One of the leading artists and activists within contemporary Christian music, Chris Tomlin is a successful singer and songwriter whose 2005 album Arriving has sold over 500,000 copies, and whose compositions "Holy Is the Lord" and "How Great Is Our God" are among the most popular contemporary songs in the world's churches, being sung by millions of Christians at worship services every week. Born in Grand Saline, Texas in 1972, Tomlin grew up listening to country music and learned to play guitar from his father (Tomlin has cited Willie Nelson's Stardust as a key influence). At the age of nine, Tomlin accepted Jesus Christ as his savior, and at 14 wrote his first song of praise.
He enrolled at Texas A&M in the early '90s to study medicine, but as he heard the call to bring himself and others closer to God, he grew active in a campus Christian group called Breakaway. Tomlin was a worship leader with Breakaway when he began attending Bible study sessions with Louie Giglio, who led a Christian group at Baylor University in Waco called Choice. Tomlin and Giglio worked together at youth ministry camps, and Tomlin was soon performing praise songs regularly for Giglio's events. In time, Giglio's group evolved into Passion, a nationwide organization for young Christians on college campuses, and Giglio started a record company, Six Steps Records, to record youth-oriented Christian artists. Tomlin, whose songs had become mainstays at Breakaway and Passion services, became one of Six Steps' first signings, and The Noise We Make, released in 2001, was Tomlin's first album. The band Tomlin assembled while serving as a pastor at Woodland, Texas's Harvest Ministry -- Daniel Carson on guitar, Jesse Reeves on bass, and Ryan Sandlin on drums -- began touring, often appearing at Passion events around the country as well as headlining its own concerts. (In 2004, Ryan Sandlin left the group, and Travis Nunn took over behind the drums.)
In 2002, Tomlin moved to Austin, Texas, and became a pastor at Austin's Stone Community Church, where he helped guide a congregation of 1,500. As Tomlin's songs and recordings found a wider audience, he was nominated for two Grammy Awards for his 2006 album See the Morning (which rose to number one on Billboard's Christian albums chart and number 15 on the overall Top 200), but the songwriter continued to emphasize that his mission was more important than his own music. Tomlin's fifth studio album, 2008's Hello Love, was certified gold. It was followed in 2009 by the holiday offering Glory in the Highest: Christmas Songs of Worship, 2010's And If Our God Is for Us..., and 2103's Burning Lights. 2014 saw the release of Tomlin's tenth studio album, Love Ran Red, which featured the hit singles "Waterfall" and "Jesus Loves Me," and in 2015 he appeared on the Passion release Even So Come. His mainstream success continued in 2016 with a Grammy nomination (his eighth overall) and the release of a new studio album, Never Lose Sight, which reached number six on the Billboard 200. ~ Mark Deming