Song Story: We Fall Down
- Wendy Lee Nentwig Contributing Writer
- 2003 8 Jul
It’s timeless worship tunes like “Forever” and “Famous One” that have proven Chris Tomlin’s enduring talent as a worship songwriter, but he didn’t believe it when, after first hearing “We Fall Down,” a friend told him it would get worldwide attention. Turns out, that was just he beginning.
Tomlin had been traveling and leading worship since he was 19, but it was in 1997, two years after he graduated from Texas A&M that he found himself at a camp with new friend Louie Giglio. Giglio would go on to start the Passion movement that would eventually give Chris and his songs a national platform, but that week he was teaching to a crowd of about 1,500 on Revelation chapter 4 while Chris helped out leading worship. As he listened to the nightly messages, something about the passage struck a chord with the young songwriter.
“Every night he would teach on a different aspect of this chapter and I was so moved by it,” Tomlin recalls. “It was a revelation to John of what was going on around the throne of God and it said these living creatures … day and night they never stop saying, ‘holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come.’ Then it said the 24 elders, they continually fall down and lay their crowns before the throne of God and worship Him and they sing that song that begins with worthy is the lamb. I was hearing that each night and was just blown away by the thought that they never cease … and that must be an amazing sight.”
Tomlin was so moved by that image that he found himself sitting on the edge of the bed in his hotel room, guitar in hand, composing a song. When he was finished, he took the tune that he calls “just a little simple song” to Giglio’s room for some instant feedback.
“I remember playing it for him in his room and waiting for a response to see if he liked it, and he said, ‘the whole world’s gonna sing that song.’” A surprised Tomlin recalls. “I was like, ‘What?’ I’d never had hardly anybody sing my songs. I kind of didn’t believe him.”
While still skeptical, Tomlin obliged Giglio when he asked for a copy of the song to take back home with him. Little did he know, his friend’s prediction would come true sooner than he could imagine. It was at the first Passion event in Austin, Texas that same year that Tomlin got his first inkling of just how special “We Fall Down” was. Chris was leading a small community group at the event when he walked into the main gathering and heard a familiar melody on the piano.
“All the sudden they started leading ‘We Fall Down’ in this arena of people,” Tomlin recalls. It was the first time he’d heard a song of his sung by a group when he wasn’t leading it and it blew him away. “All these people were singing it, and it was a very humbling, honoring experience.” It also gave him the confirmation he needed to continue on his chosen path. “I was definitely encouraged by the Lord that He’s given me a gift to write songs for the church to sing.”
And it wasn’t just churches in America that would be singing his tunes. Tomlin was on a trip to Africa with Giglio when he says he first realized the international appeal “We Fall Down” would have. While visiting Botswana, he taught some locals the song. When he returned a year later, the tune has been translated into their own language and was being sung in all the churches in the region. “I saw a bulletin from a church and it was in seven different languages just in one church!” Tomlin recounts. “That’s when it started hitting me that this was a song that would transcend languages, it would transcend style. Anybody can do it from a church choir to a rock ‘n’ roll band.”
And anybody does. “We Fall Down” first appeared on the "Passion: Our Soul’s Desire" recording and also on Tomlin’s indie disc, "Authentic." Aside from those, Tomlin says he doesn’t even know how many recorded versions of the song exists, but he geusstimates that it’s been covered on more than 100 different CDs. He doesn’t keep an exact tally and he doesn’t worry about the song getting overexposed, saying, “I think that’d be a pretty good compliment that it was sung so much.”
Another worry he doesn’t have is following up his early success. While there are several songs he’s written since “We Fall Down” that he feels are just as powerful, he knows the impact they have is ultimately out of his control. “The Holy Spirit’s the best marketing agent there is,” Tomlin says. “When He gets excited about a song, He’s the one who puts it all over the world. There isn’t a marketing plan good enough to [do that]. You can market a song to a few million people in a certain demographic, but as far as all over the world, that’s just God. So I just leave it to Him and try to stay true to who I was when I wrote the other ones, to just write simple songs for people.”