There was a thick air of anticipation before the doors finally opened and members of the band, Casting Crowns, walked onto the platform and immediately brought the crowd to its feet with “Let my life song sing to You”. It was only the second time that the band was performing in the city, the first time being about seven years ago. The band has produced several firm favourites among Christians in recent years, including, “Courageous”, “If we are the body”, “Voice of truth “and “Does anybody hear her”.
Throughout the concert, the audience was treated to personal testimonies and insights into experiences that have influenced the band’s music, as well as the wisdom of not only a highly successful musician and lead vocalist who has kept his faith, but a seasoned Youth Pastor, Mark Hall. The band leader explained that all the songs produced and being sung were about everyday life and real people, to show that “Jesus will step into your mess.”
As the Youth Pastor of a church in Atlanta Georgia, Hall shared a testimony of how he had taken a group of students on a mission trip in Alabama until they came to what is called, Constitution Tree, which he said is so huge that six to eight of the students had to join hands to reach around it. One of the local farmers told him that because the tree is planted at a juncture where two rivers meet, it was “not going anywhere”. He said this made him think of Psalm 1:3, which describes the Godly as being ‘like trees planted along a riverbank, bearing fruit in each season. Their leaves never whither, and they prosper in all they do.’
Hall boldly stated: “Some people are all roots – theology, rules, etcetera, but no love, while others are all limbs – they get their strength from good works but have no roots.” His encouragement for his fans was to dig deep into the Word. “Only Jesus gives life, births us, and allows us to live good lives because of His love,” he shared.
He went on to explain that this was the essence of the band’s six new songs on its latest album, Thrive, which was released at the end of January. “Too often we feel condemned, like Peter after He denied Jesus before the crucifixion, when instead all Jesus feels toward us is love.” Referring to John 21, Hall related how bad Peter had felt about denying Jesus that he resigned himself to going back to what he knew before he met Jesus, namely, fishing. Yet, Jesus demonstrated His love by giving the seven disciples a huge haul of fish and preparing breakfast for them. He said scripture indicates that Peter was so lost in his grief that one of the other disciples had to tell him it was Jesus on the shore, after which he left everything and jumped into the water, running towards the Lord.
Diets like religion
Given his intimate relationships with the youth in his local church, Hall appears to be all too familiar with diets, likening it to religion. “A diet, like religion, makes you feel ugly and bad. Religion is hearing, seeing, trying, while Jesus is a person to be trusted. He is more than a religious diet. Leave it all behind when you come to the well, don’t try to be better,” he said.
By the end of the performance, it was evident that Casting Crowns is on a mission – not only to use their platform for music but to strengthen and pray for the body of Christ. On more than one occasion, Hall uttered a spontaneous prayer. He revealed that before the concert, members of the band had joined with local worship teams to pray through every row of seats in the arena. The depth, warmth and love that flowed from the music appears to have been a clear result of this and nullified any possible concerns regarding the choice of venue — Cape Town’s largest casino.