by MIKE CHAIKEN
Mark Hall has been a youth pastor for more than half of his life.
The lead singer of Casting Crowns, now 50, started working with the young people in his church when he was 21.
Hall, who is coming with Casting Crowns in a triple bill featuruing fellow Christian music artists Hillsong Worship and Elevation to the XL Center in Hartford on Nov. 23, said he was finding it difficult to getting the teens in his youth group to understand the message of Jesus Christ.
Hall said he knew that young people find it easier to relate to music than they might have related to him. So, at his youth group meetings, he decided to perform songs written by Christian artists the teens likely would know. After performing the songs, Hall then would show the teens the Bible verses the artists were referring to.
That’s when the messages started to click for the young people, said Hall.
In time, his performances before his youth group inspired Hall to write his own songs.
Initially, Hall said, he was trying to work out his own faith through music. In his music, he wondered how God could forgive people and how can he remember one’s sins but not hold that against them and still love them.
The lyrics also helped Hall work out some other personal issues within the context of Jesus’s message. He is dyslexic and has ADD. Due to his learning abilities, he didn’t feel good about himself. He didn’t feel good enough for the world.
Hall said his message that Jesus loves you is especially important today, said Hall.
“Our world is really messed up,” said Hall. “Families are hurting. People are hurting… People are doing what’s right for man.” However, that is not necessarily what God wants, said the singer.
“We’re trying to show how faith in Jesus gives us life,” said Hall.
Casting Crowns, which now includes Hall, Juan DeVevo on guitar, Chris Huffman on bass, Megan Garrett on keyboards, and Melodee DeVevo on violin has had enormous success over the years. It has won or been nominated for Dove Awards, Grammys, American Music Awards, and Billboard music awards. They won a Grammy in 2003 for their album “Lifesong.” All of the honors have come under the category of Christian or inspirational music.
There has been no interest in Casting Crowns reshaping its sound for broader mainstream success, said Hall.
“I write how I write,” said Hall.
“Artists make their music,” said Hall. Country artists don’t write to become country artists, they write country music because that’s how they are. Casting Crowns’ music is who they are.
Radio, however, is responsible for whether or not Casting Crowns gets airplay, said Hall. “The world decides where you are going (to fit),” said Hall.
For Casting Crowns, Hall said their message is viewed as too preachy for secular stations. But all artists are preaching something, said Hall.
The tour with Casting Crowns, Hillsong Worship, and Elevation was the idea of his wife, said Hall.
All three artists come from different denominations of the Christian church, said Hall. Christian denominations are often divided by little things, sometimes petty, said Casting Crowns’ singer.
The idea behind the tour was to bring together who come from different approaches to Christianity. Hall said the hope is the fans would see that their form of Christianity is more similar than different. They all have a love for Jesus. Hall said the hope was that this tour can serve as a way to bring all churches together.
The tour, which will be wrapping up in Hartford, has been easier for the bands than expected, said Hall. When you put together a package tour, Hall said there is always a concern as to whether everyone will get along.
But, Hall said there have been no rock stars acting out behind the scenes. There are no egos.
“It’s really chill,” said Hall.
Casting Crowns, Hillsong Worship, and Elevation perform at the XL Center, One Civic Plaza, Hartford on Saturday, Nov. 23 at 7 p.m. For information, go to XLCenter.com or CastingCrowns.com.