Chris Tomlin: The top selling US worship leader talked to Cross Rhythms

Friday 28th September 2007

On his recent visit to Stoke-on-Trent, top worship leader CHRIS TOMLIN was quizzed by Chris Mountford

Chris Tomlin
Chris Tomlin

America's top selling worship leader Chris Tomlin made a lightning visit to the UK on 16th August when he played at Stoke-on-Trent's Victoria Hall. Cross Rhythms broadcaster Chris Mountford met up with this most unlikely of recording stars before his concert and threw him some questions. Here's a transcript of their chat.

Chris M: I hear you had a few problems getting into the UK?

Chris: Yeah, it was pretty funny. That was a first for us. We've never been detained at immigration before. I guess we got the wrong guy at customs. They held us for about four hours and initially said we can't come to the UK; we can't come in until we get the right paper work and stuff. Then they gave us extension after extension and finally last minute we got the right paperwork. So we played last night in Belfast and here we are tonight in Stoke. We're excited.

Chris M: You're from Texas. Are you still based there?

Chris: Yes, I still live in Austin, Texas.

Chris M: Tell us a bit about when you first learned to play a guitar.

Chris: I was a bored little kid and when I was about nine, 10 years old dad started teaching me during the summer. I started picking it up, really off country songs. Actually my dad plays in a little country band and I started learning some country songs and I started loving music. I taught myself to play piano after that. I had this really intense love for music and a passion for it. Probably when I was 13, 14, I could sense that God was really leading me to follow him more closely. I didn't know it would be music or anything like that - I just really sensed God starting to do something in my life. I had no idea God would put that together with music. So it's pretty incredible.

Chris M: How did you come to develop into songwriting?

Chris: I loved writing songs even when I started employment. I tried to write songs - they were all horrible! They were really bad but, I still tried to write them. Then I started realising that God had given me a gift to connect with people just through the songs. I would enjoy it when people sang with me in church. I didn't even know what that was. I didn't know what worship leading was, I didn't know what worship music was. But I really enjoyed it when people engaged with me and not just listened to me sing. So I started trying to write songs in a way that would help people sing to God. It started from a really simple place - just sensing something from God and responding back to him. I've always felt the sensitivity that God has given me a gift to connect with people and so I want to write songs that help people express themselves to God.

Chris M: How has it developed from there to where you are now travelling around the world and your songs are known by so many people?

Chris: A big part of it was being involved with this movement called Passion. Louie Giglio, who is head of this movement, was the one who really started believing in my songs. We were doing this little college worship event, well it's not little actually, it's pretty massive now, but this college worship movement in America called Passion and a lot of my songs were used there. This became a platform for these songs. I now feel like I'm chasing my songs around, you know - the songs have gone way past me - and that's beautiful. It's not the personality but the songs that mean so much to people. Whether they know I wrote them or not - what does that matter? It's incredible just to play these songs and watch people rise up. Like, 'Ah that's my song.' That's real humbling and quite an honour to carry. So the last several years have been quite an explosion of where we've been; just awed at what God is doing. Beginning to travel all over the world with these songs is just incredible.

Chris M: Can you explain what Passion is?

Chris: It's kind of a movement among college students. It's a little over 10 years old now and the heart of it has been for college aged students, university aged students aged 18 to 24. Basically it's based in the verse of Isaiah 26:8 - Everything you see with passion. A 26:8 generation and at the heart of passion is this verse - Isaiah 26:8 'Yes Lord, walking in the way of your truth we wait eagerly for you, for your name and renown are the desire of our souls.' And music is a part of that; teaching is a part of that; but the biggest heart of that is that people would live for the name and renown of God. That's what we're here for and who we're doing the conference for. Actually next year we are doing a world tour, we're actually coming to London - the first time in taking Passion overseas, out of the borders of the United States - so we're really excited about that. We're going all over the world with this conference. It's gonna be really something. You can find out more at

Chris M: As well as all the opportunities that you have had around the world, I understand that you are still very much plugged into local church.

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Reader Comments

Posted by Candia Emmanuel in Uganda @ 10:21 on Oct 20 2007

wow, I have often loved and continually do listen to Chris' songs. I have kept wondering what makes his songs tick. This has been a glance into the 'mystery' of the songs and the power in them. Thank you Chris. Luv ya

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