CCM Patrol on Chris Tomlin

Hit Us, God, One More Time

August 21st, 2007

There are probably enough Chris Tomlin lyrics out there—no idea, really, I’m just guessing—that if I wanted, I would never have to write about anything else. I’m sure if I dug into it just a little, I would be blown away. But so far, the course has been to only deal with Chris Tomlin when he is flung into my path. Such an approach, I think, makes our occasional run-ins a lot more surprising and, hopefully, amusing. Everything in moderation is the way to go.

Anyone who’s ever seen Chris Tomlin live knows that the experience is virtually indistinguishable from a rock concert. Walls of amplifiers, colored lights, smoke, moshing teenagers. Not to suggest that the elements of arena rock shows indicate an absence of God— I’ve come closer to feeling God at Muse or Coldplay shows than at anything featuring Chris Tomlin—it just that it says something about Tomlin’s idea of worship: big, loud, and flash-ay. With a lot of kids (and girls) who are most certainly not thinking much about worshipping anyone but Chris Tomlin or, more forgivably, the rock experience itself.

Fine, I’ll accept that. The problem isn’t the staging, it’s good, old-fashioned Chicken-Soup-Christianity irreverence: exploring the glory of God via inane metaphors that self-consciously reference pop culture. If while singing along to a worship song, you catch yourself going “whaahh?” or worse “wowwww,” its probably because the pop-ifying of God has gone just a little bit too far.

This was the case when I recently encountered Chris Tomlin’s “Glory in the Highest.” The song is deceptively titled, sounding, as it were, much more like a Catholic chant or a chorus from Handel’s Messiah. Check out the first little “stanza”:

You are the first
You go before
You are the last
Lord, You’re the encore

First we have an appearance of the classic “first/last” image in three lines that could be just as easily be the outspewings of an automatic cliché generator on the training setting. Then we call God an “encore” (for the uninitiated, the part at the end of rock concerts where everyone screams “one more song!” or, curses and curses upon them, “Freebird!”) At its most classy, an encore might consist of a virtuoso violinist returning to the stage to play a final selection. Its technical definition is “a demand”—demand—“for a performance.”

But Chris Tomlin isn’t suggesting that we have an encore in honor of the Almighty; the Almighty is the encore. He’s first and last, the opening band and “Fix You” all in one.

So it’s time to play the wonderful little game called What Does That Even Mean, the most expedient method for determining whether or not a lyric should be showing up on your church’s JumboTron. Encores are inherently part of performances, and strongly connote stages and adoring audiences. There may indeed be a stage at your church or at a Chris Tomlin performance, but God is certainly not on it, and chances are he might be miffed by our asking him to please, if he doesn’t mind, do come back and tap-dance for us once more before we retire to Red Lobster. Being at a loss as I still am, I’ll put it this way: without mind-numbing mental gymnastics, there’s no way in heaven and earth that God can be meaningfully referred to as an “encore.”

Reinforcing the connotations of this “encore” business is the later line “your name’s in lights/for all to see.” I’m not sure whether that was inspired by luminous heavenly bodies or by those $19.95 ballpark lithographs that were all the rage in the 90s, but I can conclude that sounds just about as silly as “you’re the encore.” The stars may serve as a beautiful reminder of God’s majesty, but they’re tired of hearing about it and, meaning or no meaning, “you’re name’s in lights” is about as clumsy a lyric as one can possibly imagine.

Not that I’m worried about you ever taking this song seriously again, but, as an exercise in dead-horse abuse, let me bring up the chronic weather metaphors, rhymed in the usual fashion (“All the earth will sing Your praise/The moon and stars, the sun and rain”). The rest of the song just says “Glory in the highest” over and over (and over and over). The Chris Tomlin formula has proven its worth once again: inane “invented” metaphors + weather metaphors + banal theology = coming immediately to “positive radio” and your congregation’s JumboTron.


7 Responses to “CCM Patrol on Chris Tomlin”

  1. Andy Says:

    Dude – get a life! Quit splitting hairs about how inane other people’s worship is and maybe just try worshipping the Lord of your heart. I agree Chris is no 18th century Hymn writer but nowadays who is! It is what it is. I won’t pretend to know Chris’ heart but I would suspect that there’s more genuine worship stemming from his efforts than yours! Just a thought!

