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If you're reading this, you may have been wondering: is Chris Tomlin theologically sound? Should our church use Chris Tomlin's music in worship services?
We received an email suggestion from a reader named Karen. Thank you for the recommendation, Karen! We seek to address this topic as fairly as possible.
At Sound in Worship, we want to portray artists as they truly are. Our goal is to provide fair analysis on artists so that Christians can be informed about who they're listening to or whose songs they're singing in worship services. We've written several posts on why we think that is really important.
We want worship leaders to be able to come and get a fair representation of artists. With that being said, it goes without saying that this approach applies consistently when writing about Chris Tomlin.
Chris Tomlin is a highly accomplished Christian music artist. According to Wikipedia, who cited CNN, his songs were used 3.12 million times in churches in 2012. He has a huge influence on Christian worship music.
Some of his most popular songs, according to Billboard, are:
"Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone)"
"How Great Is Our God"
"I Will Follow"
"Whom Shall I Fear (God Of Angel Armies)"
When looking into an artist's work, we often look at the lyrics that the artist writes. With Tomlin, we've found no glaring issues lyrically. While he does cover a fair amount of original songs, the ones he has written seem to be sound.
Addition: Here is an example of words I'm almost certain you know:
"The splendor of a King, clothed in majesty
Let all the Earth rejoice
All the Earth rejoice
He wraps himself in light
And darkness tries to hide
And trembles at His voice
Trembles at His voice
How great is our God, sing with me
How great is our God, and all will see
How great, how great is our God"
With that said, we have not read every single lyric he's written, but I have personally (most likely you as well) heard many of his songs several times. They're catchy and widely known.
Chris Tomlin helped start Passion City Church in Atlanta, GA, which began in 2009 and is led by Louie Giglio. This church shares the name of the conferences started by Giglio in 1997. Passion conferences are very popular among college students and young adults.
According to this Wikipedia article, Giglio speaks at the conference often. They've also had speakers:
John Piper, Francis Chan, Andy Stanley, Beth Moore, Judah Smith, Christine Caine, Carl Lentz, the late Ravi Zacharias, Matt Chandler, and others.
That is a very wide variety of pastors and speakers, some of which would be considered controversial amongst certain camps. We have our convictions about some of those speakers, and will possibly share in other articles (if we see it as an opportunity to be helpful to the church).
Passion featured Tomlin for years, and they've featured some other interesting artists as well. They include Hillsong United, Jesus Culture, and others. To this date, we have written about these artists in two articles: Should My Church Sing Bethel Music Songs for Worship? and Contemporary Worship in Truth (Not Trend).
Needless to say, it is concerning that this conference and church were willing to partner with Bethel Church's Jesus Culture at the very least. You can find more details on both in the links above.
Tomlin has worked with and has featured Kim Walker-Smith of Jesus Culture on a song called "First Love". He has also partnered in events with Matt Maher who is a professing Roman Catholic.
Chris Tomlin is also involved in his own charity work, which uses part of the title of one of his songs. His charity is called "Angel Armies".
This is a quote from the charity's website:
"There are 4 million children who will touch the child welfare system in America each year, and for a long time, Chris Tomlin and his wife, Lauren, dreamed about ways the Church could be a solution to this crisis. In 2018, that vision came: Angel Armies."
Another quote from his website provides more detail:
"We are all called to care. We all have something to give. And when we all come together, the collective impact is bigger than we could dream. The crisis is big and the battlefront is widespread, but we have been equipped to fight. We are responding to the words of Jesus, “When you did it to the least of these, you did it to me".
As stated above, we want to present artists fairly, and I've tried to do so by stating facts and providing details so that you can make informed decisions. I have never personally met Chris Tomlin. He may have explanations for the above that could shed more light on those partnerships. My hope is that he would renounce the practices of Bethel Church and others.
It is worth noting that he has had a long career in worship music. He has had positive impacts on brothers and sisters in Christ through leading worship. I'm not here to claim that he has been an unsound worship leader for many years or anything of that nature.
A topic for another article could be centered around these thoughts:
Why are certain artists so willing to perform at events with bands like Bethel Music and Jesus Culture?
What are their motives in this?
How much do artists know about each other?
Are their frequent performances with certain artists an indirect endorsement?
It would be great to find some clarity on those issues. It seems that the "Passion" types of events host such a wide variety of artists. It's an interesting subject to ponder.
With this being said, I would suggest that you approach using his music with prayer. This applies to any artist you're using for worship services and your own listening. We're not the final authority. We just hope to provide helpful analysis because worship music is important. Your thoughts are welcome.
Addition: And your thoughts came in! We are not saying to not use any of his music or anything like that. We were not accused of this either, but just to be clear. A faithful commenter mentioned that he has covered songs from solid artists. How awesome would it be to see him tour and work with artists such as Sovereign Grace, CityAlight, and even lesser known artists who are sound. You guys add value when you comment on these articles. Thanks so much!
Pray for these artists as well. We ALL need prayer.
You can find songs and artists we recommend on our Playlist page.
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