Newsboys: Ex-lead Singer John James speaks about his fall and restoration

Friday 26th January 2007

In one of the most painfully truthful interviews ever given by a Christian music artist, one-time member of the NEWSBOYS John James spoke in depth to Mike Rimmer.

Continued from page 2

He continued, "We just hit the ground weeping and crying! And that was a catalyst that breathed life into dead bones. It's like something of a miracle happened that day. Something took place inside me. There was a transfiguration in my life that day, that the simplicity and the power and the relevance of God impacted me so dramatically that God gave me the strength to end it right there. The alcohol ended. Even though I was an alcoholic somehow it ended. The cocaine ended. No rehab. Supernaturally something happened in my life that day.

"Actually, what's crazy is that the minister went to the pastor's for lunch. They said, 'Do you know who that was?' And he goes, 'I don't have a clue.' And then they told him our story and he broke down and wept. And that night we met him again and he spent time with us just talking. What's funny is that about a month later the same thing happened again! It's like for the next several months every minister from overseas who came to our church singled us out. It was like God went out of his way continually to the point I know people in church were probably getting sick and tired, wondering why it was always us being singled out. It's like God went out of his way in spite of how we were feeling to say, 'Listen, you guys are so precious to me. Even amongst this hell you're going through, I'm right there with you. Even though you feel so devalued, like your life has no meaning or purpose let me say, I'm going to use you to do great things still. I want to use you.' That was so liberating for me!"

In the middle of the encouraging words from God, there was the serious business of a marriage that needed to be restored. John admitted that this was taking time. "I honestly wish I could sit here and say it happened overnight. But probably it was about two years. That first year was SO hard. SO HARD. Countless hours of counselling. We spent time with people that just loved us and mentored us. I had to learn all over again what it meant to be a husband. A good husband. I had to relearn what it meant to be romantic. I had to earn my wife's trust back again. I had broken her heart. I had to earn her trust. I had to give my wife a reason to fall in love with me all over again.

"I came to the realisation, either the Word of God is true or it isn't. Either it can change my life or it can't. If it can't then I'm wasting my time but if it can then I'm going to do everything that I can to allow it to change my life. Eventually our marriage was a relationship restored and since then we've had children. It doesn't mean I'm a perfect husband but I believe I'm a great husband. There was a renewing of my mind. The renewing of what it means to be a dad and a father and a husband. My entire value system changed."

It was nearly lunchtime and John and I were sitting in the hotel suite where my wife and I were enjoying a few sunny days on the beach. My wife was off being pampered in the hotel's health spa whilst John and I were catching up. Compared to the person he was when he was fronting the Newsboys, John is a different man here at home in Australia. He admitted that one day he'd have to move to Brisbane when the new church takes off but for then his family were enjoying the benefits of living on the Sunshine Coast. But what does he do now? "Well you know some days I ask myself that same question!" he laughed. "What am I actually doing with my life? My wife and I are very passionate. We tell our story. We're passionate about life. I'm passionate about my children. Passionate about my family. But when I do have the privilege to minister I work a lot with high school students. I LOVE going into high schools. Working with teenagers. I'll be one of those guys, if they still let me, that'll be 80 years old and still involved in youth ministry! I love working with young people. It's in my blood. I love doing conferences that deal with music because they think, 'Oh, John James from the Newsboys, let's get him!' But I come from such a different perspective."

He laughed, "I come from totally another angle because they want to hear about the how-to and the success. 'How do we write number one songs?' But I come from the other angle and talk about character, foundation, family, marriage, integrity. And it's almost like, 'What is that?! We want to hear about, how do you write number one songs? How do you write great music? How do you perform on stage?' So I do lots of schools." Continued James, "I do a lot of travelling to churches but at the moment the thing that's really inspiring me and David Evans is that we're looking to pioneer a church, pastor a church in 2007 in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. It is very bizarre for me because honestly that's one thing I said that I would NEVER do! It's amazing. It's like it seems not that long ago that my wife and I swore that we would never ever live in Australia and now here we are! But the concept of pastoring and being involved in pastoring and pioneering a church never appealed to me. Scary as it is for me I find myself getting excited and dreaming about it! Getting stirred in regards to doing something significant.

