Chris Tomlin |      

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Under a vast, October sky, standing on stage before tens of thousands deep in the heart of Africa, Chris Tomlin felt right at home. Even all those miles removed from the familiar, Tomlin detected the steady, burning light that’s universal and uniting. He’s aware that no matter where in the world, we all seek connection, to know that we’re part of a grander narrative, a special story in the exquisite design of creation.

For that reason Tomlin has dedicated his life career to a singular pursuit: to bring people closer to God. Building a career is just fine, he says, but nothing compares to building bridges through music that lead to hope, healing and higher ground.

“I have to put out songs that bridge the gap,” Tomlin says, putting the emphasis on ‘have to’ as though his musical life depended on it. “I want to write songs that people sing to God. There's nothing wrong with a three-minute pop song, but I want these songs to be special to the church.”

It explains much about his work, especially the album Burning Lights - his tenth release. With ‘connection’ serving as his compass, he was drawn to hone the project right to the wire, concluding the recording process with a last-minute addition of his updated version of the hymn ‘Crown Him With Many Crowns’. Half expecting his record label to dislike the treatment, he was surprised when, “…they said, ‘This is amazing, we have to put this on the record.’”

The recorded version teams Tomlin with Matt Maher, a Catholic songwriter. As the session started, they came to learn an amazing fact: “This song is a back and forth between the Catholic and Protestant churches. Several verses were written in a Protestant way and some were written a Catholic way. One side claimed it as theirs, and so did the other. We sat at the piano and started laughing. We thought, ‘How divine is that?’” A special spotlight vocal by Kari Jobe also graces the track. 
To be sure, the rest of Burning Lights lives up to the thrill of those three tracks, from the spirit of surrender that raises ‘White Flag’ to the tenderness that brings ‘Shepherd Boy’ to life. It’s also the song that gives the album its moniker. ‘David was a shepherd boy right before he was king, out in the field, keeping watch over his flock and singing a song of praise to God: ‘I'm just a shepherd boy, singing to a choir of burning light.’ That sums up what I feel inside. I want to be that. The people I sing to are the burning light, and I sing to them night after night.’

Yet taken another way, the ‘burning light’ also stands for the special spark of artistic inspiration—whether you’re talking the proverbial light bulb over the head, or the bright shining Lord who inspired Tomlin to find new songs to sing on the fly.

“I love at the end of the day how we got all these left and right turns and tried to follow them,” Tomlin says of the path that led to Burning Lights. “It was a lesson in humility. It was great to take a step back, listen to what people were saying and go for it. When a song like ‘Whom Shall I Fear’ comes along at the last minute, it's not only something you could hear on the radio, but at any church. And that means more to me than platinum records, tours and sales.”


Jesus This Is You

What do our prayers often sound like? If we actually take the time out of our day to pause and talk to God, what are our first words?

Jesus Loves Me

Jonah couldn’t do it. Nor could Moses nor David nor Paul. They couldn’t escape God’s call. Can we?


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