This past Sunday we had the joy of hosting Keith and Kristyn Getty at our Sunday meeting. Keith and Kristyn have become dear friends since they moved to the U.S. two years ago, so I was delighted when they called and said they were going to be in the D.C. area this week and wondered if we would have any interest in having them share a couple songs on Sunday morning. After a few email exchanges, everything was a go.
Having guest musicians on Sunday is a rare occurrence for us for a number of reasons. Having traveled on the road for twelve years with GLAD back in the 70s and 80s, I know that an artists often have set procedures and song lists that don’t always jive with a church’s goals and intentions. I remember how challenging it was at times to fit in to the particular emphasis or mentality of the churches we played at. Also, at Covenant Life we don’t ever want to create the impression that Sunday morning is more about personalities than the congregation. The church doesn’t gather to exalt an artist, but to exalt the Savior.
But neither of those were an issue with Keith and Kristyn. I started out by leading the song, How Great You Are, by Will Pavone. I then told the congregation that Keith and Kristyn were with us and invited them to join us on the platform. I moved over to synth (which I’m very average at), and Keith took over for me at the grand piano. I explained to the church that we had asked the Getty’s to teach us their song Speak, O Lord, because it fit well in the series on Jeremiah that we’re currently in. After that, I asked everyone to be seated as Kristyn sang Jesus, Draw Me Ever Nearer, a prayer that we would become closer to and more like Christ through every situation we encounter. That led into the 4th verse of the hymn, Holy, Holy, Holy, which was followed by The Power of the Cross and In Christ Alone. I ended with prayer. The pace of the music was a little on the slow side, but there was no lack of enthusiasm or the Spirit’s work that morning as we proclaimed the power of Christ’s atoning death and victorious resurrection to change our lives.
Throughout the entire rehearsal and both meetings, Keith and Kristyn wanted to do what best served the church. Kristyn read a passage from 2 Cor. 4 to introduce one song, but she said she had no desire to be the “worship leader,” but wanted to serve as part of the team. They were entirely flexible when it came to what songs we sang and how we should do them. Kristyn said later she kept looking over at me between each verse to see if I was going to change anything on the fly.
The Getty’s shared lunch with my family (all 16 of us including grandkids) on Sunday afternoon, and just chilled until the SuperBowl. For some reason they had no pressing desire to view what 95 million other people in America thought was pretty important. Guess it’s their Irish heritage. As I took them back to their hotel, Keith asked for thoughts on what they could have done better. We talked about the difference between playing solo and playing with a band, the tempo of songs, and leadership. I was deeply affected by their humility.
I thank God for Keith and Kristyn Getty, two “artists” who are committed to serving the church not only with their songs, but with their lives. You can find out more about the Getty’s here.
Thanks for sharing this experience. We just introduced “Speak, oh Lord” into our services as well this past Sunday. What a fantastic song!
Good afternoon Bob,
Your comments above regarding the pace of music being on the slow side during the Getty’s visit, triggered a question I’ve wanted to ask for a while now:
What’s the importance of pace and tempo in songs we choose for congregational worship?
For me, in a HIGH SCHOOL setting, I’ve usually started off services with songs to “focus” (I put this in quotes to question my own thinking of choosing songs to get kids to quiet down. Is this wrong?). I try to encourage students to God’s work that give us the desire to sing to Him in the first place (i.e. “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing”) through Christ. Typically the songs I pick towards the beginning tend to be slower in pace. Students, and the pastor too, suggest I pick “songs to get the kids going” or “something cool and fast”.
Can you give me some clearer understanding of choosing songs, tempo vs. lyrics, pace vs. content? I have a heart for these students and want them to grow, so any advice would help brotha.
Matt Freeman, Chicago, IL
We recently began singing, “Speak, O Lord” at GFC and also sang it this past Sunday. It is a wonderful song to sing immediately prior to the reading and preaching of God’s Word.
I put it into the category of some of those great John Newton “pre-preaching hymns,” such as, “Now Lord, inspire the preacher’s heart!” It serves to wake us to the fact that God speaks today through His Holy Word.
Can you give me some clearer understanding of choosing songs, tempo vs. lyrics, pace vs. content?
Great question. I haven’t found anything in Scripture about tempo, so these comments are more from my experience.
First, tempo can help or hinder people interacting with the words they’re singing. When a slow song is done too slowly, people’s minds can begin to drift. When a fast song is too fast, people can miss the significance of being said. The right tempo helps people engage with the words they’re singing.
