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Musings on Music After Worshiping With The Gettys

by Joe Pursch on October 25th, 2010

I’ve been interacting with some church leaders recently about my philosophy of ministry when it comes to music. My response to them has been that the form of worship songs is not nearly as important as the source and focus of the songs. In other words, I find that it is more important to ask if the songs have been birthed from the truths of Scripture (vs the ephemeral experience of the writer) and have they sent our soul’s focus heavenward when they’re all done. I’ve sung some modern choruses that can actually pass this test, and some golden oldies that actually fail it. (And vice versa of course.)  It seems that the age or syncopation of the song is not the issue, but the Biblical sensitivity and passion of the songwriter.

Happily, the surge of interest in worship songs that take us into the deep assurances of God’s Word is creating a search for such gifted poets in the church. One such artist is actually a duo: The Gettys.  Recently I attended a leadership conference which featured a simple acoustic performance by Keith and Kristyn Getty, a performance that was simply… well, worshipful. The high point was not when the artists themselves amazed us with their vocal talent by hitting the high notes of their signature song, but it came instead when they invited the entire audience of several thousand to worship with them, following the words on the screen and entering the presence of the King together. For a few moments, we got it all right: our source was Biblical truth and our soul focus was on Christ’s ineffable worth.

So what we’ve got to be is more discriminating about the songs we use in worship, looking for songs that emerge from the hands of people who, like the Gettys, are well gifted both in the theology of the cross and the swelling musical needs of the modern heart. Such worship authors are few and far between these days, as in all days. Indeed, one of the bigger problems in Christian music today is that we have so much of it, with every piece claiming to be worth our use in worship simply because it’s about Christ.

Pulpit great  J.C. Ryle made the same observation over a century ago :

Good hymns are an immense blessing to the Church of Christ. I believe the last day alone will show the world the real amount of good they have done. They suit all, both rich and poor. There is an elevating, stirring, soothing, spiritualizing, effect about a thoroughly good hymn, which nothing else can produce. It sticks in men’s memories when texts are forgotten. It trains men for heaven, where praise is one of the principal occupations. Preaching and praying shall one day cease for ever; but praise shall never die. The makers of good ballads are said to sway national opinion. The writers of good hymns, in like manner, are those who leave the deepest marks on the face of the Church.

But really good hymns are exceedingly rare. There are only a few men in any age who can write them. You may name hundreds of first-rate preachers for one first-rate writer of hymns. Hundreds of so-called hymns fill up our collections of congregational psalmody, which are really not hymns at all. They are very sound, very scriptural, very proper, very correct, very tolerably rhymed; but they are not real, live, genuine hymns. There is no life about them. At best they are tame, pointless, weak, and milk-and-watery.”

Or how about this…The Heidelberg Catechism in rap. See what I mean? Solid.

Rapper-Pastor Curtis Allen brings it.

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