AN NRT EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW
Chris Tomlin's Passion For Worldwide Love
NRT's senior editor Angel speaks with Chris Tomlin as he returns from his worldwide Passion tour. They talk about his latest album Hello Love, the stories behind the songs and some important tips for worship leaders.
 


Chris Tomlin is among the most well-known and influential artists in contemporary Christian music with six records, seven No. 1 radio singles, three Grammy nominations, 14 Dove Awards, one platinum and one gold album to his credit. The three-time Gospel Music Association male vocalist of the year has been graciously referred to by Time Magazine as "the most often sung artist anywhere."

With so many worldly distractions, itís easy to loose sight of whatís most important. Chris Tomlin recognizes this and desires to reacquaint us with the one fundamental element thatís become all too elusive--love.

This theme lays the foundation for Tomlinís fourth studio record for sixstepsrecords, Hello Love, and the continuation of what Tomlin believes is the direct calling for his musical talentó-creating songs for the church.

If you look at it a certain way, reintroducing oneself to love is exactly what weíre doing by entering the heart of worship. Tomlin hopes the purposeful way in which he and his compatriots have crafted this fresh set of songs will translate into the listenersí own set-upon journey to that heart.

NewReleaseTuesday.com's senior editor Angel, recently had the opportunity to speak with Chris, fresh off the Passion Worldwide Tour, and it was quickly apparent that Chris was encouraged to see a world hungry for God.

Hi, Chris. Thank you for joining us here at NewReleaseTuesday.com. Itís an honor and a pleasure to be interviewing you. Why donít we start off by talking about your latest release, Hello Love? What is the meaning behind the albumís title?

Thereís a song called "Love" on the record, which features the Watoto Childrenís Choir from Uganda. These beautiful kids are AIDS orphans. In Kampala, Uganda, there is an orphanage called Watoto, where most of the children have lost one or both parents to AIDS. The children have faced many hardships, yet theyíre just amazing kids! You hear them singing on the song "Love."

The idea behind Hello Love is portrayed in that song, thatís what life is about. Everything in life comes down to loveó-our relationships with others, our worship to God and our relationship with God is all about love. We love God because He first loved us. Jesus said, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, your mind, your soul and your strength, and love your neighbor as yourself." To me, itís not enough to just say that we love God; weíve got to go beyond that. Love is clearly demonstrated in our actions and how we take care of others, and God asks us to take care of His people. He wants us to care for His orphans and widows-óthe least of these-óthose who are sick or in prison, and the down and out. God wants us to love His people and thatís the heart behind it.

So, hopefully, this music is more than just 12 songs on a CD, but it inspires people to love God, and to love the people Heís created and cares so much about.

Even on the inside of the CD youíll find a web site weíve set up called onemillioncan.com. If people want to get involved, take the next step, and really love others-ónot just by saying it, but by really doing something about it-óone way is to go to www.onemillioncan.com. At this web site you can find out how to support some ministries that are doing amazing things around the world to help those in need.

Jesus reminds us to remember Him. In Matthew 25:40, He said, "I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me." "Love" is a beautiful song, and it captures the essence of Jesusí teachings and what Heís about. After I listened to it, I was curious to know what the Watoto Childrenís Choir is singing.

They're singing "O-kwa-ga-la-kwe, Ku-singa-byoo-na," in their native language, Luganda, which means "His love is the answer."

You recently wrapped up the final leg of the "Passion World Tour." Tell us about your experience on this journey.

It was an amazing trip. We went to 17 countries around the world! Throughout all the different cultures and languages, we saw a church united and we realized how small the world is. It just gives you a unique perspective that there is a world worshiping God and not just a movement in the United States. The world is huge and there are people who love God all over the world. We are all brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ, and His glory will not be stopped. There is a rising generation that is worshiping God, and they want to live for His glory and actively build the church. They have a strong faith. Itís just so encouraging, and I left each country inspired by these beautiful people.

The song "God Of This City," on your album Hello Love, is also the title track to the current Passion CD as well as the anthem of the "Passion World Tour." What was the inspiration behind this powerful song?

The lyrics in the chorus say: "Greater things have yet to come/And greater things are still to be done in this city," which is the idea behind the song. In every city we visited we put images of that city on a screen during the show, and you would see hope in the people. Imagine playing that song in Paris, France. God has done great things in that city over hundreds of years, but we believe greater things are still to come. In London, God has done great things and has risen up great movements of God, but we believe greater things are yet to come. In Kampala, Uganda, we believe greater things are still to come; God hasnít finished the story yet. Imagine singing that in Boston, Massachusettsó-what a place to sing that song!

In any city in the world and in any city in Americaó-even in Washington, D.C.ó-God is not finished writing the story, and He uses people to write His story.

There is a new generation of people coming up, and weíre saying: "Rise up into what God has given you and the responsibility that you now have to carry this Gospel. You are the light of the world!" Thatís the heart of the "Passion World Tour" and the heart behind the song, "God of This City."

That's such a dynamic illustration to God's never-ending work in our own personal lives and in the communities where we live. Tell us more about how this song came about.