Second, I’d put more of a focus on engaging people with meaningful words than exciting music. It’s not that people can’t be affected by kickin’ music. But we don’t want to teach them that we get all excited, and then start to think. Rather, we want them to understand that we’ve come together because we’re already amazed by God’s grace to us in Christ. So I think starting with a song like Come Thou Fount is a great idea. Of course, there are many songs that “are up tempo and also focus us lyrically. But simply starting off with a song because it rocks is teaching people that you have to be stimulated musically before you can worship God.
Feel free to follow up.
Great post! I have met the Gettys on two occasions and found them both humble and extremely approachable. I am thankful for their songs (with Stewart Townend as well). Thanks to the these saints’ music and sovereign grace’s music, my rural congregation are seeing the value in the new songs because they have wonderful and Christ exalting content just as they think their good old songs have.
We’re studying through Acts on Sunday nights and there is no better song to focus our hearts on the message of Acts than their song “Hear the Call of the Kingdom.”
We’ve used “Speak O Lord” as a “bookend” to the Sermon.(2 vs. before and one after) What an awesome song for focusing us on the preeminence of the Word!
Hey Bob, thanks for sharing your experience and knowledge, it continues to edify me and these songs are good! It’s good to know about these humble artist that want to glorify Christ.
Oh and by the way for your book, there is one person I know that might be interested in translated it in French, but she would like to see how long it is first. Anyways were you planning to let translators start translating before it officially comes out, or you want to wait until it published?
The book will be around 250 pages. If you think your friend is still interested, ask her to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The link to the lead sheet for “How Great You Are” is not available. Could you repost the link so that those of us that missed it the first time can have a copy?
The link to How Great You Are is fixed. It’s a guitar chart, though, not a lead sheet. Thanks for letting me know.
I appreciated having the Gettys at church on Sunday, as did my wife. Chesapeake had done “Speak O Lord” shortly before I left, and it was good to sing it again.
I’m also encouraged that you’re aware of the temptations of having artists perform during church. I’m still processing through some of these ideas myself, but I wanted to ask a couple of things that have been on my mind.
First, it felt to me that many of the songs were lower (in key) than we sing them normally. My wife loved this; she could actually sing the songs comfortably. On the other hand, I got to experience things from her end: I had trouble deciding in which octave to sing, particularly on “Speak O Lord.” Were these songs modulated to a lower key? If so, what should one be thinking when trying to match the comfort range of solo vocalists versus the congregation? Of course, I’m getting over a cold, too, so maybe I was just off. I can’t find a real scriptural precedent here: perhaps you know one.
Second, one of the things that has always been a question in my mind is when the church sells things–this would include the bookstore, but also the CD table that the Gettys had. I think Jesus had something else in mind in John 2:13-17, Matthew 21:12-13, etc, but it’s always been something that has given me pause, even though I’ve been the beneficiary of many low cost books from our bookstore. What are your thoughts on this?
Thanks for thinking about this and for having a such a great heart to glorify our Savior.
Great questions. On the topic of what key to sing a song in, we went with the keys Keith and Kristyn typically use, to serve them. If I felt they were too low, we would have changed the keys. But we never dropped below an Ab. They actually do In Christ Alone in Eb and E, which starts a half step high than the key we normally start with.
The decision about having the CD table in the lobby was something we had to think through. Because we’re enthused about the songs the Getty’s write, we wanted to make them available to folks. But we invited people to meet Keith and Kristyn after the meeting, and mentioned they’d be at the CD table. We wanted to downplay the “sales” aspect.
I don’t think Jesus was outlawing all sales in a church building in John 2:13-17 and Matthew 21:12-13. He was addressing those who used God’s temple as a means of making a profit. The books and music we sell are a meant to enrich the spiritual lives of the people who buy them. We sell things almost at or below cost to provide ongoing training for the church and as a means of serving them.
Let me know if you have any other thoughts.
I have come to appreciate the music of the Getty’s very much as well. When looking through their website, there are some songs that do not have a recording. In particular, I’m really interested in learning “Behold the Lamb (Communion Hymn)” but don’t know how to find a recording or sheet music. Can you suggest where I can look?
Thanks in advance!
The only place the Getty Communion hymn is currently available is in the musical, The Risen Christ. It’s available at http://www.clearcallmusic.com.
Hi Bob. Since your guest posts on 9marks I figured I should check out your own site and say hello!
Keith is a gifted songwriter and I hope that his ministry continues to glorify God as he and his wife develop in it. I recently did one of his songs “Jesus draw me ever nearer” with the New Scottish Folk Sessions band on a UK TV show called Songs of Praise. (Keith is actually an old acquaintance of the New Scottish director Jason McAuley).
I feel that much of his music has a strong celtic/traditional influence, and am interested to know whether that style is popular in your own country within the CCM genre, or whether these celtic ballads need to be “popped up” for general consumption.