Hymns can reach contemporary culture, hymn writer tells

Communications Staff — March 12, 2007

Many people think of the Easter season as the one time each year when they should gather to celebrate Jesus’ cross and resurrection.

But according to hymn writer Keith Getty, believers can celebrate the cross and resurrection each week of the year by singing hymns with lyrics that exalt the work of Christ.

“In the same way as when we preach to people, we’re teaching them the faith (with hymns),” Getty said Feb. 22 delivering the Institute for Christian Worship Lectures along with his wife Kristyn at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. “We’re challenging them. We’re inspiring them and motivating them to go out and live for Christ.”

The Gettys, who are from Ireland, have written numerous modern hymns including the popular “In Christ Alone,” which Keith penned with Stuart Townend.

Getty told students that hymns play an important role in churches by putting truth in believers’ minds that can sustain them throughout the week. With the approaching Easter season, hymns will also have the opportunity to place truth in the minds of many non-believers who attend church with their families, he said.

“Easter is a wonderful opportunity to actually use these songs to bring the faith to them, to use these songs creatively,” he said. “What a challenge that is to choose good words and to make sure our congregation can sing the things well as a witness.”

In his own hymn writing Getty said he tries to put a sense of drama in the music that matches the excitement of deep biblical truths such as salvation in Christ and the resurrection.

“If you can create in the musical side of things plenty of drama in the song, a sense of direction and a sense of going somewhere and a sense of really celebrating, that actually cuts out a lot of the problems modern people have with hymns—because the songs actually go somewhere,” Getty said. “It creates all the effects that a modern chorus would have.”

There is a place in Christian worship for both praise choruses and hymns, he said, adding that it is wrong to consider choruses more contemporary and hymns a relic of the past.

“There’s been a strong criticism that what we’re doing is not contemporary,” he said of his hymn writing. “Obviously we believe it is. The syntax of the sentences is perfectly understandable to contemporary culture, and the melodies are very singable to contemporary culture. So to me that’s more important than whether it relates to modern radio culture or modern pop mantra lyric culture.”

Getty said he does not think his own songs will ever be the “diet of contemporary radio” because they’re not in the style of most pop music. But he does hope his songs will encourage an increasing number of Christians over the years.

“If the songs become more popular, then to whom much is given, much is expected. So you have more challenges. But I don’t really spend time stargazing, wondering what’s going to happen,” he said.

“We write the best songs we can write with the limited time and abilities we have. We try to introduce them to as many people as possible.”

Among Getty’s other hymns are “Beneath the Cross of Jesus” and “O What a Morning.”

For further information about the Gettys’ music and ministry, visit www.gettymusic.com.

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