BETWEEN THE LINER NOTES
Casting Crowns: 'The Altar and The Door'
By Chris Carpenter
CBN.com Program Director
What is the distance between Sunday and Monday mornings?
Best-selling contemporary Christian recording artists Casting Crowns probe this question in great detail on their third studio release, The Altar and The Door, available nationwide on Tuesday (tomorrow).
Casting Crown front man Mark Hall found the answer on MySpace. One afternoon, at the prompting of one of his youth group members, Hall went to the social networking Web site to read a message. He was discouraged by what he saw – message after message espousing the worldly pursuits of church kids who acted quite differently in his youth group. Hall’s message of Jesus Christ had somehow been lost in translation. Something had happened between the altar and the door.
“I think the Christian life is that journey between the altar and the door,” explains Hall in a recent interview with CBN.com. “(It is the struggle of) taking these concepts out of your preacher’s mouth and these highlighted verses in your Bible and making them into concepts that you can articulate and come out in the way you live. I think the Christian life is a struggle in that area because a lot of things we believe on paper and we believe in songs on screens … when it comes time to act on it, we are not so sure we believe that or not.”
Focusing on the aforementioned question as well as other topics including the moral breakdown of the Christian family, much if not all of The Altar and The Door is based on a passage of scripture found in Psalm 1.
“Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on this law he meditates day and night.”
“The whole album funnels from this passage,” Hall says. “At first you are walking in the counsel of the wicked. Then you are standing in the way of sinners. Then you are sitting in the seat of the scoffers. It is that slow progression that you see happening if you are not careful.”
If this message seems a little harsh remember who it is coming from. In four short years, Casting Crowns has forged an indelible reputation for their brutal honesty and viscerally authentic lyrical depth through such songs as “If We are the Body”, “What If His People Prayed”, and “Does Anybody Hear Her?”. The lyrics may be stirring, but Hall and company believe they deliver a much needed message to the body of Christ.
“I try to make you look at things from a different place and ultimately to draw you to the Bible,” says Hall. “That is because as cool as a song can be, songs don’t change your life, the Gospel changes your life.”
“There is no point in being a Christian band if you don’t have anything to say,” agrees drummer Andy Williams. “If you are not trying to say God can change your life or He can make things better than what is the point? If you are not going to challenge people with the Gospel than you might as well go become a secular band.”
Casting Crowns’ formula of candid lyrical honesty wrapped around infectious melodies has certainly resonated with audiences around the world. They remain the top selling artist for the last two years in Christian music -- a run that includes four platinum albums and six consecutive number one songs. Yet for all the accolades they have received the band is still in awe over how God is using a group of ordinary youth pastors and church musicians.
“For me, it is nothing short of a God thing,” remarks bassist Chris Huffman. “To this day when we are out on the road, the first thing I do when I wake up in the morning on the tour bus is to thank God and wonder how we got here.”
“The success is very, very humbling,” agrees Williams. “It is truly amazing because I am nothing more than a church musician. Now, for some reason, which I still don’t completely understand, God saw fit to take us and use us.”
Adds Hall, “The cool thing is that he is still a church musician. That is what keeps it real for us is that everybody in the band is still ministering in our churches.”
With the first single “East to West” hitting No. 1 after only five weeks on the Radio & Records Inspirational chart, it appears the The Altar and The Door should achieve equal or greater success than their previous studio offerings. However, if you are expecting a reprise of Casting Crowns or Lifesong guess again. While the signature Casting Crowns sound still permeates there are several tracks that take a different, more progressive approach to the music.
“I think it is a song by song thing,” says Hall, who either wrote or co-wrote all but two songs on the new album. “Hector (Cervantes) and I wrote the very first song coming out the door (“What This World Needs”). Hector is a much more rockin’ kind of songwriter, so really a lot of that (new sound) is his gifts coming through.”
“It is really cool to see the progression, the changes in all of the songs,” adds Cervantes, the band's lead guitarist.
Casting Crowns is headlining a 36 city tour this fall in support of The Altar and The Door, kicking off on September 27th. With Leeland and newcomer John Waller as openers, the band will make several stops in major markets including Atlanta, Houston, Seattle, Phoenix, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C.
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