Recently, SBC Voices editor Todd Benkert spoke with modern hymn-writer and worship leader Keith Getty.
In connection with this interview, Getty Music is doing a give-away for our audience. The first SBC pastor to email firstname.lastname@example.org will receive a free registration to SING! Global 2020. Also, even if you don’t win, everyone who emails will receive two new modern hymns from Getty Music. Be sure to mention SBC Voices in your email.
The following is a transcript of the Interview:
Todd Benkert: Hey, I’m Todd Benkert, I’m the pastor of Oak Creek Community Church and one of the editors here at SBC Voices. I’m sitting here with…. we’re virtually with Keith Getty, a modern hymn writer and worship leader, and very excited to be talking to you today.
Keith Getty: Honored to be on the show, just finished recording for SING! Global. Did some filming last night, we did some pre-records for it. So, we finished, we finished, I think I got home at 2:30 in the morning and was greeted and welcomed back to the world by my daughters. It seemed to, but 10 minutes after that. And so, it’s good to be good to be speaking to you Todd this morning. Excuse me If my hair isn’t quite what it should be.
Todd: It’s alright I combed mine so we’re good. 🙂 I was just thinking about how, you know, the first time I met you was probably June 2016 Southern Baptist Convention. We had just planned to do the pastors conference [SBC Voices senior editor Dave Miller was elected Pastors’ Conference President] and I was talking to Matt Merker in the convention hall and he introduced me to Joni [McCabe]. And all of a sudden, I’m talking to you and kind of casting this vision for a pastors’ conference with smaller church pastors and congregational singing.
And you really resonated with that and I brag on you all the time, because your words to me—we didn’t know if we’d be able to raise the money. It’s just a bunch of small church guys putting on a conference—And you said, “Let me make it easy for you. Let’s make the price point between zero and whatever you can raise” and you committed to doing it for free, and it just shows your heart for churches and for pastors and for worship. And I’m thankful we were able to pay you, but very pleased, you know, with your heart. And it just shows kind of who you are.
Keith: That was a fun time, and it was…I have so many nice memories of that from the talks to the singing, to introduce, to the Q and As, to sitting backstage with HB Charles. And I played a prank on him when he was about to become…I think he…the next was either the next chairman or something right?
Todd: He was, he did it the next year, yeah.
Keith: I played a prank on him about 10 minutes before we had to go up to receive that thing, and he laughed. He took it pretty well so it was fine. I won’t tell you what it was, I don’t know you well enough, but…
Todd: Maybe I’ll ask him later. The… well you know, most of the people that read our blog and will be watching this, are pastors of smaller churches and they probably don’t know all of your ministries, particularly the conference SING! I was able to go with my… go last year with some folks and was going to take my wife this summer. Can you introduce…say how it came about what your vision is for that and why pastors should attend?
Keith: Well, the SING! Conference started in 2017 and it was…what we’re trying to do is bring three disparate groups together. Bring senior pastors and church leaders together and say, it’s important what you sing, but also bring together worship leaders and those who usually lead music on a leading music in a church on a Sunday and help them be better equipped. And then thirdly to actually bring people who write across the creative arts to say, you know what, we need the best creativity.
In 2050, if we want to see a world where we’re deep believers, obviously that only happens for the part of the Holy Spirit, but we can’t simply be preachers of the Word, we want to be singers of the Word. So, we want to see churches around the world, singing beautiful songs, singing with passion, singing with creativity. And so, we wanted to bring the best creative people over there to SING!. So that we’d be writing the best songs I’m thinking we’re imaginative. It’s very important, as you know, the posture of Western conservative Bible teachers has had to come so defensive for many good reasons, but also then it lacks creativity. It lacks joy, it lacks imagination, it lacks passion. And so, we are at a unique place where we can be doing that. So, it really is a conference for leaders of all kinds, for people involved in church worship of all kinds and creatives of all kinds. And it brings together a really wonderful dynamic through that.
Todd: Well, I go to a number of conferences and I can tell you, I just left there completely blessed and enriched. I do have a musical background, but I think even as just in my pastoral role, it was really worth going. My wife was going to come with me. I’ll be watching online this year, obviously, because of COVID we can’t meet at [Gaylord] Opryland Hotel. Can you tell us what’s going to be a little bit different online?
Keith: Yeah, I think the fundamental difference is that we…SING! Global is a new concept conference and that the entire conference is online and you can listen to it whenever you want. But the big thing is SING! Global has really been created to equip the church 12 months a year. So, if you sign up for SING! Global and sign your church registration, you can watch the conference, and indeed, you can even add your voice and sing songs in advance and amended the mix has been made the week before, but it’s a 365-day thing. So, I think you get between the talks and seminars and sermons and worship sessions and concerts, you get over a hundred of these to enjoy for the rest of the year. And then as of October 1st God willing, we’re going to be able to give everybody every talk from the same conference in history.
