Meeting and Working Together
About the Guest
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Keith and Kristyn GettyKeith and Kristyn Getty have been writing hymns for more than a decade, bridging the gap between traditional and contemporary, and creating what is described as singable theology. Their songs, many co-written with Stuart Townend, have pioneered a new generation of modern hymns.
Keith and Kristyn Getty talk about the spiritual practice of singing.They also tell the story of their courtship and the beginning of their working relationship.
Meeting and Working Together
Bob: So, your impression was—
Kristyn: He wasn't very cool. [Laughter]
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, December 23rd. Our hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson; I'm Bob Lepine. You can find us online at FamilyLifeToday.com. We spend time today with Keith and Kristyn Getty—probably best known for their hymn, In Christ Alone. We'll learn about their lives and about their background. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. You've got to be tired, but you still have—what do you have?—ten Christmas Eve services?
Dave: Ten to go. The interesting thing is—somebody, a couple of years ago, decided we should add a midnight service.
Bob: Somebody did?
Ann: And that happened to be Dave.
Dave: That was me. [Laughter] You know, it's sort of interesting—I grew up going to Midnight Mass with my mom—single mom—as a little boy. I do remember it being special. We had never done that.
Ann: It's because you were a little boy and you were up at midnight. [Laughter]
Dave: That’s probably it. I wanted to open a gift when we got home.
But anyway, we started doing that about three or four years at our church. I tell you—we're exhausted. We go home—probably the last service is like 6:00—so I get home about 8:00 pm, and I'm just fried. It's like, “Oh, good”; and then, “Oh, no! I've got to go back there.” Here's the thing—that service—it's packed out.
Ann: And it’s really special too.
Dave: And it's become very special. It's a great way to step into Christmas Day.
Bob: So then, do you sleep until noon on Christmas Day?
Dave: I'd like to.
Dave: It doesn't happen.
Ann: No, it doesn't.
Dave: Grandkids are over at 5 am.
Ann: When he's home, by 6, I can watch him in the chair just start to fade.
Bob: Yes; I don't think many of us recognize how exhausting this season is for our pastors.
Bob: It would just be good to say to our pastors this week, at Christmas Eve service or whenever you see him, “Thank you for the extra work that goes into the Christmas season.”
Ann: And their families are sacrificing, too; because dad's not home.
Bob: Well, here's what we've got today. I had a chance, back—this was August. I was at an event in Nashville, called Sing. It's a conference for worship pastors and for church leaders. It's hosted by Keith and Kristyn Getty—the guys who wrote the song, In Christ Alone, and they have written other modern hymns for the church.
Dave: Love it—I love that son.
Bob: We got some time during that event for me to sit down with the Gettys and to talk about their marriage, and their courtship, and their life, and what it's like to be in music ministry together. We thought, right here, during the Christmas season, would be a good time—because we've been doing a lot of singing this month—to hear from some modern hymn writers and hear them share about their life and about their craft.
One of the fun things was—we got to talk about how they met, and how they got engaged, and how they got married, and who pursued who, and how all that happened.
So, let's dive in. This is my conversation, from a few months ago, with Keith and Kristyn Getty.
Bob: Here's what we want to do—we want to find out a little of the story of how you became Keith and Kristyn Getty. And then talk about the challenges that come with being creative people/being artists, being married, having creative disagreements, having children—all of that. [Laughter] You ready for that?
Bob: Okay; alright. Did you know Kristyn? Had you met her before somebody called and said, “Could you take a vocal student?” Did you know who she was?
Keith: I'd heard her sing, and I had seen a picture of her. I knew she wasn't unattractive. [Laughter]
Bob: What was your first impression of him?
Kristyn: Umm, my first impression—[Laughter]—I don't know if he wants me to tell you. [Laughter]
Keith: Go ahead; no one’s listening. [Laughter] And nobody's on the social media; seriously.
Kristyn: You should understand that's okay, but Keith is a classical musician. He grew up classically trained—
Keith: You're going to say I wore my trousers too high.
Kristyn: Too high.
Keith: And I was very uptight all the time. [Laughter] I took myself very seriously.
Kristyn: I sang in bands, and folk music, and was hanging out with drummers and guitarists. I wasn't ready for a classically trained conductor.
Keith: She wore cool clothes.
Kristyn: So, we’re like, you know, from similar backgrounds, yet very different.
Bob: So, your impression was—
Kristyn: He wasn't very cool. [Laughter] But he was very, very kind to me and very encouraging. He actually took me out for dinner that day. I had never had a guy take me out for dinner, so that was—
Bob: That day?
Kristyn: That day; yes.
