Marshall Hall is well-known to Gaither Vocal Band fans for his unique voice, magazine-cover good looks and engaging personality. In 2009, he left the organization to pursue a more personal path of music pastor and solo artist. His  single, There Is Nothing Greater Than Grace, seems to be a framework around the life he leads as husband, father, pastor and singer/songwriter. Hall is continually growing, learning and striving to live the call that has been placed on his life, an obvious spiritual call that is leading him further down the path of grace. [Editor’s note: First published in December 2011 in SGN Scoops magazine.]
Fans might think that an artist with the name of Gaither on his resume and an audience that stretches worldwide would be very conscious of his status in the Christian music industry and perhaps even distant. This congenial, down-to-earth singer does not show any of the effects of Gospel music stardom. Instead, Hall is the type of pastor that any church would love to have – relatable, humble and a servant leader who recognizes how far he has yet to travel.
Marshall Hall discusses his recording, Brighter One, his first after leaving the Gaither organization. “My style, I would say, is very Vocal Band Friendly but stretches a little more toward pop-country. So it’s Vocal Band with legs,’ Hall laughs. “Not with a crazy edge though. If you like the Vocal Band style, you will like this recording.”
“The current single is entitled, ‘There Is Nothing Greater Than Grace’,” Hall continues. “I wrote that song with one of my dear friends, Sam Izell, right before I left Nashville and moved to Phoenix with my family. Point of Grace picked the song up and it won the Dove Award for Country Recorded Song of the Year 2011. So now we are releasing it to the Southern Gospel audience. It’s a great song about where people are when they are at the end of their rope.” The song echoes Hall’s own desire to share the grace of God with his listeners.
“It is one of those songs, along with ‘When I Cry’, that really touches people when I do them in concert,” says Hall. “You can ask pretty much anyone, ‘Hey, are you hurting somewhere right now?’ and the response will be, ‘Yes’. Or you can ask if they know someone who is hurting and they will answer yes.”
Hall’s heart for the hurting is very apparent when he talks about ministering to his audience. “Every now and again my wife comes with me and she is always amazed at how quickly the barriers are broken down when you sing songs like that, or when God uses the medium of music in that way. How quickly you can go from ‘Hi, my name is Mary’ to ‘Hi, my name is Mary and I have terminal cancer.’ Or, ‘Hi, my name is Bob and my wife just left me.’”
“Music is a vehicle to get to the heart of issues,” Hall states. “To me that is where a lot of the ministry takes place. You want to make sure you have a good evening and sing the best you can, and you think perhaps your throat doesn’t feel good, or you hit a clunker or whatever. But when the rubber meets the road, it’s the conversation after that strikes a chord for both parties.”
The after-concert ministry is what makes the travel worthwhile for this artist. Anything can come up in conversation and often audience members will come to him looking for answers to their deepest questions. “I can’t be prepared for all of them because I just haven’t walked those kinds of roads,” says Hall. “I’m forty and a lot of people that come up to talk to me are older than I am. Through the Gaither Vocal Band, God has given me a voice into the lives of folks who are older than me and it is a blessing. I just say, ‘God, be in my mouth and be in my mind.’ He seems to always show up. I don’t have all of the Old and New Testament locked away in my brain. I do have bits and pieces of it. But God’s word never seems to turn away any time, it comes back to mind when you need it.”
Marshall Hall’s heart for ministry is just part of the many giftings that led this artist to his  position in the Arizona desert. “Currently I am a Worship Arts Pastor at Mountain Park Community Church in Phoenix,” says Hall. “God just kind of moved us in that direction. After the Vocal Band, I didn’t really know what direction we’d be going in. I had a lot of people telling me to cut a solo album, but I didn’t really feel like that’s where God was leading me. I knew that God had a call on my life and I knew that I could serve Him in a local church and I wanted to do that. God led us to Phoenix and its funny that He led us to the desert! We have seen a lot of growth there and a lot of movement of God at our church.”
“But there is definitely a call on my life to ministry, even in concerts,” Hall continues. “I don’t think there is much difference in a Sunday morning at my church and a solo concert. I love Jesus and you are going to hear about it! And basically, it’s all ministry.”
Whether it is behind a podium or a piano, balancing family life and two careers isn’t an easy thing for anyone. At this point, Hall is still working through the details. “Currently it is easy to balance my solo ministry and my church duties,” says Hall. “My church is very kind to let me go and fulfill my dates. As my schedule gets busier I will have some bridges to cross and decisions to make. But my church is just a sweet, sweet place and they want me out doing different things. They don’t want me to get burnt out at the church. It’s a great relationship.”
Many pastors and church leaders become burnt out as they continue to give of themselves without finding quiet time to allow God to replenish their hearts. Hall has been through a learning process with his own personal devotional time. “I used to say that running was my private time,” Hall says. “I run every day, first thing in the morning. I used to say that it was my private time. The more I continued to run, the more running got very mundane. I’d put on my headphones and just get lost in the music. It became less and less of a devotional time for me, until my wife just said, ‘Before you go run, why don’t you just get on your knees? Before you get into your running clothes, why don’t you start your day right? Our daughters need it, your wife needs it and you need it.’”
