It is just the beginning of another busy year for Mark Hall and the band Casting Crowns. In late January the band released the seventh studio album, Thrive. Hall’s companion book, Thrive – Digging Deep, Reaching Out, was released on Feb. 11 and the band’s current concert tour (“The Thrive Tour,” naturally) with Laura Story and For King & Country kicks off on Feb. 20.

When not singing or writing music, you can find Hall leading his student ministry group, which he has been doing for about 22 years now. Hall loves being a youth leader and says that this group was the inspiration behind Thrive

“The songs always really start out with what we’re teaching, and for years I’ve been using Psalm 1 in showing them what a believer looks like,” says Hall on the group’s website. “It says: ‘Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season.’”

Hall believes that there is a divine time for everything – even during the difficult ones. “Hard times are going to come, but God didn’t put you here just so you could survive through hard times,” he said. “He put you here to thrive, to dig in and to reach out.”

Hall says that this new album has been an effort to give a “word picture” of what it would look like if we, believers in Jesus, would look like if we really dug in deep into our roots and truly understood God and ourselves more. The album is cut in half with the first six songs focusing on understanding who God is and who we are. The second half focuses on what it takes to allow Him to move through you so that you can thrive. To help with this endeavor, Hall asked follow collaborators Matthew West, Matt Maher and Bernie Herms for their assistance which they gladly accepted.

 The album’s first song, conveniently titled “Thrive,” is sort of an anthem/praise song inviting all to come and thrive:

Just to know You and to make You known
We lift Your name on high
Shine like the sun, make darkness run and hide
We know we were made for so much more than ordinary lives
Its time for us to more than just survive
We were made to thrive

My personal favorite song on the album in “Dream for You,” which describes different people from the Bible who had a dream for the life but it didn’t go the way that they had expected. It’s sort of a love song from God to us telling us that he wants us to trust our dreams with Him, just like everything else. We may feel that if we surrender our dreams to God, He will take them away. However, as the song points out, He will not only give us our dreams but so much more:

So come on, let Me dream, let Me dream for you
I am strong when youre weak and Ill carry you
So let go of your plan, be caught by My hand
Ill show you what I can do
When I dream for you
I have a dream for you

This song has an extra personal touch to it in that it feature’s Hall’s youth group, who sound fantastic, I might add.

Hall himself says that the most difficult song on the album for him to write was “Love You with the Truth.” He explains: “It’s a big, upbeat rockin’ song about a person realizing that they’ve been a really cruddy friend because they haven’t shared the truth with the person closest to them. People say, ‘I want to share the gospel, but I don’t want to ruin my friendship.’ What you are really saying is I love my friendship more than I love my friend. It’s tough, but it’s truth.”

The song features lyrics like: “I’m waiting on the preachers, singers, and the teachers to string the perfect words together, but every single time I have to say goodbye, I wonder will this be the last time.” Ouch. No truer words have been spoken.

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