The contemporary Christian rock group known as Casting Crowns was first brought together in 1999 by Mark Hall, who also served as the band’s lead vocalist. At the time, this formation came about while Hall was a youth pastor at the First Baptist Church in Daytona Beach, Florida. The original Casting Crowns featured Hall as the frontman, as well as Hector Cervantes, Rob Cervantes, Juan DeVevo, and Melodee DeVevo. They were later joined by Chris Huffman, Megan Garrett, and Andy Williams. This augmented version of Casting Crowns got its start in 2001 and soon released a pair of independent albums while they resided in the Atlanta, Georgia area.
Their work earned them the recognition that included signing up with Beach Street Records, a division of Reunion Records, that was owned by Sawyer Brown’s Mark Miller. In 2003, the first signup of Beach Street Records released their self-titled album and it became the fastest-selling debut album in the history of the Christian music genre, later becoming a double-certified platinum seller by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).
Since then, Casting Crowns has recorded and released seven additional studio albums, as well as five live albums, an EP, and a total of twenty-four singles. The second studio album, Lifesong, was released in 2005 and became certified platinum by the RIAA. It also earned the group their first Grammy Award in 2006 for Best Pop//Contemporary Gospel Album. It also earned a Dove Award for Pop/Contemporary Album of the Year and served as the second of two alum recordings released by a Christian rock band to earn platinum certifications so quickly. Calling Casting Crowns a popular group in the Christian rock genre would be an understatement.
2007’s The Altar and the Door also became platinum, as did 2009’s Until the Whole World Hears. In 2011, Come to the Well was the group’s fifth album and achieved for itself RIAA gold, followed by 2014’s album, Thrive, which did the same. In addition to six of the nine studio albums becoming at least certified gold, the 2008 holiday album, Peace on Earth, also became platinum, as did two of their live albums, 2004’s Live from Atlanta and 2006’s Lifesong Live. The Altar and the Door Live and Until the Whole World Hears Live became certified gold after they were released in 2008 and 2010, respectively.
The Great Commission
For Mark Hall, the work of the Casting Crowns was designed as their way of embarking on the Christian task known as The Great Commission. As stated in Matthew’s final chapter in the Holy Bible’s New Testament, Jesus Christ assigned his disciples the task of spreading the gospel before he ascended into Heaven. This is a charge Hall has taken seriously, picking up the mantle left behind by the original followers of Jesus before he was crucified on the cross.
This was one of the few bands to perform in North Korea and rightfully earned the 2010 win as Artist of the Year at the Dove Awards. Because Casting Crowns takes the charge of The Great Commission seriously, in addition to recording and touring as a means to reach out to the audience, they also minister to the public in hopes more people will turn to Jesus Christ. During a time when the world has now fallen into the darkest hour it has known yet, Christian groups like the Casting Crowns are a welcomed necessity to offset the constant deception that continually feeds the masses like a bad drug.
Top 10 Casting Crowns Songs
#10 – I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
In 2008, from the album, Peace on Earth, “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” became the eighth single from Casting Crowns that would become a number three hit on the US Billboard Hot Christian Songs chart and a number one hit on the US Billboard Christian Airplay chart. The origin of this song came from the 1863 poem, “Christmas Bells,” written out by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. In the poem, he wrote he could hear the Christmas bells while America was at war with each other but was drowned out by the hate that has deeply divided the nation into warring factions.
By the poem’s end, the bold statement that God will bring peace upon the earth will be realized even as mankind still hasn’t grown up enough yet to do this themselves. In 1972, this poem was first set to music by a British organist who used his own personal melodies from previous works into a piece that served as a source of inspiration for Bing Crosby when he recorded it as a song in 1956. Crosby’s version was a smashing success, as was the 2008 version performed by Casting Crowns. Songs like “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” need to be heard more often and simply as a seasonal favorite.
