Casting Crowns' frontman Mark Hall says people who come see the Thrive tour, which starts Thursday at Rupp Arena, will realize something about the band.
"We're going to take every song you've heard from Crowns, out of the popular ones, about digging deep and pair them with some songs from the new album about digging deep," Hall says. "Then, in the second half, we're going to pair them with every song you've heard from Crowns about reaching out and pair them with some new songs about reaching out.
"Then you'll see that for the last 10 or 11 years you've been listening to Crowns, you've been listening to songs about digging deep and reaching out. I think it's going to be really special, and I think anybody on the outside looking in at who God is, what faith is, and any of that stuff is going to be really well brought up to speed."
If it sounds like the leader of one of the most successful Christian pop bands of the last decade is putting together his shows like a sermon or a Sunday school lesson, well that comes naturally to Hall and his cohorts.
The group originally came together at a Daytona Beach, Fla., church where Hall was a youth pastor. They later moved to Eagle's Landing First Baptist Church in the Atlanta suburb of McDonough, Ga., and the band grew.
Since being discovered through recordings they made to share in church and becoming global music stars, Hall and the members of Casting Crowns have worked to maintain their ministry at Eagle's Landing. He is listed on the staff directory page of the church's website as the student pastor, complete with an email address and phone number. And the band arranges tours so they will be at church on Sundays.
"I get off the bus Sunday morning, and I'm getting hugs from middle schoolers," Hall says. "That keeps you grounded."
Since it is well known that Casting Crowns is based at Eagle's Landing and is there most Sundays, Hall acknowledges the church does get a little tourist traffic.
"We'll get people who come in and say they were coming through the area on vacation and wanted to say hi," Hall says. "So they'll come and worship with us, and it's a good thing. It shows that we're normal people."
The inspiration for Thrive, Crowns' latest album and tour, comes from an experience on a youth group trip he led to Alabama.
"We stopped in Geneva, Ala., at this park called The Junction because two rivers come together there, and the reason I went to the park was there was this tree there that was 300 years old," Hall says.
The tree, Hall found, was enormous, and it also sat on a flood plain. He talked to a farmer about the tree who told him how the town and the tree have been under water, bicycles and other debris getting caught in the branches during floods. But the tree stood.
"He said, 'That tree's been through every flood and storm you could imagine, and it isn't going anywhere,'" Hall recalls. "'There's as much below the ground as there is above the ground.'
"He's just telling me these things as facts, and I am hearing all of these spiritual overtones in what he's saying."
It became an object lesson about faith for Hall, about being firmly rooted and able to endure adversity and grow.
Hall says when he encounters moments like that, the teaching/pastor side kicks in first, followed by the songwriter, usually in quiet moments of thought where musical ideas can take root.
But whether it is for songs or lessons, Hall says Crowns is trying to convey a message.
"God can get you through hard times," Hall says. "But he didn't breathe air into you just so you could make it, just to get to tomorrow. You're here for something."
Rich Copley: (859) 231-3217. Twitter: @copiousnotes. Blog: copiousnotes.bloginky.com.