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Song Story:

  • Debra Akins Contributing Writer
  • Published Oct 29, 2002
Song Story:

When Chris Tomlin first began writing songs 15 years ago, he was just a Texas kid whose dad had taught him to play the guitar, a simple gesture that triggered a creative outlet Tomlin found hard to ignore.

"I grew up in a home of music," he explains. "As early as I can remember, Dad was filling up the house with records and his guitar. When he taught me to play, it birthed a passion in me. I couldn't get away from playing and singing, and as my relationship with God continued to grow, so did my desire to express my heart to Him through songs."

His songwriting is almost always inspired by ideas from Scripture, Tomlin says. And some of those inspired songs have helped shape a new generation of worshipers today. But Tomlin is quick to share the credit.

"On a practical note, I find it helpful in writing to start with a title," says Tomlin. This gives you focus, helps you to stay on the main idea as the song unfolds. I usually have a general idea and then take it to someone to help me finish it. Jesse Reeves and Louie Giglio are the two writers that I collaborate with the most."

Giglio's Passion conferences, a ministry to college students nationwide, have been the perfect backdrop for some of the most relevant sounds to come out of the contemporary worship movement. One of Tomlin's most recent creations with co-writer Reeves, "Famous One," made a distinct connection with Passion audiences last year, and can be found on Tomlin's recently-released sophomore project, Not to Us.

You are the Lord, the famous One, famous One
Great is your Name in all the earth
The heavens declare You're glorious, glorious
Great is Your fame beyond the earth

"I've been surprised at the response ["Famous One"] has gotten," says Tomlin, "but that's how it is for me with most songs. I did feel that it had a melody and rhythm that was simple and appealing, but I did not think it would become so popular so quickly."

Tomlin says the inspiration for "Famous One" came in different ways. An initial spark was ignited during a period of time when Tomlin and his band members had been meditating on Psalm 19.

"The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they display knowledge.
There is no speech or language
where their voice is not heard...
" (Psalm 19:1-3)

"The first few verses of that psalm captured my attention," Tomlin explains. "To think of how enormous is the universe, and all of it declares the glory of God."

But it was eventually the idea of "celebrity" that played a major role in Tomlin's clever interpretation of God's character and omniscient presence.

"There are so many wonderful and true adjectives and names for God, such as 'holy,' 'worthy,' 'King,' 'Lord,' 'omnipotent,' etc.," says Tomlin. "I thought 'famous' was a fresh word. Everybody understands what you mean when you say 'famous.' We all live in a world where fame is one of the highest values, but when you consider the greatness of God, everything and everyone pales.

"Consider Jesus," he continues. "The Bible tells that everywhere he went during his short ministry years, 'large' crowds gathered. Even when trying to get away and be alone, the Bible says that more than 5,000 people found him. And then to think, as Paul writes in Philippians 2, 'God gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.' Now that is fame beyond imagination."