Keith: We were continuing the conversation.
Bob: Oh, yes you were! [Laughter]
Keith: I was just trying to show hospitality.
Bob: So, what was your first impression of 18-year-old Kristyn?
Kristyn: Oh, dear.
Keith: Well, I don't know how to approach this in public. [Laughter] I can say this: from the first day I met Kristyn, I talked about her incessantly every day, until this day. I pretty much think I must have been in some form of love with her, even from the first day. Although, it took two to three years before we actually started dating.
We actually worked together for a long time. I think, actually, in some ways, that was helpful; because to be involved in, not just work, but a, I guess, a calling for life could be a tremendous strain on the marriage; and at times, it's tough. We learned work patterns first, and the relationship grew from there.
People often ask what it's like working with your wife. I say: “Well, we worked for two to three years together first, before we were song-writing partners. I mean, the projects together for two to three years before she finally realized that I wasn't this overweight Presbyterian guy, with an attitude problem.” [Laughter]
Bob: There was some attraction on day one.
Keith: Oh, yes; for me, there was. For her, there was absolutely none.
Kristyn: Okay, that's not fair. [Laughter] There wasn't “not attraction”; I just wasn't in my brain.
Keith: “He wasn’t not attractive.” [Laughter]
Keith: Can you put that in my Valentine card? [Laughter]
Kristyn: My head just wasn't there. But over the next couple of years, I started to consider, “Gosh, he is taking very particular care of me.”
Bob: Yes. [Laughter]
Kristyn: And so gradually, you know—my mum and his mum saw it much sooner than we did. And then—
Bob: Do you remember a moment or a time when you thought, “I might be in love with him”?
Kristyn: Actually, I was/it was a girls' Bible study at my house, and we were talking about relationships. One girl was talking about a very complicated relationship; and I said, “Well,”—as the conversation went on, I said, “I know somebody in my life, actually, whose opinion I care most about and who I like to be with more than with anybody else.” And they said, “Well, why are you not with that person?” I said, “That's interesting that you should say that.” [Laughter] That was the moment things turned in my head.
Bob: Did you know things had turned?
Keith: Kind of. [Laughter]
Kristyn: Yes, he did.
Keith: But we didn’t—because we had been together for so long, working together—nobody kind of knew. We didn't tell anybody for a few months that we were/we had a more serious relationship.
Bob: I have to think that somewhere in this courtship journey of yours, you wrote a love song for Kristyn; didn't you?
Keith: We've written quite a lot of love songs over the years.
Bob: I want to know the first time you wrote—you know, Once I Had Secret Love song of your own for Kristyn. Do you remember?
Kristyn: He wrote Ribbon Roads.
Keith: Ribbon Roads; you want me to sing it for them?
Keith: Okay; let's do it. [Laughter]
Kristyn: If you want me to; no, I will.
Keith: Do you want to hear it?
Bob: Yes, yes; I think we should hear Ribbon Roads. [Cheering] Do you remember the lyrics?
Kristyn: No. [Laughter]
Bob: Do you want me to pull it up on your phone?
Kristyn: I don't even know if the words are online. It's been like—
Bob: Let's just get this straight—the love song he wrote for you, you don't remember the lyrics to—is what you're saying.
Kristyn: I wrote the lyrics. [Laughter] I've had four children; I don't remember anything. [Laughter] I can even just hum it.
Keith and Kristyn: [Singing a portion of The Ribbon Roads]
[Applause and cheering]
Kristyn: There are more words than that.
Keith: We have not sung that in ten years.
Kristyn: I know; when we first met, we would do lots of walking together and go to the beaches, walking through ideas. If you've been to Ireland, it's full of the winding, twisting roads—it's the ribbon roads—and they keep rolling. I just thought, “We started this journey walking, and by God's good grace, we'll keep walking these ribbon roads.”
Bob: Did you know, at the start of your marriage, that you wanted to pursue hymn writing?
Keith: You know, again, that was something that grew. My journey to loving/growing in faith—and John Lennox was a part of that—[I] was becoming more and more convinced in Christianity. My first two debates—I went to university in England; England, obviously, is a pagan country—full of pagans. [Laughter] I wanted to convert the university, within the first year, to Christianity. Obviously, if you have an argument with somebody, you win the argument; and you humiliate them at the end. They're going to turn around and say, “What must I do to be saved?” or at least, “Let me have your faith.” [Laughter]
I had two debates, fairly early on. One was with a theologian—who was from an Islamic background, who then converted back to Islam during his master's in theology—and wanted to convert Britain to Islam. Another one was with a guy, who had started first in theology, from Emmanuel College, Cambridge, where Don Cupitt was in theology. Don Cupitt was the first Anglican atheist and wrote many books. This guy's [one he debated] background was a homosexual humanistic background. He wanted to convince me of “the rubbish of Christianity and the Bible.”
