Spotlight Interview with Keith Getty: Why Christians singNovember 2, 2017
Today we are privileged to have Keith Getty, author, songwriter, worship leader. What we’re here to talk about today is the book, Sing, How Worship Transforms Your Life, Family and Church. This is written to church members to remind us why the church should sing, when the church should sing, and how the church should sing, and you can check it out at thesingbook.com. You can also check it out at gettymusic.com.
Listen in to our conversation:
Carmen: Alright, Keith, first of all, just welcome to The Reconnect.
Keith: Thank you so much, Carmen. It’s good to be here.
Carmen: Tell us, why should we sing and why is singing a necessary and integral part of the life of the Christian?
Keith: Well, we sing, first of all, because we’re commanded to. Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so. Well, the Bible tells us to sing, or to praise, more times than any other thing in Scripture, bar none.
It’s the second most common command, or exhortation. So, as you and I are both parents, you know, when you tell your kids something more than once it’s usually important. When you tell them something over one hundred times, we like to think they get the message that it’s important. And so, to sing is simply obeying God’s word to start and, therefore, not to sing is disobedience by extension of that. But it’s more than that because, you see, God has created us as human beings, each one of us to sing with different levels of voice.
And the Bible says that we’re created to praise. In fact, it says generations yet unborn that are created to praise. You know it’s part of our humanity and regardless of how good we are. So, for my friends who are engineers or business men who don’t really sing and aren’t very emotional or a bit listless, you know, they go “That doesn’t really move me”. Well, it doesn’t really matter. You know, whether your voice is Pavarotti or Bono or you or I, each one of us is created to sing.
I have three daughters. They’re six, three, and two. We sing a hymn of the month. One month we were singing “Holy, Holy, Holy”. And the oldest one, who’s an overachiever, performs “Holy, Holy, Holy” perfectly and does a bow at the end and asks whether it was her best ever performance and etc, etc. The second one rolls her eyes at her crazy sister as she’s kind of the mysterious, maverick middle child. And she eventually sings and doing silly things and sticking out her tongue. But it is wonderful. And then the third one, she sings “Holy, Holy, Holy” but she morphs into “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” as she’s going through it, cause she gets them mixed up.
But, the point is that they all sing “Holy, Holy, Holy” differently. But as a parent, I love them all. So, our Lord looks at each one of our voices and, I think, is equally delighted by our singing. Indeed, the guitarist in our band, part of his story of going into music ministry is that … So, his dad, who loved congregational singing, who was the most passionate singer in their whole church, and he only hit three notes. But it took a year to realize because dad just loved singing. And, all dads sing badly they thought growing up.
Our Lord looks at each one of our voices and, I think, is equally delighted by our singing.
But, so we’re created. But most of all, we’re compelled to sing by Christ’s gospel. We’re commanded to sing, our bodies are created to sing, but we’re commanded to sing because of the good news of Christ has died and is risen, that we’re forgiven, that we’re free. And, I remember when I first started to date Kristen, her dad invited me into the house one day and as a father of daughters, I realized he was only doing this to spite me, I thought he was being nice. But he just is checking me out.
And he was a church planter. He began his day with his coffee, watching Brooklyn Tabernacle. This wonderful testimony of the guy saved from crack cocaine singing “I’m Clean, I’m Clean. I’ve been washed by the blood”. Right throughout Scripture, we say things about God, we tell stories, we tell our history, and we respond by singing. It’s what God’s people do.
Right throughout Scripture, we say things about God, we tell stories, we tell our history, and we respond by singing. It’s what God’s people do.
Carmen: I love that. Let’s talk about the context of that cause one of the things that I think you guys are really advocating is a restoration of congregational singing. The singing in the context of the congregation as the people of God. And so, let’s talk about what happens to us, what happens around us, what happens in Heaven when we sing, and why congregational singing is important.
Keith: Well, that’s right. Congregational singing is what we’re commanded to do. Theologically speaking, of course, we think, as you said, we think of this picture of Heaven of every tribe, nation, tongue, language, and people. And the microcosm of that on Earth is all of us in our community, our church community, getting together on a Sunday to sing to one another, old, young, rich, poor, regardless of nationality, talent, or whatever else. We get together to sing to one another. That’s the foretaste of Heaven, albeit infinitesimally small, that we have on Earth. That is a thing of beauty. That is the representation of church that is our meetings on a Sunday.
We get together to sing to one another. That’s the foretaste of Heaven, albeit infinitesimally small, that we have on Earth. That is a thing of beauty. That is the representation of church that is our meetings on a Sunday.
We got very disturbed. I think it was probably fourteen we did, a series of leadership lunches and kept asking people ‘What’s the first thing, when I ask you the music from church last Sunday, what’s the first thing you think of?” And in fourteen talks, people talked about the songs, the worship leaders, the noise, the contemporary versus traditional, the choir versus worship band, all these different things, the flow over time, all these different things. Not one person said how did the whole congregation sing. And so, that is core. Everything else works around that. That’s the main bit. The rest of it is unnecessary, but helpful to the congregational singing.
