Tomlin's songs have even more weight in concert than in recordings. I suspect Chris's passion to share his songs with the church, along with the intentional "vertical" focus of the event have something to do with the potency of the experience. But there is more. I maintain that the power and efficacy of Chris Tomlin's music is directly related to its theological underpinnings.
Today in our Joy FM staff meeting, we watched a DVD of Louie Giglio speaking in Atlanta in the How Great is Our God tour. His message was not just exciting because of the passion of his delivery, not just compelling by the detail of the macroscopic and microscopic scientific detail he uses to illustrate the greatness of God. Louie's words resonate the voices of dead giants, like Spurgeon, Watts, Augustine, Paul and thus the voice of God Himself (if not the Vox Dei, at least the Verbum Dei for those who miss the Latin!). In other words, with the precision of a surgeon, Louie Giglio cut away the thin, weak, dependent, indulgent god of American evangelicalism and in that idol's place enthroned the Most High God, Starbreather and Sinbearer. The message theme was tuned to Psalm 33, with Psalm 139, Isaiah 40 and Colossians 1 harmonizing:
And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
This is what I call "Big-God theology." It's sadly lacking in the experience of most contemporary Christians. For us, when the message ended the entire room was speechless. Words are flimsy against a weight they cannot hold: so the greatness of our God over against our infinitesimal humanity. We eventually groped to pray, and our prayer was very Christ-centered. It had to be. Our only hope before an immense and holy God is His own salvation, given in Christ, received and stood-upon in faith by those who claim his Name. He holds together our frail frame (literally - watch the DVD) and keeps us from disintegrating before His Father, who is superlative in holiness (Isaiah 6).
All I'm trying to say is that THIS is the theology behind songs like "Indescribable," "How Great is Our God," "His Grace is Enough," and "God of This City." And this theological undercurrent provides streams of inspiration for Chris Tomlin's songs.
Even though our time with Chris behind the microphone was a blast (click to listen), he may be the one artist with whom I have personally connected more on stage than in person. That's because we are both (we, the audience and the artist) connecting with One whose presence engulfs us and circumscribes our experience, shifting our perspective and potentially changing us from the inside out.