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Blurring the Lines

How One SPU Professor Integrates Teaching, Music, and Ministry

By Jennifer Perrow, Contributing Writer


SpicesThe zebra-print chair, the red leather sofa, and the interesting assortment of items from around the globe aren't the first things you notice upon entering the room.

More noticeable are the energy, passion, and thoughtfulness of the man who greets you as you walk in. Welcome to the office of Dr. Stephen Michael Newby, director of University Ministries and the Center for Worship at Seattle Pacific University.

Many Hats, One Ministry

At the University since 2004, Newby is an engaging and respected leader who juggles multiple roles each day. He oversees SPU's worship and discipleship activities, including the Chapel/gather program, the Student Ministry Coordinator program, and Small Groups (Cadres). He also directs the Gospel Choir and the Worship Band, which includes teaching several courses in the Music Department each quarter.

And Newby is a well-known figure outside of the University as well. He is an internationally recognized gospel/jazz vocalist and pianist who writes award-winning compositions, records music, and performs in a variety of venues.

Is Newby overwhelmed by all the hats he wears? Not at all.

"The lines are blurred for me between the classroom and ministry," explains Newby. "I lecture, I'm in the practice studio with students, I record music, I pray, I go into my office. It's all ministry."

Shaping Student Innovation

This innovative and integrated approach to teaching and leadership is one of many things that SPU President Philip Eaton admires about Newby.

"He has a powerful sense of innovation," says Eaton. "He is out there, plugged in, and responsive to what's happening in the world of music and worship — and he brings all of that expertise to our students. He is absolutely shaping the next generation of worship leaders."

Indeed, training students in the worship arts is something Newby is particularly passionate about. He believes that as a premier, Christian university, SPU has a responsibility to steward and shape worship music.

In 2010, Newby assigned a group of students to study selected Psalms and write musical responses to them. The students composed lyrics and melodies; created musical arrangements; and recorded, mixed, and mastered the music in the studio. The result? A remarkable CD, Psalms: Laments and Meditations.

Doing Things Differently

Such innovative projects are characteristic for Newby, a man who does not believe in doing things the way they've always been done.

"I think that a different kind of evangelism is going to occur in my lifetime," says Newby. "Martin Luther was innovative in his use of the printing press to bring the Scriptures to new groups of people. Likewise, I think we will see that technology and the arts can be used in new ways to bring the light of the gospel to a dark world."

Which just happens to be another of Dr. Newby's passions.

"If we are going to change the world, we must live lives of worship, discipleship, and evangelism," he says. "We must be people of prayer, we must be in God's Word together, and we must be disciplined and obedient as we allow ourselves to be discipled by God's agenda."

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