The Christian worship singer diagnosed with kidney cancer early last year shares how the experience taught him a surprising lesson about faith.
- Posted on Jan 11, 2016
In early 2015, Casting Crowns front man Mark Hall had been having an incredible year. The group’s latest record, Thrive, had just become the best-selling album of 2014; they’d taken home the Artist of the Year Award at the K-LOVE Awards; they’d just won their third American Music Award; and they were busy touring with fellow Christian artists Laura Story and For King & Country.
Then, during a doctor’s visit to get relief for what he thought was acid reflux, Hall learned that he had a mass on his right kidney that could be cancerous.
“You don’t really hear the words, ‘You have cancer,’ Hall tells Guideposts.org. “You hear the words ‘You’re going to die.’”
Those four, unspoken words suddenly brought everything in the artists’ fast-moving world to a screeching halt.
“When I heard ‘cancer,’ it’s like the whole world shrunk,” the Atlanta youth pastor shares. “All I could think was, ‘Okay, how am I going to get my family through this? How am I going to make sure they know it’s going to be okay?’ Everything got simple and prioritized very quickly.”
In the two weeks between discovering the mass and the surgery to remove his kidney, Hall broke the news to his children and began preparing himself for the worst.
It wasn’t until after his surgery, when doctors told him the mass was in fact an aggressive form of cancer that, miraculously, hadn’t been able to grow outside his kidney, that Hall realized how blessed he had been.
Still, the next four weeks saw the singer fighting a tough and often painful road to recovery. The band was forced to cancel a week of shows before Mark could join them in his fifth week post-op.
Hall – who ministers at Eagle’s Landing Church and was used to being the one visiting hospitals, sitting with the sick and offering words of encouragement and prayer— quickly found himself on the receiving end of those prayers. The change in roles didn’t sit well.
“I didn’t want to walk around being the hurting guy,” Hall admits. “I didn’t want people coming up to me saying, ‘It’s okay. Everything happens for a reason. Here’s all the little Twitter pick-me-ups, let me pat you on the back …’ I was jaded about it.”
But the singer quickly realized God was using this time of suffering to teach him a valuable lesson.
“God showed me that was just pride,” Hall says. “I realized I need to talk about this, so I told my church, I told a few friends at Christian radio and the next thing you know the whole world is praying for me.”
Billboards on Atlanta’s busiest highways started popping up, #prayformark began trending on Twitter and soon the singer started to see the ordeal as a way to practice what he preaches to his students every Wednesday night at Bible study.
“You never speak louder to the world about your faith than when you’re in a storm,” Hall explains. “For me, I knew I’d taught a lot of lessons, I’ve written Books, I’ve written songs, but I’m about to tell the world a whole lot through what happens [to me] in the next months.”
Eventually the singer was able to resume his duties at church and in Casting Crowns in time for the band’s summer recording of their new album Casting Crowns: A Live Worship Experience.
The 12-track record features a blend of the band’s biggest hits and a handful of worship songs the teens at Hall’s own church have been singing every Sunday.
Recorded at Eagle’s Landing, Hall says this live album has helped him reflect on the trial he’s been through and is offering him a chance to share what he’s learned with others.
“When we have a friend who’s suffering, we feel like we need to fix it,” Hall says. “We feel like we need to defend God, make sure they’re not mad at God and give them a bunch of reasons why God’s still good. That’s probably not what they need. They just need you to be there, listen to them, cry with them. You don’t have to have the answers to all of life’s questions.”
“I’ve always tried to give that advice to my own students but the other half of that that I learned is when you’re hurting, you need to let the church be the church. They’re not always going to say it right but the root of it is love. You have realize you can’t walk through it by yourself, you need people walking through it with you.”