So, Matt Merker is actually is providing a weekly letter to everybody, just giving them things to think about in church worship, from sermons, to interviews, to great new songs, to creative ideas, to the practical stuff. So, what you’re really signing up for, as at 52 weeks a year, 365 days a year, kind of shot in the arm, but all put together. So, I guess for the same price as the old Sing! conference, you’re getting Sing! online conference, but you’re getting to be a part of an all year-round work. This is for these next three years, well, while the coronavirus is a significant part of our society.
Todd: So, thinking about pastors and everything that we’re navigating right now with COVID-19, is there a word of encouragement that you would give to us as we try to serve our churches well?
Keith: Well, I think the first thing, you know this better than I do, Todd, because you’re a much better pastor than I could ever be, but I think obviously the first thing we need to be in circumstances of gravity is listening ears and empathetic hearts. And so I think the first thing I’d say is, even as a dad, I’ve got four little daughters who are busting down the door here and woke up … And I remember three years ago, there were starting school and that was a stress for us. I remember four years ago, two of them were fighting a lot. I remember six years ago; Eliza was biting when she was a two-year-old. And I was able to call my parents and they went, oh yeah, this is what happens. Don’t worry about it, this is what happens. You get to COVID, nobody’s ever experienced this. This is…whether you’re a pastor or a parent or an individual. This is a whole new territory at multiple levels.
And so, I think we need to have…even as a CEO or company, I have to be aware that I’m living in the extreme of my personality. And most of my staff are living in the extremes of their personality. So, I need a lot more mercy and grace with them and I need to second check my emotions, my motivations, my reactions, even more than I ever do. So, I think that at the same time…I would say the second thing that… I think that the first thing is that we have to be aware of where we’re at…in some ways we’re privileged, no doubt about it. But in some ways where we’re being stretched more than we are or parents or grandparents ever were.
And so that sort of sense of mercy and grace, and just trying to walk humbly and gently. But I think the second thing would be the opportunities are huge. You know, ABC isn’t possible, but XYZ is. So, I meet our youth pastor once a month, partly because the pastor asked me to, partly because we get on well, partly because he supports the local football clubs, we watch the Liverpool football games together, and then we chat afterward. But he was saying about our youth group in church…we go to a small church; we don’t go to a megachurch. But the youth group at our church, he’s having to meet them all one-on-one on the back porches of their houses or on the front lawns, or at the local park, depending who they are.
But he says, what he’s finding is they have a lot less distractions and so they’re much more engaged in Bible study and Bible study prep then they’ve ever been. They have more time for Him, because all bets are off with COVID, they’re more open and in most cases, he’s getting to talk to their parents more as well. At the Astro level that’s happening, at a Bible study level, they’re doing better and they have a lot less distractions and temptations. Now, of course, they’re missing other things and there is less joy and stimulation, no doubt about it. But it is, similar with the SING! conference, we lose you and I… if we were told last year, this would happen, I don’t think we would have imagined that the 11,000 people are 16,000 people staying in their homes, you can’t replace that. SING! Conference really is a festival, it’s a festival of Bible teaching, but of congregational worship and actually of beautiful music and you can’t replace that online.
You can’t replace that. You can’t replace the joy of walking around the Opryland with your mate…your friends afterward for half an hour after the event, just unwinding that’s magic, isn’t it? But what you can do is…what we have learned is the SING! movement is now a far more global movement than it was a year ago. There are more people registered for the SING! Conference this year than last year. We’ve broken our previous record for the event, of full registrations because it’s now much more available and accessible to people around the world and people that can’t travel.
Secondly, with the new approach to it, where we’re actually going 32 weeks a year, we’re actually saying to pastors everywhere that this has got to cost something, but actually this is not a three-day sting operation. We hope it’s an amazing conference, Kristyn, Andrew Peterson, all the concerts, all the worship from the Grand ‘Ol Opry house, all the speakers. We think we’ve got a great four-day event, but it’s so much more than a four-day event. You’re signed up to weekly communication to be able to connect with other pastors of smaller churches or hymn writers or people who are involved in missions and there are lots of ways to communicate with people. And so, we hope that SING! Global, because of Coronavirus, is more global and is more deep and then actually helps create weekly habits. Because conferences are great at inspiration, they’re great for Sabbath, but they don’t really form habits. And, and so that’s one of the hopes out of this. So, I don’t know, that’s just me talking from our personal experience. What are you seeing, Todd?
