Perhaps Keith and Kristyn Getty are best known for writing the worship song, “In Christ Alone.” It’s doctrinal and devotional depth have made it a favorite among English-speaking evangelicals. There are few people writing music like the Getty’s.
Christianity Today interviewed the Getty’s and asked them a series of questions about their songwriting. Their music really contrasts with the vacuity of much of the songs coming out of the modern worship movement. Here’s are a couple of exchanges that go directly to this point:
Christianity Today: To what do you attribute your success?
Keith: I think there is a rise in Bible teachers who are trying to draw the connection between what is taught and what is real in everyday experience, and who are struggling to find a connectionâ€”where a generation ago, they just used hymns. While there’s a lot of excellent worship songs, they tend to focus on very small aspects of the Christian faith.
If you took a list of subjects, say, attributes of God in the Psalms, probably only 10 percent of them are used in virtually the entire canon of modern worship music. Modern worship songs tend to have a very thin range of subjects. They also tend to explore subjects in a less deep way than traditional hymnody does.
Christianity Today: In a worship service, is there an ideal mix between contemporary worship, modern hymns, and classic hymns?
Keith: I don’t think there’s an answer. You choose great songs that have great words and sing well. Every word you give people on a Sunday has to count for something. The same thing applies to what is sungâ€”in fact, in some ways even more so.
Paul told persecuted churches to get together and teach and admonish one another and sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. There’s no intellectual reason to do that; there’s no church- growth reason to do that. It’s a command, because that is the radical thing.
If members of a congregation aren’t singing, serious questions must be asked, no matter how good the show is at the front.
We also need to remember the importance of learning from the pastor. A lot of people go into Christian music with the Bible in one hand and Coldplay in the other: “I’m going to slap something from the Bible onto whatever the contemporary style is, and that’s the way to relate to contemporary culture, because that’s what pastors doâ€”they’ve got the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other, and they apply this one to this one.”
But that’s not what pastors do. I don’t know any pastor who doesn’t read commentaries by people who came before. There is an unusual arrogance sometimes in music, where one side is disparaging of contemporary music as if the new generation has nothing to say. But then the flip side of that is the new generation has no interest in what’s been said before.
There are 20 centuries of Christian music history and a glorious history of sound traditions from before that. There’s so much we can learn. Even if we detest the musical styles or we feel they’re an irrelevancy to our particular gifting, there’s a rich legacy to be learned from.
For those who are interested, here’s the Getty’s website: www.gettymusic.com.
Here’s the Amazon.com link to their album “In Christ Alone.”