It all started with a sermon.
A few years ago, Christian singer Chris Tomlin was attending a Sunday service at his home church in Franklin, Tennessee when Pastor Darren Whitehead began to preach.
That morning, Whitehead decided to share a message about praise.
Now, as soon as he heard that, Tomlin was ready to tune out.
“At the beginning, I thought ‘I’ve heard every message there is on praise. I feel I’ve given every message on praise and why we praise God, all those kinds of things,’ ” he said.
But as he listened, Whitehead’s sermon, about seven words for praise in the Hebrew language Scripture, began to stir something in Tomlin.
“Every time it says ‘praise the Lord’ in the Scriptures, from the original language, the Hebrew language, there were all these different words for praise and they meant different things,” Tomlin said. “Some meant to shout before the Lord, some meant to dance, some meant to be quiet, some meant to kneel, some meant to lift our hands.”
He thought the message was a game changer for the church and realized if he, a 23-time Gospel Music Association Dove Award-winning artist, hadn’t heard about these seven words, then there was a good chance others hadn’t either.
Tomlin encouraged Whitehead to write a book only to have Whitehead suggest he help out.
“Holy Roar: 7 Words That Will Change the Way You Worship,” was released in October.
The book inspired a tour that saw Tomlin and Whitehead sharing the story of the seven words with audiences around the country.
“It’s really no different than what I do on my tours anyway, leading people to give praise and worship to God and bringing people to worship together,” Tomlin said. “But this is so powerful. I think when people hear this message, it really changes the night, and it’s an incredible marking moment, I think, in a lot of people’s lives.”
The “Holy Roar” tour brings Tomlin and Whitehead to the Spokane Arena on Monday.
The tour celebrates both the book and “Holy Roar,” the album, which Tomlin also released in October.
Though the two projects share a name, the album wasn’t necessarily inspired by the book.
“Obviously there’s a song called ‘Holy Roar’ that was inspired by this but as far as the record as a whole, I just sit down and write and really see what comes,” Tomlin said. “The perspective from me is always writing songs that people can sing and having a song that is a song of worship to God. That’s the lens I’ve always looked through and continue to look through when I write.”
Tomlin recorded “Holy Roar” at a variety of studios and with different producers around Nashville.
The album peaked at No. 3 on the U.S. Christian Albums Billboard chart and at No. 8 on the U.K. Christian and Gospel Albums chart.
Last month, Tomlin chose one of the songs from the album, “Is He Worthy?,” to highlight with its own EP.
The “Is He Worthy?” EP features three versions of the song, the studio version, a live version and an acoustic version, which features songwriter Andrew Peterson.
“Is He Worthy?” is a call-and-response song between Tomlin and the listener.
“Does the Father truly love us?,” Tomlin sings. “He does,” the audience responds. “Does the Spirit move among us?” “He does.”
“I have this special feeling about this song,” Tomlin said. “I think it’s unlike anything I’ve ever recorded. I really want to highlight it and bring it to people’s attention in every way I can.”
Tomlin will also highlight “Holy Roar” with a live album, “Holy Roar: Live From Church,” which is scheduled for release March 15.
The album features seven songs from “Holy Roar” and a cover of Pat Barrett’s “Build My Life,” featuring Barrett himself, all of which were recorded in a small church in east Nashville.
Barrett will also join Tomlin on the “Holy Roar” tour.
Tomlin was excited to record the album live because he feels it captures the songs as he envisions them while he writes, with people singing along.
“I think it’s more powerful to me than the studio album because you hear the people singing, you hear what the songs can be in a church,” Tomlin said. “I’ve had a lot of live recordings that come from these big arenas but I want it to feel like you’re at your local church at home and what these songs sound like in that context when they’re stripped down.”
Through “Holy Roar,” the studio album, live album and book, Tomlin hopes to teach audiences that the Scripture reaffirms how they have praised God.
“For me it’s like ‘Wow, you mean all these things I feel, the Scripture’s been saying ‘Yeah, do that,’” Tomlin said. “There are all these things through God’s word that are so powerful so putting that before the people and experiencing that together is so powerful. That’s what this tour’s about. That’s what these nights of worship are about.”
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