You know what? For me, I may never stand on a stadium stage again and be a part of influencing big crowds. But for me half the battle was coming to terms in my heart and in my mind that for the rest of my life, God may just want to use me in a corner of the world and that maybe I'll never have my name in lights or no-one might know the 'great exploits'. But if it means talking to a bunch of kids in a high school classroom - 20 kids? - so be it. If that's where God wants me I am prepared to say, 'Yes Lord I'll do it'. Or does John James still crave the excitement and the rush of the big arenas? Do I like the concept of that? Who wouldn't! But it's coming to terms: 'God, if you put me in that position one day again? Awesome! But if you don't, I am prepared to be obedient, happy and content.' I want to feel that I'm still running the race and at the end of it, it's still 'Well done good and faithful servant.'"

Driving me home from the church barbecue the previous Sunday, David Evans had confided in me that since his last concert with the Newsboys, John had not sung a single note in public and didn't want to. For someone who had enjoyed having the world at his feet while he sang his band's classics, this seemed like an odd state of affairs. Surely there were plenty of people who would offer John a solo contract. "I haven't sung in seven and a half years with the exception of a friend of mine, Andrew Ironside who asked me to cut one track on his album and I did it for him. That was really difficult. I've not sung since I've left the band and part of that is the healing journey I'm still on. The truth behind it is that the dynamic of my ability to sing was the team - the dynamic of the Newsboys. It was a band. It was Peter and I. It was the dynamic of a group of mates on stage. Myself? I'm not a soloist. I've never ever believed I really had a great voice. I believed I was a great entertainer. I had the ability to take people on a journey in that band environment. And also for me, probably that was one of the things that I was able to hold onto. Even though my career was over, for a long time it still gave me that sense of worth because people looked at me with awe and went, 'Wow! He's the lead singer of the Newsboys! Wow, will you sing?!' And I'd say, no I don't sing anymore. 'Oh pleeaase will you sing?!' But I was afraid that if I did sing and I didn't meet the expectations then the perception of: "WOW! Here's the lead singer of the Newsboys!" would be gone and people would say, 'Gee he's really not that good of a singer.'"

John James has been through a great deal. With the band he's scaled the heights of success and yet life in the band dropped him down to the depths of despair. Through rediscovering the unconditional love of God and the truth that God doesn't write any of us off, he's rediscovered the love of a long suffering life and now things are back on track, God has given him a fresh sense of purpose. For a while, he'll admit, it was a close call but it looks like his healing is nearly complete.

Back in Brisbane, my wife Pippa and I stayed a few days with David Evans and his wife. It didn't look like the final part of John's healing was far off. David confessed that he really wanted to see John sing again and John himself admitted, "I've put my hand up with David, with the pioneering of this new church, to be involved in the music in regards to worship and singing and song-leading. It's going to be so hard. You'd think after more than 15 years of being a frontman it comes so naturally but for me, to be honest, man that is probably going to be one of the most scariest things I've ever done in my life. That's part of the journey of my healing when I can get up there. It's not about how good I am. It's not about the crowd. But it's the fact that God wants to use me. Great singer or not. Big crowd or small. That God says, 'I want to sing through you. Open your mouth and sing for me.' That's going to be quite a moment for me that first day!"

If you or someone you know is struggling with an addiction, Gilead Foundations could help. Tel: 01837 851240 You could also pray now in the Cross Rhythms Addictions Prayer Room. CR

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.
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Reader Comments

Posted by Katrina Laude in Homer City, PA @ 21:56 on Feb 17 2019

Hey, Kay VanAntwerpen, don't get the religious mixed up with the faithful. During Jesus' time, it was the most religious (the Pharisees) who had totally missed the point. They got all the religion but missed the relationship. Just because something is done "in God's name" doesn't make it from God. Don't give up on the Creator just because the creation gets it wrong. Blessings to you on your journey. Oh, and I encourage you to read runners magazine. It will give you a different perspective on Christians

Posted by Kay VanAntwerpen in Grand Rapids, Michigan @ 12:06 on Dec 22 2018

I'm not a Christian, I gave up on it after it broke my heart to realize the selfless generosity and empathy I thought my parents and the other adults in my life believed in was just lip-service, the sort of thing you're supposed to say when you believe in god. As a musician and lyricist with an OK amount of small-time success, I genuinely despise most Christian music for the same reason I gave up on the church -- it's all so vapid and meaningless, all of the songs have the same canned lines that don't really mean anything.

