How a youth minister’s outreach project became a hit single
By Linda Owen
Casting Crowns’ ‘Who Am I’
Not because of who I am.
But because of what
Casting Crowns picked up three Dove Awards this year, including Pop Contemporary Song of the Year for their hit “Who Am I.”
What many fans may not know is that Mark Hall, the band’s lead vocalist and primary songwriter, is a youth pastor at Eagle’s Landing First Baptist Church in McDonough, Georgia. He wrote “Who Am I” late one November night as he drove his family home from a Thanksgiving gathering in Alabama. As he contemplated his role in God’s plan, singing and praying while his family slept, it occurred to him how insignificant he was in the midst of God’s universe. Billions upon billions of persons had lived since the beginning of time; they were “here today and gone tomorrow, like a flower quickly fading.”
“I thought about how presumptuous it was for me to think I can call up to God any time I want and expect Him to hear me,” Hall remembers. “I started getting a picture of how small I am and how big God is.”
Still, Hall’s relationship with Christ told him that he was important to the Savior of the world.
“I think we have to get a better picture of who we are not, first, before we can truly understand who we are in Christ,” Hall says. “When we understand how small we really are and how awesome God is, then God’s love becomes bigger to us.”
As he pondered these things, the lyrics flowed through Hall’s mind. The last thing he was thinking about was the recording industry. “Casting Crowns recorded ‘Who Am I’ and some of my other songs as an outreach project to youth,” he explains. “I never dreamed that one student would give a CD to Mark Miller of Sawyer Brown and that we’d be asked to sing for his new label.”
When Miller called with the contract offer, Hall asked abruptly: “Am I still going to be able to be a youth minister?” Miller said, “Sure, Mark, but your congregation will be a whole lot larger than you would have ever imagined.”
In August Casting Crowns released their sophomore album, Lifesong. And though they keep a busy concert schedule, Hall and his band mates only travel Thursday through Saturday, so that they can remain active in ministries at their respective churches.
“The real world is in my office at the church,” says Hall, smiling. “I’m a youth pastor; that’s who I am.”
Lyrics by Mark Hall, © 2003 Club Zoo Music/SWECS Music/BMI. Linda Owen is a writer based in San Antonio.
Copyright © 2006 by the author or Christianity Today International/Today’s Christian magazine — taken from Today’s Christian, November/December 2006 edition.