FULTON, Md. — Kristina Laus arrived at a recent Matt Maher concert to experience the vibrations that electric guitars, drums and Scripture-laced vocals send through blaring amplifiers.
The 24-year-old resident of Hanover along with other concertgoers, enthusiastically clapped her hands to the beat of the music coming from the two-time Grammy nominee's guitar and microphone, while gazing at the giant crucifix to the back of the stage where the band was playing.
After the song ended and the buzz of the music faded, the 38-year-old Catholic musician spoke to the audience about the religious meaning of the tune. He also told them he is trying to live out his faith by listening to the guiding voice of the new leader of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis.
"I've been a Matt Maher fan for years and it's always a nice opportunity to go and watch him live," Laus told Catholic News Service during the June 24 concert at New Hope Seventh-Day Adventist Church in a rural section of Maryland's Howard County, nestled between Baltimore and Washington.
"He has such meaningful stories in his lyrics," she continued, "and he explains where he gets his material from and quotes Scripture so often. It inspires me to go and look at Scripture myself and see what he's actually talking about, to have an opinion on my own."
This is the kind of impact Maher says he hopes his live shows and recorded albums have on people who listen to his music.
Though being a recording artist is his vocation, Maher also considers his music to be part of a Catholic ministry, and perhaps a component of the Catholic Church's new evangelization effort called for by several recent popes.
"Faith is the greatest source of inspiration, and then it's living out my vocation, being married, being a father and along the way living life," he told CNS during an interview the day of the concert. "I think for me as a songwriter, it's in the midst of doing those things that I sort of see and hear the fingerprints of God. I think that inspires me and points me back to creating an expression through a song."
Maher uses the time between songs to speak to the audience about God, Jesus and the influence Pope Francis is having on society. In July he will travel to Brazil to perform for the pope during World Youth Day.
His own religious awakening happened when he was 20.
Baptized a Catholic in Newfoundland to an American mother and a Canadian father, Maher says his upbringing was mostly secular in nature with little emphasis on religion.
After his parents divorced, the burgeoning musician moved to Arizona, where he eventually got involved with Life Teen, a Catholic youth ministry movement designed to bring young people closer to Christ. He now serves on Life Teen's board of directors.
He also wanted to find a way to fuse his love for music with his faith, and after receiving a music degree from Arizona State University, he launched a career in Christian rock.
Maher has recorded seven albums since 2001, three of which have been in Billboard Magazine's top 10 Christian Album charts.
His latest album, "All the People Said Amen," was released in April.
Nashville, Tenn., is now home for the married father of a young son, but he spends a great deal of time touring the U.S., playing more than120 shows last year alone.
As Josh Chumley of Clarksburg, Md., made his way into the June 24 show, he stopped by a booth to look over the Matt Maher concert T-shirts and CDs for sale, and proclaimed himself a "big fan."
"I heard about the show on the radio and wanted to bring my entire family," Chumley told CNS. "He speaks Scripture throughout what he sings and that's truth to us. So, we want to follow the truth, and honestly, he's got a great voice too."
If the exposure of his music introduces the Gospel message to more people, Maher said his Catholic journey will be on course.
"In some ways rock 'n' roll was the soundtrack to the sexual revolution," he said. "So, if there is going to be another revolution inspired by theology of the body, inspired by the past four popes in calling for this re-evangelization of the church and then subsequently culture, we are going to need a soundtrack for it."
With a slightly flushed face and a beaming grin, Maher said he would never presume he would be part of such a soundtrack, "but maybe I'm inspiring people who will create it. If that's all it is, then that's good enough for me."