Contemporary Christian artist Matt Maher will have a mission in mind when he sings in Altoona next week.
He just wants concert-goers to have fun.
The nationally recognized singer and six time GMA Dove Award nominee will be in concert along with singer Audrey Assad at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 20 at the Mishler Theater.
(Courtesy photo) Contemporary Christian artist Matt Maher will present a concert at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 20 at the Mishler Theatre. Guest artist Audrey Assad also will perform.
Maher, known for such songs as "Your Grace is Enough," "Turn Around" and "Hold Us Together," wants to entertain the audience.
"I hope they find it spiritually engaging, but I want them to have fun," he said of his family oriented concert.
Known as a draw for teens, Maher's fan base is apparently expanding. He quipped during a telephone interview from his home in Phoenix that his followers are "kids in car seats and their moms." A new father himself, Maher said for the past six years a lot of his fans have been teens, but now he seems to be attracting young adults and families.
If you go
What: Matt Maher Concert
When: 7:30 p.m. Jan. 20
Where: Mishler Theater
Cost: $13 and $18
For tickets: Call 283-3126 or at the door. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.
Also appearing: Audrey Assad
However, he continues to maintain his edge with the teens.
Francine Swope, coordinator of youth ministries for the Catholic Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown, said Maher performed at the 2009 National Catholic Youth Conference for ages 16 to 18 in Kansas City.
"Everybody was on their feet, cheering him on and screaming," she said.
"He's awesome, a wonderful entertainer," Swope said. "People enjoy him no matter what their age."
She is among the personnel at the diocese who has been working with the Altoona Curve to bring Maher to the area since last summer. Bishop Mark L. Bartchak will introduce the singer at the concert.
Steve Lozinak, the Curve's chief administrative officer, became acquainted with Maher about six years ago through mutual friends in Arizona.
Both attended Arizona State but in different years, Lozinak said in an email.
After hearing Maher's music, Lozinak said he worked to bring the artist to Maryland where he has performed three concerts. Maher said every fall he tries to work with Lozinak to bring concerts to Maryland, and he has performed in Bel Air, Md., for a couple of years in a row.
The concert in Altoona is the beginning of several concerts planned for the weekend. A second event will be held Jan. 21 in Silver Spring, Md., and two concerts are set for Jan. 22 in Fairfax and Woodbridge, Va.
Maher also will participate in a prayer breakfast Jan. 23 in Washington, D.C., before the annual March for Life.
Maher previously sang at the 2009 Pro-Life Rally in Washington, but said his schedule does not permit him to take an active role this year.
Speaking about the event, he called abortion a symptom, an effect of a greater problem.
"There is a deeper wound in society," Maher said.
He said the wound is the breakdown of the family and that two generations of youth now have known what it is like to not have a father in their lives.
"Eighty-five percent of the abortions are experienced by teenage girls from middle income families," he said. He said they are not women being pressured to abort the baby or victims of violent crime, such as rape.
He said the purpose of sexuality is not understood by society.
"The opposite of love is not hate, it is use," he said. "When we use someone to fulfill desires."
"It [sex] is being used for something that was not intended," he said. "It has consequences. People want to experience liberation, freedom, but at the end of the day, real freedom is knowing God."
"Why aren't people talking about the consequences [of abortion] - good or bad?" he asked. Maher said the a woman can suffer from guilt and emotional trauma or post traumatic stress disorder after an abortion.
The message apparently got through to one teen through one of Maher's songs. He said he learned of a pregnant teen who heard his song "Turn Around" on the radio as she was traveling to an abortion clinic.
Ironically, the song talks about situations in life (addiction, single motherhood) but does not mention abortion.
Its lyrics include: "If you're scared that you don't matter/If you're lost and need to be found/If you're looking for a Savior/All you gotta do is turn around."
"She turned the car around and kept the baby," he said.
Maher said his songs are more of a dialogue about the world around him and people's struggles with things such as faith and finances.
"I write musical prayers to address concerns," he said.
One of the trends that Maher is aware of is that the young adults who listen to his music are not necessarily attending church.
Surveys, including "Religion Among the Millennials" from the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, say Americans ages 18 to 29 are considerably less religious than older Americans.
Maher said people who don't attend church are "just now being honest. Their bodies are in church, but their hearts and minds are somewhere else."
For others, a church visit can be confusing.
"It's like walking into a Chinese restaurant where the menus are in Chinese, the people speak Chinese, but you speak English. They don't understand what is going on," he said.
Maher said sometimes people have not had an incarnate experience with God. As a Catholic, he said he experiences God in the sacrament during Mass.
He said it is not the only time in history that people failed to worship.
"During the Dark Ages, there were a handful of monks who kept Christianity alive," he said. "They wrote the antiquities."
"It is not any reason to panic," he said. "The best thing to do is pray and ask God how we can do this [the work of the Gospel] better."
Maher believes the denominations need to work together on issues, such as promoting social justice, visiting prisoners and feeding the poor.
He said Christians should live out the good news.
"My faith tells me I am saved by Jesus," he said. "It's good news to me."