"Give this a listen and let me know what you think."
This was all the "setup" I received when my good friend, Mark Miller, handed me a CD of a band called Casting Crowns. He would later explain that they were a band comprised of youth workers who had made a couple of their own recordings for the kids in their church you groups. I played the CD in my car and heard something in the voice of the singer that told me these songs were coming from a deep place in his heart, and it made me listen.
Then I came to a song that really caught my attention. By the time the chorus came around and asked the question, "If we are the body, why aren't His arms reaching?" I was hooked. I got more excited as I heard honesty, vulnerability, and an obvious passion for the heart of God in the lyrics, with some pretty cool music accompanying them, I had to know more about this band. In particular, I needed to know who this Mark Hall guy was who was writing these songs, saying these kinds of things, and asking these kinds of questions.
I remember thinking to myself, "Man, the church and the world need to hear this." I told Mark Miller that I'd gladly do whatever I could to help get this band and these songs heard.
Within a few months Mark Miller invited me into the process of helping produce the first Casting Crowns record and gave me a copy of some new song ideas that Mark Hall was working on for the band.
I popped the CD into the player in my car and listened through some of the very "rough" ideas that this youth pastor was working on. As a writer, I could appreciate the raw form these song demos were in as Mark fumbled his way through the chords on the piano and sang some of the lyrics laced with the occasional "la, la" where words would eventually go. Again, I found myself really drawn into the honesty and passion of the lyrics. I felt like Mark was opening up his journal and letting me travel along with him on his journey of faith, stopping for moments along the way to look up into the face of Jesus and get an eternal perspective. This resonated so much with me as a fellow songwriter and a fellow "pilgrim on the journey," because this is what I've always hoped my songs would feel like to my own listeners.
One of the unique aspects of Mark's songs that has endeared so many people to the music of Casting Crowns is his ability to make you feel like you're listening to the heart of a good friend. He can ask you tough questions and you're not offended because you know he's wrestling with the same questions. He can challenge you because you sense that he's simply inviting you into the place where he also has been challenged. He can offer you encouragement, and you know it's coming from a place of hurt and hope that has been lived and not just imagined for the purpose of writing a song. You never feel like you're getting "preached at," and yet his songs contain some of the most profound sermons, these are not just the marks of a great songwriter, but a great friend.
No doubt, the songs of Mark Hall and the music of Casting Crowns' music have impacted the lives of millions. I've enjoyed the privilege of touring with them and have seen the tears streaming down the faces of many people in the audience as they sing along with Voice of Truth. And I believe this song title probably captures - as well as any could - the reason why Casting Crowns' music has and will continue to have its great impact. It is only God's voice speaking and breathing truth into our lives that gives us anything of value to share with others.
I'm so thankful that God entrusted a good gift to mark Hall. Obviously you're reading this book because God has used that gift in your life at some level and has spoken to you through the songs of Mark Hall and Casting Crowns.
I know it is Mark's hope and prayer, as it is mine, that as you read the stories, meet some of the people, and learn about the inspiration behind many of Mark's songs, you will see yourself in the story and listen for the "Voice of Truth" speaking into your life in a fresh way. And may you let your Lifesong sing back to Him. God bless you, and enjoy!
Steven Curtis Chapman