Keith Getty, who’s known for his theologically rich hymns that are sung in churches worldwide, was honored last year as an “Officer of the Order of the British Empire” by Queen Elizabeth II for his contribution in music and modern hymn writing.
Earlier this summer he received the medal and today he’s still penning anthems and hymns for the church, working hard to refine his craft.
“I’ve written thousands of songs, with some years releasing only one or two songs that were actually good enough,” he told The Christian Post in a recent interview.
“For me it’s been a lot of hard work, the help of the Lord in His kindness, who allows the Spirit to inspire occasional moments of uniqueness, moments of peculiar inspiration,” for such is the nature of the creative process, he explained.
Below is an edited transcript of CP’s interview with hymn writer and artist Keith Getty.
CP: You are known for writing songs with substance and theological depth with singable melodies. Yet all too often that’s not the norm in many places. How do you see the state of Christian music, particularly the kind written for churches to use in worship today?
KG: If anything today, we do not often embrace or pursue the hugely vast and rich privilege we have to be a vibrant singing people and to experience deep refreshment from the Lord. As we read the Bible and as we look at Christian history, great movements of lasting significance are both underpinned by and inspire deep passionate hymns of the faith.
This is the challenge we feel in our work: to write and to encourage a new generation of writers to write like that. At the Sing! Conference each year we do ask leaders — pastors, worship leaders, parents — and urge them to love the people in their care enough to fill them and surround them with deep songs of the faith, songs that help their minds and emotions taste the beauty and richness of God that they can carry with them through life, rather than just over-simplistic, trite, short-term material.
CP: Describe what it means to you to receive the OBE medal, especially since you’re the first to receive it as one who’s involved in the world of contemporary church music?
KG: It’s a combination of utter shock, some level of disbelief, absolute gratitude, and a prayer that we use it well. Utter shock that we would be considered. It’s a little bit of disbelief because awards generally have a circumstantial nature to them. Then there’s gratitude for the opportunities we’ve been given in life. In 2000, we were told that no label would ever entertain a modern hymn writer, so it’s a bizarre turn of events in the U.K. to have started there. And ultimately a prayer that as with any opportunity we use it well.
CP: When you write hymns for the Church, how do you encounter the Holy Spirit? Describe the genesis of a Getty hymn. How does the creative process begin for you?
KG: In some ways, writing a hymn is no different than pastoring a church, running a business, or mothering a family. It should ultimately come out of the overflow of our hearts, out of our own prayer lives and devotional lives, and we should also do it to the best of our ability.
To be honest, I’ve worked very hard at songwriting. I’ve written thousands of songs, with some years releasing only one or two songs that were actually good enough. For me it’s been a lot of hard work, the help of the Lord in His kindness, who allows the Spirit to inspire occasional moments of uniqueness, moments of peculiar inspiration.
That’s part of the job of being a career songwriter. There are those who write one song or go through a single season of songwriting. But to be a career songwriter is a lot of hard work. We have been given so much to inspire us in His Word. Hymns should say something about God that help us think and make us want to stop everything in life and praise Him. The melodies we sing should be unforgettable so they live with us our whole lives. We desire beauty, we need inspiration, and that’s part of the work as a songwriter.
CP: What’s next for you? What future endeavors are on the horizon?
KG: What is next for me usually begins with Kristyn and I and our marriage, looking after our four girls, trying to help them and their own level of context here in Nashville. In terms of our work, we’re in the midst of the Sing! Conference vision: to help the Church think deeply about the songs we sing. This year has been focused on the Psalms and next year is the Life of Christ. Being able to use that to really deeply inspire and see a reformation in what we see in churches around the world is what we’re looking forward to now and in the future for Getty Music.