Step Back From the Microphone

The Newsboys reflect on life-changing experiences that take place after the crowds clear and the lights go down.
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I just got a letter from this young guy in Kansas," says Phil Joel, who plays bass for the Newsboys. "He's very ill. … "

Phil's voice cracks as he speaks. He pauses for a moment, gathers his thoughts, fights back tears.

What really got to Phil was something this Newsboys fan wrote at the end of the letter. Before he signed his name, he simply scribbled, "Love in Christ."

"I mean, it was just ‘Love in Christ,'" Phil says softly.

It was more than the expression of Christian love that got to Phil. It also had something to do with the way the writer told Phil about his terminal illness—and the way he accepted his coming death.

Beyond the glitz & glamour
Campus Life talked with Phil and the rest of the 'boys during their recent "Step Up to the Microphone" tour, a concert series that attracted half a million people in more than 120 cities.

If you attended one of those concerts, you know all about the glitzy light show, huge video screen, and the special platform that carried two drummers about 20 feet into the air and twirled them head over heels.

The Newsboys have always been known for their well-crafted pop-rock sound, but they're also famous for showmanship. Even in the early days, when cash for extravagant props wasn't there, a Newsboys show still included a guy hopping around in a kangaroo suit. (In case you didn't know, band members Peter Furler and Duncan Phillips are from Australia, and Phil is from New Zealand.)

The glitz and glamour of flashing lights and high-tech stage props can easily overshadow the behind-the-scenes experiences—the kinds of experiences that cause the Newsboys to stop, think, and look a little deeper into their own souls.

Looking inward
As he talks about the guy with the terminal illness, Phil expresses concern for his own shortcomings. He also says he's been forced to think seriously about what's really important in life, and in death.

"This guy is not relishing the day when he'll leave his parents," explains Phil. "But he's just got this, I don't know what it is or how to describe it, but this confidence in knowing that his time is short and he's going to be with his heavenly Father, and everything is going to be better. He's not going to have to take 43 shots a day to ease his pain anymore.

"For me, it's put life in a different perspective. It's made me think more about eternal and lasting things."

A fence full of memories
Lead singer Peter Furler also had an intense and sobering experience awhile back. A few hours before a concert in Oklahoma City, Peter decided to take a walk, and he found himself standing in front of a wire fence. On the other side of the fence was the vacant lot where the Alfred Murrah Federal Building once stood. The building was destroyed four years ago by a bomb that killed 168 people.

"The fence is like a memorial to those killed by the bombing," says Peter. "Key chains, teddy bears, photographs, high school class rings—all kinds of things are attached to the fence. But what I saw more than anything else were crosses, and signs and notes that mentioned the name Jesus Christ or God.

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