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I had a chance to chat with Chris Tomlin recently about his new project, Hello Love. When it released in September, the album took the No. 9 spot on Billboard’s Top 200 Album Chart and was the highest charting iTunes debut ever for any album in the Christian industry.
Tomlin is no stranger to commercial worship music success. With his six records he’s scored seven No. 1 radio singles, two GRAMMY nominations, 14 Dove Awards, one platinum and one gold album.
So what does a successful worship artist have to say about the commercialization of worship music?
And there’s a danger with our need to consume more and newer worship music. “You know, you think of a song like “Shout to the Lord,” you think, Oh we can’t do that song it’s so old. When did those words ever become old? In being consumed, you’re saying something in that song to God and about God, and so it should not be old. That’s why I think the hymns have been around so long, because there was not a consumer mentality to them, it was just an expression of faith.”
Understand that despite all of his success, Tomlin doesn’t see himself as a celebrity, or even a worship leader. Instead, he’s the lead worshipper, because “it gives more of an idea of who we really are, that we’re a worshipper like everybody else … but at this moment I’m a leader.” He believes that all throughout Scripture God has used people to lead others, and feels that God has given him an ability and platform for a little while. “The key for me is just humility,” he says, and adds with a laugh, “I think if you really start believing that you’re something special then it’s probably over, with your worship leading.”
As we talked, he picked up on a word that I used several times: music consumer. And he had something important to say about that.
“It’s an interesting word in our times, consumer, in a sense of, that’s one of the main issues in our day and time, and that’s, Are we too much of consumers and … not being the ones that are consumed? In worship, we’re supposed to be consumed by God and not consumers.”
Tomlin points out that, “It seems like we’re going through songs today, like every three weeks you’ve got to have a new song. That’s that consumer mentality.” He admits that it even pulls him in sometimes. “I feel that as well, like, Oh my gosh, it’s been three weeks, I’ve sang this song for three weeks, I’ve got to have a new song. That’s consumer, that’s missing the whole point. That’s not being consumed by God, that’s being a consumer of songs.”
In January, Chris Tomlin heads out on the Hello Love tour with special guest Israel Houghton and New Breed. For complete ticket information, visit Chris Tomlin’s website.
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