STORY WRITTEN BY BRIAN BINGAMAN
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Once upon a time in the ‘90s, they were simply the praise and worship band of their local church in Atlanta.
But thanks to Mark Miller of the country band Sawyer Brown and Steven Curtis Chapman — who believed the group’s “it” factor deserved a larger audience — Casting Crowns became one of the most popular bands in contemporary Christian music. Thanks to memorable songs like “East to West,” “Praise You in This Storm,” “Voice of Truth,” “Who am I?” and “Courageous,” Casting Crowns has sold more than 8 million albums, and won a Grammy, two American Music Awards, two Billboard Music Awards and a whopping 17 Dove Awards.
Touring behind their seventh album, “Thrive,” Casting Crowns brings their distinct brand of God rock, along with rising CCM stars Mandisa and Sidewalk Prophets, to Reading’s Santander Arena (formerly the Sovereign Center) Dec. 5.
Lead singer and songwriter Mark Hall said in a phone interview that it’s because of his work in youth ministry that Casting Crowns’ music often explores relatable lyrical themes of brokenness, vulnerability and questioning one’s faith (i.e. “If We Are the Body,” “Does Anybody Hear Her?,” “My Own Worst Enemy”). “When people talk down to me, what does that do for me?,” Hall said, framing the perspective of a teenager struggling with spiritual identity.
“God doesn’t love you because you’re good. I really don’t have things all together. I’m showing my weakness. We’re just a bunch of train wrecks too,” he added, noting that the lyrics he sings are projected onto a screen for the audience to see, and that the biblically-inspired songs on “Thrive” talk about hope, failure, the challenges of marriage, and trying to figure out who God is.
But don’t get the idea that it’s going to be so serious the whole time. Jokingly describing himself as “chronically white,” Hall shared that when Mandisa sings her hit “Good Morning,” he sneaks on stage wearing a ball cap turned sideways to launch into the rap that TobyMac does on the recorded version of the song.
“The first night (I did that), I was like: ‘What am I doing?!’,” he said.
Because the concert is less than three weeks from Christmas, Hall said the band is deciding what seasonal selections to put in their set. Leading candidates are “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” and “While You Were Sleeping,” according to Hall.
“I’m thankful that we get to make music that points people to God,” he said.
“Thrive” even has a companion book, written by Hall, “Thrive — Digging Deep, Reaching Out.” To enhance your concert experience, check out www.takethethrivechallenge.com.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Casting Crowns in concert with Mandisa and Sidewalk Prophets.
WHEN: 7 p.m. Dec. 5.
WHERE: Santander Arena, 700 Penn St., Reading.
INFO: Call (610) 898-7469 or visit www.santander-arena.com.