Chris Tomlin's undeniable energy is charismatic and contagious.
Avoiding the trappings of public performance, Chris stands beside the
people he serves, raising his voice to God with them so that they share
God's presence together.
Born and raised in East Texas, Chris Tomlin grew up on
a steady diet of country music, learning his guitar chops by playing
along with Willie Nelson records. Not that you would ever guess it from
listening to the gentle smoothness of his vocals. In fact, the ten songs
on The Noise We Make tend to have a lot more in common with the evocative
arrangements and stylings of bands like U2 than they do with any of
their more country cousins.
"I love the simplicity of drums, bass, electric and acoustic
guitars," Chris explains. "We're not about putting on a big show. We
don't want to be rock stars. We're about connecting with people and
having a shared experience of coming before God and worshipping Him.
We want our personalities and our music to come across in a way that
makes people feel like 'Hey, those are just my friends up there.'"
Credited with venerable church choruses such as "Forever,"
"We Fall Down," and "The Wonderful Cross," Tomlin
is considered one of this era's top songwriters for the church with
five songs in CCLI's Top 60 and four more in the service's Top 500.
With millions singing his songs weekly, Chris Tomlin is recognized as a pivotal
voice of today's modern expression of Christian worship.
Arriving rocks with inspiring, guitar-driven pop melodies
reflecting the roots traditions of Austin, Texas, where it was recorded
and home to the church Tomlin co-founded, Austin Stone Community Church.
The project's raw, straightforward lyrics are knotted tight with hooks
as big and broad as the Lone Star state sky. Producer Ed Cash (Caedmon's
Call, Kathy Mattea, Bebo Norman) brings his signature touch to the tracks,
revealing that the talent pool is deeper than even the artist knew.
"People will be surprised by some moments,"
Tomlin says. "The music's so honest. The guys and I are just playing
our songs the way we play them. That's the special thing about
the record - what you see is what you get."
Leaders make the indescribable visible. Isaiah's words,
for instance, brought comfort to a defeated nation and transformed a
people's imagination, empowering them to mount up with wings like eagles.
Those words bear fruits today, capturing a post-modern visionary's heart,
urging Chris Tomlin to call together God's people for life-renewing
"I feel as though we're like this landing strip in
the desert for our great, incredible God to arrive on; a way for Him
to come into people's lives," Tomlin says of the album's metaphorical
moniker inspired in part by Isaiah 40. Tomlin's third studio record
and first in two years, Arriving demonstrates a Christian's glad surrender
meeting God's welcoming arms.
Arriving tips the scales more toward corporate worship
songs than devotional ones, melding wisdom, gratitude and celebration
into a single package. "I try to write songs in a clear, simple
way that people can understand and so they can sing the songs after
hearing them once or twice," Tomlin shares. He crafted nine of
11 songs for the record, including "How Great Is Our God," which Chris
identifies as the anchor to Arriving. The chorus declares:
"God promises that when we draw close to Him, He'll
draw close to us," Chris says. "That's what I hope happens
through these songs."
Tomlin will get the chance to extend Arriving's invitation
this fall on a 70-city tour with 4-time GRAMMY, 47-time Dove Award-winning
Steven Curtis Chapman.
"Yeah, I like to tell people Steven will be closing
for us," Chris laughs, the humor a thin mask over the deep gratitude
he feels toward one of his musical heroes. "Without a doubt, Steven's
been the biggest influence on me musically. He's been from a far a mentor
to me. He's a man of integrity and a great musician, songwriter, and
performer. And lo and behold, here we are going out on tour together!
It's just unbelievable."
"I am so excited about what's going on!" he
continues. "I pray that people will know more and hunger more after
God because of these songs. People are changed because of God arriving
in their lives. Grace changes people into people with hope."
He continues, "I look back these last few years since
I started recording and see how I've grown. It's incredible and it's
all been God. I just try to walk His path. Since I was 13 I've felt
called to write songs for the church. I'm humbled that He continues
to use me like this."
Arriving honors that calling, marking a way for God to
arrive in the hearts of humanity, making an often indescribable God
visible to searching desert travelers.
As a new record label emerges from the Passion movement,
a leading voice in progressive worship begins a new chapter in his life.
Worship leader Chris Tomlin talks about how his past is merging quickly
into the future.
What is your source of strength? In the song "Holy is
the Lord," Chris Tomlin sings that our strength is found in the joy
of the Lord. Chris wasn't the first to say this. A prophet from the
Bible named Nehemiah said the same thing over three thousand years ago.
"Nehemiah said, 'Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks,
and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is sacred
to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength'"
(Nehemiah 8:10, NIV).