That said, I've been researching Christian rock recently for an album I'm working on (it's the style and language I want to write it in while commenting on the church's role in politics today), and I'm a little surprised by how well John James' lyrics and a lot of the early Newsboys stuff holds up, and even aligns with my convictions.

I don't think I'll ever buy into a God again, especially after watching a majority of the people who claim to be a "light" to the world shamelessly hand the keys to the world's most powerful army and nuclear arsenal to a man who admitted on tape to sexually assaulting women, and has numerous more rape allegations against him.

But it's good to know there are people out there who have the integrity to be honest about their flaws, to address them, and to share that struggle in order to be self-actualized and let others learn from their mistakes. It gives me hope. If there are really genuinely righteous religious figures out there, they look like this man.

Reply by DDMCC in U.S. @ 17:23 on Feb 1 2019

If you are looking to people, you will always be disappointed. Don't keep your eye on God's dysfunctional children. Keep your eyes on God Himself. He will not disappoint you.

[report abuse]

Posted by Debra Lee Szentgyorg in NY @ 04:27 on Sep 28 2018

Thank you for sharing your testimony. Your transparency in the struggles you have faced will help other people. Praise God, that He rescues us and is always there for us.

Posted by Kurt Kelley in Indianapolis @ 15:35 on Aug 15 2018

Glad to hear of his turnaround. But its no surprise as to his downfall. Wealth and fame bring temptations that no normal man or woman could resist. One could find many skeletons in the closets of every Christian celebrity, musical, or non. But I dont place all the blame on the celebrity. I place much of the blame on us, the Christians who so idolize our 'own' celebrities. WE have turned them into gods. If you observe the typical crowd at a big Christian concert, what you are seeing is worship. Not of God, but of the performers on stage. I see no difference between the adoration the crowd displays at a major rock concert, and how the crowd behaves at a major Christian concert. And that includes the supposed 'praise and worship' bands and concerts.

Go to a Jesus Culture show, and you will see the same celebrity worship as you would at any secular concert.

Posted by Roy Bowles @ 14:41 on Jul 22 2018

The (John James) Newsboys is the first Christian group I turned to as a new Christian. I'm so sorry to hear about his struggles, but so glad we have a Lord and Savior like Jesus, that loves us enough to save us from ourselves. I am so glad that John embraced the forgivness our Lord gives. I wish I could hug his neck untill his face turned red! But for now, I'll wait untill I see him in heaven.

Posted by Patti Smith in FL @ 18:50 on Apr 19 2018

Amazing testimony! Best I have ever read. Compelling. Thank you!

Posted by Saved by God's Gace in USA @ 15:55 on Mar 26 2018

Powerful testimony that our GOD IS NOT DEAD!!!
May the very breath of the Holy Spirit blow through you a brand new, fresh anointing upon your life and upon your marriage.


Proverbs 24:16 for though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again,
but the wicked stumble when calamity strikes.

Posted by Lisa Lloyd in Louisville @ 17:00 on Nov 3 2017

Thank you for this transparent story! God is so good! This is exactly what everyone needs to hear because none of us are perfect, we all have issues. I feel that the Church as a whole pushes people away because we "act" like we have it all together when in reality we don't. Thank you for sharing your testimony and being honest!

Reply by Jackie in USA @ 15:47 on Mar 29 2018

Definitely what I think about fake church folk repelling people. I pray that I am not one of them and will not become one. Lord, for the good of your church, remove the fear that keeps people from being real and transparent Christians.

[report abuse]

Posted by Sherri Lewis in Santa Fe, TX @ 21:05 on Jul 12 2017

Thanks for sharing your story. I was inspired! I hope God uses your talent once again.

Posted by krystyna in wallace,idaho @ 18:41 on May 2 2017

why did the lead singer stop and let mr.tait sing?

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