Chris Tomlin – How Great Is Our God

June 24, 2010 | Get free updates of new posts here

There is this weird love/hate/love relationship between worship leaders and Chris Tomlin in the church today. I’m not sure if it’s that we love his songs but hate his popularity, love his songwriting but hate his (perceived) simplicity, love his songs but hate his success – I don’t know. There are lots of blogs, articles, websites out there dedicated to tearing down Chris and his shallow ministry – I was sent one again earlier this week and reminded at how we seem to be so, so willing to grab at any piece of inadequacy to try and tear apart someone’s success.

Listen, I’m no rah-rah cheerleader for Chris Tomlin but I do know this: more often than not, if I do a Chris Tomlin song with our church they are singing their hearts out for the glory of God. As a worship leader, what more could I ask for? Why do I care whether the last word of each line rhymes? Why do I care whether the melody is simple or not? Why do I care whether his range is three steps too high for any normal male to sing? πŸ™‚

All I care is that I am putting words in the mouths of the people of this church which give God glory, stir the hearts of people toward Christ and proclaim the gospel to those who don’t know Him. If it takes famous songs, unknown songs, songs you’ve heard on the radio or songs you’re writing in your basement, I don’t care – I’m going to find a way to get my people to sing them.

As I was reading that article this week which talked about the absolute shame of Chris’ writing, someone sent me another link. This time it was a video of Chris and his band leading “How Great Is Our God.” If your church is like ours, you’ve sung that song a million times and you’ve probably questioned whether or not you should actually sing it half of the times that you did. But.. give yourself a few minutes and watch this video. Hear the song again for the first time, if you can. I know that’s what I did when I watched it earlier this week.


Forget, if you can, that it’s Chris Tomlin who wrote that song. Imagine it was (insert your favourite songwriter here) or someone from your church or someone from your family. Wouldn’t you be on your knees thanking God that He had delivered that song to the writer and now you are able to share that song with your church? That was honestly the response I had this week when I watched that video.. God, thank You for Chris Tomlin, for his talent, for his dedication, for his willingness and eagerness to see the church give You praise.

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  • Reply Charlie June 24, 2010 at 8:46 am

    Very well said Chris. Great perspective on the impact his songs have had on the church.

  • Reply Mark Warnock June 24, 2010 at 9:13 am

    Great word, Chris. Tomlin’s work has been incredibly personally helpful to MY worship, quite apart from my church. I’m waking up to “Awakening” many mornings now, and it helps me straight into God’s presence.

    Here’s the grace of God: He takes a shrimpy little dude from Texas and uses him to write these amazingly powerful songs that help the entire church worship.

    Praise the Lord.

  • Reply Carey Nieuwhof June 24, 2010 at 9:23 am

    So true Chris. So true. Thank you!

  • Reply Ryan Egan June 24, 2010 at 9:44 am

    Chris – thanks so much for your great and concise words on this topic. I’ve had and heard similar struggles/concerns in the past as well but one thing is absolutely certain: his music is singable (in the right key :-)) and full of truth that’s simple for people to grasp.

    Thanks again for this.

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  • Reply Amy June 24, 2010 at 9:59 am

    Beautiful. Nothing better than being in church when the ENTIRE congregation is praising and singing to Him. Not simply watching a “performance” where no one is engaged but the song is new, different, cool and fun for the band to play. A great post, Chris.

  • Reply michael krahn June 24, 2010 at 11:24 am

    So right…

    That piece that Stackhouse did on Tomlin a while back was absolutely shameful.

    The problem with most worship songs is NOT simplicity, it’s singability. Unique melodies and song structures are fun to listen to but when a congregation is subjected to it, more often than not the song is rejected by silent majority.

    If you’re a songleader, you know the feeling. The question is why do you keep doing songs that people can’t sing as a congregation? Isn’t that the point of congregational singing?

  • Reply Jeff Somers June 24, 2010 at 11:26 am

    Sounds like a familiar conversation somehow πŸ˜‰ Good stuff.

  • Reply Tory June 25, 2010 at 2:20 am

    I’m one of those really difficult people. I don’t naturally enjoy singing anymore. (it’s a long story) I suppose I need to learn to sing/worship anyways, because I’m sure there are Biblical reasons and commands to do so, but I generally just listen and watch during singing part of church.
    Anyways, my point is I generally am a spectator instead of a participant.

    I’m going to be really honest here and it’s okay; I know I’m wrong, but I often find worship difficult and inauthentic. How can I come on Sunday and sing that He is everything, all my desire is to serve and worship Him when I really don’t find my life reflecting that? I look around me, at people so into worship and devotion to God, raising their hands high, singing loudly of their love for Him, and I think that statistically, we can’t all be that devoted to Him. I hope we are, but I wonder.

    I pay close attention to words. Lyrics mean something to me, more than a catchy melody or unique sound. Because of that, I really am so critical of songs that place more value on the perspective of the singer than the glory and worship of God. Songs that are more about the singer’s (my/our) experience than about who God is and His greatness.

    As for Chris Tomlin, I had to google to figure out which songs are “his”, so obviously I have no bias towards or against him. When i figured out what songs he wrote, I will admit, I like many of them.