Hall smiles and says, “So that’s what I do now, that’s what my private time looks like. Sometimes when I’m driving in my car, I shut off the radio and just say, ‘Jesus, speak to me today. I feel dry and empty.’ I know that the relationship with the Holy Spirit is not a feeling, but it is wonderful, those times that the Holy Spirit fills us up and touches us so that we do actually feel Him, when your hair stands up on end and you feel that warmth on the inside.”
“There has to be that knowledge of Him and the repetition of relationship,” Hall continues. “To say to Him, ‘I know You are there because I utilize You. I lean into You and I draw upon Your strength.’ Sometimes it doesn’t feel great. Sometimes I feel like I am grasping at straws, but at the end of the day, I know He showed up.”
God is truly ‘showing up’, extending His grace and answering prayers in many aspects of Hall’s life. His church is growing and he is proud of this family of believers. “Our church has gone from not having any kind of a missions focus to backing some people who are moving to India. India is mostly Hindu, but there is one small area that is all Muslim. These people are going to a city where there is only one person that they know of that is a missionary, and they are going to support that missionary. So we are pouring into their lives as they pour into others.”
Hall continues, “Maybe I’m a little biased too because my wife is heading up a lot of the mission focus. I’m kind of relationship-driven and my wife is cause-driven. Her passion has really ignited a lot of things at our church.”
Reflecting on the spiritual growth process that is still continuing in his life, Hall obviously credits his wife with urging him in the right direction. “I’ll be the first one to tell you that I’m slow to change,” Hall laughs. “I got married at 32 and before I got married, I never tithed at all. I did share a whole lot of my money. I was one of the few of my friends who were actually making it in music, so I would love to take everyone out to eat and love sharing with my friends. I think that’s a blessing to folks, but it wasn’t being obedient to what God asks us to do.”
“Then I married my wife, who had gone through some different financial things than I had before we met.” Hall explains, “She learned to tithe much earlier than I did, so I needed to learn that lesson. And then the missions lesson was kind of taught to me through my wife as well. God is really teaching me things through my wife. It all ends up to the good.”
Marshall and Lori Hall have been married for eight years and have two girls, Presley, five, and Reese, who is three years of age. When asked what he would like to instill in the lives of his daughters, Hall’s father’s heart is loud and clear in his words: “That their worth can be found in Christ.” Hall says, “So many kids today seem to be looking for self-worth. They say, ‘My dad didn’t treat me well’, or they didn’t have a good relationship with another relative.” Hall feels that fathers have a direct influence on a child’s level of self-worth. He explains what he has learned from his own experience as a father.
“First, I think that fathers need to lean into Christ and utilize the Holy Spirit,” Hall begins. “They need to realize that the Holy Spirit is within them and they can draw upon His power.”
“Secondly, fathers need to instill that knowledge into their children. They need to tell them that ‘Daddy can’t do everything.’” Hall smiles and says, “My girls like to hold onto my hands and walk up my legs, and they call it, ‘Climbing Mount Daddy.’ But of course they need to realize that I’m not a mountain, I’m just a man and I draw upon the strength of Christ.”
“Whenever anything good happens, and my girls say, ‘Daddy I love you so much,’ it’s because Christ is in me,” states Hall. “Christ was able to overcome my selfish desires, my wanting to spend time by myself, and He has taught me to want to spend time with my children. I love to be with my girls and do stuff that they love to do. If they know that Daddy loves them and that he loves them because Christ loves them, then they understand that Christ loves them personally. That’s where their worth needs to come from.”
It isn’t just children that need to find their self-worth in the love of Christ. Hall says he sees this regularly in the eyes of those that come to his concerts. “There’s a loneliness that seems to pervade most people’s lives. I definitely see a lot of sorrow and a lot of lost looks in faces. They need to be found.”
“When Christ is lifted up and He draws folks to Himself, He finds them,” explains Hall. “He finds us and we feel found. There is a completeness and a realization of, ‘Oh my gosh, this was it. This was IT.’
“I’m so proud of people that just unashamedly and unabashedly, say, ‘You need Jesus.’” Hall shakes his head and soberly continues, “I aspire to that. If I honestly share my faith, I don’t really know how overboard I am. Maybe that’s a bad word.” Hall pauses. “Maybe because I feel like I might come across as being overboard, I don’t go there. I think there is a little bit of fear in me about that, and I pray that God will get rid of that fear.”
Marshall Hall reflects a little bit of all of his audience in his desire to grow as a man, husband, father, pastor and a Christian unashamedly sharing his faith to all. He doesn’t often use the word ‘grace’, but it is abundant in all that he says. He understands the grace that is working within Him and desires to share that with his flock and his audience. As his words say, “What do you say to someone who feels like they’ve lost it all?…before you think that you’re too lost to save, remember there is nothing greater than grace.” (There Is Nothing Greater Than Grace, Marshall Hall/Sam Izell.)
Editor’s note: Marshall Hall currently serves in the music/worship ministry at Willow Creek, Chicago.
First Published by SGN Scoops magazine in December 2011. For current issues and features, visit www.sgnscoops.com