Having served as a full-time youth pastor for over 25 years, CASTING CROWNS’ front man, Mark Hall, continues to draw inspiration from the well of real life. “Because we have the honor of walking with people in our churches, we get to see what people are going through – the issues that are impacting everyone now,” shares Hall. “It’s in these situations that ideas are born for what we all need to hear right here and right now.” The local church has been the base for Casting Crowns’ music since their label debut release in 2003. With more than nine millions records sold and the title of Billboard’s top-selling act in Christian music since 2007, it’s still where the music is created. Hall and his bandmates – Juan and Melodee DeVevo, Megan Garrett, Brian Scoggin, Josh Mix and Chris Huffman – continue to work in ministry in their respective churches. The local church is the heartbeat of the band and the songs are an outpouring of that. The Very Next Thing, Casting Crowns’ latest offering, is a collection of intimate songs as well as upbeat, fresh sounding tracks with impactful lyrics centered around identifying and acting on what’s right next to you.
“I think we all believe the gospel,” says Mark Hall, “we all want it, we’re just not sure what we’re supposed to do next. We’ve got this idea of an awesome walk with Jesus out there somewhere, and we’re looking for the bridge to get over to it. Serving God isn’t this giant dream a year from now. It’s not this thing He’s going to have you do in a month. It’s right now. Following God is the next word of love that I need to speak to somebody, the very next heart that needs to be encouraged. Ministry isn’t on Sunday; it’s not on a stage. It’s you, where you are, doing the next thing God tells you to do.”
Along with this over-arching message, there’s also a deeply personal element to the record. Hall wrote the poignant and powerful “Oh My Soul” after being diagnosed with cancer in 2015. His first worry was about his family and he turned to the scripture in Psalms – Why so downcast oh my soul, put your hope in God.
“I remember this scripture from David – it was just repeating in my head over and over,” Hall says. “The song “Oh My Soul” is really an argument with myself. I’m speaking truth to myself. The roots of my faith are talking to the storm in my life. For me, one of the most special moments in the song is the bridge because you hear the argument happening. I really wanted to paint the picture of that inner struggle that we’re all dealing with. We know what the verses say and we know how the storm feels. It’s hard to bring those together. But one thing about digging deep in the word is that when your roots are deep, they can’t be ignored. Even when the storm comes, and as shaken as I was, it felt like the storm kept just slamming up against something solid inside of me that wouldn’t let it control me. It was the roots of my faith. It was the truth that I had been soaking in and pouring into others for so many years. I got to speak scripture to myself.”
Casting Crowns has produced some of the most compelling songs of his generation. Songs like “Voice of Truth,” “East to West,” “Lifesong,” “Until the Whole World Hears,” “Courageous” and “Thrive.” On The Very Next Thing, the band continues to encourage and inspire believers with songs that help strengthen their relationship with God.
“You can follow God from right where you are,” Hall says of the new album’s central theme. “In the condition you are in right now, you can follow Him and He will make you His.”