Chris Tomlin is a very prolific songwriter, but he didn't write this one: it was composed by the Northern Irish group Bluetree, who recorded it on their 2007 album Greater Things. In our Chris Tomlin interview, he explained, "'God of this City' is a song that I heard when I was in Ireland playing at this worship night in Belfast. There was this band who played there before us named Bluetree who played the song. It was their song in their church that they'd written and it just caught me. Just went, 'Wow, what is that?' We were taking doing a Passion with our Passion venture; we were going to do these cities around the country and going to these different cities, Dallas, Boston, L.A., Chicago, some of the major cities of the US, and I knew this would be a great song to sing over these cities. Then a world tour was going to be coming up and I knew singing over these cities in the world would be amazing. So I asked, 'This song has come out of you guys, could I record it and take it with us for Passion?' And they were like, 'Yeah, man, we'd love that.' It's amazing to hear it here in the United States. It's become such a theme song. Especially in tough times, this song becomes a rallying cry."
Aaron Boyd of Bluetree, who recorded the original version of this song, explained in a video interview how it came together: We are from a church in Belfast. We get asked by our missions pastors in the church, "Do you want to go to Thailand?" And our guys being our guys, we're like, "Yeah. No hassle. We're in."
And Bangkok is probably the most in your face sex tourist capital of the planet. So we ended up playing at a brothel. Via someone who knew someone, we ended up playing in a bar called the Climax Bar. We had to bring a whole load of Christians with us, who would all buy Coca Cola, and we would have the ability to play a two hour set in the middle of this bar.
And I can remember looking out over my left shoulder and seeing just, I don't know whether or not it was British tourists or whatever, but I can remember just looking out, and here they are in the middle of the street and they're just hearing these Jesus songs blasting out. And there's just a pile of them just standing outside the door. And they were just looking. And I would love to know what's going on in their heads, you know, just going, "Who the heck are these guys singing Jesus songs for in the middle of this street?"
And I just began to sing out what I believed God was saying over that city. I just began to say that, you know, God is God of this city, he's the king of these people, he's the lord of this nation. And they don't know that. They don't know that.
And the song was born. The song came out of this love that started to play, a real minor downbeat loop. And it just majored up into this like anthem of the night. And greater things have yet to come and greater things are still to be done in this city.
Really, probably the biggest moment in my life, that changed my life, was the moment that "God of the City" was actually formulated. What is the church on a global scale doing to actually combat things which exist on our planet that are completely wrong, whether it's child soldiers, prostitution in your own city, homeless in your own city, anything what's going on, what is the church doing? We should be the pioneers. We need to understand that we have an authority, that we have an authority that comes from Christ, to see part of Christ from the dead lives in every single one of us. And that we actually need to have an attitude of going out and serving the world with just with love, and actually living out the great connection.
2009 American Idol winner Kris Allen sometimes includes this song as part of his live repertoire.