I recently had the opportunity to ask Keith Getty a few questions about the church and hymnody and whatever else I wanted to talk about. I figured that’s an opportunity I ought to take. Here’s what I had to ask and what he had to say…
What do you see as the “lay of the land” in Christian worship right now, perhaps especially as it pertains to congregational Christian worship? What positives or negatives have we seen in the past few years?
It is a very distressing season looking at what is being sung in church. Whether the theological content (breadth and depth), the artistic quality (and thus ability to last and be sung throughout our lives), or the singing generally in homes and in churches, the current state of things is deeply concerning.
That said the diagnosis of the problem usually leads to the cure and I see pastors, musicians and writers waking up to the problem. It’s just sad the damage that has been done in the interim.
You’ve got this huge Sing! conference coming up this summer. The theme doesn’t sound obviously related to singing—“The Life of Christ.” Why did you go with that theme?
The life of the Christ is the theme of year three of our five-year plan.
The goal is to teach the gospel as well as to shine a light on the three major themes of Christmas, Easter and the Great Commission. We will examine how they are studied and sung, and given the amount of time musicians spend working on these areas, we hope will encourage and inspire them as they plan for the next year.
We want them both to know a strong sense of the gospel and eternity in all they do and send them away with lots of practical resources that will actually change the way churches think about these themes.
The goals of this conference are:
- To refocus us on how the Gospel of Christ shapes our worship
- To point us to singing in light of God’s Eternal Kingdom
- To reinvigorate singing and worship during the Advent season
- To strengthen singing and worship during the Easter season
- To understand how the Great Commission empowers our worship ministry
Over the past few years, I’ve begun to see a heightened emphasis on liturgy and church calendar. What do you make of this?
I actually think that it is very helpful as long as it is doesn’t become the main thing. Cranmer’s prayer book was given to us to help us understand the gospel by the very shape on the service as well as in the prayers, songs, readings and sermon.
What are three songs or hymns written in the past 10 years (and not by you) that you think the church will still be singing in 100 years. What makes these ones special?
I find it difficult to say. In the modern age, it’s hard to know what will last and what won’t. There are lots of good songs but the level of artistry those would require isn’t really being touched. The great hymns were written by people who were touched in extraordinary ways but had extraordinary gifting. That doesn’t mean there aren’t hymns that will last and have lasting value—there are, and in increasing numbers.
If there is one central theme in your ministry to the church, what is it?
Singing the word passionately and beautifully to yourself, your family and your church.
Rumor has it you kind of go “offline” for a month or so in the summer? Why?
Many different aspects within that. The need to rest from our work. The need for extended time to worship, pray and reflect on the year that has been. The need to give attention to personal issues that need addressing. The need to spend time with Kristyn and the girls (tomorrow my entire focus will be on making pancakes, looking at horses and sand surfing on a beach). The need to actually create space for the amazing leadership in our Company to focus, take the lead and get a break from our crazy neurosis (they love it). The need to remind ourselves that God is God and we are not.