The Christmas season is a good time to ask, “Why are we singing?”
by MARK KELLY
CRISIS LOOMS over America.
That deeply concerns Keith Getty, today’s foremost composer of contemporary Christian hymns. Keith believes only Christians with deep spiritual lives will survive what is ahead, and the shallow song lyrics in many Sunday services today simply will not sustain us in the storm.
“Like Charles Dickens wrote in A Tale of Two Cities, this is ‘the best of times’ and ‘the worst of times,’” Keith says. “Our generation is so exciting, but it is so difficult to raise godly children, to build godly congregations, to live godly lives, and to bring communities together.
“What is for certain, however, is that the world our children will grow up in is one where only deep believers will survive,” Keith adds. “That is why this book is so critical at this point.”
This book is Sing! How Worship Transforms Your Life, Family, and Church, a new volume from Keith and his wife, Kristyn. Sing! was released in September in conjunction with a conference for pastors, musicians, and church leaders that featured Alistair Begg, D.A. Carson, Paul Tripp, Joni Eareckson Tada, and others.
WHY WE SING
Keith’s goal is nothing short of a reformation of congregational singing that transforms the lives of church members and bears witness to God’s goodness before a watching world.
“Our generation needs to understand again why we sing,” explains Keith, who recently was honored by Queen Elizabeth II for his contribution to music and modern hymn writing. The most famous song of the Gettys’ 80-hymn catalog, “In Christ Alone,” is sung by more than 40 million people worldwide each year.
“We have told our congregations what to sing,” Keith adds. “We need to help them understand why they must sing. We don’t want people to sing because they love singing, but because the Lord is altogether lovely and worthy of our singing.”
A drift away from hearty congregational singing has left many churches with worship that focuses on performance and church members who see themselves more as customers than worshipers.
“When a generation takes its eyes off the Lord, something that is holy and about God becomes about us,” Keith laments. “A person is trying to find a church where the music does something for him. That’s no reason to be going to church.”
BUILDING DEEP LIVES
A renewal in congregational singing, however, has the ability to transform churches as well as individual lives and families, Keith explains.
“Passionate congregational singing has been part of every great revival time in history, both inspiring people toward revival and being an expression of revival,” Keith points out. “Singing also affects the depth of the individual’s devotional life and how our families get along with each other. People who sing to each other on Sunday bear a radical witness to the world around us.
“Through the songs we sing, we want our churches to be a beautiful, passionate, inspiring witness to the world of God’s goodness to us,” Keith adds. “Our dream is to help revive congregational singing.”
As part of their “Facing the Unfinished Task” emphasis in 2016, Keith and Kristyn interviewed more than 20 missionaries and found the profound lyrics of great hymns played a crucial role in weathering the storms of kingdom service.
“Every single one of them, both in the process of becoming missionaries and being sustained in the hardest times, all quoted hymns regularly,” Keith recalls. “The idea that you would build deep believers with shallow songs would be anathema to those missionaries — and to Martin Luther, the apostle Paul, King David, and Christ.
“We want to make sure our people are singing and immersing themselves in deep songs,” Keith concludes. “We want people to be building deep lives that will carry them through the fiercest drought and storm.”
Note: Learn more about Sing! and the Gettys’ ministry at gettymusic.com.
MARK KELLY is a career Southern Baptist journalist and host of a podcast at godsrevolution.net.
This article originally appeared in Mature Living magazine (December 2017). For more articles like this, subscribe to Mature Living.