Skillet rocker: Stop elevating Christian influencers, learning theology from praise songs
John Cooper, lead singer of the Christian rock band Skillet, is speaking out and expressing dismay over popular Christian leaders publicly renouncing their faith.
“Ok I’m saying it. Because it’s too important not to. What is happening in Christianity? More and more of our outspoken leaders or influencers who were once 'faces' of the faith are falling away. And at the same time, they are being very vocal and bold about it. Shockingly they still want to influence others (for what purpose?)as they announce that they are leaving the faith,” Cooper wrote in a Facebook post this week.
"I am stunned that the seemingly most important thing for these leaders who have lost their faith is to make such a bold new stance. Basically saying, 'I’ve been living and preaching boldly something for 20 years and led generations of people with my teachings and now I no longer believe it..therefore I’m going to boldly and loudly tell people it was all wrong while I boldly and loudly lead people in to my next truth.' I’m perplexed why they aren’t embarrassed? Humbled? Ashamed, fearful, confused? Why be so eager to continue leading people when you clearly don’t know where you are headed?"
Over the last few weeks, former pastor and best-selling author Joshua Harris announced on social media that he no longer considers himself a Christian, and prolific worship music writer Marty Sampson, known for his extensive work with Hillsong Church, said he was "genuinely losing" his faith.
Cooper made it clear that it’s not his “place” to judge unbelievers but as a follower of Christ, he deemed it necessary to address those within his faith, saying that there must be a measure of “loyalty and friendship and accountability to each other and the Word of God” as Christians.
While not naming names, Cooper warned all Christians to "STOP making worship leaders and thought leaders or influencers or cool people or ‘relevant’ people the most influential people in Christendom.” He included himself in the list of people often put up on a pedestal.
“We are in a dangerous place when the church is looking to 20 year old worship singers as our source of truth. We now have a church culture that learns who God is from singing modern praise songs rather than from the teachings of the Word.”
When it comes to writing songs for Skillet, Cooper — whose band just released a new album, Victorious — told The Christian Post that he has "very close relationships" with his church and that he takes their input seriously.
"We are looked at as a ministry of our church. So they're very behind us,” Cooper told CP. “It's not true that I write a song and I give it to them for an OK before I release it but it is the case that sometimes I write something and I say, 'I don't know if that's exactly right and I will look for their input.'
"It also is the case if they ever had a problem with something I had written, we're such good friends and I respect them so much that they would tell me and I would take that very seriously.”
His reason for doing so is because of how unsound some Christain music has become in the church, he explained.
"A lot of Christian people right now, artists are releasing stuff that when I read the lyrics, I'm like, 'I'm amazed that people have a problem with Skillet lyrics' when some of the songs that we sing in church today I don't think are actually accurate,” he stated. “Not to be overly harsh but I am 100% sure that God's love is absolutely not reckless in any sort of way. I can't believe we sing it in church, but we do!”
Cooper was referencing the very popular worship song “Reckless Love” by Cory Asbury, which is sung in many churches all over the United States.
He explained that the first time he became aware of the song was when his 11-year-old son told him he had been listening to the lyrics of it and after reading the Bible he could not find anywhere in the Word where it said God’s love was "reckless." His conversation with his son showed Cooper the importance of proper theology in music.
"I'm not trying to be rude about the song. And I've listened to interviews and I get where it's coming from. I want to be inclusive to people but when people look at Skillet lyrics and they go, 'I'm not really sure if this is a Christian song? I'm like, ‘Really? And you're singing the songs you're singing [in church]?’
“My point is, we should have a little bit more trepidation before we just start throwing out stuff in the world,” he told CP.
In his Facebook post, he contended that artists "are good at communicating emotion and feeling" but they "are not always the best people to write solid bible truth and doctrine."
"Sometimes we are too young, too ignorant of scripture, too unaware, or too unconcerned about the purity of scripture and the holiness of the God we are singing to. Have you ever considered the disrespect of singing songs to God that are untrue of His character?" he wrote.
Continuing his argument against the recent public announcements of falling away from the faith, Cooper wondered, "[W]hy do people act like ‘being real’ covers a multitude of sins? As if someone is courageous simply for sharing virally every thought or dark place. That’s not courageous. It’s cavalier."
"As if they are the harbingers of truth, saying 'I used to think one way and practice it and preach it, but now I’ve learned all the new truth and will start practicing and preaching it.' So the influencers become the voice for truth in whatever stage of life and whatever evolution takes place in their thinking."
The "Legendary" singer also rejected as "flatly false" the claim that no one is addressing hard questions in Christianity.
Sampson of Hillsong had argued in his social media announcement that "no one talks about" contradictions in the Bible, preachers falling, and why God sends people to Hell, among other things.
"The church has wrestled with this for 1500 years. Literally," Cooper argued. "Everybody talks about it. Children talk about it in Sunday school. There’s like a billion books written on the topic. Just because you don’t get the answer you want doesn’t mean that we are unwilling to wrestle with it. We wrestle with scripture until we are transformed by the renewing of our minds."
In the end, there's one thing the Skillet singer finds most shocking:
“As these influencers disavow their faith, they always end their statements with their ‘new insight/new truth’ that is basically a regurgitation of Jesus’s words! It’s truly bizarre and ironic. They’ll say ‘I’m disavowing my faith but remember, love people, be generous, forgive others. Ummm, why? That is actually not human nature."
He continued: “No child is ever born and says 'I just want to love others before loving myself. I want to turn the other cheek. I want to give my money away to others in need.’ Those are Bible principles taught by a prophet/Priest/king of kings who wants us to live by a higher standard which is not an earthly standard, but rather the ‘Kingdom of God’ standard. Therefore if Jesus is not the truth and if the Word of God is not absolute, then by preaching Jesus’s teachings you are endorsing the words of a madman.
"[W]ill your ideas of what is 'good' be different from year to year based on your experience, culture trends, poplular opinion etc and furthermore will you continue year by year to lead others into your idea of goodness even though it is not absolute? I’m amazed that so many Christians want the benefits of the kingdom of God, but with the caveat that they themselves will be the King."
The Tennessee native pleaded with believers to “rediscover” the preeminence and the value of the Word of God.
“We need to value truth over feeling. Truth over emotion,” he stated.
"I implore you, please please in your search for relevancy for the gospel, let us NOT find creative ways to shape Gods word into the image of our culture by stifling inconvenient truths. But rather let us hold on even tighter to the anchor of the living Word of God. For He changes NOT."