By Michael Ireland
NASHVILLE, TN (ANS) — On the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, Keith Getty OBE and Kristyn Getty, set a call to the church around the world to rediscover the power of congregational singing.
The couple, who have written hymns sung by an estimated 40-50 million people in church services each year, echo Martin Luther’s challenge to view congregational singing not simply as an innovation, but rather a return to the Bible and the biblical practices followed well by the prophets and the ancient Church fathers.
At the time of the Reformation, congregational singing was considered a heretical act, but Luther knew it was a biblically vital component to sustaining the gospel in the hearts of God’s people. He believed that God’s people have to sing because the act of singing is a central part of our basic spiritual health.
Keith Getty said, “What many people do not know is that while Luther’s 95 Theses of theology may have opened the floodgates for the Reformation, his insistence upon a return to, and celebration of the sacred act of congregational singing in the people’s known language built the community apparatus that kept those floodgates open for years to come.”
Getty started writing hymns in the year 2000 in significant part inspired by Luther’s congregational singing, rich theology and high artistic view of church music creating a unique brand of modern hymns that he and Kristyn have become associated with. The first hymn he wrote was with Stuart Townsend entitled In Christ Alone which echoed Luther’s rallying cry.
How the congregation sang was a key question for Luther; he believed that a truly biblical church would be one where every believer was actively participating in every part of the service, including the singing, celebrating the gospel message together.
Keith continued, “Luther had come to realize what his ancient predecessors had always known: God’s people are catechized by what they sing. A preacher can teach what the Bible means, but people “carry out” the Bible by the songs they sing. Singing affects people’s minds, emotions, hearts, memories, prayer lives—and ultimately, their thoughts and spoken words.”
Two years ago, the Getty team decided to focus on the 500th anniversary as a chance to launch their Sing! initiative beginning with the global conference in Nashville, TN, and the launch of their book Sing! In the final quarter of this year, they are leading a series of US city-wide summits on congregational singing, relaunching their Christmas tour Sing! An Irish Christmas in venues including Carnegie Hall [the only Christian show of its kind play at the venue] and the Kennedy Center, [being screened on PBS during the Christmas season].
It’s a question we almost never ask out loud. Yet, it is a question central to the lives of Christians who regularly gather together for worship. Do you sing to God? Or do you “address one another in hymns and spiritual songs,” as the Scripture says? Do you close your eyes? What is your posture in worship? This book is designed with these questions in mind.
Or maybe you don’t sing at church — or if you do, not with very much enthusiasm, hoping to hide behind a wall of sound. After all, not everyone sings at the same skill level, same rhythm, or pitch. After all, singing is one of the most-commanded acts in scripture.
Authors, lyricists, and worship leaders Keith and Kristyn Getty write to church members to remind them why the Church should sing, when the Church should sing, and how the Church should sing. A congregation that gains a greater understanding of why they sing won’t dread a worship service, with arms crossed and shoulders slumped, but see singing as an opportunity to proclaim the gospel together in obedience to God.
Sing! guides individual church members together with their congregation on a campaign to declare with one voice, “This is why we Sing!.”
The Gettys occupy a unique space in the world of music as pre- eminent modern-day hymn writers and global ambassadors for the genre.
Perhaps best-known for the modern hymn, “In Christ Alone” (written by Keith with Stuart Townsend), the Gettys have helped reinvent the traditional hymn form and invigorate the interest in hymns of a whole new generation of people, creating a catalog of songs teaching Christian doctrine and crossing musical genres.
Their campaign is part of a movement to encourage church congregations in their singing. Keith and Kristyn live between Northern Ireland and Nashville with their daughters, Eliza, Charlotte, and Grace.