    Even though I say I don’t participate in worship, there is something drawing me to it. Last week at church we had a guest worship leader that sang songs that I knew and even really loved. He was a musician and what really came through was not only that he was supremely talented, but also that he loved God. I did participate. I’ve been to concerts where I felt the same way; drawn into worship; almost compelled; did not want to miss a second of it.

    Maybe there is hope for me yet.

  • Reply michael krahn June 25, 2010 at 9:55 am


    You say: “As for Chris Tomlin, I had to google to figure out which songs are β€œhis”, so obviously I have no bias towards or against him. When i figured out what songs he wrote, I will admit, I like many of them.”

    This was my experience about three years ago. I had been unplugged from worship music for a number of years and just didn’t care for it at all. But I would hear a song every now and then that would wake me up.

    I kept a list then eventually asked someone more knowledgeable about the list. They immediately picked out the common thread. They were all Chris Tomlin songs.

    That’s a great way to discover a God-gifted artist.

    • Reply Kristen July 18, 2010 at 2:32 pm

      Thanks for sharing that experience πŸ™‚ Chris Tomlin songs affect me like no other music in this world. I feel God speaking to me through His music and it has the power to truly bring me into a place of worship no matter where I have been or what I’m going through at the time. God uses Him in such great ways and I’m so glad to see stories about that from people such as yourself.
      Glad to see you looking for ways back into worship and I hope it continues πŸ™‚ God bless πŸ™‚

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  • Reply Ben Harapiak June 25, 2010 at 2:07 pm

    I remember a few years back a co-worker at my previous ministry was asking me about what line of songs we did at our church. I was perplexed by the question, so I asked for clarification to which they replied, “Well we do mostly Hillsongs, some other churches mostly follow Chris Tomlin, some like Matt Redman songs…..” and on and on. The thought bothered me that we could ever get to a point where its more important who wrote the songs than what the lyrics said, but I think it speaks to this issue. I am a fan of Chris Tomlin and I have been since the first time I heard one of his songs, and yet I have maybe 3 songs of his that I have as part of our current list of “regulars” in our multigenerational worship services. (we de-tomlinize them by bringing them down to a singable key) I’ve had to learn to understand that just because a song can bring me to tears as I’m driving on the highway with it playing on my stereo doesn’t mean it will necessarily resonate with an entire congregation on a Sunday morning. Worship leading needs to be coupled with constant prayer for discernment so that we don’t get caught up in these silly battles about who wrote what. I am thankful for Chris Tomlin and any other artist who chooses to share their songs of praise with the rest of us, but as I discern whether an individual song will work in my specific congregation, I must ask first and foremost whether the song honors the living God according to the truth found in scripture, and second whether the congregation will be able to pick up the tune.

  • Reply Juli June 25, 2010 at 7:28 pm

    Wow! Church singing and worshipers engaged in the moment one thing but to experience Chris Tomlin live at Verizon amphitheater Good Friday services 2 years in a row now, with several thousand singing at the tops of their voices. I think I have seen God smiling.

    • Reply Kristen July 18, 2010 at 2:35 pm

      I was there too! And just got the chills to see your comment πŸ™‚
      I truly felt the presence of God in that amphitheater. I love Chris Tomlin but when it comes to his music it’s not about him, it’s ALL about giving God the glory! Can’t wait until Good Friday 2011 πŸ™‚

  • Reply Micah June 29, 2010 at 10:49 am

    Tomlin’s vocal stylings may be a reason for distaste. He is what I would describe as “over-breathy” on nearly every song. So it’s not at all the lyrics or arrangements – Indeed, they are very singable, thankfully so. Just wish he would pull back a bit on his vocal stylisms.

  • Reply Sam June 29, 2010 at 3:47 pm

    Agreeing with Micah. Love Tomlin’s songs . . . can’t hardly stand to hear him sing them. The saddest bit is maybe that in almost every YouTube video I see of someone else singing his songs, the person singing is working hard at sounding exactly like Chris.

    Mr. Tomlin, keep writing ’em. Glory to God.

  • Reply Sam June 29, 2010 at 3:49 pm

    For example, on the opening line of “Jesus Messiah”, Tomlin sings the line, “He became sin who knew no sin,” But it sounds much more like, “She became sin shoe knew no sin.”

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  • Reply Michelle July 28, 2010 at 4:46 pm

    Chris, thank you for your fair comments. I’m not a worship leader but I really appreciate and agree with what you said! It’s refreshing to see someone who is not a Tomlin-basher. I enjoy and listen to many, many different groups and artists for my own worship and quiet time but CT is definitely my favorite. πŸ™‚

  • Reply Mark Hutton September 4, 2010 at 5:01 pm

    Chris Tomlin I’m sure brings joy to the heart of God with his ministry which leads so many Christians to bring their personal worship to God. I thank God for Chris Tomlin and his willingness to serve the church in words and music and more importantly to lead such as me to the place I love so much – worshipping God. May I encourage all who read this to pray continued blessing for Chris, for encouragement, inspiration, good health, provision and continued blessing and annointing by God. For the support and protection of his ministry and servant heart and for future songs which will bless the Church around the world Loads blessings to Chris Tomlin

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