It was a casual Friday night at The Xcel Energy Center – just Chris Tomlin and 12,000 of his closest friends together for a night of praise and worship. Ok – so maybe it wasn’t a casual Friday – but Chris Tomlin has a way of making you are among one of his good friends just gathered for an intimate evening of uplifting and encouraging music – not at a massive stadium show.
Chris Tomlin stop in St. Paul was one of his first stops on the Good Good Father Tour, which will span a total of 19 major cities across the United States this fall. Tomlin is joined on tour by Canadian singer/songwriter/worship leader Matt Maher and Nashville-via-Australia author & Pastor Darren Whitehead.
If you have stepped foot in just about any church around the world in the past decade and a half, there’s a pretty good chance you’ve heard a Chris Tomlin song. Since the early 1990s, Tomlin has become one of the most prolific voices in Contemporary Christian Music. He’s penned dozens upon dozens praise & worship songs that have become cornerstones in Christian churches across denominations, across state lines and across the world. His songs like “How Great Is Our God,” “Jesus Messiah,” “Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone), and “I Will Rise” have gone on to be translated into hundreds of languages, so people can worship with these songs in their native tongue. Tomlin has been nominated for a handful of Grammy Awards of the past decade and in 2012 won the Grammy for Best Contemporary Chris Music Album for his album And If Our God is For Us…
Tomlin’s tour mate Matt Maher is also one of the largest singer/songwriters in Contemporary Christian music. His albums have climbed to the top of the Christian Album Billboard Charts, his won awards such a Songwriter of the Year at the GMA Awards. He’s written hits such as “Your Grace Is Enough,” “Christ Is Risen” and the infectiously catchy “All The People Said Amen,”
However – major music industry awards and accolades are just the footnote to Tomlin and Maher’s career. It was evident watching Tomlin and Maher perform to the 12,000 person crowd at the Xcel that they’re true joy comes from getting to do just that every night. “It’s so humbling to be here. Seriously, I am running out of ways to say thank you,” Tomlin said at one point. “You have no idea what it’s like getting to watch 12,000 abandoned in worship,” he went on. “Seeing people singing their hearts, and some of you with no rhythm at all, but you’re trying,” he joked.
Maher and Tomlin’s stop in St. Paul felt like an extra special treat – as they’ve worked on many songs over the past 15 years but haven’t had the opportunity to tour together. “I’ve begged and begged this guy to tour with me,” Tomlin said with a grin, “last year I was finally like Fall of 2017 – just give me a few weeks,” he went on.
The Good Good Father Tour was less of a “Matt Maher opening for Chris Tomlin,” or “Chris Tomlin Opening for Matt Maher,” but rather a shared stage, and more importantly a shared heart and a shared passion for writing songs that bring the followers of Jesus together.
As mentioned, Tomlin and Maher’s songs have become cornerstones in Contemporary Christian music. But these songs that they write and produce are more than just songs that are sung Sunday after Sunday around the world, but are songs that have been a source of comfort, encouragement, and hope in dark seasons for many Christian around the world – myself included.
It pretty much goes without saying – but in these volatile and tumultuous times we live in, there is comfort in the music of Tomlin and Maher. “It’s great to hear a room of people say amen,” Maher said. “It’s great to actually hear a room of people agree on something….we need that more than ever right now,” he went on.
What struck me the most on Friday night as I watched Tomlin and Maher perform songs I’ve heard probably hundreds of time in my life, is their ability to take some of the most profound and theologically complex concepts from Christianity and put them into simple songs. “The Godhead Three in One Father Spirit Son, The Lion and the Lamb,” Tomlin sings about the threefold nature of the trinity on How Great is Our God. “My chains are gone, I’ve been set free, My God, my savior, has ransomed me, and like a flood, his mercy reigns, unending love, amazing Grace,” Tomlin sings on Amazing Grace, My Chains Are Gone, which is basically an addendum to Amazing Grace, a song that was written almost 250 years ago.
During Tomlin and Maher’s nearly three hour set, they took turns rotating between vocals, guitar, piano and just dancing and praying and leading the Xcel Energy Center in worship. Tomlin is filled with what can only be described as a God-given sense of joy. There wasn’t a moment during the evening that Tomlin wasn’t beaming ear to ear. For someone who has been doing this for years – there was an undeniable freshness and excitement to Tomlin’s set. He is a reminder that following Jesus never grows stale.
“I’m going to post a prayer over the Twin Cities tonight on Instagram tonight,” Tomlin said after the quintessential selfie with the crowd at the Xcel. “Father I pray for all friends in the Twin Cities. Would You pour out Your grace and mercy on Your people…For the broken-hearted, that they would know Your nearness. For families to be strengthened. For the prodigals to return. Tonight I am reminded “the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.” Amen,” Tomlin later posted.
Tomlin and Maher closed out the evening in partnership with Food For The Hungry, a Phoenix-based nonprofit seeking to end all forms of human poverty through relief and development efforts. The crowd at the Xcel was given the opportunity to partner with Food for The Hungry through monthly child sponsorship efforts.
Friday night at the Xcel – just Chris Tomlin, Matt Maher and 12,000 of their closest friends joined together in praise and worship.
The tour continues tonight in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.