The people had stood all day and listened to the reading
of the Law, the commands of the Lord. Have you ever heard someone preach
from the Bible and felt a twinge of guilt in your heart? That is the
conviction of the Holy Spirit. When we hear someone preach what is right,
we see where we have been wrong. It is like seeing a bright light after
you've been in the dark. It hurts!
How do you respond? Well, many times in the past I have
tried to make excuses. Lord, I whined, this is too hard for me. But
the correct response is, OK, I repent. I will change because You are
always right, Lord.
And when we react that way, it gives the Lord great joy.
God gave us His commands--found in His Word--because He is smarter than
we are and He knows what is good for us. He knows that if we follow
His way of doing things, we will live a more peaceful life, a happier
life. So when we make a change to follow Him, it makes Him happy. And
following ways that make Him happy are ways that will end up making
So, the next time you hear something from the Bible that
sets off that spark of conviction inside you, rejoice--don't grieve.
Repent; change your mind and your ways, and then walk in the knowledge
that God is rejoicing over you today. Think of Him smiling down at you
and let that thought give you strength.
Sixsteps came from 1 Samuel 6 and 2 Samuel 6. David's
bringing the ark back. The long story short is, the Philistines capture
the ark and the ark starts giving them plagues so they don't want it
anymore. David comes to get it. They put the ark on carts, but God didn't
say to put it on carts, He said to put it on poles. The Israelites start
going with the cart and when people look inside to make sure the Philistines
didn't steal anything, they die. They start going down the road and
the ark starts tipping over. The people who try to catch it die. So
David was really mad. They leave the ark at this guy Obed's house. David
says, "We're done with this thing!" Then David gets word that all of
Obed's family is completely blessed in everything they do. So David
takes 30,000 men to [bring the ark back to Jerusalem]. They put it on
poles like God had said. The Bible says that when they had taken six
steps, they stopped and built an altar and worshipped God. They took
six steps and [thought] "We're still alive. God did not strike us dead!"
I think in our worship today, we come to God like He owes
us a favor and we don't really fear God. This is the One. The One I'm
singing to gives me breath; He makes the world tilt just right, so it's
not too cold or too hot. He holds all the universe in His hand and we're
just [barely singing]. I think sixsteps is a great picture: one step
- we're all right. Two steps, oh my gosh, Six steps - okay, we're partying!
Sixsteps really came out of a need for us to have a family
of guys who had been involved in Passion. It was a way to get our music
out there, not just through Passion, but our own records. We have songs
that are on Passion, but there are several other songs that Charlie
[Hall] has written, that David [Crowder] has written, that people don't
know, because they're not on Passion records.
Solomon, in Ecclesiastes, says that he has had all these
things... all the money in the world, all the women, everything the
world can give me and I find it all meaningless. He ends Ecclesiastes
with "There are only two things I know that are worth anything: fear
the Lord and keep His commands." So what does that mean, fear the Lord?
I think a lot of times that we sin so easily because we don't fear God.
Our fear of God is so minimal that we sin easily. I think understanding
God is the same as fearing God, because the more you understand God,
the more in awe of Him we are. The way we live our life when no one's
watching is our degree of fear of God and our degree of reverence and
degree of honor. I think fear, reverence, and honor all come together.
Chris Tomlin was asked to define Worship and he replied.
Everybody is created to worship. It's created in us and we can't get
away from it. That's why we have so many stars, especially in America,
because we have to worship something. True worship is the worship of
the Creator, not the created. Paul said that when you are worshipping
what's created, you're taking your eyes of your Creator. When we worship
God, we're recognizing who God is and what He has done, truly seeing
the greatness of what He has done and responding to that. Worship is
The definition that I learned from Louie, is that worship
is a response, both personal and corporate, for who God is and what
He's doing, evidenced in and through the way we live. Worship is more
than singing songs. Songs have little to do with it. Jesus understood
it when he said, "You praise me with your lips, but your hearts are
far from me." How many times have I done that? We ought to be pretty
serious about what we worship, because it is eternal. Those who worship
the created things, which all of us do from time to time - find it so
The way that we're trained, worship is Sunday morning
from eleven to twelve. That's not true. That is worship, but that's
coming together. Hopefully we're coming together to celebrate what we've
been doing all week. What we mostly do is [consider that a worship service
is] our one hour a week. [Then we leave] and don't really consider God
the rest of the week. It should be the other way around. That one hour
should be a celebration of how we're living our lives all week. That's
the greatest form of evangelism in the world. People wonder what in
the world you're connected to, because then they realize that what they
worship doesn't meet their needs. I love the fact that no matter who
you are, whether you're wealthy or poor, wherever you were born, wherever
you live, that you worship and you can't get away from it.
