Tom Inglis: The Californian worship leader and influential teacher

Tuesday 1st August 1995

One of the world's most influential teachers on the theology and practice of praise and worship as well as a worship leader/vocalist on several successful worship albums is TOM INGLIS. Tom spoke at length about his life and vision to Tony Cummings.

Tom Inglis
Tom Inglis

The problem for many Christians is that worship is something we do on a Sunday morning. There is little or no grasp of what the Bible teaches about worship and little or no experience of the ever-deepening intimacy with God that a 'life of worship' brings. Responding to this poverty of understanding and experience in the Church is the ministry of Tom Inglis. Tom's Psalmody International, with its regular teaching courses in dozens of different countries, has been the means of leading tens of thousands of believers into fresh understanding and experience of worship and through that to God.

Says Tom; "Our heavenly Father wants his Church to be worshippers as a lifestyle unto himself. We must dare to believe this is possible and make it happen. We have no choice to fulfil the objective and satisfy our Father's heart's desire. The Church, wherever it may be found on earth, will come into a lifestyle of worship. The objective of Psalmody International is to help the Church to implement the lifestyle."

Tom Inglis was born in Hamilton, just outside Glasgow. In 1963 his parents decided to emigrate. "It was a toss of a coin between Australia and South Africa but as the South Africa papers came back first we ended up there." Tom was at first far from happy with his country of adoption. "The first two years I hated it because nobody could understand me, my accent was so broad. But we never had enough money to send me back."

Tom found consolation in music, namely a high school band. "We became one of the best known bands in Johannesburg. I was singing and playing in the clubs, stuff like that." Another passion was self-education. In between bouts of backpacking to Europe, Tom studied and took degrees. In Britain Tom met a girl, Barbara, whom he married. While in Scotland they got a letter from Barbara's mother asking the couple to return to South Africa.

Remembers Tom, "The letter said that Barbara's younger sister had met this young man who was kind of freaky and could we come back and straighten the thing out because they were talking about marriage. Apparently he was talking about Jesus all the time and now the daughter had gone the same way. I was very strong on the science side and I said, I'll sort the thing out, don't worry.' So we came back and I met this young man and I talked for four hours with him. A whole crowd of them were there, all these Christians, and I argued for four hours from my scientific perspective that the Christian thing was a whole load of junk. But after I walked out of there I had to admit I liked this young guy. He was a sportsman, a young executive, only 24 years old and one of the managers at a large South African company. These Christians wouldn't argue, they just kept quoting Scripture. So I said to my mother-in-law, 'Look, I like him.'

"Anyway, they got married and then I went and did another degree, my Masters degree. We used to go over there every Sunday for lunch and come four o'clock, 4.30 the two of 'em would go in the kitchen and make the tea. Then they would come through with the tray and say, 'Would you like to come to church?' We'd say, 'No way.' This went on for about a year. Then one day he came through and, it must have been God, said casually to me, 'Would you like to come to church?' We said no and he said, There's music in the church,' and something rung inside me. So I said, 'Oh, what kind of music is it?' He said there're guitars and drums and keyboards. I responded, 'Well, it must be terrible stuff, man.' So he says, 'Why don't you come and listen to it?' So we went along. It was a little Assembly Of God church. There were about 30 or 40 people there and we walked in during the worship, we were a little late. I somehow knew there was somebody alive that these people were singing to, there was a reality there. I think I got converted through the worship. When the preacher preached, I don't even remember what he spoke about, but he made an invitation and I immediately put my hand up and so did my wife, and we got saved that night.

"The people in that church were very musical people and one of them was a famous singer, Dave Ornellas, and we just clicked. And there was another very accomplished jazz pianist who'd been saved. So there was a band, almost, there for me to join. The pastor was musical and he asked if I'd like to get involved with the music. I said I'd love to and so there it was. This was in December 1977 and so we started this little band. Amazing things started happening in that little church. God anointed this band to such a state that people were phoning to find out who was ministering in music, not who was preaching. If it was us they would bring friends and the church started to grow.