  2. Jonathan Hoekman Says:

    I am wondering what Chris Tomlin concert you are referring to when you talk about teens mashing, huge amplifiers, etc. From the Chris Tomlin concerts that I have been to, I have never experienced the presence of God more in any musical event… ever… period. I find the fact that when Chris leads, he is not the center of attention to be an amazing asset of Chris’ performances. He strives to promote God’s fame in his shows, and I have NEVER seen anything that would provide any evidence of the contrary, and I have been to plenty-o-Tomlin shows.

    The best memory that comes to mind was at the Sunday Night worship event lead by Tomlin and the Passion crew with Louie Giglio speaking at the event. At the end of the worship time, after Chris had everyone fully engaged with their Creator in unabashed worship, he started in on the lyrics ‘Then sings my soul, my Savior God to Thee. How great Thou art. How great thou art.’ As we sang, Chris backed away from the mic as he ALWAYS does at his shows (again, making it not about him), but no one noticed. Why? One, everyone was fully engaged in worship… eyes closed… fully engaged. Two, because he always does it, nobody thought twice. What was REALLY cool about this was that when everyone finished the final ‘How Great Thou Art’, there was nobody on the stage to collect the ‘glory’ for the music that was just played. Rather, all that was there on the screen was a simple message reading ‘Thank you GMA’.

    That was it. All this worship, and NOTHING was directed at Chris or his band. It was all about giving praise to his creator.

    The reason you sentiments about such a gifted worship writer frustrate me so bad is because from my experiences with Chris Tomlin, NOTHING you say is true about his character, his desire, his shows, etc.

    AND, I hate to break it to you, but the sun, moon, earth and stars all will sing God’s praise. Every nation will proclaim that He IS GOD and He WILL Reign. And also, don’t forget that there are angels that repeat over and over again for all eternity “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty. Who was, (you are the first), and is and is to come (you are the last/encore).” So, if the angels can repeat words over and over again, I think it is okay for us to do it in worship too.

    I honestly get more frustrated the more times I read your comments, specifically in your second paragraph. I wonder if you would recognize a true worship experience, lead by a humble man that is truly seeking to make God’s fame known if it hit you in heart.

    This article is a joke. Chris Tomlin is blessed by his Creator with a gift for writing songs that people connect with. THAT is why his songs are all over the place. THAT is why my mother LOVES singing at the top of her lungs ‘Glory in the highest!’ After all, wasn’t that what the angelic hosts proclaimed when Jesus was born?

    Get a clue…

  3. Jonathan Hoekman Says:

    I suppose I could have said that in a nicer way. Still, I urge you to reconsider your view of Tomlin and his ‘performances’. Try it again, I think you will like it.

  4. CCMPatrol Says:

    I think perhaps you guys missed that this was supposed to be humorously exaggerated . . . anyway, yeah. Don’t take it so seriously.

  5. jvmoore1 Says:

    thankss for coming over and clearing things up…love your site and the standard you set for good music!!

    come back anytime!

  6. Says:


    Sorry. I don’t get the joke. Actually, I do get the joke as in being cheeky/insulting not as in being a fan of Chris Tomlin but having a good time “pretending” to be exaggeratingly critical.

    I’ve read many articles on CCM patrol / patrol magazine and wow, that is sure a lot of “non-serious” joking of Christian music and artists.

    I think CCM Patrol is being pretty disingenuous here . I see very little if anything in the article to believe that the author actually isn’t critical of Chris Tomlin and Christian music, in general, but “just being non-serious.” And such criticalness plus cheeky, irreverent way in expressing it is quite common.

    And hey, I’m a reader and do follow it [until recently when it seems 4/5 of the articles have nothing to do with actual CCM. Just be honest about your criticalness and your approach [which does come across as the writers thinking themselves a little too clever and elitist].

  7. ben13burleson Says:

    I would have to agree with ChristianConcertZine in that I didn’t think it was funny putting down Chris Tomlin the way you did. Chris has an amazing ministry and his songs reflect the godly life that he lives. I don’t like it that you guys are knocking on Chris Tomlin’s ministry. I just don’t see that you guys are doing much for the Kingdom by mocking the praise of your brothers and sisters in Christ.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: