Grace Notes
By Chris Crain

On January 31, 4Him comes to Valley View Church. It marks the first Louisville appearance by the group in several years. I had a chance to see the group a couple of times in 2002 and was surprised by how good the group was live. I've never been the biggest fan of the group, but I realized just how many good songs they have when I saw them at artist showcases in Nashville and Atlanta. Two thousand and three marks the group's 13th year as a popular Christian music group (their latest single "I Know You Know" is currently in the top 20 on R&R's Christian AC singles chart).

The group, with members Mark Harris, Marty Magehee, Andy Chrisman and Kirk Sullivan, hit the top of the charts in 1990 with their first single, "Where There Is Faith." Their latest CD is titled Walk On.

"Walk On is making a statement, that as Christians we have to stand firm in our faith," says Andy Chrisman. "We will have struggles, but we know God is faithful to see us through every one of them.

"The album isn't too much of a departure for us musically. When our fans buy a 4HIM record, we want them to know the sound they are going to hear," says Kirk.

In addition to tight harmonies and soaring vocals, fans of 4HIM have come to love the insightful and often powerful lyrics found in Mark Harris' songwriting. According to the group's label, Warner Brothers (Christian Division), for Mark and Marty, the past three years have meant "immersing themselves in the 'ordinary human life.'" Like the lyrics of the title cut, life has been filled with the daily decisions we all have to "Walk On." From simple time spent with friends, to coaching T-ball teams and carpooling to dance classes. Spending time with their wives and being there to tuck the children into bed at night. Says Marty of the time at home, "There's nothing like when you open the door and your kids take off running down the hall screaming 'Daddy! Daddy!'" I agree with that (although "ah-dah" is about as close as I get so far)!

According to Warner Brothers, Kirk has been able to help in the production of several local artists' and churches' recordings, his favorite being a praise and worship record he recently worked on. Also, having more time at home allowed Kirk to strengthen relationships at his local church. "I've lived several places and in Mobile (Alabama) for the last seven or eight years," says Kirk, "but over the last two years, it has come to feel like home-like I know this is where I am supposed to be. There's a real sense of 'home' here for me now."

For a group that has never gotten much "mainstream exposure" or a "crossover hit" 4Him has made quite a mark and stay busy. They've had 23 No. 1 singles to date. In 2001, they were featured performers with the Luis Palau and Billy Graham crusades. They've held a devotional service for an NBA All-Star Game in Oakland, CA. They are partners in hunger relief with World Vision. They have sponsorship with the American Bible Society and took a Bible distribution trip to Russia in conjunction with the organization. They've sang with Jon Anderson of Yes and toured with Point Of Grace, Jaci Velasquez and many others. I've come across long lists of awards and accolades that I won't even share.

I think what impresses me most about the group is their amazing live vocal skills as well as they sheer number of hits they've had. When I saw them last year, I was reminded of the many different songs and thought "Ok, I'm starting to see why people like this group so much!"

Clay Crosse is opening for the group at Valley View. Lately he focused more on ministry than just music.

"God has continued to give me a desire to serve in areas where I'm not always getting applause," he says. "I just really want to make myself available to whatever He calls me to do - whether it's working with the kids in Vacation Bible School, leading a young married couple's class, or organizing different church events. I feel driven to serve there. If I'm going to go on stage as a spiritual leader, I have to know there is something real going on in my life. I have to feel the reality of Christ in my life and the Holy Spirit working. My eyes are wide open and I am completely open to His calling. It's not on my terms, it's got to be on His."

In his eight-year career, Clay Crosse has recorded eight No. 1 singles, including "I Surrender All," "My Place Is With You," "He Walked a Mile" and "I Will Follow Christ." With six albums to his credit, Clay has been twice nominated as the Gospel Music Association's Male Vocalist of the Year and took home the Dove Award for New Artist of the Year in 1995.

I have talked with and interviewed him several times over the years and have always found him to be a very direct and focused individual. He has been very open in recent times about his struggles with pornography and how he gotten rid of that influence in his life. The subject can be an uncomfortable one to discuss, of course, but Clay has never shied away from it, simply saying "Look at me, I overcame this addiction, you can too."

According to The Breen Agency (TBA), which books Clay's tours, "Clay recalls being in the fourth or fifth grade when he was first exposed to pornographic magazines at a friend's house. He recollects how those images were burned into his mind forever. Over the course of the next few years in junior high, high school and college, Clay remember occasions here and there where he again came in contact with similar materials. There weren't many times, but even the small amount of exposure was enough, Clay says, to leave lasting images that ultimately became damaging. "It began to affect the way I looked at women and lust began to spill over into my everyday life," Clay shares. "When I got married, pornography was not a part of my life, but lust was. I remained outwardly faithful to (my wife), but my thought life was a problem."

In 1998, on a flight home from a concert appearance, he was overcome with conviction about his life. He told TBA: "I was pretty sure that I'd sung terribly and it was really hard for me. I was losing control of my voice, but I realized that I had lost control of my life as well. My voice had already been taken from me and I knew that if I didn't change, my life as I knew it would also be taken from me. Looking down from that plane at that moment, I was in complete misery and regret. I realized I was at my lowest point. I was a complete failure. At that exact moment, I wouldn't have cared at all if that plane had crashed right then and there."

Eventually Clay went on to confess his mindset to his wife, Renna. After that he rededicated his life to following Christ. Today Clay says he's happier than ever.

Although he has talked about this in concert before, I have no idea if he will discuss this in concert at Valley View, but it's safe to say he will be singing some of those #1 songs.

It should be a great concert. Tickets are on sale January 4 at the usual Christian bookstore outlets and www.itickets.com.