Published October 2, 2014
Keith and Kristyn Getty, world-renown Irish musicians known largely for their modern hymns, will be leading the evening worship at the Georgia Baptist Convention annual meeting in Macon on Monday evening, Nov. 10. The couple has performed around the world and are perhaps best known for their song “In Christ Alone.” Here is an interview with Keith Getty as he explains some of his concepts about his music and how he uses it to communicate biblical truths.
Index: You are known for writing what has been called “modern hymns.” How would you delineate between a modern hymn and a worship song?
Getty: My music has been called hymns because their values are closer to traditional church music than contemporary songs. Halfway joking, many people have been very disappointed to know that I am alive and not dead as are most hymn writers. The tradition of the Old Testament is helping people learn their theology through the singing and preaching of the Word.
Every song teaches us something about God as revealed in Scripture … His personality as shown through His love, His wrath, and most importantly His forgiveness. Also, another characteristic is that the average hymn is longer than most contemporary songs. That gives it the opportunity to be more substantive and broad in how it teaches deep spiritual truths. There is no “right or wrong” between hymns and contemporary music and I use modern Christian songs most every day.
Index: In your last album, “Hymns for the Christian Life,” you seemed to cover a variety of topics from stewardship to parenthood. Why do you think it is important to sing about these things in church?
Getty: The Gospel is applicable to every part of life, not just worship and praise. That’s why I wanted to apply it to more common social needs. The Good News is about far more than scaring us from hell; it is about how we relate to each other in everyday situations and how we relate to God. The hymn tradition frequently speaks to the Gospel through everyday life applications.
Index: What would you say to pastors and church leaders who feel caught up in debates about musical style and preference, or what many would call the “worship wars?”
Getty: Pastors and other leaders should be choosing substantive songs that feed their congregation, regardless of the style. It should not matter whether the song sounds like Charles Wesley or Coldplay if it teaches spiritual truth and just uses a different style.
Index: How would you define worship?
Getty: That’s simple … the entirety of Romans 12. That’s where we are taught that worship is multifaceted, not just something we do on Sunday mornings. Worship is presenting ourselves as “a living sacrifice.” How do we do that? Through humble service to Christ, joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer; by putting true love into action through devotion to others, rejoicing with those who rejoice and mourning with those who mourn. True worship is a lifestyle.
Index: Your most well known song, “In Christ Alone,” has been sung all over the world and is more than ten years old now. If you were writing it today, would you change anything about it?
Getty: (Pauses for a moment to reflect, then chuckles and says … ) “No.”
Index: There has been a lot of mixed reaction to the line in that song that goes “Till on that cross as Jesus died, the wrath of God was satisfied.” Why have you been opposed to allowing other groups to soften that lyric? (In July 2013 the Presbyterian Church USA voted to exclude the song from its new hymnal when Getty and fellow collaborator Stuart Townend declined to modify the lyric to read “Till on that cross as Jesus died, the love of God was magnified.” The committee voted 9 to 6 to exclude it from the 800 items included in the hymnal due to the song’s focus on God’s wrath rather than His love.)
Getty: Stuart and I have never changed our lyrics and did not feel it was appropriate to do so in this case. The wrath of God is discussed more than 600 times in Scripture and is an attribute of His that we felt should not be overlooked here. It’s not something we put in all of our songs but one that we felt was appropriate in this case.
We actually mention it very few times in our compositions but believe we must be true to what the Bible says about God, neither downplaying nor exaggerating one trait over another.
Index: After you and Kristyn lead the evening music at the Georgia Baptist Convention meeting on Nov. 10, will you be performing elsewhere in the Atlanta area in the coming months?
Getty: Yes, we are excited about returning to Atlanta with our “Joy – An Irish Christmas” tour in December. It’ll be a great night – with our band of Irish and bluegrass virtuosos and the Sons of Jubal and Jubalheirs joining us. I hope you’ll all come out and sing with us!
Keith and Kristyn Getty and Friends will present “Joy – An Irish Christmas” at 7p.m. on Dec. 19 at Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre on Cobb Galleria Parkway. Tickets are available online at Ticketmaster.
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