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2009 Conversations

Sara Groves

Keith and Kristyn Getty

Jesse Miranda

Heather Bland

Cathleen Lewis

Robert Leathers

Ravi Zacharias

Scotty Gibbons

George O. Wood

George O. Wood

G. Robert Cook Jr.

Michelle LaRowe Conover

Janet Boynes

Kirk Cameron

Laura Wilkinson

Melody Rossi

Randy Travis

Maylo Upton-Aames

Chuck Norris

Francis Xavier 'Chip' Flaherty Jr.

Ben Carson

Robert H. Spence

Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Schloesser

R. Albert Mohler Jr.

James K. Bridges

Manny Mill

Brock Gill

Robert Burt

Gerry Hindy

J.I. Packer

Stanley Horton

Linda Mintle

Joanna Weaver

Buck Taylor

Debra Risner

Bill Glass

Edward Gilbreath

Rob Seagears and Andy Casper

2007 Conversations

2006 Conversations

Conversation: Keith and Kristyn Getty

A revival of hymns

Composers and artists Keith and Kristyn Getty have been at the forefront of the current hymn revival. Keith co-wrote the very popular “In Christ Alone.” They spoke with Editor Ken Horn earlier this year in Portland, Ore.

tpe: How has your spiritual background shaped your music ministry?

KEITH: We both come from Ireland. I come from just south of Belfast, and Kristyn comes from just north of Belfast. I grew up in a Presbyterian home and my mother was actually Plymouth Brethren, so I had a little bit of influence there as well. I had accepted Christ from as young an age as I can remember.

KRISTYN: My dad was a church planter from a Brethren background. I’m a pastor’s kid. Dad led a new church with very contemporary worship music. We’d arrange our favorite hymns for our worship band, so a lot of my knowledge of traditional hymns has come a little later to me than Keith. Keith has very much a classical background and hymn-singing tradition. I’m much more pop and folk. But that blending gives an artistic nuance in what we do.

tpe: Could you explain the importance of hymns in your ministry?

KEITH: We’re not trying to honor any one form of worshipful singing above another. There are many great hymns; there are many awful hymns; there are many good contemporary worship songs; there are many awful worship songs. We really have two goals. First, we want to write songs that teach — that teach the core doctrines of the Christian faith in which we live and move and have our being, and that teach passages of Scripture in a way we can remember them. Second, we want to write songs every generation can sing — that is, with older people, with younger people, with pipe organs, with rock bands, with no band at all. So I believe in that sense our songs have sounded more like hymns and are more aligned with the hymn movement than the current praise and worship movement.

KRISTYN: A lot of what we do is connected to our upbringing, our understanding of faith and our love for the local church. We both grew up with very strong Bible teaching — not just in church, but also in the home — and we took so much joy out of the local church and the support and development of our music there. One of our greatest desires is to sing about these wonderful truths we hear Sunday to Sunday, and to experience all these different voices of the whole congregation singing together. I believe the most exciting and authentic expression of Christian song worship is when we do it all together.

tpe: What makes a good hymn or worship song?

KEITH: First, I believe it is critical in all our worship services that the words we put in our congregation’s hearts are about God. As Paul the apostle reminded the Colossian believers, God’s Word should dwell richly in believers and be expressed in “psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God” (Colossians 3:16, NIV). Think of the Psalms of the Old Testament. Think of the angels singing in the New Testament about the Lamb who was slain (Revelation 5:12).

Second, these should be songs everybody can sing. In the Old Testament the Psalms command us to sing as a body of people. In the New Testament, when the church is suffering unbelievable persecution, Paul is writing to people from so many backgrounds — slave and free, and probably linguistically, educationally, culturally and socially different — and telling them to get together and sing.

tpe: Could you tell us a little bit about your songwriting process?

KEITH: It’s very difficult. I have several cousins who are in business, and they often remind me that if even their worst salesman had as many struggles as I’ve had, they’d be fired. Almost every songwriter I know tells me they write songs in 10 minutes — God just speaks to them or the inspiration just strikes them and they suddenly get these ideas. That never happens for me.

KRISTYN: Sometimes one line or the beginning of a song will come quickly, but in terms of a complete song that is going to be useful in church, that’s a long process.

tpe: You co-wrote with Stuart Townend “In Christ Alone,” which has had such a great impact. Is there a specific story about that?

KEITH: I had heard Stuart’s “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us,” which is a beautiful song. Our publisher wanted to introduce us to Stuart. We met, and we said we would write one song together. And that was the one song. He wanted to go through the life of Christ.

We actually talked about the song “Lord, I Lift Your Name on High,” the worship song that was then the No. 1 seller in the world. It went through the life of Christ, but it didn’t explain anything else. And we said, “That’s a good song, but wouldn’t it be great if it actually explained each part of it as we went along?”

I had a melody, which I could imagine a big crowd at a football match singing. When you’re waiting at a sports match in Britain, you sing a song. I thought it was a great melody. So we worked awhile, and he sent the lyrics through. I changed the title to “In Christ Alone” and changed the first line in reverse, and he changed verses three and four back again. We eventually came to it.

tpe: What brought you to the United States for ministry?

KEITH: We had just married and the hymns had begun to catch on in Britain, but there weren’t really any over here. A number of Christians and Christian leaders had heard about our songs and were taking an interest. We were living in Switzerland at the time, and we traveled here for a tour of services. By the end of it there was such an interest from so many churches and ministries to really see a new generation of hymns coming into the church. It’s a unique window in our lives to travel and to release the songs we’ve written.

tpe: Has the continuous travel been a challenge?

KRISTYN: It’s been wonderful. We love getting to do our writing and traveling together. We’ve met so many great people. We now have friends all over the place, which means we miss them quite regularly because we see them for a weekend and then don’t see them for another few months. But we have been traveling so much recently we’re starting to hold back a little so we can write more of the songs.

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