"Then the pastor, Derek Adcock, was invited to speak at a big AOG conference in Rhodesia. We didn't have a name and Derek had said we needed one. So like musicians, we were falling about the floor trying to think of a name. The pastor came out of the band practice and asked had we got a name? When I said no he said, 'Why don't you call yourself the Rhema Band? I'd never heard the name Rhema, never heard of Brother Hagen and the Rhema stream of churches. We asked what Rhema meant and he said it meant the spoken word of God, so we said, 'Rhema Band, it's got a good ring.' We went up to that conference in Rhodesia as the Rhema Band and from there we became quite well known in the Assemblies Of God circles.

"Then the next year the Bible teacher Ray MacCauley came back from America and asked, 'what are you guys doing?' So I tell him, 'I'm with this group called the Rhema Band.' And he says, 'What! I've just come back to start a church called the Rhema Church. The church is only six weeks old.' He says, 'Do you mind if I come and visit you guys?' So he came over and he started preaching to us. I'd never heard the words of teaching before. I'll never forget, my wife and I just couldn't sleep when we went to bed that night; we were just talking about the principles of faith and God's word. I'd never heard it like that before. To cut a long story short I was the leader of the band and I just felt that we had to make that decision to join Ray. So what happened was the whole band basically left the church and joined Ray.

"By this time Ray's church was only about three months old and it had grown to about 150 to 200 people and when the Rhema Band came and added a different dimension to it in terms of worship and praise. I believe we brought a level of excellence that I don't think was general in South Africa at that time. I became a music director at Rhema and one of the assistant pastors with Ray. I was one of the first guys who'd been employed in the church. I had my own business and I gave that up and started with Ray. As you may know the church growth was incredible. In '85 we were probably about 7,000 members. Today we're talking about 18,000 in the church, but I think conservatively you're looking at 13,000 maybe 14,000 members. In 1983 we were becoming recognised as a great worship band worldwide. We would get all the big American speakers coming over from the States, you know the kind of faith-orientated guys, and they were blown away by the praise and worship. Ray sent me to the States to look at the music thing and the worship thing and I came back and said to him, 'Ray, I think we're on a cutting edge of something here in South Africa.'"

Suddenly and unexpectedly something was to happen in Tom Inglis' life which was to greatly expand his perception of his ministry. "In '83 God spoke to me so clearly. The Lord said to me, this is not what I'm after.' I thought we had everything going for us. I said, 'God, what are you not after?' The Lord said, 'What you're giving me is not what I'm after.' And I said, 'It seems to be the best that's around.' He says, 'I'm after the lifestyle of worship. I never asked for this. It's not in the Word.' This word would not go away. I went to sleep at night. I woke up the next morning. It would not go away. I couldn't get rid of it."

Having received the revelation from God, Tom had the difficult task of understanding it! "I went to Ray and said, 'God's been talking to me about a lifestyle of worship for the Church.' And Ray says, 'Well, what does that mean, Tom?' All I could say was, 'I don't know! But there's something inside me that won't go away and God has told me I've got to teach it!' So Ray said, 'Well, Tom, I trust you to do it. Be bold and just announce it and go for it.' God had said to me, 'My people have got to be taught the lifestyle principles of worship; that the born again experience does not make you an automatic worshipper.' We've believed the 20 minute thing before someone preaches is what God is after. God had told me he'd never been after that. And so I started putting some principles together.

"In 1983 I announced it. I was going to teach the lifestyle principles of worship in the church. I told them God had told me to teach it over a long period of time so the people get the principles long enough for the principles to become lifestyle practice. So we announced it for three months. In 1983 I got about 100 people come but it was mostly Rhema people from the church. And I taught them the principles and I says, 'Okay, try these little things when you go back home." The Lord said to me, 'Do it again in 1984, only do it for a longer period.' By this time I was getting more notes together. It was just photocopies, hand written notes that I had. I did it again in '84 and after six months I started getting very positive feed back. People said, 'My life has been dramatically changed.'

