When Casting Crowns’ lead vocalist Mark Hall was a youth pastor in Daytona Beach, Florida, a local drive-in held church each week — a concept Hall says has been stuck in his head for years.
So when the idea was floated to have live concerts at drive-in theaters while indoor venues remain closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Hall thought, “We could totally do that!” “We thought, ‘We’ve got to do something.’ So we put this together and God’s really been using it,” Hall said.
The Drive-In Theater Tour concert series by Awakening Events features three tours. TobyMac headlines one tour, while Michael W. Smith, Steven Curtis Chapman and Mac Powell headline a second. And then there’s Casting Crowns now in the middle of a 28-city trek through the Midwest and several Southern states, including an Aug. 18 stop at the Blue Moon Drive-In in Guin, a small town in northwest Alabama.
Hall said he and his Casting Crowns bandmates are thrilled to give families an opportunity to come out for a time of music and worship.
“It’s been really cool,” he said. “People are sitting on the backs of trucks, vans are open, with everybody staying in their little parking area.”
The drive-in concert is a different experience than a typical concert venue, Hall said. For one thing, the crowds are much more spread out to adhere to social distancing requirements. And though fans must stay in their designated areas, they can sit in lawn chairs or on blankets, which most do, he said.
“We’d say, ‘Beep your horn!’ and it took a minute because they’d have to get back in their cars,” Hall said.
And despite the summer heat and unusual conditions, Hall said his crew is happy to be working.
“The music industry and production industry are really hurting,” he said. “The crew guys are thankful to be out here doing what we’re doing. Most bands are not able to do this.”
Like everyone else, Casting Crowns has had to adjust to the new normal of the pandemic. In early 2020, the band had just started a tour with Matthew West. They heard news out of China about the coronavirus, but when the NBA canceled games, Hall knew things were serious.
“We were set up in New Jersey ready for a concert and had to pull it that night,” he said. “We knew we were not going to be the next event where an outbreak happened.”
And for Hall, who is in his 25th year in youth ministry as student pastor at Eagle’s Landing First Baptist Church in Atlanta, more than the concert schedule was affected.
“I just let go of the Crowns thing because we had enough worries about church stuff,” he said. “We had to figure out what we were going to do as a church.”
Looking back though, Hall believes the Church has stepped up in positive ways during the pandemic.
“To me, it feels like it was one of the better things that has happened for the Church in a long time,” he said. “We had a routine and a mold, and everything fit into this mold of Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights. When that mold was broken, we had to reach out and be the Church in different ways.”
Hall said he turned into a circuit preacher, often sitting in the front yard or on the porch with students to see how they were coping. He connected in small groups online and had students lead devotions on Instagram. They did art projects and food deliveries — engaging with each other and reaching out to enforce a common lesson Hall teaches.
‘God’s got to be flowing through you’
“I tell students all the time, You’re not a pond, you’re a river. You’re not just soaking it up. God’s got to be flowing through you.”
And just like everyone else right now, Hall said he and his students are “rolling with the punches,” looking for what God is trying to teach them. “Any time God sends a time out in your life, you have to see that as something God is doing,”
Hall said. “Sometimes when things get difficult for us, we mourn a little too long about the fact that things are not like they were, and we miss what God has to say now. He’s still moving, he’s still working, so how do we follow Him when things are different?
“One way is to keep your eyes open to hurting people around you. Some people hurt loudly, but most hurt quietly. As the Church, I would say the thing we have to do right now is to stay engaged with the people who before we took for granted that they would be sitting two rows up from us every Sunday. They’re not right now. They’re spread out, and there’s a lot of storms happening in their lives. We’re the Church. It’s on us. Nobody else is fighting for them but us.
“It’s not just, ‘Hey, how is God going to get me through this?’ but ‘How can God work through me to get somebody else through this?’”
That’s true in church ministry and for Casting Crowns’ ministry, he said.
“As much as Casting Crowns is music and a business, it’s also our ministry. It’s how we get to people. And if this (drive-in concerts) is the only way we’re going to get to our people for a while, that’s fine with me.”
About the show:
Casting Crowns will perform live at the Blue Moon Drive-In, 4690 US Highway 43, Guin, AL 35563, on Tuesday, Aug. 18. Gates open at 6:30 p.m.
Tickets and more information are available at https://www.driveintheatertour.com/castingcrowns.
Admission tickets are sold on a per-car basis for up to 6 people per car. Two ticket levels are available. Gold Parking ($175) and General Admission ($100). Cars are parked in order of arrival at the tier purchased.
A list of Frequently Asked Questions is available here: https://www.driveintheatertour.com/faq.