LifeWay Christian Stores lends support for new Christian band

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--An album that debuts at No. 1 and a national tour to promote it is a dream come true for most musicians. Mark Hall hasn't given it much thought, though. His attention is still in McDonough, Ga., where 400 teenagers are without their youth pastor for the month of October.

"This is a pretty busy month for us [with the youth ministry], so I've been thinking a lot about how things are running while I'm gone," said Hall, youth pastor for Eagle's Landing First Baptist Church in McDonough. "We've got 40 adult workers so [the kids] are in good hands, but my family and the youth group are definitely on my mind."

Hall is lead singer of Casting Crowns, the seven-member Christian band recently signed by Beach Street Records, a new label under Provident Music Group led by three key influencers in the music industry: multiple Dove-award winner Steven Curtis Chapman, lead vocalist Mark Miller of country music's Sawyer Brown and Terry Hemmings, president and CEO of Provident. The band's self-titled album, co-produced by Miller and Chapman, debuted at No.1 the first week of October, garnering the highest first-week sales of any debut artist according to Nielsen SoundScan Christian Market sales chart.

LifeWay Christian Stores hosted Hall and the rest of the band at LifeWay's downtown Nashville offices on Oct. 8 -- the day before the band kicked off their first national tour opening for Rebecca St. James.

"At LifeWay Christian Stores, we're always looking for messages that can have a Kingdom impact," said Mark Scott, vice president of LifeWay's retail division. "When we find them, we want to get behind them and do our part in helping them see the light of day. Casting Crowns is a band whose music resonates directly with LifeWay's very reason for existence -- to help people and churches know Jesus Christ."

After listening to their music, Scott had met privately with lead singer Mark Hall to better understand his vision for ministry. Scott then gave the group a rare invitation to perform at LifeWay so that LifeWay's other division leaders could become better acquainted with the band.

"I was impressed by [Hall's] humility on one side, and the strength and depth of his biblical convictions," Scott said. "The band members have a heart for evangelism and discipleship. Most importantly, they've demonstrated many years of faithful local church ministry. Since LifeWay's passion is the local church, Casting Crowns is a natural fit with LifeWay."

The group, now at Eagle's Landing, got its start at First Baptist Church in Daytona Beach, Fla., as the home worship band there. Each band member serves as a small group leader within the Eagle's Landing student ministry and all have been trained -- and train others -- in FAITH, an evangelism strategy that focuses on the strategic use of Sunday School to reach communities for Christ and published by LifeWay Christian Resources. FAITH was founded at First Baptist Daytona Beach.

The irony of the group's success is that Casting Crowns wasn't looking for a record deal. They were happy playing for the church's student ministry and around the Atlanta region. But word traveled quickly after making two independent records. Through a fan, a copy eventually found its way into the hands of Miller who was struck by Hall's "strong vocals and honest lyrics." Miller called the youth pastor in March of this year to offer any help he could.

"One of Mark's first questions was, 'If we do this, will I still get to stay a youth pastor?' Miller recalled. "He didn't want to give up his youth ministry. That was extremely refreshing to hear. I told him, 'Sure, Mark, but your congregation may be a whole lot larger than you would have ever imagined.'"

Scott learned of the group through his mutual friendship with Chapman, Miller and Hemmings. The band's straightforward lyrics, fresh sound and Southern Baptist roots seemed like a strong combination that LifeWay Christian Stores could support.

"In 17 years in Christian music, I've never been part of a retail partnership like this before," Hemmings said. "I've never seen an entity as important as LifeWay do something like this and join us. In our day-to-day work, we sometimes forget that these aren't just products, but they are messages needing to be heard."

LifeWay Christian Stores will help promote the new group by holding autograph signings and other in-store events.

"Most importantly, we will pray for them," Scott said.


Casting Crowns is on tour with Rebecca St. James and Down Here through October. For more information on the group, visit www.castingcrowns.com or www.lifewaychristianstores.com. LifeWay Christian Stores, a division of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention, owns and operates 119 stores throughout the United States. (BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: CONNECTING AT LIFEWAY, CROWNING TOUCH OF PRAYER, BAND'S BOOSTERS and CASTING FOR ANSWERS.

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