Amidst all of that, John Lennox was of personal help; Mark Dever introduced me to Pete Williams—and these guys—and then studying, and writing, and trying to think things through was extraordinarily helpful. Out of all those questions, came a more convinced belief that Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
What it gave me was almost an inoculation of what 21st century Christianity is. In other words, we've lived in a generation, where a lot of the Christian messaging, subliminally, has been: “Christianity may be a bit strict, but we're as cool as non-Christians too. We can make this actually cool.” That is the most dangerous thing we can possibly tell anybody; because what the 21st century is going to bring is those two guys [the ones he debated], by the billions; it's going to bring other religions, and specifically Islam; but secondly, much closer to us right now is basically secular humanism—this idea that material things are all that we have in life. So many of us are quick to give our hearts to those things.
I realized there's a reason we're supposed to let the Word of Christ dwell in us richly. We need to build deep believers. Some of my friends—Rick Creighton, is one of them here this week—they're all cleverer than I was—they're all academic; they became theologians and pastors. All that was left for me was to write tunes. I always wanted to do it, but I didn't know to do it.
At 25, I was just getting so exasperated. Often, I think, your emotions tell you certain things—like all I wanted to do was be with Kristyn, but I couldn't work that out. Similarly, all I wanted to talk about was how mad church music made me. I was really angry, and I was not gracious at all. I should have read in the anger; so we started, at 25, to do it; and in the providence of God—I still don't understand what happened—the first song that was released was In Christ Alone. That really transformed our future. At 30, we quit the music industry for good, just to focus on being a hymn writer and being a steward of hymns; and that's what we've done since.
Kristyn: I still remember that conversation, because we were just married six months.
Keith: That’s right.
Kristyn: Keith was doing orchestrations, writing all different sorts of songs. I was singing all over the place. What we do now was not ever in our idea—even just doing it together. He came home one day, at dinner time, and he said, “I'm going to give everything up, and I'm just going to write hymns.”
“Okay.” [Laughter] Then he said, “What are you going to do with your life?” [Laughter] I said: “I don't know. I'm 24; I just graduated. I’m married to you; I guess what you do is probably going to impact what I'm doing.” [Laughter]
We were traveling around in America. Keith met with a very good friend of ours called Eddie DeGarmo—he's involved in the conference—from DeGarmo & Key; yes. He, also, shared wonderful wisdom and just giving us time to fill his ear with all sorts of things. He said: “You want to do some hymns? How are you going to do this all together? Why don't you try and do it, together?” because he heard me saying, “I would like to do this,” and Keith saying, “I want to go that way.” He was the first one that said, “Is there a way that this would—
Bob: —“can go together?”
Kristyn: Yes; and that—after we started to think, “Okay; what would that look like?”
Bob: Do you remember, when you got married, if you had thought ahead to what
15 years into the future would look like? Did you have a thought?
Kristyn: I knew I would never be bored.
Bob: Yes. [Laughter]
Kristyn: And I wasn't sure if I would be staying in northern Ireland. I figured I was marrying somebody that my commitment to him would be to go anywhere, and it has been. I was always very happy to do that; I was excited.
Keith has always inspired me; he is a big thinker. I would get very lost in little details; and so it is with so much relief that I look to my husband to give me a big picture of things, and that's a constant encouragement. But it is exhausting, because we do so many things. [Laughter]
Bob: Every married couple brings different perspectives, different approaches, different temperaments/personalities into the relationship. They often don't recognize all of those differences until after they've said, “I do”; right?
Kristyn: It's amazing how many things happen after you've made a decision, because sometimes—[Laughter]
Bob: Exactly; I think that is God's goodness toward us; right?—that we go in with some of these things still hidden so that we've already signed the contract before the warranty issues start popping up; right? [Laughter]
I'm wondering, when those are, not just relational differences, but creative differences—you're both creative people; you both have a perspective: you think it ought to be this way; and you think, “No, it should…”
Keith: We're both oldest children, as well, so I think that means we're about 92 percent incompatible—I read somewhere. [Laughter]
Bob: How do you handle—when you come to a place, where you're going, “I really think it needs to go this way”; and you're thinking, “I think that ruins the song if we do that,”—what do you do?
Kristyn: You just have to learn to be less sensitive, and to be able to take critique, and find a way through that. We always hope to get better at those things, you know. Having the collaboration that exists in our marriage and in our work has just made the perspectives and everything so much stronger and, I think, has produced better work because we've had more voices.
