For more than two decades, the Newsboys have performed in countless settings—concerts around the world, outreach events, and even secular festivals in Muslim nations. Though Australia's rockers aren't slowing down their tour schedule, they're expanding their ministry with Reach, a periodic event with Global Tribe Ministry (dedicated to fighting physical and spiritual poverty).

The evening of faith-based entertainment is totally free of charge, and is meant to encourage believers toward ministry and introduce non-believers to the gospel. Front man Peter Furler recently checked in with Christian Music Today to talk about the intentional shift toward evangelism, how he's grown a little more serious over the years (though still enjoys a tongue-in-cheek tune or two), and a preview of the forthcoming CD In the Hands of God (Inpop), due May 5.

What inspired the band to embark upon these Reach events?

Peter Furler: Over the years, we've been to a lot of events where they've brought in bands to support a speaker—like Luis Palau or Billy Graham. We saw the effect that music has on a diverse crowd, and that has impacted us into going to everything from mainstream rock festivals to New Age festivals. You can see the power of the Word going forth through the music, so we started taking [that direction of ministry] more seriously. In Morocco, we were with 15,000 Muslims and playing our music, but not having to say anything since our music's always been very evangelical. That's the road we've taken, and it's cost us a lot.

In what ways?

Furler: Commercially. We're well known to people of faith and have sold millions of records, but [in the world], we're known as an "evangelical" outfit, which is the kiss of death as far as the public eye is concerned. For example, a radio programmer has so many singles coming across their desk, if one has a red flag, they're probably going to pass. The message of the gospel is politically incorrect. But that's not any complaint; we love what we do. But it is one of the costs. I'd rather hear about someone we met at Creation Festival in 1989 who came to Christ and has since become a senior pastor, than have rewards at radio. I wouldn't trade that type of fulfillment to be bigger than the Beatles!

img url="/music/musicimages/peterfurler150x220p-feb09-2.jpg" caption="Furler preaching to the Tucson crowd" width="150" height="220" align="left" />How is a Reach event different from one of your regular concerts?

Furler: The big difference is there is more of a heavy emphasis on discipleship, where there are small groups and a lot of follow-up. We ask people to come down [front] and meet with pastors we've joined in the cities. There's a lot more connection with the local church. A soccer mom can bring the whole team because it's free, and even if her husband doesn't feel like he's welcome at church, he'll come to a rock n' roll show. I also share my testimony, but we really rely on ground support and follow-up. It's not just a good night where 500 people saved; it's about the fruits [of the event multiplying] and having an effect in the local community.

Many Reach events are in massive arenas drawing up to 15,000 people. That's expensive, so how do you keep it free to the public? Who's paying for it?

Furler: We've been kind of breaking even. It's been a sacrifice and it's been a step out in faith, but we want to give it a shot. The first one cost the band a lot, but it's nothing you could measure against the results. We're doing what Paul did when he was heading back to Jerusalem and taking up collections, where one church would help another. Global Tribe believes in what we do and are helping, but we're relying on our own pockets and those who feel in their heart to do something.