BETWEEN THE LINER NOTES
Chris Tomlin: The Hope of Dawn
By Jennifer E. Jones
In 2005, it seemed like you couldn’t go to church or listen to the radio without hearing his songs. “How Great Is Our God” and “Holy Is the Lord” joined along side “Enough” and “Famous One” as worship staples for the new church generation. Not to mention his last album, Arriving, going Gold, earning him five Dove awards to call his own… Apparently it’s good to be Chris Tomlin.
When he calls CBNmusic from his home in Austin, Texas, he’s humbled and thankful for the past year.
“It’s the gift that God’s given me… It’s definitely God’s favor on the songs,” Tomlin says. “There’s no marketing plan that can do what only God can do and put the songs in people’s hearts. I’m grateful for this season of life. I know that it comes from God, and we’re just trying to hold on.”
For more than a decade now, Tomlin’s been on the road making music but it’s only been in the last five years that he went from nameless songwriter to America’s worship leader.
“It’s crazy because it’s nothing we’ve been doing differently,” Tomlin says. “I’ve been traveling for the last 14 to 15 years, just chasing my songs around. The beautiful thing of it is the kind of songs I write aren’t about the artist. A lot of these songs, hopefully, become the people’s songs. Hopefully they become the soundtrack for their lives and their worship to God. That’s why I write them.”
Now he has See the Morning, his fifth album on sixsteps/Sparrow Records. It comes in the midst of many recent albums with similar themes such as Open by Jason Morant and Between the Dreaming and the Coming True by Bebo Norman. They’re all projects that speak about hope in the midst of tragedy. While it wasn’t his intention, that’s how Tomlin’s songs panned out too.
“For me there’s never a theme for the record. I wish I were more planned that way,” he confesses. “The songs started to come together in different ways and places. They come over many years. I try to write a lot of songs, and I find the right ones for the record. When you see how they come together, it’s pretty crazy.”
Tomlin truly sees the heart behind his latest songs, “Made to Worship” and “How Can I Keep From Singing.”
“The hope that you see there is not just the theme of my record but it’s the theme of worship itself,” he says. “We live in a world that’s just not fair. It comes at you with hard times. There’s not anybody who’s immune to difficult times. But that’s what worship is. It’s not just when everything goes great. It’s in the struggles.”
Tomlin looked to God’s Word for examples of praise in the pain. He found the Bible full of references that inspired his music.
“In Scriptures, a lot of that is symbolized by the valleys, the desert life and the dry land. I feel like we stay there most of the time in life. That is where you sense the realness of God – when He’s all you got. It’s not by your own power and struggle. That’s where the worship comes out of.”
So what does worship have to do with “The Morning”?
“Morning is such a symbol of hope -- a new day. A light has come and pierced the darkness. Though you’re in a dark time of life, the morning is coming. You see in the Psalms where weeping last for a night but joy comes in the morning. In Lamentations, morning by morning your mercies are new every day. Great is thy faithfulness. That’s the heartbeat. That’s what I’m hoping people grab on to. The darkness has been here for a little while, but behold, a light has dawned. I hope when people put this record in, that somehow they sense that light.”
Tomlin admits that praising God through trials is a lot easier said than done.
“I’ve definitely been in those times. I know there are situations where it’s really hard and you don’t understand. Those times in life you’re blindsided. You have to make a choice. We can choose to blame God or we can choose to say, ‘God, I know from Scripture that my faith is real. I know You’re real. I know You’re somehow in this, and something’s going to come out of this.’ You can say like Job, ‘Lord, You give. You take away. Blessed be Your name.’ It’s one thing to read it; it’s another thing to really say it when something dear has been taken away from you.”
Help through stormy weather also comes from good friends, and Tomlin knows exactly who he can lean on when things get rocky.
“Definitely one of the closest people in my life and the guy who’s really been a constant source of encouragement to me is Louie Giglio. He’s been a good friend. We’ve been doing ministry together for over 10 years. It’s been amazing to see how God has formed our relationship.”
He adds, “John David Walt. He’s a friend of mine. He’s actually at Asbury Seminary in Kentucky. Then I have a great church here in Austin. I love my church.”
The encouragement of real friends has been one of the things that’s kept Tomlin grounded in the midst of the struggle and the triumph of a thriving music career.
“There are so many people who you go through real life with,” he says. “That’s what is so good, that you can live with the people that really, really know you. That’s one of the reasons why we’re part of a church. If you’re just out on the road and you’re playing these concerts all the time, you lose that sense of community. It’s good at home to have a real family.
“I heard someone say this quote: ‘I want to invest my life in the people that are going to be at my funeral.’ That’s so true. Those are the people who mean the most.”
See the Morning (2006)
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