News Column

Sellout of Macon concert shows midstate popularity of McDonough's Casting Crowns

August 30, 2014

By Liz Fabian, The Macon Telegraph

Aug. 30--A month before Casting Crowns performed at the Macon City Auditorium, you couldn't buy a seat.

It is not every day a concert sells out in Macon, and it took a student pastor and worship team members from a McDonough church to make it happen last week.

Mark Hall, the lead singer for this acclaimed Christian band, is on staff at Eagle's Landing First Baptist Church.

"You would think he was the guy next door," said Gail Metcalf, the local concert coordinator for the Aug. 23 concert. "They are all so down-to-earth."

The church's website barely makes mention of the group. Hall's staff biography only tells you he collects old comics, loves playing tennis and played the Easter Bunny at the mall as his first job.

"He won't talk about himself," Metcalf said. "You have to drag it out of him."

On the band's website, you also are not likely to find much mention of the group's accolades, which include a Grammy, a dozen Dove Awards, an American Music Award and top honors from Billboard.

In June, they accepted K-LOVE radio's Fan Award for Artist of the Year.

Becky Wainwright of Warner Robins is one of those fans who listens to the Christian radio network.

Standing as an usher in the back of the auditorium, Wainwright knew all the Casting Crowns' words even without looking at the scroll of lyrics on the big screen.

She sings many of their songs during worship at Southside Baptist Church.

"They're an awesome group," she said. "They've been very instrumental in contemporary Christian music."

Church groups and families with children made up the bulk of the 2,675 people in attendance at the City Auditorium, which included Metcalf's volunteers.

"I've never had that many people help volunteer," said Metcalf, who was bombarded by people who did not jump fast enough to buy a ticket.

A group of girlfriends from Perry was fortunate enough to snag front row seats and arrived about an hour before the show to claim them.

More than a dozen people showed up at the door, hoping to buy tickets.

Most people had gotten the word about the sell-out crowd.

"It's not all that usual, especially to sell out that far ahead," said Macon Centreplex manager Brenda Thompson. "That's always cool when that happens. That doesn't happen every day."

The last performer she could recall playing to a packed house was Bill Cosby.

Thompson has tremendous respect for Hall's commitment to his church.

Even when Casting Crowns is on a major tour, they plan to be home by Sunday morning.

Hall focuses on his students the first half of the week, and performs the second half.

Their fall tour features Mandisa and Sidewalk Prophets and kicks off next month in New Mexico.

The whole "Thrive" theme grew out of a youth trip, Hall explained on the group's website.

"Hanging out with teenagers and hanging out with families in our church in Atlanta, you hear a lot about survival," Hall said in the video.

He listens to people struggling through life.

Exploring a massive 300-year-old tree with the kids in Alabama, he learned about its root system that weathers the storms.

Hall's mind was bombarded with scripture references and his musical message started taking shape.

He started compiling songs to encourage people to dig deep into God's word and discover who they are in Christ, and find the strength that brings.

"We're seeing God do some pretty awesome things on the road," Hall said. "Seeing a lot of cool things happen with dads, families coming together."

He makes it clear in his biographical information that he strives to keep his priorities straight under his own roof, which is sometimes on a sleek black tour bus shared with his wife and kids.

It is not exactly the life of a typical youth pastor living in the Atlanta suburbs, but his lesson in the lyrics is to convince people not to settle for anything less than what God has for you.

"We know we were made for so much more than ordinary lives. It's time for us to more than just survive. We were made to thrive."

To contact writer Liz Fabian, call 744-4303.


(c)2014 The Macon Telegraph (Macon, Ga.)

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Source: Macon Telegraph (GA)

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