Chris Tomlin is beloved for his part in writing songs that give believers the words to express what they feel in their hearts for God and to declare things that must be said to re-orient them to the truth of who God is. Tomlin has two personas, hymnwriter and pop artist, but the one that will endure and continue to bless this generation and perhaps many in the future is that of the psalmist, the writer, the shepherd boy telling tales of what he knows from experience and relationship.
Burning Lights is the quintessential representation of solid songwriting married to classic commercial pop recording. With an intro track and 11 songs rich with congregational possibilities, Chris and his producers—Jason Ingram, Ed Cash, and Dan Muckala—have polished this offering to perfection. Chris and his songwriting collaborators include both Ingram and Cash, plus Matt Redman, Matt Maher, Jonas Myrin, Phil Wickham, Martin Smith, and Jesse Reeves—as well as George Elvey and Godfrey Thring from centuries past—among others. Together they have penned sincere, singable, joyous, well-structured, Scripture-infused pop-rock (heavy on the pop) songs destined for the sanctuary as well as CCLI’s top tiers.
The title track is a brief one minute intro with floating words and swirling synth immediately followed by the arresting “Awake My Soul” that includes an eerie Ezekiel-inspired rap/prophecy by LeCrae. Next, “Whom Shall I Fear (The God of Angel Armies)” draws from many Scriptures, including 2 Kings 6 and Isaiah 54:17, and fairly explodes with hope and encouragement. It is the album’s first single and undoubtedly an immediate add to worship set lists as it declares God’s delivering power and abiding presence, an apt word for God’s people at this time.
Ready to launch
Of the most memorable and usable across a broad spectrum of churches, three tracks stand out. The first is the Tomlin, Matt Maher, Ed Cash version of the controversial 18th century hymn “Crown Him With Many Crowns” now titled “Crown Him (Majesty).” Tomlin introduces a new chorus and births a new classic with Kari Jobe adding atmospheric vocals to the mix. Next “Sovereign” recalls Psalm 139 and again is Scripture echoed in the modern voice, proclaiming God’s faithfulness and our trust in his sovereign grace. Lastly the poetry and ascendant prayer, praise and worship of “Countless Wonders” inspires and draws our focus Godward—vertical worship at its best.
One of the most emotionally accessible, simply produced, and gratitude-soaked offerings is Chris’s writing and performance collaboration with Phil Wickham “Thank You God for Saving Me.” Their rendition gives you an idea of the adaptability of the album’s other songs if stripped down for the team that only has a vocalist and guitar player.
On first listen, the switch of focus on the final track, “Shepherd Boy,” to Tomlin himself in a confessional autobiographical way as he identifies with the psalmist David in his call as a worship leader is a little jarring, but it turns around refocusing on God at the end. Ironically it begins with a piano, not a stringed instrument, simply, spare, building to a Queen meets The Beatles and Broadway ending. What could strike you as grandiose, once you hear Tomlin’s heart, is really humility and truth that can set worship leaders free.
Chris has said: “I want this to be a real gift to the Church and I want people to be able to sing these songs.” Well a wish is a prayer, and Chris is undoubtedly going to get this one answered, in a chorus of voices from around the world.
Read our Exclusive Interview with Chris Tomlin: worshipleader.com/burninglights