Tuesday, January 18, 2022

A fair act of different sorts

A Christian music heavyweight ended up bringing church to the fair in Albert Lea last Friday night.

It was a welcome sight at the Freeborn County Fair as Casting Crowns brought church to the fair and packed in a large grandstand crowd. What made it even more extraordinary is that this was the first time the Freeborn fair, which has been well-known for its concert offerings for decades, offered a Christian concert. 

Casting Crowns is a contemporary Christian and Christian rock band started in 1999 by youth pastor Mark Hall, who serves as the band’s lead vocalist. The band is based in Georgia.

The Grammy-nominated group has been Billboard’s top-selling act in Christian music since 2007, selling more than 8 million records worldwide.

“Jesus is the only name,” sang Hall after their encore performance of “Living He Loved Me.” He reminded fairgoers, “Jesus is the only name. Jesus is the only name to remember.”

The group opened the show with “Only Jesus.” Casting Crowns performed several newer songs during the first half of the show, including “One Step Away,” “Thrive,” and “Awaken Me.”

Hall said most of their songs are born from Bible studies for teenagers. All members of the band are active church leaders where they still work Sunday through Wednesday before heading out to perform around the country. 

He told the adults not to worry about the teen-inspired music. He joked that adults are just like teenagers with bills.

Throughout the performance, Hall interspersed personal stories of experiences growing deeper in his faith. Hall had a difficult time as a teenager. When he was 19 years old, he hit rock bottom and contemplated suicide. In recent years, Hall, 49, has battled kidney cancer and had a kidney removed. On the day he was diagnosed, Hall, stunned and overwhelmed, wrote “Oh My Soul,” the centerpiece track on the album, “The Very Next Thing.” 

Hall connected in a very personal way by saying that everybody is a train wreck and broken in many ways. 

But he’s humble and quick to point out this isn’t about Mark Hall or any other band members. “I don’t need to be remembered,” Hall says. “Jesus is the only name to remember!” Hall wants a “Jesus Only” message to be the band’s lasting legacy.

Hall says he thinks many believers have forgotten to focus their eyes on Jesus alone in this life, instead of caring about wealth, fame or material possessions.

This is the second time I have heard Casting Crowns perform this year. In May, I traveled to Sioux Falls to attend a concert with my daughter. Both shows have left a lasting impression on me. 

It’s also noteworthy to applaud the Freeborn County Fair officials for breaking away from the norm with their concerts and bringing in a class act like Casting Crowns. In this broken world of which we are all broken in some way, it’s refreshing to have a Christian group like Casting Crowns warm the hearts and souls with an uplifting show.

I hope you will find it in your heart to go in hot pursuit of living your life knowing and remembering “Jesus is the only name.”


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