#9 – Slow Fade
“Slow Fade” serves as a song of warning. It did when it first came out and it still does today. As stated in Revelation 3:16, the lukewarm church will be spewed out when the time of judgment is at hand. Among the Christian population that seems to have fallen asleep at the helm, they’re in for a rude awakening when they realize the mistake of following the deceptions laid out by the world is going to cost them so much more than they bargained for. In order to stay lit up in the name of Jesus Christ, one must nurture their Christian faith as it is also stated faith without works is dead.
“Slow Fade” became a number five hit on the US Billboard Hot Christian Songs chart and remains one of the much-needed songs Christians need to listen to in order to keep their faith system alive. The opportunity for so many spiritual leaders to rise above a time when the world is at its darkest is slipping through their fingers, a failure God himself stated will not go unpunished. When Jesus Christ tested Peter in the New Testament whether or not he loved him, he also gave charge to “feed his sheep.” This means the religious leaders following the Christian faith have a responsibility to put Jesus Christ as the top priority, along with educating those in their ministry to do the same. Currently, there aren’t nearly enough ministers who are doing this, including those who are in the public eye most often.
#8 – Courageous
“Courageous” was a single that was designed for the movie of the same title and was released as a single in 2011. It became one of many number one hit songs on the US Billboard Hot Christian Songs chart for Casting Crowns and remains an inspirational favorite to this day. For Mark Hall, the inspiration behind “Courageous” came from a breakfast held during the 2008 National Day of Prayer while he was engaged in conversation about the bible study program he had going for fathers. From there, the passion to answer God’s call to rise above the occasion and be of service as contributors to the Great Commission became too great to ignore.
In the bible, it does state many people will be called but few will be chosen. That choice revolves around a person’s decision the moment they hear the call of God’s voice. Among those who listen and obey, they are chosen. The rest, unfortunately, will have to contend with the decisions they have made for themselves. Among the “Courageous,” they serve as the true lights of this world who are not afraid to speak up in Jesus’ name. This means the spiritual leaders of congregations around the world need to rise up and be as bold as lions, especially when the world is so determined to shut them up.
#7 – Just Be Held
In 2015, “Just Be Held” was a number three hit on the US Billboard Hot Christian Songs chart that was released from the album, Thrive. On the US Billboard Christian Adult Contemporary Songs chart, it peaked at number one for what would be the tenth time for the Casting Crowns. It was also certified platinum by the RIAA, thanks to the fan appeal of its mix of styles that saw the genius blend of folk and grunge-style pop. Between the banjo and mandolin used in its musical arrangement, along with Mark Hall’s spot-on vocals, “Just Be Held” was the standout favorite that rightfully won over the fans as a personal favorite.
#6 – Nobody (featuring Matthew West)
From the album, Only Jesus, “Nobody” was a collaborated song performance shared by Casting Crowns and Matthew West that became a number three hit on the US Billboard Hot Christian Songs chart, and a number one hit on the US Billboard charts in the Christian Airplay and Christian Adult Contemporary categories. It also became the most recent certified platinum seller with the RIAA after reaching the one million copies sold mark.
The musical inquiries made by Mark Hall and Matthew West as they address Jesus Christ why were they chosen among so many candidates to help spread the word as his disciples. In their own eyes, they’re nobodies. However, in the eyes of God, this is not the case. The beauty of the song lays out the obvious that in the flesh we are “Nobody” special. However, when ignited by the Holy Spirit, that’s a different matter entirely.
#5 – Who Am I
“Who Am I” was the first single released by Casting Crowns to reach number one on the US Billboard Hot Christian Songs chart, as well as earn a platinum certification from the RIAA after it was released in 2003. It was the second single released from their self-titled album, serving as a follow-up from their number three hit, “If We Are the Body.” For Hall, the inspiration behind the song came while driving home with his family, reflecting upon the blessings he so far received in his life, thanks to God’s grace. He also realized at that moment his life is but a flash between success and obscurity, as is the case with all things whether they’re living or not. This reality check was a piano-driven ballad that deservedly earned a solid place in the hearts of music fans, especially music fans who are in agreement we are nothing without God and his glory.
