Friday, January 30, 2015

Carnegy Hall Hosts Casting Crowns

About a decade ago I taught at the Gospel Music Association's annual gathering in Nashville. While I was there Casting Crowns, who had just made a grand entrance to the recording industry with LifeSong, were featured in a concert of upcoming bands. They shared how they were still working with the youth of their church. As I've watched them grow in prominence over the years to become the top-selling Christian group since 2007 I assumed they'd left their church jobs behind.

On Saturday Joyce and I were given a surprise gift: tickets to Casting Crown's concert at Carnegie Hall. Early in the evening lead singer, Mark Hall, shared that they continue to keep their church jobs! That level of servanthood permeated the whole evening.

Whenever the five packed tiers went crazy for their work they always pointed to the source of their inspiration.

Hall is a master of choosing evocative imagery to move hearts and minds, and that extends beyond their lyrics. While introducing "Thrive" (the one song that's not yet on Grooveshark and is therefore missing from the lineup below) Hall told how they took their 60-person youth group to New Orleans to help clean up after Hurricane Katrina. The youth were climbing into a giant tree, and the youth workers were concerned until a gentleman told them the 300-year-old tree had a root system that matched the branches. He said it wouldn't be coming down any time soon, despite the devastation all around it. Soon all 60 youth were playing in its branches. Hall used the imagery to tell how we need a deep root system in the Word and in our prayer and devotional life, or we will be toppled by the storms of life. He also pointed out how some grow deep but never branch out into the world to bring Life to the dying world around them. He said a healthy Christian is like that tree: equally deep and tall. We shouldn't just survive, we should thrive.

In the Grooveshark lineup there's another song I couldn't find, at least recorded by Casting Crowns: "Beulah Land." I chose Mississippi John Hurt's version. Since Mark Hall grew up one state over, in Alabama, it seemed appropriate. Mark sang the song solo and a'cappella, and afterward he explained that he sang it with his family as he was growing up, and it was one of the songs that awakened him to his calling. Then he asked his parents to stand. They were sitting with the 200+ chorus behind them. It was an extraordinary moment as he honored his parents.

The chorus was made up of people from 44 states, Mexico and Canada. Between them and the band was an orchestra. At the top of the second act they honored the orchestra. They stepped back and let them have their Carnegie Hall moment.

The orchestra and choir made the venue resound in a way that we'll never forget. Carnegie Hall has hosted the best musicians in the world for generations. To hear the Gospel and the praise of our Lord resounding with some of the most perfect acoustics on the planet was so encouraging and profound.

At the intermission I heard an encouraging comment from one of the ushers. She'd never seen so many in the line to the men's room! That tells me there's a growing number of men investing in their growth in Christ. That's very exciting!

We called them back twice for encores. When they came back the first time they sang the last two songs in the lineup below. When they came back again Hall told us how the world rates us on the level of stage upon which we perform, but the Lord doesn't see it that way. He gave glory to God for the opportunity to perform in such a venue, but he quickly turned it to the audience. He said your greatest stage is the person sitting beside you. God has placed each of us where he expects us to do our very best to share the love of Christ with those he brings into our path.

Casting Crowns at Carnegie Hall by RichS on Grooveshark
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