Keith: I think, as well—I think one of the beautiful gifts of working with the person you're married to, and one of the good gifts of marriage is—they know you better than anybody. I could probably/I think I could probably fool anybody in this room as to what my motivation was for something, but I couldn't fool my wife. She would much more likely just sniff it [out]—ask/in private, ask me two questions: “Why I said that?” and “Where could I…”
But the flip is also true; because no one in this room knows me well enough to know about being on knees, or the tears, or the decisions that we've made for greater good and for all those kind of things. She knows, in a much more deep way, the genuine motives as well as the absolute failures of my/of the dysfunctional person I am.
Kristyn has given me such a freedom and courage—whatever my dream, whatever my sin, whatever it is—I've always left with a clarity and a courage: “You spit it out; you move on.” That’s something that really, really, I think, gives me an awful lot more confidence and an awful lot more peace in life.
Bob: We've been listening to the first part of a conversation I had recently with Keith and Kristyn Getty, who grew up in Ireland. Don't you love the Irish accent?
Bob: Isn't is beautiful? [Speaking with an Irish accent; unclear wording]
Ann: You’re good, Bob!
Dave: You’re pretty good at that.
Bob: I taught them—I said, “I've learned how to speak Irish from listening to you. You take the hard ‘A’ sound—like if we say the word, ‘faith,’—
Dave: We're actually going to talk about this on the radio, Bob?
Ann: I like it!
Bob: I'm going to teach you how to speak Irish. You take the hard “A” sound—faith. Every time it comes up, you say, “Ee-a”; so it's feeath; so it's by greeace by feeath that you're seeaved. [Laughter] I'm speaking Irish right there.
Ann: That’s a good accent. [Laughter]
Dave: I don't think I can do it. I used to try accents in a sermon; and my sons came to me, when they were teenagers, “Dad, NEVER, EVER, try to do an accent.” Let me try this: “By faaath”—[Laughter]—see, I can't do it; I'm so bad—[Laughter]—“By faaath, you're saaaved.” [Laughter] I always end up somehow, southern.
Bob: [Irish accent] “By greeace, through feeath, you're seeaved.” Come on man, you've got to get it!
Dave: That's pretty good. [Laughter] I'm guessing you didn't do that with the Gettys.
Bob: I didn't, no. I would've showed up really badly with them.
But I did love the conversation about how you collaborate because—whether you're working together, writing a song, or you're working together raising your kids—as married couples, we have to learn the art of collaboration; don't we?
Ann: I think they're really inspiring because of that very thing. They're very honest, very real; and they took us into their lives: “What does it look like to do life together?—to see the hard parts of each other: the weaknesses, the frailty, and yet the gifts—and to lift those up.” That's not always easy, and so I was inspired by them.
Dave: And I'm also inspired to think about—if they're teaching their children hymns every week—
Dave: —or month? It's powerful to think what you're passing on as a legacy. That's beautiful.
Bob: Yes, that is beautiful; and of course, they're passionate about singing being a part of what we do in our families and what we do in our churches. Keith and Kristyn have written a book called Sing! How Worship Transforms Your Life, Family, and Church. We've got copies of their book in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center.
This is a book that small groups at church can go through together, or it would just be good for a family to read through this book together. It's a short book—I don't know—120 pages; easy to read. It's just good for us to be thinking about how important music and singing are to our spiritual lives.
Go to FamilyLifeToday.com and find out more about Keith and Kristyn Getty's book, Sing! You can order the book from us, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY to order. Again, our website is FamilyLifeToday.com—you can order the book, Sing!, online; or you can call to order: 1-800-358-6329—that's 1-800-”F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
Now, we mentioned this last week, but we just want to make sure you guys are aware that we've had a matching-gift opportunity made available to us during the month of December. Last week, our matching-gift fund increased—it went from $2.5 million to
$3 million—we're excited about that. What that means is that FamilyLife Today listeners—we are hoping that, over the next ten days, I guess it's less than that now—we're hoping you would go online today and make a yearend contribution to support this ministry. The money that you donate is going to be matched, dollar for dollar, and all of it will help us advance the mission of FamilyLife in the year ahead.
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We hope you'll join us again tomorrow. We're going to hear Part Two of our conversation with Keith and Kristyn Getty—learn more about them and the hymns that they've written. I hope you can tune in for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, with some help today from Mark Ramey. On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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©Song: The Ribbon Roads
Artist: Keith and Kristyn Getty
Album: Awaken the Dawn, 2009 Getty Music
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