#4 – Lifesong
In 2005, “Lifesong” spent nine weeks at the top of the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart as the title track was released from the album of the same name. Both the album and the single picked up where Casting Crowns left off as a world-class recording group of the contemporary Christian music genre. It is often compared to U2’s “Where the Streets Have No Name” and Chris Tomlin’s “Forever” as “Lifesong” had powerhouse appeal that quickly won over the fans with its ballad meets pop performance. At the 2006 GMA Dove Awards, it was nominated for Pop/Contemporary Recorded Song of the Year and Song of the Year, but the wins went to Third Day’s “Cry Out to Jesus” and Chris Tomlin’s “How Great is Our God” instead, respectively.
#3 – Praise You in This Storm
On the US Billboard Hot Christian Songs chart, “Praise You in This Storm” became the fourth number one hit in a row as of 2006, as well as their third RIAA-certified platinum seller. From the album, Lifesong, “Praise You in This Storm” also won for itself Pop/Contemporary Recorded Song at the 2007 GMA Dove Awards. The inspiration for this song after encountering a young girl, Erin Browning, who was a dancer contending with terminal cancer.
Although she died before Mark Hall and his Casting Crowns could complete it, the song still served as a reminder no matter how bad one’s personal storm gets there is still reason to give praise to God. Cancer is a horrible disease that ravages the body, but for as long as the spirit remains positive until the very end, the promise of life after death made by God remains unshaken. Holding in firm belief God makes good on his promises also comes with the acknowledgment the flesh is a temporary vessel and nothing more. The spirit is what grants life eternal, even after the body gives up the ghost as it can no longer withstand the crippling effect of diseases such as cancer is known for.
#2 – Voice of Truth
“Voice of Truth” was the third single released from the debut album, Casting Crowns, and became a number one hit as it topped the US Billboard Hot Christian Songs chart in 2003. It stayed in to spot for a record-breaking fourteen weeks and was used in the movie, Facing the Giants. Deservedly, “Voice of Truth” won Inspirational Recorded Song of the Year in 2005 by the Dove Awards, as well as platinum certification by the RIAA. This incredible ballad revolved around the biblical tales of Peter, one of Jesus Christ’s more outspoken disciples as mentioned in the New Testament, as well as David’s defeat of the philistine giant, Goliath as mentioned in the Old Testament.
#1 – East to West
In 2003, “Voice of Truth” broke the US Billboard Hot Christian Songs chart by peaking at number one for fourteen weeks. “East to West” would break that record at sixteen weeks in 2007. This is a powerful song that uses scripture from the Holy Bible as key sources of inspiration to layout the musical groundwork that made “East to West” the popular fan favorite it is. In a song about God’s forgiveness, Hall’s vocal delivery also lays out the powerful message that God’s punishment against sinners still exists, a fact that is still evident today as we see the world events continue to unfold in what seems like an unforgiving nature.
However, bear in mind God himself stated heaven and earth will perish whereas his word won’t. The world as we know it, from east to west, will come to an end but it will make way for an entirely new world where believers will receive a fresh start in an environment far superior to the one we’re living in now. It is for this very reason why “East to West’ became so popular as a hit single when it first came out and why fans of Casting Crowns and of Jesus Christ continue to embrace this song as a key component of the Great Commission message that continues to spread its truth around the world, falling upon the ears wishing to hear it. Considering it has been certified platinum by the RIAA, at least one million fans are in agreement that “East to West’ is almost as worthy of praise as God himself. As voted by the online music fans, “East to West” won Adult Contemporary Single of the Year and Inspirational Single of the Year in the CCMSingles.net Awards that were held in 2007.
Feature Photo: PLGPress, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
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