It’s a hot, humid June night.

A night when most good Baptists head to church for Wednesday night prayer meeting. But this is no ordinary Wednesday night. No sir. This is Wednesday night at the 2005 Southern Baptist Convention. Twelve thousand of the dedicated are gathered at Nashville’s Gaylord Entertainment Center to hear SBC leaders cast the vision for the largest denomination in the United States.

Missionaries from all over the world tell stories of God at work among “the least of these.” The Rev. Billy Graham’s grandson is present for the unveiling of a bronze sculpture to honor such “a great Southern Baptist.” A full orchestra plays on cue as a worship team leads the audience in hymns and choruses blended to suit even the most finicky worshiper. The people sing with rousing gusto, palpable fervor. The clock meanders to 7, 7:30, then approaches 8 pm. The crowd seems to grow weary of the waiting. A 1,000-voice-choir stands at the ready, every bit as eager as the crowd below, anticipating the highlight of the evening.

Now, this would be the dramatic, veil-ripping part of the event where the arena lights fade to black, music from "2001: A Space Odyssey" fills the air and a legendary band  storms the stage, sweeping the audience off its feet in a rush of excitement and deafening applause.

But it didn’t happen quite like that.

Oh, the crowd was swept away, alright. They couldn’t have been happier if Elvis himself, guitar slung over his cape-draped shoulder, appeared before them. The applause was loud and enthusiastic. And when the band began to play, everyone under 45 began to sing along, the words as familiar and personal as a close family friend. The seven-piece band was as un-rock-star-like as a band can possibly be, as ordinary as the next-door neighbor, as average as your Uncle Jack.

Ordinary people. A real estate agent, a Christian bookstore sales clerk, a graphic artist, a video guy/janitor at the church – a group of dedicated youth workers who used their musical gifts to lead their kids in worship. This is Casting Crowns, the hottest band in Christian music. The hottest new thing by far. Christian music buyers couldn’t empty store and e-shelves of its self-titled debut fast enough. In fact, Casting Crowns was the fastest- selling new Christian act of 2003 and 2004. Think platinum in less than two years. Think rare for a new artist.

Christian radio hounds around the country couldn’t (and still can’t) rotate “If We Are The Body,” “The Voice of Truth” and “Who Am I?” fast enough, and even curmudgeonly music critics gave them props for “natural talent” and “lyrical integrity.”

The 2005 GMA Music Awards bore witness with no less than 13 nominations and seven Dove Awards, including “Group of the Year,” “Song of the Year for ‘Who Am I?’”, “Pop/Contemporary Recorded Song of the Year,” “Inspirational Recorded Song of the Year,”  and “Songwriter of the Year” for front man Mark Hall.

And the band has performed for more than one million people.

Not bad for an eager upstart looking for Christian music stardom, but for a group of youth workers from Atlanta who set out only to make another CD of songs for their church kids, it has been a whirlwind of a surprise.

“No one is more surprised at the past couple of years than we are,” guitarist Juan (pronounced ‘Ju-wan’) DeVevo says. “A couple of years back, we’d never thought about competing or signing a record deal or anything like that. It had never crossed our minds. And to think God had all this planned for us, just a youth band, is amazing.”