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Contemporary Christian Music Worth Running With

Sep 8, 2019

I just came upon some inspiring Christian song writers/singers who really seem to put Christ first.

OK, I make no claims to knowing much about contemporary Christian music. In fact, I know almost nothing about it. What I do know is mostly from when I was a young Christian. Back then I followed the scene somewhat, so I knew about – and had records by – people like Phil Keaggy, Keith Green, Love Song, Andrae Crouch and the Disciples, Randy Stonehill, Larry Norman, John and Terry Talbot, 2nd Chapter of Acts, Lamb, and so on.

But since then I have followed very little of what is happening in contemporary Christian music. That shows on this website: I have penned only a few pieces on the more recent Christian singers and songwriters. One of them was on Rebecca St. James – at least in part: billmuehlenberg.com/2011/12/20/tim-tebow-rebecca-st-james-and-public-faith/

So I am probably the last person you want to turn to if you want to know all the latest on what is happening with Christian music today. ‘OK Bill, so why then are you writing this piece if that is the case?’ Good question – I am glad you asked.

I do it mainly for one reason: just an hour ago I stumbled upon a Christian artist – or rather, a Christian couple – that seems quite impressive. And by impressive I mean they do not seem caught up in the spotlight, in trying to be cool and hip, in just offering entertainment, and simply slavishly following the world. They seem quite devout and dedicated to Christ.

Moreover, their lyrics seem to be fully biblical and theologically rigorous – unlike the great bulk of Christian music today. They stick to Scripture, and are not just offering brainless, repetitive choruses. I had never heard of them before so I did a bit of net surfing after I came across one of their songs.

I refer to north Irish Christian song writers and singers – and husband and wife team – Keith and Kristyn Getty. My discovery came about as follows: I actually have been writing several articles on the cross of Christ of late, and in doing so I came upon one of their songs just recently.

It is called The Power of the Cross, and it seems pretty biblical and sound. You can see/hear it performed here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=ubGCISQQ7Zo

And the same song with lyrics included is found here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=uS7fc7VTJZs

Here are some other songs I have discovered from the pair. This one I of course have heard often before, but knew nothing about who wrote it or who sang it. “In Christ Alone” will be quite well known to many of you: www.youtube.com/watch?v=qLy8ksqGf9w

Here are four more I came upon:

“Holy Spirit, Living Breath of God” www.youtube.com/watch?v=N8FKZIz97AU

“The Lord Is My Salvation” www.youtube.com/watch?v=NjOGX5zT8KU

“He Will Hold Me Fast” www.youtube.com/watch?v=936BapRFHaQ

“When Trials Come” www.youtube.com/watch?v=MpScEpriWZs

But it is not enough just to hear a few songs. A bit more sniffing around on the net and I came across this piece which offers some helpful information about the couple. The headline of the article certainly got me interested: “Hymn writer Keith Getty: Nominal, shallow Christianity has no future, we must proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord”. Let me quote parts of it here:

The first hymn writer to be honoured by the Queen for contemporary Christian music has described how his music is an expression of one thing – that Jesus Christ is Lord. Keith Getty, awarded OBE in the annual Queen’s Birthday Honours, told Christian Today that at the heart of all his remarkable hymns, which are among the most popular modern worship hymns ever written, is the conviction that we are all fearfully and wonderfully made – and that music is an expression of that. ‘But even more than that – that it points ultimately to Christ – that even the rocks and the hills could cry out that Jesus is Lord,’ he says.

Every new song or production or company or idea is aimed at drawing people towards Christ. ‘We live in what John Stott described as the most exciting generation in history to be Christians, with the growth of Christianity around the world, the potential of the Bible in every language but, to quote Dickens, it is the “best and the worst of times”. The challenges are so great that I don’t believe nominal or shallow Christianity has any realistic future.’

‘We need to build believers, churches and children who are deep believers and part of how that happens is through the songs we sing. May all of us work together to share in that vision.’ The OBE was awarded in recognition of Getty’s contribution to music and hymn writing through his re- popularising of hymns. It is the first such honour given to an individual who is actively involved in the world of contemporary Church music.

Getty’s hymns, often written in collaboration with Stuart Townend, include the popular In Christ Alone – the number one most-frequently-sung in UK churches for a record-setting nine consecutive years. An estimated 40-50 million people sing Getty hymns in church services each year. Getty, raised in Northern Ireland, told Christian Today: ‘I was introduced to faith and music by my parents and started to get involved while at our local church, Elmwood Presbyterian in Lisburn outside of Belfast.’

