Book Review: Sing!, by Keith & Kristyn Getty
Keith and Kristyn Getty, Sing!: How Worship Transforms Your Life, Family, and Church. B&H, 2017. 149 pages.
In Christ Alone by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend released in 2001. The first time I heard it, I remember being deeply encouraged by its theological depth. Incarnation, penal substitutionary atonement, propitiation, perseverance of the saints—so many glorious doctrines wrapped in just four verses. “People don’t write songs like this anymore!” I thought. Thankfully, I was wrong.
But the Getty’s book Sing! is not about their music. It’s a book about singing; specifically your singing. This particular focus on singing is exactly where Scripture itself leads us (Col. 3:16). So much ink spilled in the worship wars of the late 20th century missed the rather important point that when Scripture talks about the church’s musical worship, it focuses explicitly on the congregation singing, not instrumentation or musical style. In Sing!, the Gettys rightly call the church to focus once again on first priorities: the centrality of singing in the Christian life and life of the church.
BIBLICAL AND PRACTICAL MEDITATIONS ON SINGING
In the first three chapters, the Gettys lay the biblical foundations for singing as an essential part of the Christian life. They demonstrate from Scripture that God’s people are created, commanded, and compelled to sing. They explain:
Our motivation to sing comes from so much more than ourselves—our likes, our comfort levels, our musical tastes and preferences. Intrinsically, it’s driven by the One who died and was raised. It is driven by a heartfelt desire to convey gospel truth to those of us who already know it and need to be refreshed and renewed by it—and to communicate to those who don’t yet know, but who might be drawn to Christ through seeing and hearing people who clearly mean it because of the way they sing. (22)
The Gettys introduce part two of the book by showing how singing is a means of perseverance in the Christian life, making the truths of the gospel memorable so that we can more easily set our hearts on eternity. After a brief and practical chapter on how to encourage singing with your family, the Gettys turn their attention to the local church. Pastors will be particularly helped by chapters 6–7: Sing with the Local Church and The Radical Witness When Congregations Sing.
In chapter six, the Gettys unfold the implication of their biblical theology of singing; the church’s musical worship is not a spectator sport but a ministry of the whole church. They explain, “Listening to each other mumbling quietly along as a band performs brilliantly on stage in a church building is not the same as singing together as a congregation” (72–73). They further encourage congregations:
So when you sing, look around. Encourage others with what you are singing, and expect to be encouraged by the fact that there are others singing with you and to you! All our individual stories meet at the cross-section of the worship service. We are reminded that we are not alone—we are members of a multi-generational, multi-ethnic, multi-everything family. We are reminded that we are not sufficient, for we need a Savior. We are reminded that we need not despair, for we have the Spirit within us. And we remind each other of all this as we sing together.
In short, when congregations sing together, they provide a radical witness to the power of the gospel creating one new man through the blood of Christ.
Want Your Congregation to Sing? The Book Sing! Can Help.
A culture of rich congregational singing doesn’t just happen in a church. It’s not a product of merely picking the right songs or having the right musicians leading from the platform (though those things matter!). Members must be taught, encouraged, and discipled to sing. Pastors need to show from Scripture that we have an obligation before God to encourage one another in song (Col. 3:16). As the Gettys explain, the quality of your singing voice shouldn’t prevent you from fulfilling this command: “Your voice may not be of professional standard, but it is of confessional standard” (4).
Additionally, the Getty’s provide several “bonus tracks” at the end of the book, one specifically for pastors endeavoring to help their congregation sing better. Their 10-question checklist would be a useful discussion tool for a pastor and his elder board. A few examples include: “Does my congregation know why they sing? Am I part of the weekly song selection process? Am I overseeing the overall selection or ‘canon’ of songs? Am I passionately involved in the singing? Am I encouraging the congregation to prepare for Sunday services?”
Pastors looking to convince their congregation that church members should be more focused on the task of singing than musical performance will find a great deal of help in Sing!. It’s a bottom-shelf discipling resource you can read with members at any level of theological understanding.
At the same time, Sing! doesn’t say everything you might want if you’re endeavoring to teach your congregation a comprehensive theology of musical worship. For instance, the Gettys don’t include any discussion of the regulative principle. Additionally, if you’re looking for more extended teaching of how consumerism has shaped much of modern evangelicalism’s intuitions when it comes to worship music, you’ll need to look elsewhere. Of course, the Getty’s book wasn’t designed to address those concerns. But if you couple Sing! with the 9Marks Journal The Church Singing, you’ll have a fairly thorough discipling curriculum for teaching your congregation.
SING TO GOD AND ONE ANOTHER
I often tell my congregation we want to have the best singing money can’t buy. Any amount of money can purchase professional musicians capable of filling a room up with quality sound. But only the Spirit of God can produce a congregation of men and women willing to put aside fear of man and willing to do the hard work of ministering to one another by singing the truths of the gospel loudly to each other every Sunday morning. The Gettys Sing! is a simple and compelling vision of the church’s corporate worship.