Contemporary Christian music artists have been a bit thin on the ground in Australia but lately there have been a few names blooming, which herald a breaking of the drought.
One of them is the NEWSBOYS, a group of four strapping young fellows who have already made a splash in the US. Jan Willem Vink reports.
Australia is a country without God," reports Newsboy John 'James' James.
The garrulous lead singer explains that Australians aren't big CCM listeners because only one percent of the 16 million inhabitants are Christian - and then, only in the broadest sense of the word. (Other sources cite a higher percentage.)
But the CCM barometers are beginning to register a change with the likes of names such as Rosanna's Raiders, Light Force, In The Silence, Surprise, Real World and new Reunion artist Steve Grace.
But it is the Newsboys who have perhaps had the greatest impact as evangelical entertainers from the Anitpodes. They are a group who have always been upfront with their message, even during the limited time-slot allocated to them at the recent Flevo Festival in Holland.
Formed by drummer Peter Furler and a guitarist who has since left the group, the Newsboys started "annoying the neighbours" back in the late 70's before taking to the road. They travelled all over Australia, even to 'the back of beyond' -to places so remote that no other bands had ever bothered to play there.
James said that in places like those, the townspeople would be so glad of entertainment they would come in droves from miles around.
"It was nothing special to see hundreds of people come to the Lord at one evening," he said.
This may have been an emotional response but the managers of the Newsboys, Steve and Wes Campbell, told of an evening at which 200 accepted Christ. When the band returned the following year they found there was a Bible study group of 30 members, which had started as a result of that evening.
After a few years of performing, says lames, almost everybody who wanted to see the Newsboys had seen them and it became harder to find gigs. But the turning point came at a concert supporting White Heart in Australia. The US band's members were impressed with the Aussies and invited them to cut a record Stateside.
So in 1 988 they recorded 'Read All About It' on Refuge, a small Christian label with producer Tommy Simms, a former White Heart bass player currently in Charlie Peacocks's line-up. But rather than reading all about it, James would prefer to let everyone forget it: "It's not Australian, it's not like we are. We were glad to have the opportunity but they tried to change us and make us American...! guess. Those that have heard the album and been to a Newsboys concert say, 'it's like two different bands'."
"In 1 989 the Newsboys earned their way to America through bake-ins, car washes and literally selling all they owned," states their bio, "but they came with a mission: to tell anyone who will listen about the victory they've found in Jesus."
There were no busloads of US fans waiting to welcome the Australians. But after all they had come in through a kind of back door.
"When we felt God called us to America, and we arrived there, we didn't have one concert booked, we just arrived off the plane. We spent six weeks in a motel and somehow we heard of Mylon LeFevre who was really into ministry and helping people.
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