It grew from there – the music groups at his church grew to attract others from other areas. His parents had an open house for everyone and over time they created their New Irish Arts organisation, involving hundreds of people from throughout Ireland in music and particularly church music. Although he’s not now involved personally, it is still flourishing under the leadership of Jonathan Rea and regarded as a great example of how the arts can shape lives and communities.

Getty has always written music but it was meeting Stuart Townend that changed his life. ‘He is just an unparalleled talent and really helped me shape and focus my writing through some pretty tough love and critique. Our first song was “In Christ Alone” and that really opened the doors for an interest and revival in hymn writing.’ Getty became a Christian as a child. ‘Key to everything were great older Christians and having great older heroes.

‘As I grew up those guiding stars continued to be an extraordinary help in everything we did. I think older Christians we can look up to is so crucial and vice versa – the responsibility to be encouraging the next generation in deep faith is profound.’ Along with Stuart, his wife Kristyn is integral to the creative process. ‘I’ve never been that good at creativity by myself and whether it’s Stuart or Kristyn or Fionan who helped create the “Irish Christmas” show, I have always leaned heavily on others.

‘Kristyn however has been the most influential person in my life – I often get asked, “Who is the most influential theologian?” or “Who are your closest confidants?” and Kristyn is the answer to all those questions. Even when I’ve heard a profound sermon, or read a deep book she actually shapes how I distill, practise and really adopt ideas and patterns at a daily level.

You can read the entire article here: www.christiantoday.com/article/hymn-writer-keith-getty-nominal-shallow-christianity-has-no-future-we-must-proclaim-that-jesus-christ-is-lord/110093.htm

Let me close by saying two things. One, I am sure there are other great singers and song writers who are sold out to the Lord, who are not ego-tripping, who are biblically and theologically sound, and who do all they can to glorify Christ alone, and not themselves.

But as I say, I really am not up on the contemporary scene today. So some of you who are can certainly come here and post comments, informing me of some of these other Christian artists that we can safely run with. It will be good to know of those who really do lift up Christ alone as they remain in the background, humble and unobtrusive.

Two, I have now known about Keith and Kristyn Getty for a full one and a half hours! In other words, I still know next to nothing about them, except for what I have offered above. My fear is that in my excitement and haste in my discovery of them and sharing this here, some unknown fact will come to light – or someone will inform me of such facts.

That is, maybe they will turn out to be part of some cult, or be pushing some unchristian agendas, like homosexual marriage or abortion. I hope not, and from the little I have read and heard, they don’t seem like the kind of folks who will let me down big time in this regard.

But again, many of my readers will know a whole lot more about them than I do, so again, you are invited to come here and share any thoughts: either affirming that they are the real deal, or that they may have some unwelcome beliefs or practices that I need to know about. So keep me posted thanks.

In the meantime, enjoy their edifying and soundly Scriptural music.

[1486 words]

37 Responses to Contemporary Christian Music Worth Running With

  • Beautiful, thanks Bill – and this one with choir and orchestra –

  • They are definitely the REAL DEAL. We have been drawn closer to Scripture through their hymns for over 15 years. Thank you for this article.

  • Bill, you mention Phil Keaggy. In this clip, Phil’s part of the group of musicians performing with Keith and Kristyn! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eiuNq2OWgzg .

    Kristyn is a niece of Prof. John Lennox, noted Christian Apologetics author and speaker: https://www.facebook.com/gettymusic/posts/prof-john-lennox-shares-a-special-connection-to-sing19-as-kristyns-uncle-beyond-/10161076020035136/ .

  • Hi Bill,

    just happy you have found ”the real deal” in Christian songs and songwriting(:

    We sing Kristy & Keith Gett’s songs in our local Pressy church on the North Coast of NSW.

    As I tell my Hillsong friends and family unless a song hasn’t got Jesus Christ included, how can it ever portrait Our Saviour, we are supposed to sing about to the world?

    It’s the word, as you always say, that become the mouthpiece of Jesus…

    ”NO WORD OF Him, NO WORTH LISTEN TO!”

    Thanks, Bill for your faithfulness(:

    Regards and blessings

    Eric Hansen

  • Hi Bill, thanks for the heads up. I have heard of them. Blue Letter Bible has/ had free downloads of their hymns, unfortunately I was always down another rabbit hole chasing scripture for sermons and never took the offer up. My bad.

  • Thanks Greg, JB, John, Eric and Wayne. Looks like they are indeed the real deal which is good to know.

