The Importance of Congregational Song

I had the privilege of hearing Keith Getty speak to pastors and music leaders at RTS last month about hymns of the church and congregational singing.  Keith and his wife Kristyn are Irish musicians whose modern-day hymns are widely beloved and sung by Christians around the globe.  We sing many of their compositions in our worship including In Christ Alone, The Power of the Cross and Speak, O Lord.

The Gettys are passionate about worship and particularly congregational singing.  Keith encouraged us to choose congregational music that is content-rich and musically excellent, songs that come to mind in times of difficulty, sorrow and joy, songs that stand the test of time.  He likened music to a freight train that, when filled with the words of truth from scripture, chugs its way deep into the hearts and minds of the people who sing it.

So much of Christian music is more informed by American Idol than by biblical theology.  It seems everyone wants their fifteen minutes of fame.  When worship teams intent on singing the latest popular Christian song stand in front of their congregations and sing new song after new song, congregations become audiences and worship teams become performers.    Keith stated that our question after worship should always be, “how did the congregation sing?”  Poor congregational singing is a poor witness.  Full, heart-felt participation from the congregation as a whole is a counter-cultural, powerful witness to the world and an encouragement to the body of Christ.  May we as leaders continue to seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit as we choose music for worship, and may we all endeavor to follow the psalmist, David, who wrote, “I will sing to the Lord because He has dealt bountifully with me.”  Psalm 13:6