And so, we began to ask this question. And, of course, this year is the 500th anniversary of, this fall is the 500th anniversary of Luther’s Reformation so it was just perfect timing. Cause Luther really restored congregational singing. Luther actually read the Old Testament and the New Testament and all the church fathers. Kept realizing how core congregational singing was and couldn’t believe it that the church had banned it and moved everything to the professionals at the front who were able to control everything a little bit more.
And so, Luther restored congregational singing. So we thought it was a perfect time to start to ask people about our congregational … about how, about what singing is like in our church.
Carmen: Well, and I think that when you present it that way, when you talk about, okay, there has, over the course of time, been this professionalization, in some level, of what happens in the context of a worship setting where we have a band and we have song leaders and we have performers, and then we have very, very passive people in the pews. And so, let’s talk about just how do you move the individual from passivity to active engagement. Cause you’re gonna have to get me, you’re gonna have to remove the layer of fear that I have that other people are watching me. So, could you just tell everybody else that they have to close their eyes during congregational singing? Is there a methodology to this? Tell us what, who are we singing to, for whom are we singing, what’s happening to the individual, and just, sort of, remove the fear that we have of just belting it out.
Keith: Well, there should be no fear of belting it out. That’s the beauty. But, singing, as we talked about earlier, is holy activity. So, I say to church leaders all the time, and I say to parents of children, as well, this is holy activity. Therefore, this has to be taught and explained. To understand is to know. And so, people don’t always understand what they’re doing. And, obviously, with so much of the Christian music industry essentially owned by Wall Street today, they’re applying Wall Street marketing principles to what is now part of our church services. So, there’s a huge confusion as to what’s going on. You know, and so, what we have noticed is that families who sing have got fathers who sing. And churches who sing have got a senior pastor who loves singing. He might be terrible at it, might be amazing at it. Doesn’t really, it makes no difference at all.
But what have found is that congregational singing has always, has very little proportionality to musical quality, wealth of the congregation, how much they spend on music ministry, etc, etc. Or style of music. We have found churches who sing traditional hymns, churches that have a very uptempo, contemporary feel. We find churches that are fantastic at singing are churches that are alive as Christians and the pastors are very, very excited about congregational singing, very engaged. So, that also goes to the family as well. Cause my wife, I think once said, which I’ve always quoted her on, is that congregational singing is a feast to somebody who’s prepared in the home during the week.
Congregational singing is a feast to somebody who’s prepared in the home during the week.
You know, look at the history of the American church … When we look at the history of the American church, there’s two things that become clear. One is that they followed Luther’s pattern, which is God’s people learn their fear of what they sing. In other words, what we sing influences how we think and how we live and how we pray. Luther believed that the Bible was taught by the preacher and then taken out of the church by the songs. So, the songs that help it go into our mind, to help it go into our imaginations, to help it go into our emotions, to help it go into our memory banks, to help it go into our prayers, and, lastly, help it go into our speaking and our living, and our moment by moment actions and reactions.
The second this is, that as we look at American church history, you know, the importance of singing in the home, of what we sing. You know the Puritans wouldn’t let a man take the Lord’s Supper if we wasn’t praying and singing with his children every day, which is remarkable compared to what things are today. I remember, Kris and I were at a concert in Los Angeles once. And, Dr. John MacArthur was meeting me for coffee and I was terrified. I was hoping I wouldn’t say anything wrong. I was really nervous. And I said to him, I just blurted out “Any advice on raising children?”And, Dr. MacArthur said “Well, the most important thing for us after choosing a good church was filling our home with songs of the Lord. That our kitchens, our cars, our living rooms, our bedrooms, fill our homes with songs of the Lord.” With cassettes, he would get cassettes in their cars that helped their children learn through song.
So, it’s so important that the right technology today that is being used for some much evil in our children’s lives should be used to help fill our children with songs of the Lord. Anyways, it’s more accessible that it was for previous generations.
Carmen: Keith Getty, thank you so much. You actually delivered a sentence during this conversation that my husband will probably now want to have chiseled into something. “Families who sing have fathers who sing.” And this encouragement to fill our home and our cars and our time together with songs of the Lord, is a great encouragement just in my own family life.
Again folks, the book is Sing. How Worship Transforms Your Life, Family, and Church. Keith and Kristen Getty are the authors of it. You maybe know them best by one of their most popular songs “In Christ Alone”. You can check out the book at thesingbook.com. You can check out Getty music at gettymusic.com. And you can follow them on Twitter @gettymusic.
Keith, thank you so much for being with us today on The Reconnect.
Keith: Oh, thank you so much indeed. It was an honor to be on the show. Anytime.
Carmen: Thank you.