Todd: I think what you said near the beginning, of just offering people grace, I think is really important right now. Because we just don’t know how to navigate it and the decisions that we have to make are difficult. And I think there’s a little bit where we’re moving in a couple of directions. You can either draw closer to the Lord during this time, or you can drift off and I’m encouraging people not to drift off, but to press in.
So, let me do one last bit of letting you advertise because I think what you guys are doing is great. One of my friends asked about… a lot of small churches, small church pastors, and he was asking about the resources. What can we do to…? I think he put it this way, how can we “equip the skills along with the heart,” as we are trying to…. in a small church gathering, we don’t have professional musicians in our church. So, what can we do to kind of do both things at the same time?
Keith: Well, let me take it. From a general point of view, singing to the Lord is a part of how we draw closer to the Lord and his word. So, senior pastors should be involved in the songs, if they love their congregation, they’re going to want to be either choosing the songs or overseeing the songs that they’re singing and overseeing the songs that are becoming part of people’s spiritual grammar for the next few years. So, we need to be involved in that. I think from the SING! Conferences, point of view, that’s one of the reasons we went…this is actually an opportunity to actually build a global movement with a weekly letter with…not that anybody has to feel… you can feel free to open it every week or every four weeks, but trying to create rhythms for people.
We are trying to plug a lot of the gaps. So, this year we do things like Matt Merker and Mark Dever talking together about how their church does it, but also other how they work as a pastor and music director beside each other. But also, guys from small churches, also guys from a more sort of blue-collar area. We’ve also pulled guys from African-American tradition coming together and say, here is how we try to help build deep believers in the words we are singing. And so we are trying at the conference to plug a lot of those gaps and then as I said, with the weekly emails and the interaction, Matt Merker and our team become a, I guess a consultancy for one of….a free consultancy for want of a better word, to churches to try and help encourage them in the stuff that they’re doing and stimulating things to happen.
Todd: Well, that’s great. And one of the things… kind of shifting gears a little bit. When we were hosting you guys with a conference and working with Joni [McCabe] and some other folks…your whole team to put the conference together, the importance of family really shined through for you and your team. Can you talk a little bit about, first of all, how is your family doing in this time, and how does family relate to this busy-ness of ministry?
Keith: Well, you know as well as I do that every day is a new challenge. We finished recording Kristyn’s Even song album, which is hymns and lullabies for the close of the day it’s launching. And there’s actually a couple of the tracks are going on for free on streaming on Friday, if you stream music, you should check that out. But that gets launched the weekend of the conference and that is an album for her 40th birthday, and so much is giving thanks to the Lord for our girls. But…and derived from the songs you sing to them at night, but we recorded it last night and we videoed the whole thing at Amy Grant’s farm. So, we went there at twilight. They crammed the whole day, and we recorded it at twilight going into the night and did the upstairs of her barn which was beautifully lit, and just overlooking the Tennessee countryside. Anyway, funny story, but about two o’clock in the morning and we get back.
So, we got up this morning, I’m wearing this white t-shirt, Kristyn sent me off to get the girls tacos because we’re out of food in the fridge, everybody running behind schedule. Now that’s the reality of life, everything is a little bit more intense. And I think for the next three weeks, it’s a little bit busier. So, I don’t want to paint any picture that’s unfair or insincere or got any sort of a false piety to it, but I would say overall, we’re also conscious that, for Kristian and I were working particularly hard at the minute, but we’re getting a break in the fall, which is wonderful. I do think we’re all going to look back at the Coronavirus season and say this was a chance for our family that we could never have had the wisdom to take or afforded to take.
There is a breadth in life that allows us…affords us more time with our children, more emotional time. And I think every morning, every parent and every pastor who pastors, parents need to be praying for the revival of the next generation. For three generations, we have watched the Christian community and the evangelical community and the conservative evangelical community do increasingly badly with family priority. And that goes from the basic things of teaching the Bible, teaching discipline, teaching them to sing in the home, down to just basic relational stuff and enjoy each other, and I think Coronavirus gives us this window that we will never have again, we’ll never have it again. Our parents didn’t have the privilege of it, our kids won’t have the privilege of it, potentially.
And so I think we have to use this time…we’ve settled some little targets in life, like obviously with singing, we’ve done with singing, with targets where we’re going through the Bible in the year with the girls going through the whole Bible verse, we’ve just got past Daniel and Ezekiel, but we went through the whole Old Testament and just trying to set a few little targets like that. That’s kind of how we roll, you know what I mean? And that kind of stuff. But I think everybody is different, we’ve played a lot more sports with our girls and then that’s given us a chance just to hang and enjoy life together.