One of the premier songwriters of today, Chris Tomlin
is shaping the language of worship for generations present and future.
And yet his gifts are rooted in one central truth, that God is the center
Even as a small town Texan boy pounding out new tunes
with his rag-tag garage band, Chris Tomlin had been blessed with a passion
for purpose. He wanted to be more than just another guy with a song.
As he grew, he became even more aware of the fact that everything-what
we do, who we are-exists only for God's glory. Tomlin's sophomore studio
project, NOT TO US, is an organic, edgy pop blend of his most compelling
lyrics to date, the longest and most rewarding mile in his passionate
pursuit of real life.
NOT TO US is not just another worship album; it's a soundtrack
for all of life.
"God is a mystery beyond our comprehension," says Tomlin,
whose most recent work includes WoW Worship and Passion: Our Love is
Loud. "We can't figure God out. He won't be boxed in. He's bigger than
all our questions and bigger than our answers. And when our lives become
aligned with Him, we see life in a different light, hearts are restored
and people are healed."
Already well known for his work with Passion, a ministry
to college students nationwide, and for penning such classics-in-the-making
as "Forever" and "We Fall Down," NOT TO US features all original songs
written or co-written by Tomlin, who is set to tour in the fall of 2002
with Rebecca St. James. Additionally, the anticipated project includes
a song co-written by Matt Redman (Michael W. Smith, Tree63, Passion
Worship Band), perhaps the most prolific and important songwriter to
come out of the UK since Graham Kendrick.
Produced by Matt Bronleewe (Jars of Clay, dcTalk, Natalie
Imbruglia) and Sam Gibson (Elvis Costello, Crowded House) Tomlin's sophomore
album packs a live, raw energy and eclectic sound. "This one was more
like home," Tomlin says of the making of NOT TO US, "more of a live
album feel, more raw. This band has been playing together for a long
time. And so what you hear and experience throughout the recording sounds
like what you hear when you hear us play live."
At the heart of NOT TO US is the answer to the tug of
war between our human desire to be celebrated and the reason we were
created: to worship God.
"People are not meant to be worshiped because we're always
going to mess up," he says. "Our culture longs to ascribe value to so
many things that aren't of God, so anytime we can focus on God, and
through that help people do the same, we're doing what we were put here
for. And that's a powerful thing."
Illuminating the album's fundamental premise, "Famous
One," a contagious declaration that Jesus is the supreme celebrity,
has already connected in a very powerful way with live audiences nationwide
and is destined to be a modern worship favorite for years to come.
"I had no idea that 'Famous One' would connect with people
in such a powerful way," Tomlin says. "I loved the idea of the word
'fame' for God. Sometimes, I think our society doesn't understand the
words we use for God-but fame is a word we all can understand." He writes
with his audience in mind, crafting profoundly moving universal lyrics
that ride on simple, singable melodies.
"Wonderful Maker," co-written with Matt Redman, is another
stellar example of the lyrical depth on NOT TO US. Loosely based on
Job's grateful response to God, the song juxtaposes the cross and creation.
"While God was creating the world, He was also saving it," Tomlin says.
"That's a big concept to get your arms around, but people are really
responding to it in a powerful way."
And as for the theory that this God-centered expression
is a trend that will fade as quickly as it came, Chris Tomlin disagrees.
"True worship, worship in spirit and truth, has never been and will
never be a trend. This style of music may be a trend, but that's because
God's blowing a fresh Wind of His Spirit in so many people who are coming
to realize that anything that just builds us up as people isn't worth
much. What gives God the spotlight is important. And that's all we're
Over the last five years or so, the modern worship movement
has ignited on both sides of the Atlantic with all the subtlety of a
match thrown into a bucket of kerosene. Largely unattended by media
hype, the movement has emerged hand in hand with a broad wave of renewal
and reawakening. While the effects have been far reaching throughout
the church, both in terms of a new generation of worship songs and a
needed theological shift toward greater God-centeredness, many of the
key players in the movement have remained largely invisible. Not surprising
given that the movement's focus has been the pursuit of God's glory,
not the creation of human monuments or pop icons.
For artist/worshippers like Chris Tomlin, who's gut level
debut The Noise We Make marks the first release from sixstepsrecords,
the shift in emphasis from worship leader to artist/worshipper hasn't
come without its tensions. Chris- passionate, transcendent music, worshipful
abandonment, and unapologetic ministry have been quietly fanning flames
on college campuses and in his local church for several years now, but
the whole idea of transitioning to record deals, publicists, lawyers
and photo shoots has required some additional getting used to.
