“We’re in good company then,” replied Peter Furler, founder and lead singer of internationally-renowned Christian recording artists “newsboys,” after I explained what we do at Christians for Biblical Equality. “Yes, I like that.”
The affirmation was an exciting start to our interview, especially when so few prominent evangelical musicians have taken a public stand for biblical equality and gender justice.
Support for the TNIV
But newsboys are no strangers to controversy, and are certainly not afraid of it. When the gender-accurate Today’s New International Version (TNIV) of the New Testament was released in 2004, Peter and the band not only endorsed it, they decided to include a copy on their new CD.
When this proved to be out of the question, newsboys partnered with Zondervan and made the TNIV available on their website. Peter Furler himself provided Zondervan with a formal endorsement.
Why were they so determined to support the tniv Bible translation, especially when it was, and still is, surrounded by such controversy?
“Well, whenever there are differing opinions or sides, that usually makes me want to look into something more,” Peter shared with us. Although this journey began as mere curiosity, Peter quickly recognized the importance of the tniv’s commitment to make God’s Word more accurate and accessible for today’s generation. “A young woman previewing the NIV might get bogged down, sadly — and the TNIV sort of eradicates that problem by still sticking to the truth, yet sharing our faith in a new light,” he explained. “It’s God’s Word, it’s the truth, it’s powerful — that’s why we read it, right?”
Peter believes that Bible translations need to clearly communicate the freedom that Jesus offered women. “I think of the story of Mary in the Bible who sat at the feet of Jesus. For a woman to do that in her day — talk about freedom! She opened up a new day in society and culture, even in religion. We realize at that time there were many who frowned upon her.”
Though women have gained many freedoms since Jesus encouraged Mary of Bethany to learn from him like the other disciples, many women still struggle to fully realize their freedom in Christ. “We travel around the world, we look even at the West, and the world doesn’t give a lot of respect to women, let alone consider their gifting.”
But Peter had encouraging words: “When we began to endorse the tniv, we started to have a few things here and there. But, you know there’s always going to be criticism with whatever you do, but that doesn’t mean you should stop what you are doing. In my life, I’ve never tried to focus on that type of [criticism]. The Word says to build each other up, to stir up the fire in another, and to encourage one another.”
A Global Focus
And so, in that spirit of encouragement, newsboys continue preaching the Gospel and standing up for what they believe is right.
Even a quick scan of their music shows that much of their motivation is wrapped up in the vision of Revelation and a global, diverse church. Songs like their popular, “He Reigns” speak of believers all over the world singing praises to the Lord. “All God’s children singing glory, glory, hallelujah, He reigns,” the chorus proclaims.
“There’s something inside of us when we are born that is too powerful for us to overcome,” he shared. “And the only way we can deal with it is to replace it with something more powerful — Jesus who defeated death. So, as Christians, we have power over death, but we also are to treat others as Jesus tells us to do.”
This commitment to justice is based firmly in Scripture. “The Bible says in James…pure religion is to look after the orphans and the widows and to keep yourselves from being polluted by the world. And [Jesus says] ‘if you give a cup of water to one of these little ones, you’ve done it for me, visited me in prison,’ and so on.”
When I asked him specifically about gender justice, Peter’s passion for justice included global issues like sexual trafficking to the kinds of situations many of us face in our own living rooms. “There are places around the world where little girls are chained up tonight — tonight — sadly because a lot of Western men head over there to take advantage of that. So it goes from that serious of an issue to the point of a husband not respecting his wife, not realizing that the Holy Spirit sometimes speaks through his wife. That happens all over the world, too.”
With this conviction, newsboys advocate for justice wherever their music takes them. They have partnered with organizations like Compassion International, World Vision, International Justice Mission, and most recently, Global Tribe.
As the interview concluded, we thanked Peter for newsboys’ courage to stand for justice and for the tniv. “Well, it’s a shame you have to thank me for that, isn’t it?” He laughed and then offered these words of encouragement: “Anything that God’s behind, no one can stop it. That’s really it, isn’t it? Jesus said, ‘Don’t worry about anything.’”
One half hour later, we watched the band bring the Minneapolis Target Center to its feet and then listened to Peter share the message newsboys take with them all over the world. “Right now, in this room, God is preparing the future. He is raising men and women, He is raising leaders.”
I remembered the words of “He Reigns” that echoed loudly in the stadium just moments ago: All God’s children, voices of men and women, of every tongue, tribe, and nation, praising God, living in freedom and in radical love for one another, I thought. This is the vision that newsboys work for and sing about. And it is a vision I want to share.