Stay The Course: Newsboys
“My God’s not dead. He’s surely alive. He’s living on the inside roaring like a lion…”
These lyrics from the band, Newsboys, have reached millions around the world. When the single, “God’s Not Dead (Like A Lion),” was first released in 2011, it was a #1 radio hit on the Billboard AC Monitored chart. Since then it has been the top-selling track from Newsboys’ God’s Not Dead album, but it was the popularity of the feature film, God’s Not Dead, that was released this past Spring (2014), in which the Newsboys perform their hit song, that pushed the single over the 500,000 sales mark certifying it GOLD by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). The movie made more than $60 million dollars at the box office, sparking much talk worldwide about the crucial message of whether or not God exists – especially in classrooms where students find themselves constantly defending their faith.
Founded in 1985, the Newsboys have remained a constant in the Christian pop rock genre by making adaptions along the way – including its band members. With former DC Talk member Michael Tait now as their lead singer, you can find Duncan Phillips on drums, Jeff Frankenstein on the keyboard, and Jody Davis on the guitar. Risen caught up with Tait and Phillips at a recent concert to talk success, coming to know Christ, and some much-needed advice for all.
Interviewed exclusively for Risen Magazine in Sandusky, Ohio
Risen Magazine: You released the song, God’s Not Dead, a few years ago and then this year it was used in a movie with the same name. How did this happen and what are your thoughts of this additional round of success?
Michael Tait: We never knew this was going to happen, of course, but what’s crazy is the album came out and did fairly well. The song kind of got bigger and bigger and we ended up at number one. Then we released a new record called Restart, last year, and God’s Not Dead blew up like triple big—the movie, the single. So all that together has made our God’s Not Dead experience over the top. It’s out of control. It’s crazy – never saw it coming. The biggest [hit] since Jesus Freak, for me, in [my days with] DC Talk, and now [God’s Not Dead] is bigger than that!
Risen Magazine: What kind of impact do you hope the message has for college students?
Duncan Phillips: It was a subject that most people could relate to and they had dealt with, and even in high school these days, kids are dealing with this [pushback that God is not real]. And I think that’s one of the reasons it was so strong and I think that to actually get to see the scenario work out positively, it was just a very powerful point of moment in the movie and of course in people’s live to say, “Okay, well maybe I can give a good account of my faith.” I think there are so many Christians out there that are just not schooled in their faith. And I think what this movie is going to do, is that it is actually going to jolt this generation, to hopefully say, “Well, maybe I should dig a little deeper so I can give account for my faith.”
Risen Magazine: What kind of encouragement can you give to people when it comes to living out genuine, authentic faith while also having the ability to give people grace?
Duncan Phillips: That is a deep question.
Michael Tait: I’ve been haunted by the saying, what does that verse in the Bible say about to whom much is given much is required… and as believers [in Jesus Christ] if we talk that talk, we have to walk that walk, we’re commanded to. It’s a commitment as believers. Not to say that we are not going to mess up and fall, or even fail, because we can and do, we are human. We are forgiven, but not perfect. We try our best and I’d say [it’s important] to keep our nose in the Word [Bible] and listen to the right people, and do the right thing and let [yourself trust] God.
Risen Magazine: How to you view the music industry? Do you feel it was your specific calling and do you feel responsible to share Christ through your music?
Duncan Phillips: I think we kind of fell into it. It was like one of those things where, as a young kid, I didn’t necessarily have this mission that I wanted to save the world. But I was a Christian, and I play music – I love playing music – so it was just a very natural thing to sing about my faith. As we go on, God can get hold of that [passion], like He has with this band, and He has done some incredible, wonderful things. I think what all of us are called to do, is do what we do, the best that we can. I can’t save anyone; I don’t have that power. But what I can do is be the best drummer I can possibly be. That’s all we’re called to do; we are just conduits. We have plans and missions, but our ways are not His ways, and a lot of times our plans don’t line up with His or vice versa.
Risen Magazine: The words, “God’s Not Dead” are so powerful, when you wake up each morning, is it this message that keeps you going each day? How did you come to know the Lord?
Duncan Phillips: Absolutely. It goes deep for us. We’ve been doing this for a long time and I think, as Jeff [Franklin, our keyboardist] has mentioned in the past, I think back when you were a young teenager it’s all about the art, creating your art and making records that were artistically valid in your mind. But I think as you get a little older, and get married and start having your own children, you absolutely still want to make great art, but I think it goes deeper. Especially for us now, realizing that it is a fallen and broken world. We do have young children that are very impressionable and we see this generation, for the most part, going to hell-in-a-hand-basket, so to speak. It scares me and it concerns me. And I think our mission now is probably to show the other side of the coin. There are so many voices out there screaming the opposite to what we believe and, not to get weird about it or odd about it but just to say, “Hey, there is another option over here… this is the option we’ve found that works for us. And, isn’t it worth just ten minutes of your life to get down on your knees and say, ‘God, I don’t know if you’re there or not but if you are, please reveal yourself to me. I’ve got to know.’” And that’s what I did. I was brought up in a Christian home, I got to about 19 years old and I thought “Man, I don’t know if this is real or whether it was just B.S.” I didn’t know.
Michael Tait: It was just a club for me. I had a great youth group; it was a social club, we all hung out. But what I did took ten minutes and I got down on my knees [and said], “God, I don’t know if you’re there, I don’t know if I’m talking to you anymore. But, man if you are there, please reveal yourself to me.” And He did. He really did.
Risen Magazine: Michael, you have been in the industry for awhile – from your time with the band DC Talk to now with Newsboys – how has music shaped you into the man you are today?
Michael Tait: Music has shaped me, or maybe I should say how God allowed music to shape me. Obviously music is a very powerful tool. It speaks to deepest part of a kid’s heart through their headphones. And we know this.
Risen Magazine: If the world were to end tomorrow, what is one piece of advice you’d give to others?
Michael Tait: To find the peace that surpasses all understanding in your heart… which is having Christ in your heart. That’s why we do it. We’re tired, we’re worn out, but God is all merciful, powerful, and gracious. And stay the course, stay the course, stay the course. The enemy is going to come along, he’s going to beat you up. You are going to be tired sometimes, you are going to get moody… it’s a part of life. But stay the course. These little things don’t matter. Let the little things go and stay the course.
Duncan Phillips: I think for me, just like I was mentioning earlier, seek Him [God] out for yourself. Don’t just believe in God because your parents do, or you had a great youth group, or you had a great church, because ultimately it’s a relationship between you and your creator. Your parents can’t get you into Heaven because of their relationship. It’s got to be you. Just take a few moments in your life, that’s all it takes. Get real, just for a moment. Put the iPhone down [laughs]… Just get real for a moment. Just ask, “God, are you there? Please. I’ve got to know.” And He will [answer], man.
Exclusive Interview originally published in Risen Magazine, Winter 2014
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