"I have to keep asking 'How is this going to bring
God glory?' 'How am I going to use this to bring God glory?'" Chris
says. "I believe that what John the Baptist says applies to me and to
all of us as believers. We have to become less so that Christ will become
greater. We have to take the focus off of us and put it on Him. So I
want to use all these new industry opportunities as tools to extend
the reach of what I'm doing and in that way to make His name greater.
I just don't want to get caught up in the trappings."
"I write a lot of songs but not many ever make it to the
recording stage," Chris says. "That's because I'm always asking the
question 'Would people want to sing this?' I wouldn't be the
best choice to write a folk song or something with an intricate lyric.
The gift God has given me is to write things that are simple and that
connect with people really quickly. Even so, I have to wrestle some
of them pretty hard. Communicating a profound truth in a simple way
is never as easy as it seems."
In fact, the project's first single, "Forever," a song
of praise for the enduring nature of God's love, took Chris four years
to complete. The idea for the anthemic refrain of the verses came easily
enough but the wide, thrumming chorus was more elusive.
"Every time we went into the studio to record something,"
Chris remembers, "I would bring that song in hopes that someone else
would be able to come up with a chorus. I write a lot of patches of
songs and then collaborate with someone else to finish it out. With
this song it never happened. Then one day, four years later, the idea
just hit me."
Chris wrote "America," another of the standout tracks
on The Noise We Make, in anticipation of the OneDay gathering held in
May of 2000. The event was attended by tens of thousands of college
students from across the country, all coming together to worship and
seek God on behalf of their country and their generation. "America"
was the final song performed that evening.
"I was trying to sum up in one song the heart of what
we wanted all those college students to take away with them," Chris
says. "We came together to seek God's face that day, but the more important
issue was 'What do we do when we leave?' I don't believe worship
is about music. It's about how we live every part of our lives. It's
about serving and doing good to others. If we want God to move in our
land, we've got to understand that His Spirit does that through us as
we love people and reach out to them. We can meet and pray in our own
church subcultures, but it's only the love of God, actively extended
through our hands, that will make any lasting difference in our country."
Though he is comfortable leading worship for large crowds
such as the OneDay gathering, Chris has developed his own personal apologetic
to describe exactly how he sees his role in the church.
"I'd rather change the term 'worship leader' into 'lead
worshipper?' he says. " I think that's a better description of my calling.
After all, I'm a worshipper too. I was created to worship God just the
same as everyone else. I'm no better at it. My need to worship is the
same as yours and everyone else's. In the same way we've decided at
sixsteps records to describe ourselves as 'artist/worshippers'
rather than 'worship artists.' It makes more sense because
we're worshippers first, and the fact that we use artistry as a means
of worship is incidental."
The album's strongest blend of worship and artistry occurs
in the song "The Wonderful Cross," a moody, exultant remake of the Isaac
Watts hymn "When I Survey The Wondrous Cross". By updating the musical
arrangement and adding a soul-stirring vertical chorus, Chris succeeded
in shifting the song back and forth between a reflective worship and
an exuberant abandon. Churches across the country are already adopting
the song for their own services.
"Our bass player was playing the hymn by himself during
a sound check," Chris remembers. "It was such a beautiful hymn that
I joined him onstage and began singing. In the middle of the sound check
we just spontaneously burst into what is now the chorus, singing 'Oh
the wonderful Cross!' Once we began recording, I invited Matt Redman
to sing on the verses. It's turned out to be my favorite song on the
The song that listeners seem to be connecting with on
the deepest level though is the book of Isaiah inspired closing track
"This Is Our God." Mixing a gentle acoustic melody with a lyric that
simply worships God for who He is and what He does, "This Is Our God"
advances the promises of solace and redemption found in scripture.
"I didn't realize how encompassing this song was when
I wrote it," Chris says. "I've already gotten a lot of e-mails from
people who have lost someone close to them, or who are going through
a divorce or some other painful passage. No matter what kind of hurt
someone's going through, "This Is Our God" seems to offer
In his own life and songs, and in the modern worship movement
as a whole, Chris Tomlin sees that theme of restoration as central.
"God is using this whole worship movement as a means to restore us to
the realization that it's all about Him," he says. "God is after His
glory first. For too long we've focused most of our music, even our
worship services, on ourselves. The modern worship movement is putting
an intentional focus back on God. If we talk primarily about ourselves
and build our own followings, you don't see people being restored and
healed and saved. But when we put the attention on God and pursue His
glory instead of our own, we do see lives restored and people come to
salvation. When God is the focus of something people are drawn to it.
That's what I want myself and my songs to be a part of."