"In 1985 the Lord said to me, 'It's for the nations. I'm going to release you to the nations. Start to teach leaders, bring leaders in and start to give them the principles so that they can duplicate this in local churches.' So we invited pastors and in 1985 we get four or five denominations which was a significant thing for Rhema because at that stage we were at the peak of rejection. Everybody was rejecting the whole Rhema thing. It was considered a cult by some. And I saw sitting there folk from four or five denominations which was unique for Rhema."

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Reader Comments

Posted by Myrna Tumaliwan in Philippines @ 02:24 on Sep 27 2019

Since I found this Tom Inglis Father We declare. almost every day whenever I am in the office and at home. I play this song and I love the song too much. When singing this song I can express from the heart too of my everlasting love to our Father God, to son Jesus Christ and to the Holy Ghost. I see Jesus once in my life at age 20 for 13yrs continuous kneeling down to Him and just two years ago I decided to serve God in the little way I can serve Him in the Church. Still finding more songs of Tom Inglis in the youtube. Thanks for the articles you wrote here. It was a great help to bring myself closer to the Lord.

Posted by Abraham in Zambia @ 07:36 on Jul 18 2019

I am really blessed to read through this back ground of you great worshipper of the most high God. May God bless you your worship songs have left great foot prints that can never be erased.

Posted by Dwayne Nelson in Muscat (Oman) @ 05:02 on Apr 2 2019

It was indeed a blessing to read about your past,pastor Tom and i'm a great fan off your music and just love the album "we are one" God bless you and your ministry.

Posted by Cathy Palmer in PA @ 13:51 on Oct 29 2018

Thank you Tom for creating the album "We are one". It is being used in the Philadelphia area as we pray for revival in our nation. This has been a burden on my heart for 10 weeks and so your album propels us into interceding for our beautiful nation. I would like to send a tithe to your ministry , could someone contact me and tell me where to send it. The Lord teaches us to pay our tithe to the ministries that are feeding us! You are such a work!

Posted by Ruby Wills in USA @ 22:54 on Jul 20 2018

Pastor Tom,am so impressed with your gospel music. My spirit is always lifted whenever I listen to it.I love it.

Posted by Abraham in Ndola, Zambia @ 12:42 on Jun 26 2018

I was listening to Tom's songs from WE ARE ONE album he and his Hosanna colleagues produced in 1993. The song 'Come To The River' brought me very exciting memories. Where is this man of God Tom Inglis? Is he still alive? Abraham

Reply by Olu Mayorh in Nigeria @ 05:28 on Jul 19 2019

God Bless You Daddy.

Daddy, I don't know if there's anyway you can come to Nigeria. My church choir has sang your song for an international convention program so well. And I'm blessed to read about you sir.


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Posted by Tzar9ja in Nigeria @ 05:17 on Jul 1 2017

I was mightily blessed reading this!

Posted by Tony in Boston @ 16:10 on Dec 16 2016

Thank you for your commitment to lead others to worship as you have. You will never know how much your Praise to our Father has affected my life and brought me to that burning bush, throne of grace, that mountain, His dwelling place. May the Lord continue to fill you with His grace as you honor our King of Kings. Love you my brother

Posted by Moira Donaldson in Montrose Scotland @ 18:32 on Nov 17 2015

Hi Tom
I am so thrilled to read that the Lord is using you mightily.
I feel honoured to have run with you in South Africa sharing what the Lord had revealed to you. (I used to be in East London, then known as Moira van der Schyff).
Do you have any refresher courses in Aberdeenshire, Scotland? We have been in the UK for nearly 15 years.
Trust the family are all doing well.
Love you with the love of the Lord.
God bless you.

Posted by Noah Gungte Daspan in Nigeria @ 17:48 on Aug 12 2015

God bless you richly, Pastor Tom. I am blessed to tears and am willing to be part of this divine mandate and noble vision.

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