Attendees at Passion City Church in Buckhead haven’t seen much of their famous worship leaders the past month or so, but come Sunday, Chris Tomlin and Louie Giglio will be back in their familiar spot.
But first, Tomlin, who is currently experiencing the searing heat of success in the Christian music industry, will head to the Arena at Gwinnett Center in Duluth on Friday, where he and longtime friend and worship partner Giglio will wrap the second leg of Tomlin’s “Burning Lights” tour.
A Texas native, Tomlin, 41, moved to Atlanta in 2008 to start Passion City with Giglio. Since the late ’90s, the pair worked together at the Passion Conferences, the annual spiritual gatherings of young adults — primarily college students — that now regularly fill the Georgia Dome and other stadiums and arenas throughout the world.
Even though he’s had a thriving music career since the mid-2000s — and has a slew of Dove Awards and hits including “How Great Is Our God” and “Made to Worship” to prove it — Tomlin has recently ascended to a new level of success.
Last year came his first Grammy (for best contemporary Christian music album for “And If Our God Is For Us”), and in January, his seventh studio album, “Burning Lights,” debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart — the fourth-ever contemporary Christian release to open in the top spot.
Last week, Tomlin unveiled the “Burning Lights Deluxe Tour Edition” CD and DVD featuring a show filmed at Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Colorado. He also plans to begin work on a new record in a couple of months for release at the end of 2014.
A few hours before a show at New York’s famed Beacon Theatre last week, Tomlin checked in for a chat.
Q: You’re heading into the final stretch of shows. How are you holding up?
A: I’m definitely feeling it, but it’s been really great. We’ve covered a lot of ground and seen a lot of people. We’re still very fortunate and blessed for this to keep growing.
Q: You and Louie have been here about five years now. Do you feel you’ve accomplished what you set out to when you moved from Texas?
A: No, the story is completely unfinished. We’re at a great starting point. We’re by no means settled. We’re still pushing because we want it to be the best it can be. There’s so much more to do and that’s exciting, but what we have done is amazing.
Q: You’ve been involved in the Passion conferences for 15 years. What does it feel like to be surrounded by 50,000 people all with the same mindset and goal?
A: At (the January conference at the Georgia Dome) I felt like, I’m not sure I’ll be a part of something like that again. It was so special. I felt like there was really a united vision among college students. It’s been the same since 1997 with 2,000 people in Austin to 60,000 people at the Georgia Dome — the same heart, same vision, nothing has changed. It’s not a bunch of hype, that’s why I love being a part of that. It’s crazy and humbling to stand there and lead. You feel like you’re leading a generation.
Q: You have a sold-out tour, a No. 1 album. Do you think there is a reason that you — and artists like you — are seeing such a huge wave of support?
A: I think that the music is growing, obviously, but I think people are really connected to songs that are worship, not just entertainment. It’s not just a performance and a show, that’s what’s unique about our tours. We’re not just singing a bunch of songs. People are engaged and these are songs that have become part of their lives. I’ve seen it explode over the last decade and it just continues to. I want to be part of a night where I’m just really connected to God and my heart is lifted.
Q: You’ve been pretty fortunate at the Grammys and Dove Awards. Do the awards mean anything or do you look at it as another way to make people aware?
A: I don’t look at it like it doesn’t matter. I’m very thankful, I’m really grateful for it. I never think about us winning, but receiving. I don’t feel like I “beat” somebody. At the end of the day, I want to write music, and if it’s an indication that this music found its way and meant something to people, then that’s what I want.