Meet the Band
Christopher Dwayne Tomlin wrote his first song at age
14 "Praise the Lord". His FAVORITE BIBLE VERSE: Numbers 14:24. Also,
Isaiah 26:8 because it has been the crux of the Passion movement. The
center of much of our music. Chris's dad taught him to play the guitar.
He grew up with country music playing. I was saved at a young age and
had a great desire to follow God. I was really focused on that through
my whole life, even as a kid and through high school.
Chris graduated college with a Psychology degree, and
just started playing and doing things. It was really a step of faith
for me, the first real big one. Those two weeks that Louie and I were
together that summer, we'd go to the Waffle House every night and I'd
just ask him things about ministry and how it works. He kind of poured
his life out.
Right along that time, he said, "I have this vision for
this thing called Passion. I'd really like you to be involved." I thought
that this would be amazing. The first Passion was in 1997 in Austin,
Texas. They'd have these big sessions and then they'd break out into
smaller groups of three or four hundred people. I led one of those.
It was kind of a time to let what we heard settle and talk about it.
I did that each year at the Passion events.
Chris's greatest influences, of course, are His Word and the
Holy Spirit. He has surrounded me with
many great people at just the right time. This is really the testimony
of my life. Probably the most influential have been my parents and Louie
Giglio. Everyone needs someone who really believes in them and they
have been that for me.
Daniel comes from a musical family. My grandparents, mom
and dad all sing and play, so my earliest memories of live music were
hearing my family sing and play around the house. I used to run to my
Grandma's closet as soon as we got to her house and get out one of my
dad's old guitars, and I would bring it into the living room to perform.
Daniels grandfather is a minister of music and has been
for years and years. His dad plays guitar and is a worship leader. In
fact my parents tell me that when I was a kid they asked me who my favorite
singer was; my response was, "my dad and Michael Jackson."
So at an early age I was exposed to worship in the form of music quite
often. I didn't really know what to call it, but I remember there being
a significant change in the room when my dad would lead the slower songs.
I remember I loved singing those songs TO God. I now know that what
I was enjoying was the presence of the Lord. God inhabiting the praises
of his people."
Daniel met Chris and the guys at youth camp. I was a camper
and Chris Tomlin lead worship at that youth camp every year (but one)
from my 7th grade year until I graduated. The summer before my senior
year, Chris and the guys had been looking for a full time guitarist.
We met again at camp and Jesse, our bass player and Chris's drummer
at that time, Andy, mentioned my name to Chris and his response was,
"isn't he like fifteen?" I was seventeen to be exact, but
I'm thankful they were still considering the idea. Chris knew my dad
and had heard me play on a home recording, so That's the reason he knew
I played. I never would have asked them to play guitar or be in the
band or anything, and didn't think they would consider it an option.
Two weeks into my senior year, however, they called my dad and asked
if I would come and practice with them. So my dad and I drove to Houston
and set up all our gear in Chris's kitchen and practiced for a couple
of hours. And I began playing with them for the remainder of my senior
year of high school. It was crazy! And so began an amazingly fun journey
of what has now been four years of traveling, playing, and recording.
When Jesse was 15 his sister was dating a guy that looked
like John Bon Jovi that was a bass player in a Dallas club band, and
that to him was the greatest thing he'd ever seen. Jesse bought his
first bass from him and the rest is history.
Jesse's first band was at 15 and it was called "Carpe
Diem" They were a huge hit at birthday parties. Shortly after this time,
he started to feel the call of the lord on his life on September 23,
1990, he finally said yes. The next several years wre spent playing
for a Christian band called "Judad which later bacame Between Thieves."
Jesse met Chris in 1997 and they have been playing ever since. It's
been a crazy ride but I have no doubt that this is what he wants for
Janet and Jesse have been married for 7 years now and
we have 2 beautiful daughters Kate and Rachel.
I always wanted to go in a different direction and I believe
music supports this way of thinking. I love music and I love playing
drums in a band and as far back as I can remember I've always had that
desire. I was blessed with a very supportive family who always encourged me to go after my dreams.
I was always drawn to the drummers in band but pots and
pans can only last so long so during the summer of my summer of my 6th
grade year I convinced my parents to purchase my first drum set. All
I wanted to do is rock! I started playing, first, at my church were
I learned the basics and continued playing in church throughout the
next 6 years. I moved churches in 2002 when Houston's 2nd Bapist called
needing a drummer. I felt like God was calling to do this fulltime,
which was a pretty awesome, but at the same time a little scary because
there's really no textbook for this kind of thing. After about 3 years
I got a call from Chris, we met at a Good Friday service in the woodlands
Texas. The rest is history.