Chris Tomlin has a way of keeping the main thing the main thing.
The Christian contemporary music artist, who will headline Faith and Family Night today at the Riverbend Festival, said in an interview with Christianity Today International he always hopes concertgoers will see through him to God.
"When the spotlight is on me," Tomlin said, "it's on God. I just want to be a reflection of God's light."
Earlier this year, the Texas native and his band received their first Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Christian Music Album for "And If Our God Is for Us." They were nominated for Grammys in four other categories.
Billboard also honored Tomlin this year as a finalist for Top Christian Artist and the band's song "Our God" for Top Christian Song. In addition, he and his band have received 20 Dove Awards or nominations since 2005.
Among his best-known songs are "How Great Is Our God," "Jesus Messiah," "Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone)" and the recent "Our God."
Chattanooga fan Nancy Smith first saw Tomlin in 2003 at Resurrection, a regional United Methodist Church youth celebration, in Gatlinburg, Tenn. She has seen him in concert every year since.
"Chris has a true gift in that his songs are a true worship [experience] and bring the listener to the foot of the cross," she said. "[He] is authentic in his praise of God and is using his God-given talent to praise God, not to glorify himself. He has truly heard God's call on his life and lives to serve him.
"In his book, 'Chris Tomlin: The Way I Was Made,' when asked how he writes a song, he said ... 'it is a lot like receiving a gift, or responding to an awakening in me toward God.' That's how I feel when I listen to his music. It stirs an awakening in me toward God."
Tomlin began his career in the 1990s as a worship leader and performer at youth and college conferences. His first national solo project, "The Noise We Make," was released in 2001.
He was awarded GMA Dove Awards Male Vocalist of the Year for 2006, 2007 and 2008 and Artist of the Year in 2007.
So prolific is Tomlin's songwriting that, in August 2007, according to Christian Copyright Licensing International's list of the Top 25 worship songs in the United States, Tomlin had either written or co-written five songs: "How Great Is Our God" (No. 1), "Forever" (No. 5), "Holy Is the Lord" (No. 7), "We Fall Down" (No. 12), and "Indescribable" (No. 22).
Similarly, in 2008, he held six spots on The Countdown Magazine's top 20 praise and worship songs: "We Fall Down" (No. 14), "Forever" (No. 10), "Holy Is the Lord" (No. 8), "Indescribable" (No. 6), "Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone)" (No. 3) and "How Great Is Our God" (No. 1).
In 2009, according to Christian Copyright Licensing International, Tomlin's "How Great Is Our God" had been the most sung song in churches nationwide for the last two years.
Former Chattanoogan J. David Miller of Tierra Verde, Fla., said he has seen the singer in concert in St. Petersburg, Fla., and in Los Angeles.
"There's something admirable about Chris Tomlin's ability to pen so many new songs to move people toward Christ in the manner in which he does," he said. "I've heard him live numerous times, and he's our family favorite and for a simple reason. He wants his music transparent, so that people worship the Lord, not him, or the song itself.
"In an age of self-aggrandizing musicians -- Christians included -- [he] selflessly redefines worship and has raised the standard for musical artistry and lyrical depth.
Tomlin, also a worship leader at Passion City Church in Atlanta, said he considers his work part of worship.
"The more [his career] has grown," he said, "the more I've realized this is from God. There is a greater sense of responsibility."
Clint Cooper is the faith editor and a staff writer for the Times Free Press Life section. He also has been an assistant sports editor and Metro staff writer for the newspaper. Prior to the merger between the Chattanooga Free Press and Chattanooga Times in 1999, he was sports news editor for the Chattanooga Free Press, where he was in charge of the day-to-day content of the section and the section’s design. Before becoming sports ...