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Gettys at EFL: Church needs right songs

VIENNA, Va. (BP) — Singing the right kind of songs can help churches and families flourish in a culture that clashes with the biblical view on such issues as the sanctity of human life, say modern hymn writers Keith and Kristyn Getty.

The Gettys — whose credits as writers or co-writers include “In Christ Alone” and “The Power of the Cross” — spoke Jan. 17 about congregational singing as well as the pro-life cause in their native Northern Ireland during the fourth annual Evangelicals for Life conference. The event, sponsored by the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), was held Jan. 16-17 at McLean Bible Church in Vienna, Va., a suburb of Washington, D.C.

Twenty percent of the Bible is “a songbook,” and “God’s people are a singing people,” Keith Getty said in explaining the significance of discussing music at a conference on human dignity. “What we sing is so vitally important to how we think, to how we feel, to our memories … to how we pray and ultimately to how we act.”

In an interview conducted by ERLC President Russell Moore, Keith Getty told the audience, “The song that God gave us in the Psalms is one of lament over this world, doesn’t hide from injustices…, opens our emotions in raw ways and has us ask hard questions of God and ourselves.”

Followers of Christ need to grow in depth, Getty said, “partly in what we say but partly in the songs that we sing.” There is a “huge need” for this generation “to see reformation and revival” and for song writers to “give us the heart songs” that are part of such a movement of God, he said.

Music, Kristyn Getty told attendees and those watching by live stream, “should give us a big vision of the Bible and of the Gospel story, of heaven, of where we are going, why we are here, who God is. These are the things that we should be singing about…. If we’re not singing about it, chances are we’re not thinking about it. If we’re not thinking about it, it’s not impacting our life” and the decisions Christians make day by day.

The Gettys have used songs with their daughters to “alert them to the differences between cultural voices around them and what God’s Word says,” Kristyn Getty said. Singing is “a wonderful way to teach them” and “shape their world view,” she said.

In recent years, they have sought to teach their girls a hymn each month, she said. In January, the hymn they are teaching is “This Is My Father’s World.”

The Gettys exercised their song-writing abilities last year to speak for the sanctity of human life in Northern Ireland. Ireland voted by referendum in 2018 to repeal its ban on abortion, and Northern Ireland — where abortion is illegal — became the next target for the abortion-rights movement, Kristyn Getty told the audience.

“Northern Ireland is like a little candle in the dark when it comes to life issues,” she said. “We were just very much deeply rattled” by the vote in Ireland.

They asked themselves what they could do, she said, and they helped write “You Have Searched Me,” a song based on Psalm 139, in response. That psalm includes David’s testimony to God’s sovereign care for him when he was an unborn child.

“Trying to let your art be your protest,” she said of the song.

Keith Getty — who noted less than three percent of modern songs mention heaven, hell, judgment or the life beyond — encouraged Christian parents and pastors to enjoy a “vast range” of songs but to focus on a core of “really important” songs they would want their children or churches “to carry with them in life.”

The Gettys have been traveling and singing in churches for 13 years, and “at the end of the day, the greatest singing churches in America have nothing actually to do with denomination or musical budget or size of congregation,” he said. “It’s to do with pastors who care about what their congregations sing.”

Regarding the pro-life cause in Northern Ireland, Kristyn Getty asked for prayer that churches “might be energized to find useful ways in their communities to reach out to families, to women, to give help, to find solutions, to be a positive voice, to be preaching the Gospel and where people can hear that they’re valued, that life is important, that God is the only way to new life and [to] come to Him.”