Just as home entertainment has morphed from family and neighborhood sing-alongs to the ability to consume whatever music the global professionals offer, the church has shifted away from an emphasis on corporate singing. At best, larger churches have shifted to more professional, performance-oriented music. And smaller churches have adopted less of the traditional “come one, come all” since because it feels outdated, irrelevant, and at times downright embarrassing. Who can compete with the masters, after all?
It seems curious that in a generation that has produced innumerable conferences, articles, blogs, and even university degree programs on “worship,” the topic of congregational singing hasn’t been raised more often. But even if we had been discussing congregational participation, would we know what goal we’re aiming to hit each week?
When preparing for any worship service, our desire is for the songs we sing to be filled with the beauty of Christ and the the truths of his Word. We want the Word of Christ to dwell in people richly when they listen to it being preached as well as when they respond in song.
I think the things we are most passionate about are, first, making sure that congregations are able to sing together and, secondly, making sure that the Word of Christ dwells in us richly. When you look at the New Testament, the radical thing about the church wasn't its performance capabilities, it wasn't buildings, it wasn't even artistry. It was the fact that these people from every background were coming together to sing. In other words, what congregational singing represents is actually what the church represents.
It all comes out of the Facing a Task Unfinished hymn, written by Frank Houghton, 1931, in the context of mass persecution in China. He writes this hymn as a call to 200 people to come preach. China, the context, was very anti-Christian, the minimizing of Christian rights, the murdering of Christians and indeed worldwide global recession. A lot of things actually quite similar to our own times, but serious persecution. So, he writes this hymn, sends it round as a call to missionary commitment. He gets a response of 204 people to go.
Keith Getty says that what we sing becomes the grammar of what we believe. That's why he and Kristyn Getty are writing and teaching modern hymns that all ages can sing and remember together. A feature story exploring Getty's ideas on writing hymns for the Universal church.
As part of Inauguration week festivities, Trinity welcomed world-renowned hymn writers Keith and Kristyn Getty for an afternoon symposium on the place and importance of musical worship in today’s churches, as well as an evening concert of worship and celebration.
I’ve spent my life with twin goals. One is to try and let the word of Christ dwell richly when people meet together and sing. What we sing is as important, if not more important than, what we speak. And secondly, to try and craft a musical style that someone can carry for a lifetime. And the Lord is Lord of every form of art — pop art, high art, songs that last for a day, songs that you sing to your children, hymns sung around the world for 500 years.
Keith Getty has enjoyed sharing with Christian leaders around the world his vision for hymns, worship, and the importance of strengthening the church with a body of songs that can be sung for life. Getty has co-written many well-known modern hymns, including “In Christ Alone” and “The Power of the Cross.” He and his wife, Kristyn, live between Northern Ireland and Nashville with their two daughters.
This year is marked by Getty Music’s inaugural conference on worship and artistry. Centered around the three core values of theology, artistry, and congregational singing, this conference is designed to help church leaders, pastors, and worship musicians think deeply about why and how churches should sing their faith. You’ll be joined by speakers like Keith & Kristyn Getty, D.A. Carson, Paul Tripp, Alistair Begg, Joni Eareckson Tada, Bob Kauflin and many others!