And I think from a spiritual point of view, we will never have this moment again, to build deep foundations too. But I think more than that, for me it’s not just about…I’m pretty good at setting targets and getting the kids to do stuff, but actually getting me to shut up and listen sometimes is just what needs to happen. And so, I’m ashamed of the things that I didn’t notice that I noticed now, and so I think that’s a huge…I think we should be doubling down both on our prayers for our families and the prayers for the families in our congregations, but in how we actually equip them and build them up in the next two years,
Todd: I will say, I don’t have time to ask you about it, but I really enjoy the family sings that you’ve been doing online.
Keith: Total chaos.
Todd: I will definitely, when I post this on the blog, I’ll definitely send the link to that because I think people need to see that.
[Check out Getty Family Hymn Sing LIVE on Facebook Every Tuesday at 7:15 PM CT — you’ll be blessed!]
And it’s really encouraging and lovely to see the…a couple of other things and I’ve got one last question for you, but because I know that you’ve got to go. Backstage, one of the guys on our team, he’s a pastor in New Orleans and he, at the time he was 17, his 17-year-old son Quint, they were the runners for your team. So, they were shuttling people back and forth to hotels, and doing some running. Jay was telling me about a story with he and Quint and just asking, talking with Kristyn behind the scenes and, it’s a musical family and Quint is now a worship leader and songwriter.
But Kristyn just really encouraged him in that moment, told him to write for the church and, and focus on music for the congregation. And, just seeing that consistency of your heart for that and her heart for that, he’s since written several songs and he said that that stuck with him, to write for the church. And he just took on a worship leader position at a church just this week and I’m very excited for him. It just made an impact and just thank you.
Keith: Oh, and I said, if you want to pass anything on, send me an email or send John an email he’ll forward it to Kristyn. She’d love to hear that.
Todd: That’d be…I’ll definitely do that. Listen, you got to
Keith: Tell Quint I’m thrilled to hear, So.
Todd: So, I just want to encourage you that you have a great team. Joni has been a friend since that time and continues to check in on me and never treats me like a small church pastor, which I love. Just pours into me and I’m very encouraged every time I talk to him. Your whole team was great to work with being able to be that stage manager behind the scenes and see what you guys were like in person is the same as you are on stage and so, I really appreciate that about you.
The last question that I had though is Jay and Quint were sent off somewhere during the time to find Mike and Ike’s for the team, because they couldn’t find them anywhere, it took them a while. Jay wanted to know, does your team still like Mike and Ike’s?
Keith: What’s Mike and Ice?
Todd: They’re a little jelly candy, they come in a box…the movie theater candy.
Keith: Our whole band is obsessed with food of all kinds or whatever it is they’ve got things for everything and they can…the same obsession they have about music, they have it with food. So, if we’re in New Orleans, we have to try like nine different foods while we’re in New Orleans. And it’s our general managers always going, this is the biggest cost in events, that we have to eat four times in one day in New Orleans. So that does not surprise me that they send you guys off with this specific food order.
Todd: Well, I really appreciate you and your ministry. I wanted to highlight what you guys are doing and I asked Joni, what can I do for you guys, to highlight what you’re doing? Because you’re for us, you’re for the church, you’re for pastors, you’re for congregational singing to lift up the Lord and that’s something I want to promote. Can you give us, I know you’ve got another interview to go to but can you give us one final word of encouragement to sign us off?
Keith: Oh gosh, I think what we’re most conscious of at the minute, is that this is a… in times of radical disruption, which usually brings a degree of suffering with it, is the times that we get the excuses in life to refuel, to restructure. And so, for me, as a human being, as a husband, as a dad, as a composer, as a worker for the church, whatever else, it is a time to be able to do that. And I think that’s a wonderful challenge for all of us but also to be aware that those in our lives are yet to believe, are actually going through the same thoughts. So, it’s even just to make touch up or even just make touch with as many friends who don’t have fears right now, there’s been a lot easier than usual. So, I just think it is a time of wonderful opportunity as well. But I think…I don’t know if I’d emphasize that more or just the fact that we need to show grace to ourselves and our families and everyone around us right now, because if they are as bad as we are, it’s pretty quite difficult.
Todd: Well, thank you, Keith. And I really appreciate you spending this time with me and we’ll be praying for you and praying for your ministry and look forward to the SING! Conference.
Keith: Thank you. Thank you, Todd.