When we were in Belfast, Ireland, a local band called Bluetree opened up for us. That night they played "God Of This City," and when I heard it I fell in love with it, so I asked the guys if I could get a copy of that song. God really put it on my heart that this was the perfect song for the next season of Passion and what we were going to do in the cities around the world. Then they told me the story of how they wrote it.

They were in Pattaya, Thailand, one of the top destinations in the world for sex tourism; itís a very dark place. Thereís prostitution going on like crazy! While they were doing ministry there and praying over the city, a guy who owned a bar/brothel approached them. "I hear you guys are in a band," he said. "If I can get music in my bar Iíd get more people in there, so do you guys want to come and play?" He had no idea what kind of music they played.

They told him, "Absolutely!" So here is a worship band from Ireland setting up in a brothel. Then they started to play worship songs for two hours and pray over the people. In the middle of their set, God just gave them this song, literally right onstage while they were singing, these lyrics spontaneously came out: "Youíre the God of this city/Youíre the King of these people/Youíre the Lord of this nation." They were speaking prophetically over the people. What a powerful thing!

In the midst of that world, in the midst of that darkness-óyouíre the light in the darkness, youíre the hope to the hopeless, youíre the peace to the restless. Greater things have yet to come, and greater things are still to be done in this city. What an amazing moment! Iíve seen a video of what happened. They had a guy capture it all on video, and itís powerful!

On another note, thatís what the church should be about. Unfortunately, we have so many people who are hung up on so many things that they never would have taken the opportunity. Theyíd be like, "No, I canít go into one of those places!" But isnít that what Jesus was about? It was the people who were down-and-out and the people who were caught up in so much stuff that really loved Jesus, and loved being around Him. Jesus was so relatable, yet I feel like sometimes in our culture weíre no longer relatable to other people. How beautiful that the band members of Bluetree stepped up in that moment and God began to speak through them. Even in the Scriptures, God says that at the right time the Holy Spirit will speak through you, and He will give you the words to say.

Thank you for sharing such a beautiful message. You've been a worship leader for most of your musical career. Can you paint a picture of what worship means to you?

Worship is at the heart of love. Itís a relationship of love. I believe everyone-ówhether they are believers or not-ówas created to worship God. There is a longing in every heart to worship, but sometimes we put that desire on other things instead of God. We may worship material possessions, success, or people. But there is a longing inside of every heart to worship God, and God has placed that inside of us.

To worship something is to respond to something for its greatness. When we see just how great God is and what Heís done for us, we will respond to Him with our love. Worship is a big word, but it really means love. Worship can be expressed musically, but it can also be defined by the way we live our lives, and by the way we demonstrate our love to others.

What are some of the older songs or hymns that have stuck with you through the years?

I grew up singing a lot of hymns and love the lyrical richness of those songs. The hymn, "My Saviorís Love," or some people know it as "How Marvelous," is a song that I love to sing as well as "On Christ the Solid Rock I Stand." I love the way the lyrics to "It Is Well With My Soul" were written, and probably my favorite song ever is "O Holy Night," the Christmas hymn. Every time I hear it, Iím just floored! So these songs move me and definitely inspire what I do. Anybody who has been around me for the last ten years knows this music has always played an instrumental part in what I do.

On the last record, See the Morning, youíll find the hymns "Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone)" and "How Can I Keep From Singing." Off the The Noise We Make album is the hymn "The Wonderful Cross," and on this album, Hello Love, is the song "All The Way My Savior Leads Me." This has always been a part of who I am.

What advice would you give to aspiring lyricists and songwriters? [A question submitted by LauraCC on the NRT forums.]

So much of my lyrics come from Scripture; Iím so inspired by the Word. For lyricists who are writing songs, especially for worship, I would really encourage them to get a group of people around them who they can trust to look at their lyrics and make sure theyíre writing it accurately. I personally send my lyrics to people who know much more about the Scriptures than I do. These people have a background in theology that I can go to and say: "Hey, Iíve written this song. I want to make sure itís biblically correct and that Iím saying the right thing." Of course, thatís important to do. I also love co-writing. I love having a circle of people around me I can trust, people I can bring ideas to that will help make the song better.

When youíre writing, donít be lazy! I think the lazy thing to do is say: "Here it is! I just wrote this. Thatís the way God gave me this song." This is one of the funniest things I ever heard my friend, Matt Redman, say (especially when you hear the song and itís not very good): "Well, maybe God gave you that song because He didnít want it anymore!" [Both laugh.]

The truth is people just get lazy. But Iím always going back and rewriting my songs over and over again. Iím continuously thinking: "How can I make this better? Is there a way this verse can be expressed more clearly?" Iím never just satisfied with "Here it is!" Iím constantly trying to improve my music! I believe God has given us the ability to do it, and we should do the very best we can.

Chris, it was great talking to you. Before we go, is there anything else youíd like to say to your fans?

Iíd love our fans to check out our upcoming tour dates at www.christomlin.com. Weíre heading out in January 2009 on the "Hello Love Tour" with special guests Israel Houghton and New Breed. Itís a nationwide tour which begins January 22 and runs through April 9. If weíre coming to a city near you, weíd love to see you at a show. Itís going to be an amazing night!

Angel, a concert photographer and writer, frequently conducts artist interviews for NRT. She loves Christian music and currently lives in FL with her husband.

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