Union news office
JACKSON, Tenn. — Chris Tomlin was 18 years old and had just finished leading worship at a weeklong youth rally. He’d never done anything like that. He hadn’t written any songs and admits that he had done a poor job.
At the end of the week, the speaker for the week’s rally – a man named James – approached him and told him two things. First, James told him that he had no idea what he was doing. And second, James told him that Tomlin had no idea how God was going to use his music in the world.
Tomlin, who has since sold more than 8 million albums and whose songs are sung in churches around the world, was the featured guest Oct. 15 at Union University’s 22nd annual Scholarship Banquet at the Carl Perkins Civic Center.
Tomlin performed some of his most popular songs, such as “Good Good Father,” “Our God,” “Resurrection Power” and “Amazing Grace,” among others, and shared with the audience of about 1,400 people the stories behind the songs.
The evening also featured one song, “Is He Worthy?” that Tomlin performed with the Union University Singers.
Continuing the story about his conversation with James following that youth rally, Tomlin said he expressed bewilderment about James’ pronouncement.
“I didn’t have any music. I didn’t have any songs,” Tomlin said. “I couldn’t believe he was saying that.”
But James told him that as he had been praying for Tomlin, God revealed to him that he was going to use Tomlin’s music all over the world. “You’re going to write songs, and the whole world’s going to sing them,” James told him.
Then James put his hand on Tomlin’s head and prayed, “God, I pray you make Chris a songwriter for his generation.”
“It was like lightning went through me,” Tomlin said. “And I started writing songs. I started trying to write more songs. And then people would sing.”
Years later, Tomlin was in the middle of a world tour through 20 different countries – Japan, France, Uganda, Russia, South Africa and others. He had written the song “How Great is Our God” after reading Psalm 104, and he learned that song in 20 different languages for the tour. And he remembered James telling him that the whole world would sing his music one day.
“Only God can do something like that,” Tomlin said. “It’s a miracle. It’s an absolute miracle of God.”
Before Tomlin’s concert, Union University President Samuel W. “Dub” Oliver interviewed him and gave him an opportunity to talk about his testimony, how he got started in music, his wife and daughters and the importance of Christian higher education.
Tomlin said there’s always a spirit of the age, and he thinks the spirit of today’s age is one of confusion. In the midst of that, he said it’s beautiful that institutions like Union provide a “fundamental foundation of truth” that combats the confusion.
In addition to the concert and interview with Tomlin, the evening included a panel discussion with Union students Raymond Chahyadi, John David Logan and Mikayla Simpson, led by Hunter Baker, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. The students talked about the academic opportunities Union has provided them and how their lives have been transformed by their Union education.
“I really believe that Union is more than just a college experience,” Simpson said. “It’s a time where I personally have changed completely as a person because of the community and the intentionality and the investment of the faculty at Union.” B&R