to pray about each session. In the end, we knew that what we recorded on our current album is the direction God had led us. Our desire is to reach out to people who’ve maybe been turned off by what they think is Christian music, [and maybe] get them out to a concert to hear even more of our message.

So, as a teen, what can you do? Just look around you. Life can be desperately painful. There are so many severe situations out there: the aftermath of a hurricane, poverty or homelessness. As a society, we need to come out of our sleepy apathy, our materialism. And as a church, we must stop fighting over our petty differences. If we do that, maybe on a grand scheme we can help out someone we’ve never even met.

Korey: As we travel, especially during the last couple of years, we’re aware of people needing and hurting more than ever before. We want our music and our witness to start the wheels in motion for believers and nonbelievers alike to change that cycle for the better.

Secret No. 2: “It’s time to knock down walls between believers and nonbelievers. After all, it’s not supposed to be ‘us vs. them.’ ”
John: God has opened my eyes. We have a lot of walls to tear down before we can show people who Jesus really is. I’ve noticed that a lot of people don’t have a problem with Jesus, but they have a problem with the way they’ve been treated by Christians.

When I was 15, I wanted to be the guy who was making a difference in my high school. I know that God used me, but some of my well-meaning tactics were a little off. For example, I would stand up in biology class and tell my teachers they were wrong about evolution and that they were going to hell for their beliefs. Defending my faith was fine. Yet, again, it was my tactics that needed some tweaking!

On other occasions, I would get upset at the lunch table when somebody around me would cuss. I would say something like, “Would Jesus cuss like that?” Yeah, I had a right to be upset. Yet some of these guys had no clue who Jesus was.

Here’s what I’ve learned: We should help each other in love, not with an angry spirit. Our attitude should be this: “I’m going to love you just the way you are. I’m not going to freak out because you don’t share my beliefs. Through my actions and my lifestyle, I’ll introduce you to Jesus.”

Lori: It's important to be there when someone is in pain. Don’t be afraid to reach out. Someone may not want to talk about a certain struggle, but they will remember that you said hi to them or asked them how they were doing. These kinds of things can make a big impression. A hurting friend may end up coming back to you when he is ready to talk. It’s all about building relationships. As a result, the most shocking people come to you for prayer.

Secret No. 3: “It’s all about relationships, not just religion.”
John: I used to have a superevangelist style when I was younger. But now, I’m starting to see that it's all about developing a relationship with people.

Jesus wasn’t just all talk, but was much more about relationships and communicating to people in a relatable way—even as He preached to them. The way we tend to evangelize today is often much different from the way Jesus reached out.

Ben: That’s why we named our current record Comatose. We want to challenge listeners to break beyond the mundane and to get on track with their relationships—here on earth and with the Creator.

John: That’s right. And to the church specifically, we want to remind everyone that life’s focus needs to be on reaching out to others while stepping aside from denominational squabbles and self-absorption.

Korey: We’re all about challenging people to invest in the relationships around them. We’re all so desperately trying to communicate with each other online with MySpace and instant messenger that no one gets to know one another, and they feel so alone with nobody to talk to about their problems.

Secret No. 4: “Love the world into God’s kingdom.”
John: We’ve got to care for other people. I’m very passionate about evangelism, but love begets evangelism. I want people to know that I care about their needs in a practical way.

A few years ago I looked at my high school senior yearbook for the first time after graduation. One girl wrote that I was the only one who was ever nice to her. She mentioned how it meant so much to her and how it helped her through hard times. I didn’t even really know this person, so I found her picture and remembered her being a supergothic girl. She was the only one in the whole school with black hair and white makeup. She was actually pretty mean to me. I would say hi to her every day, and she would just look at me like, You shouldn’t even be talking to me. But in the end, this girl was just hurting.

It's amazing how a little kindness and a little love can impact someone in a big way.

Secret No. 5: “Live it, don’t just preach it.”
Lori: As John mentioned, you don’t have to say a lot. You don’t even have to preach. You just have to live your faith and God’s love every day. Reach out to hurting people and be ready to cry with them. Your job isn’t to condemn others. It's all about knowing Jesus, living your faith and loving others.

Secret No. 6: “Tell others: ’People will let us down, but God won’t.’”
John: It's hard when Christian leaders let us down. But in the end, we all have to put our trust in God. After all, any one of us can fall, too. So, here’s my advice: Don’t judge people; just pray for them. And beware: If you are putting your trust in men, you may end up seriously disappointed. Everybody makes mistakes. I know that I’m going live what I believe to the best of my ability. It will take all the strength that God gives me—but I'll keep moving forward.

Secret No. 7: “Stay connected to Christ, and follow His lead.”
Korey: I regularly ask God, "Are you sure I’m supposed to be doing this?" While He is my main focus, He has also given me a family. I desire to pass my faith along to my children. If that doesn’t happen, I will consider my life a failure. So that’s the most important thing to me. Fortunately, my husband and I are doing this together. God continues to give us the grace we need to do what we have to do. The band’s great with them, too. They have become like an extended family.

Ben: Life’s not about being cool. Even Christians can get swept away with wanting to be popular. But people will notice if you don’t care about those things. You’ve got to be genuine; you’ve got to be real. People today don’t want a faith that is just a religion or a bunch of Sunday-morning rules. Deep inside, they desire relationship. And whether or not they admit it, they want a connection with God.

SKILLETMAN TO THE RESCUE . . .(SECRET NO. 8)
You’ll never guess what John does when he’s  offstage. Here’s a clue: He hangs out with superheroes. 

“I just have a thing for movie characters and comic-book heroes,” he says. But he’s not satisfied with merely watching DVDs or reading comic books. Instead, he collects life-size action figures.

“I have a life-size Batman and Spider-Man. I want Darth Vader, but he costs too much money.”

Where does he find these collectibles?

“Most cities have comic-book shops,” he says. “There are specialty shops where you can find weird paraphernalia for movies, old toys, collectors’ items and all kinds of stuff.”

Then there’s always eBay. “I mostly buy for myself. I started leaving my own toys in the box when I was about 14 or 15. They’re worth more money that way.”

At home, John has trophy cases full of all kinds of toys. “It’s just something that makes me really nostalgic,” he says. “It reminds me of when I was growing up and things were easier.”

As for his favorite superhero, John likes Spider-Man. “He can do everything! If God offered to give me special powers, I’d ask Him to make me like Spider-Man!”

 


SKILLET SOUND EFFECTS . . .
“We’re proud of where we’ve been in the past, but I feel like this is our strongest record,” John says of Comatose. “There are so many different influences that it won’t just be about rock audiences or metal audiences. I think there’s something here for everybody.”

Here are some highlights:

•  “Rebirthing”—a complex but accessible amalgamation of piercing strings and humongous power chords calling all to come alive in Christ.

• “The Last Night”—a song that oozes with ethereal orchestration and merges John’s vocals with his wife, Korey’s, keyboard cadences.

• “Whispers”—a tune that gives a nod to the current prog music via the channels of 1970s prog-rock band Yes.

• “Better than Drugs”—a challenge to focus on an eternal destiny rather than earthly gain. This is a slightly schizophrenic barnburner that is one of the disc’s most aggressive displays.

 


Tiffany Ross is the wife of Breakaway’s editor, Michael. Tiffany works in film production. Michael assisted with this article.

Photography / Lava Records. This article appeared in the July 2007 issue of Breakaway magazine. Copyright 2007, Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. International copyright secured.