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Chris Tomlin: Serving Others Through Music

Watch worship leader Chris Tomlin perform songs from his new Christmas album, 'Glory in the Highest'.


PASSION FOR MUSIC Chris Tomlin grew up in a small town in Texas with parents who were musically inclined. He wanted to be a doctor when he grew up, but he says God had different plans for him. One day while home sick with mono, Chris’s father gave him the option of learning to play the fiddle or the guitar; he chose guitar. In his early teens, Chris started playing songs by Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard and Alabama until he heard something “different” at summer camp one year. Chris was introduced to worship music – a sound he had never heard before. Soon after, Chris made a promise that changed his life forever. “I was just so moved by this worship experience of worshipping God like that. I felt so free, so open to Him, and I felt like God was really speaking to me. I said, 'God, I don't know what to say to You, but I really feel like You are speaking to me and calling me for something, so I want to say to You, here's my whole life; whatever You want for the rest of my life. I want to give you every bit of me.'” Chris didn’t pray to be a musician nor that God would put him on a stage. “That was a real marking point in my life,” said Chris. “God never let me run from that.”  Chris wrote his first worship song at age 14 and was in a couple of garage bands in high school. He entered college planning to study physical therapy, but by the time he was a junior at Texas A&M University, he felt God’s calling to something else and did not pursue that career. “I started sensing that God had put this mantle on me because I didn’t know what was going on,” said Chris. “I didn’t know I was a worship leader.” In the mid-90s Chris spent time leading worship at the Dawson McAllister Youth Conferences, as well as at various camps around the state of Texas. After college, Chris continued to play and write songs, and in 1997, Louie Giglio (founder of Passion Conferences) asked if he would be interested in working with the Passion Conferences. Chris agreed and has played a key role ever since – leading worship for the Passion movement, a series of conferences bringing thousands of college kids together to worship the Lord. On top of that, millions of people around the world are singing the songs of the award-winning singer/songwriter every week at collegiate gatherings, worship services and concert settings. Chris reminds us in Romans 12 where Paul says we must present our bodies as living sacrifices, not our music nor our songs. “God has given us music to express ourselves…no other art form cuts to the soul so fast,” he says. “It grabs you; it makes you feel alive. When Jesus says to love God with all of your mind and your soul and your strength, music helps you do that. It gets to all of you.” PASSION CHURCH On May 11, 2008, Chris announced that he was leaving his church to start a new church in Atlanta, Georgia, with Louie Giglio (called Passion City Church). Louie confirmed this rumor on The Passion Podcast on June 27, 2008. Passion City Church held its first service on February 15, 2009 in Atlanta, Georgia, at The Tabernacle. Louie Giglio and his wife were members of North Point Community Church in Atlanta, Georgia, for 13 years until the founding of Passion City Church. There is no official staff of Passion City Church; however, among the core team are Louie and Shelley Giglio, Chris Tomlin and band, Matt and Beth Redman and Nathan and Christy Nockels, among others. HIS POSITION FOR OPPORTUNITY Grateful for these opportunities, Tomlin also feels an added weight of responsibility and concern for the human condition. “The more I live, the more I see that life is not fair. Around the world, I’ve been exposed to much poverty and sickness. I hear about what people are going through, and I realize that some are not as blessed as others. The world is full of discouragement. I think God wants to give us all great compassion for those...so I want to use my voice to write songs that serve as a reminder to people that Jesus’ life provides hope for us all. Not just in the good times, but in the bad times, as well. Hebrews says, ‘Therefore through Jesus let us continually offer a sacrifice of praise, the fruit of lips that praise his name and do not forget to do good and serve others, for which such things God is pleased,’” Chris continues. “I hope this music serves others. With worship music there is a revival. The spirit of God grows in people’s hearts. To worship him is not only to sing our hearts out to God but also to love and serve people and to meet people where they are. Hopefully I can give voice to some songs that help people do just that.” Chris hopes that his songs will be used in worship for a long time. “I want to write songs that last more than a few weeks on the radio,” Tomlin reflects. “I feel like God’s given me a gift to write songs for the average person that help them communicate their feelings to God… I hope they will be ones that bring people closer to God, so much so that they are sung long after I’m gone.”


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