Chris Tomlin: The Man Behind the Music
- Wednesday, January 15, 2003
His lyrics ring out in sanctuaries across the nation each Sunday: "Forever," "Kindness", "We Fall Down", "The Wonderful Cross", "Be Glorified", and "Famous One." His compositions have been recorded by the likes of Michael W. Smith and Petra, and can be found on over 800,000 Passion records. Who is this prolific songwriter? None other than Chris Tomlin.
Tomlin's own recordings, The Noise We Make and Not to Us have been enthusiastically received by worship and CCM audiences alike. Coming off a fall tour with Rebecca St. James, Tomlin is now transitioning to the role of lead worshipper at The Austin Stone Community Church, a brand new congregation based in Austin, Texas. He graciously took time from a busy fall schedule to give us a glimpse of the man behind the songs.
Crosswalk.com: This might be a little bit different from some of your other interviews in that I won't be focusing as much on your music, but more on your faith. I'd like to start at the most basic place--how did you come to know the Lord?
Chris Tomlin: Well, I grew up in a Christian home, and I can't really remember a time I did not believe in God in the most basic way. But then when I was 9 years old, I went to a little Southern Gospel concert down the road. My dad, who loved music, took me and that night was a real awakening point. That night, they gave an invitation to receive Christ as Savior and something was really pushing, pulling me and burning in my heart to do that, to really make that a commitment in my life. I did, and went back to my home church. I talked to my pastor about it and was baptized the next Sunday and began a walk with God.
There's always been these different points along the way where God has brought me to a renewed sense of that commitment, or even a deepening, every so many years. For example, when I was in eighth grade, in the middle of this worship service, I just left the service and went out back and kneeled down next to a tree and said, "God, I just want to let you know whatever you want for me for the rest of my life, I'll do it." I remember that prayer so vividly. I know God was stirring in me, just like when I was nine years old. And so it's been those kinds of deals throughout my life that have continued to deepen my faith.
Crosswalk.com: What has been your biggest challenge spiritually? What do you struggle with? Are there areas where you really feel like you want to grow further?
Chris Tomlin: Probably the biggest struggle is letting go of and seeing past the temporary things of this world: to latch on to what's important, to not be distracted by things like making more money, or being more popular, or being on a bigger stage. Those things really are just temporary, things that your flesh is after. Thankfully, God has put people in my life who have come in at the right time to say, "Chris, this is the way." I have friends who help me see that way, and help me go that way, to go after the things that are eternal and way more important and way bigger than temporal things. Being human, it's hard to see that sometimes when someone is throwing a bigger carrot in front of your face, you know? For some reason your flesh or human self is never satisfied; it always wants more.
Crosswalk.com: Where would you like to be in five years? How would you like your ministry to grow?
Chris Tomlin: I've just been so thankful for where we are at this time. I would never have believed our songs would influence the church the way it has, and I hope to continue. It's been amazing to just go out, traveling all over the world, and to hear people sing our songs. I know I hope to be part of a thriving church and I hope to have a strong ministry, traveling and playing.
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