  • Dear Bill
    well I am glad you have found Keith and Kristyn Getty . . . they have been around for a while (more than 10yrs I think) but Australian church are so wedded to Hillsong that they don’t know much else. I think the story goes that the Getty’s were deeply moved by Stuart Townend’s (UK) song “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us” (1990) and approached Townend with the query – “do you think we could write deep and theological contemporary hymns the church would sing?” Together they wrote “In Christ Alone” — and that was the beginning of what I regard as a new movement in worship music. Unlike most Christian pop worship music – these are real hymns (words are most important) written for congregational singing (as distinct from solo performances with sing-a-long) and what’s more, they all go through a process of rigorous vetting from a board of theological advisers. I first came across their music at Belgrave Heights Convention – – and have since introduced many of their hymns to my church. Have a look at this one Bill: “The Perfect Wisdom of our God” . . . In all their hymns the words have primacy – but the music is glorious.

  • Many thanks for that Elizabeth. Good stuff. And here is the song you mention:

  • Yes, Bill, they’re for real. In fact, John MacArthur and his mob put together a hymnbook, of old and modern songs, in the past few years which feature songs from the Getty’s as well. Also, if what I hear is right, many of their songs come from the Puritan prayers book, Valley of Vision. There’s some solid material just there. Thanks for this piece.

  • From some current songs I’ve learned newly discovered ‘truths’ that God’s love is reckless, that Jesus is busy resurrecting me and that my relationship with Him is romantic. I’ve also acquired knowledge that ‘awesome’ songs no longer inspire fear and wonder.

  • Yes Antoon, so much of modern Christian music is theologically vacuous and biblically misleading. As I said in an article from almost a decade ago:

    “One recent Christian song was based on this refrain: ‘I like Jesus more than ice cream’.”

    https://billmuehlenberg.com/2010/05/23/he%e2%80%99s-not-a-tame-lion/

  • I get frustrated and so disappointed with worship songs presented in a lot of church that fail the scriptural benchmark.
    During worship time I find myself struggling to enter in because the words seem lifeless. I like the hymns (songs) that teach you the scriptures and brings in to you the presence of the Holy Spirit.

    Great is Thy Faithfulness, “To God be the Glory, Nothing but the Blood of Jesus What a Friend we have in Jesus”
    These great old worship songs are in fact teaching songs. They move you in the Spirit, and introduce you to the beauty of scripture.
    In these days it would seem like, it’s “let’s not frighten the young folk away” so we’ll make the worship louder and not too scriptural.
    Yes, I love “The Old Rugged Cross, I Serve a Risen Saviour, Amazing Grace” and a heap of other incredibly anointed songs that speak deeply to your spirit. Young pastors today don’t seem to get it.
    It’s What can make me whole again,Nothing but the Blood of Jesus

  • Here’s a first attempt to also put the music itself ‘second’, in deference to the Biblical message – Gethsemane by Beautiful Desert:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q5g0G07V6dk&feature=youtu.be

    It’s not a hymn – the song is too up-tempo and aggressive-sounding for church – but I think it is theologically sound and suited to everyday “radio listening” situations.

  • Thanks Adam. At this very moment I am writing a new article about – at least in part – the cup of God’s wrath. I will post it soon.

  • Hi Bill. Thanks for this piece on the Gettys – I have been enjoying their music for some time now. My favourite is their version of ‘O Church Arise’ – so stirring, biblical, singable etc!
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x63cVewXAeg
    Keep up the good work.

  • @Bill – The cup of God’s wrath? It’s a fascinating topic. Looking forward to your exposition.

    @Michael Mercier – I agree. The Hymns’ theological richness is most definitely their strength. They’re mini-sermons in their own right, aren’t they?!

  • Several of the better new songs are reworked old hymns. For example: “He will hold me fast” and “I’ve tried in vain” aka “I want to know you”, both from Alexanders Hymns, No 1 and 83 respectively.
    I want to know you: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AY3EGQvyl5M&list=PLPqmscLqJQptuC0uC6ZFgTvW6n56KPL6A&index=7

  • Hi Bill. It seems that there’s Contemporary Christian Music and Contemporary Christian Music. I’ve just re-read a book titled “Why I Left the Contemporary Christian Music Movement” bu Dan Lucarini. He is quite anti CCM mainly due to its “rock and roll” overtones and the use of drums, syncopated beats etc that are best left to the pagans, not used in Christian worship services. I’m not sure how he would react to the Getty’s style of music given that there was evidence of drums in one of their You Tube videos.
    HIs book is rather confronting however as he has come from a secular rock and roll background.

  • For those who are interested, a quick search in Spotify under the surname ‘Getty’ will reveal a treasure trove of their music. You can then save it to your favourite artists list and voila – everytime you launch Spotify you’ll have their music ‘on tap’ and ready to enjoy. This even works on the non-premium version (i.e. free) version of Spotify.

