Leaders make the indescribable visible. Isaiah’s words, for instance, brought comfort to a defeated nation and transformed a people’s imagination, empowering them to mount up with wings like eagles. Those words bear fruits today, capturing a post-modern visionary’s heart, urging Chris Tomlin to call together God’s people for life-renewing worship.
“I feel as though we’re like this landing strip in the desert for our great, incredible God to arrive on; a way for Him to come into people’s lives,” Tomlin says of the album’s metaphorical moniker inspired in part by Isaiah 40. Tomlin’s third studio record and first in two years, Arriving demonstrates a Christian’s glad surrender meeting God’s welcoming arms. Tomlin’s undeniable energy is charismatic and contagious. Avoiding the trappings of public performance, Chris stands beside the people he serves, raising his voice to God with them so that they share God’s presence together.
Credited with venerable church choruses such as “Forever,” “We Fall Down,” and “The Wonderful Cross,” Tomlin is considered one of this era’s top songwriters for the church with five songs in CCLI’s Top 60 and four more in the service’s Top 500. With millions singing his songs weekly, Chris is recognized as a pivotal voice of today’s modern expression of Christian worship.
Arriving rocks with inspiring, guitar-driven pop melodies reflecting the roots traditions of Austin, Texas, where it was recorded and home to the church Tomlin co-founded, Austin Stone Community Church. The project’s raw, straightforward lyrics are knotted tight with hooks as big and broad as the Lone Star state sky. Producer Ed Cash (Caedmon’s Call, Kathy Mattea, Bebo Norman) brings his signature touch to the tracks, revealing that the talent pool is deeper than even the artist knew. “People will be surprised by some moments,” Tomlin says. “The music’s so honest. The guys and I are just playing our songs the way we play them. That’s something special thing about the record—what you see is what you get.”
Arriving tips the scales more toward corporate worship songs than devotional ones, melding wisdom, gratitude and celebration into a single package. “I try to write songs in a clear, simple way that people can understand and so they can sing the songs after hearing them once or twice,” Tomlin shares. He crafted nine of 11 songs for the record, including “How Great Is Our God,” which Chris identifies as the anchor to Arriving. The chorus declares: “How great is our God/Sing with me/How great is our God/All will see/How great, how great is our God.” “It’s about the greatness of God and how there are anthems ringing throughout the world by his people and by the heavens praising His glory.” Already, Chris and the band are playing this anthem to crowds receiving it enthusiastically, as at a summer 2004 Willow Creek Arts Festival. “We’ve never had this kind of response to a song. People won’t let it end. They just keep singing. I had no idea this simple chorus could turn into something this big,” Chris says, amazed.
The first radio single from Arriving will be “Indescribable,” written by Laura Story. Producer Cash calls it “one of the best songs I’ve ever heard.” “I don’t know—I just feel it in my gut and in my heart,” Chris says, his feelings, appropriately, almost indescribable. “The expressions of God in the song are so big. In my head I heard this song being sung in an arena full of people screaming it to God.”
Also included in this authentic offering: “Holy Is the Lord,” a song debuted before some 20,000 at Passion’s OneDay03; “Unfailing Love,” co-written with new friend Cary Pierce (Jackopierce) and recorded with Sparrow Records’ Steven Curtis Chapman; and “Your Grace Is Enough,” written by worship leader Matt Maher, his own songwriting inspired by Tomlin’s. “God promises that when we draw close to Him, He’ll draw close to us,” Chris says. “That’s what I hope happens through these songs.” Tomlin will get the chance to extend Arriving’s invitation this fall on a 70-city tour with 4-time GRAMMY, 47-time Dove Award-winning Steven Curtis Chapman.
“Yeah, I like to tell people Steven will be closing for us,” Chris laughs, the humor a thin mask over the deep gratitude he feels toward one of his musical heroes. “Without a doubt, Steven’s been the biggest influence on me musically. He’s been from a far a mentor to me. He’s a man of integrity and a great musician, songwriter and performer. And lo and behold, here we are going out on tour together! It’s just unbelievable.”
“I am so excited about what’s going on!” he continues. “I pray that people will know more and hunger more after God because of these songs. People are changed because of God arriving in their lives. Grace changes people into people with hope.” He continues, “I look back these last few years since I started recording and see how I’ve grown. It’s incredible—and it’s all been God. I just try to walk His path. Since I was 13 I’ve felt called to write songs for the church. I’m humbled that He continues to use me like this.”
Arriving honors that calling, marking a way for God to arrive in the hearts of humanity, making an often indescribable God visible to searching desert travelers.
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