I must stand in awe of how God allows His people to use creative tools to advance the gospel. As a Business and Ministry organization, we have been privileged to use TEA as our primary method of advancing the gospel. John and Korey Cooper have been using music to advance the gospel since the mid 90’s through their band SKILLET. God has blessed me with lots of opportunities throughout my career to work with musicians, pastors, professional tea people, etc. Some of these opportunities have been positive, others not as much. After hanging out the Cooper kids for an afternoon, here are a few take away points.
High Paced Parenting
Touring is not as glamorous as it appears. It is an incredible amount of work. Each 2-3 hour show requires a large team of people working very diligently to pull it off. Additionally, there are hundred of people working months in advance to set up all the details. The Coopers work 12-14 hour weekend days without the benefit of being able to go home at night. The only real “normal” is their coach bus and a new loading dock each morning. Despite this chaos, they have great kids. Debbie and I strongly believe that in the high paced world of creative access ministry, taking your kids with you is the key to maintaining “family.” By taking our kids with most of the time, I have kids who get to see daddy share the gospel with kids in the cafe, get to taste my passion for TEA, and have opportunities to develop their own skills by being involved in the ministry. As the Cooper’s nanny, kids and I walked through the Brown Vs. Board museum, we had incredible conversation about a wide range of ministry topics and Star Wars. John is raising a son and daughter who deeply love Jesus, are willing to asking thoughtful questions, and embrace knowledge and experience while filtering those experiences through a biblical worldview. All of this done while traveling hundreds of miles daily and preforming before thousands of people each week.
Let me briefly call a spade a spade. With many Grammy, Dove, and Billboard awards and nomination on their record, Skillet has a lot to be proud of. This often is where the rub occurs. I have worked with many bands, some of them worship bands, who pray, share testimonies of God working, and sing great songs about faith on stage and are the complete opposite the minute they step off the stage. Looking back, when I connect with students in my youth groups who have been out on tour with me during the summer, this is always the greatest frustration. Prior to leaving on tour, my students are always excited to be traveling with a band. After the tour, the faith of the band is always our first conversation. My students have always been frustrated with the bands that are in the industry exclusively for the music and place little focus on their faith. SKILLET IS NOT THAT BAND. They have developed an incredible team of professionals who are kind, considerate, appreciative of everything. John’s kids never used the phrase “Well, my dad’s the lead singer …” Their music is aggressive, they style is aggressive, yet John’s kids are humble and kind. I believe our kids are an impression of us. John’s team and kids are a solid testimony of his skill as a music industry leader.
Creative Access Evangelism
My wife and I talked briefly about some of the negative press Skillet received years ago about their touring with secular bands such as Korn. The message of Christ is black and white, the method of how we preach that message must become all things to ALL men otherwise we are only preaching to those people we feel should hear it. Skillet is not ashamed of the gospel. Every conversation I had with the band or John’s kids at some point led back to faith in Christ. Skillet’s church launched a School of Worship. Worship is not what or how we sing during a song, it’s about how we live our lives after the set. This is a family and a ministry who has every reason to have inflated egos, yet their love for the Lord is the loudest thing about the music. If you want to reach students and musicians who take their anger out on stage or behind a pair of headphones; Be an excellent aggressive musical! If we want to reach students who would not walk through the doors of a local church, or connect with a Muslim vendor selling black tea, or share the gospel with a renowned agnostic tea speaker; Be an excellent tea business as ministry! The church can’t see missionaries exclusively has those people who board a plan for Africa wear a white shirt holding a bible. Modern missionaries are guys dressed in black wearing guy liner screaming the name of Jesus as the top of their lungs. Modern missionaries are people wearing water proof shoes carrying a cupping spoon helping desperately hurting kids understand the nuance of flavor in a tea while addressing the blaring challenges faced at school.
THANK you to everyone who is allowing Cafe Barnabas to preach the gospel, one kid, one cafe at a time.