  • Thanks for this article Bill. Glad Keith Getty is to be honored. I don’t claim to be up to date either. But Christian worship music is important to me, so I thought I would share a few other names for people to consider. Graham Kendrick has produced some wonderful worship albums. John Martinovici (above) mentioned “Valley of Vision.” While I am not aware of Keith Getty and this material, Sovereign Grace Music have produced one. I consider it outstanding: https://sovereigngracemusic.org/music/albums/valley-of-vision-2/ and commend it to you.
    The final album I wish to inform you of is “Glory Revealed: The Word of God in Worship” This is also a wonderful album, I have played many times over and over again. The album fits together as a whole. I have managed to find one track for you to listen to on YouTube. Please ignore the images as these have been produced by others. I have included it so you get a sample of type of music. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a27uGkgnQ-Q
    Music is very powerful and can help us see, like the negro spiritual says: “Play little David, play on your harp…” It can help us find the breakthrough we need. I commend these resources to you Bill and to your readers.

  • A most encouraging thing. When Keith Getty was asked about the best advice he had ever received: “Ensure your faith grows faster than your music.” A strong safeguard in our celebrity-soaked culture.

  • Where have you been Bill..Sing 2019 a conference in usa had over 10k participants with John Piper, Macarthur, Os Guiness. It is on FB. Other God honouring writers are Matt Boswell and Australian writers from Castle Hill in Sydney..Cityalight..check them out

  • Good and welcome reflection , There must be lots of Christians writing wonderful modern music , words that build well on the foundation before us

    LOCALLY
    The Iona community gets a lot of press in modern Lutheran hymn books( eg red book ) – sound teaching
    “Consider Christ ” – wonderful stuff coming from Dubbo Presbyterian —- if you are ever up that way . Explore

  • Hay Bill. Here’s a worship singer that I really like his name is Ron Kenoly. He’s an American and I’m guessing that you have heard of him.
    For me, he’s perhaps one of the best. When I was living in Sydney, he came to Hill Song, he was a blessing. His music was pre-recorded, he was so genuine and jubilant and really related well to the audience.
    I like all the stuff he does, amongst my favorites are “Ancient of Days and Morning into Dancing”
    I reckon you would know of him Bill I’m hoping that you like his music.

  • Thanks Michael. Yes have heard a number of his songs – good stuff:

  • So happy to hear the Getty’s music. Absolutely love “In Christ Alone”.
    I miss the old Hymns and the scripture in them and the doctrine.
    Another one I like to listen to is Robin Mark. I can understand the words and join in singing along. Always have a USB with all this on in my car.
    Keep up the great articles Bill.

  • Arlene Foster Retweeted
    Paul Givan
    ?Verified account @paulgivan
    Aug 27

    Delighted @lisburnccc has agreed to bestow the Freedom of the City on Keith & Kristyn Getty. Keith is a proud native of Lisburn who attended Pond Park Primary and Friends Grammar School. Together they have made a huge contribution to the Arts & Christian worship around the world.
    Keith&Kristyn Getty

  • I came upon Keith and Kristen Getty several years ago via “The Power of the Cross.” What a blessing their hymn text and music is. So glad you found them.

  • Yes, Bill. I think my wife and I are of your vintage. I grew up loving the Christian music of the artists you mentioned above and others, of course. Keith Green remains one of my favourites.
    I, like you very much appreciate Keith and Kristen Getty’s music as well as Rebecca St James.
    I have been somewhat saddened and disappointed to read Fb posts in recent times from one of my other favourites from the 70’s and 80’s, Don Francisco, who with his wife, Wendy seem to have departed from core Biblical truth big time! I pray they will be delivered from the deception they are under as it seems, a lot of people blindly agree with everything they post.
    Blessings,
    Peter

  • Thanks Peter. Yes I heard that about Francisco as well sadly.

  • Bill, I have been a “fan” of Keith and Krysten Getty for several years now. They are my favorite Christian artists and I believe them to be “the real deal” as you say. I have all of their CDs and have been blessed to attend several of their concerts. Most recently I attended a concert during their annual Sing conference in Nashville which was mentioned by someone in the comments above. I have found in my experience a Getty concert to be more “church” than almost any church service I have ever been to in my 35 years since since responding to God’s offer of His gift of salvation by grace through faith which He so mercifully bestowed on me. I am glad you have now discovered them. I think they they will be a real blessing to you. God bless you, Bill. Your articles are a real encouragement to me. I often share them with my friends.

  • Hi Bill.

    In our family, we try to distinguish between devotional, “performance” and congregational style songs.

    Some of the old greats had unsingable music but theologically great words, even if the language is a bit formal or old in style.

    We like a lot of the Gettys’ work, especially when rejuvenating old classics with new tunes.

    Our humble local Pressie church has many Getty hymns in its repertoire.
    Glad to see you are catching up to the stodgy old Pressies! 😉

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