Daniel Mount: Welcome to Tomorrow’s Hymns, a podcast and website promoting theologically rich songs deeply rooted in Scripture. I’m Daniel Mount, a Christian author and songwriter. Joining me today is my brother Michael Mount, a worship leader and instrument maker. You can find his instruments on Facebook at Mount Cajons. Welcome, Michael, how’s it going?
Michael Mount: Hi, How’s it going?
Daniel: Doing well. So today we’re taking on an interesting topic. We’re looking at the Getty’s songs that we think are most likely to stand the test of time, or the way I framed it to you when we were talking a couple of days ago, the Gettys songs that the church will still be singing a hundred years from now.
Daniel: Yes, so let’s dive right in. Why don’t you start with your number three?
Michael: Yeah. My number three is “Christ is Risen, He is Risen Indeed.”
Daniel: I love it.
Michael: Yeah. This is a song that we sing less often than most, but Resurrection Sunday feels incomplete without it. I think it really speaks volumes that the congregation may only sing it a handful of times a year, but whenever they do, they sing it with as much vigor as a classic they sing every week.
Daniel: Yes, I completely agree. And you’ll find in a minute, that one’s on my top 3 also!
Michael: All right!
Daniel: But at my number 3 is “Speak, O Lord.” And I think the reason we’ll still be singing that one is very simple. This is actually the shortest of my three. I think it fills a call-to-worship role in a church service that very few other songs fill.
Michael: Yeah. That’s a good point.
Daniel: There’s a need for songs that are good calls to worship, and there aren’t many of them. I have some honorable mentions, some other songs that I love from their collection that aren’t in my top 3. But I think the call to worship aspect of this is why I put this one in my top 3. So, do you want to go for your number 2?
Michael: Sure. “In Christ Alone.”
Michael: This is the one that probably everyone would expect to see on this list. It’s easily the most popular song they’ve written. It’s come into regular use in Protestant churches of every theological background, yet goes far deeper than most songs that are that popular, with references to substitutionary atonement and preservation of the saints. It’s also one of the best cases I know of of the melody demonstrating the lyric.
Daniel: Yeah, it’s a good combination. So, my number 2? Christ is Risen, He is Risen Indeed!
Daniel: My thoughts on it, which line up with yours in a lot of ways: It’s how we greet each other every Resurrection Sunday. That greeting, “He is risen, He is risen indeed.” For centuries, going back to the early church, I believe, it’s been a classic greeting. You’d think there would have been more songs based on it with how classic it is. That greeting is part of the Resurrection Sunday experience for Christians. But as far as I know, I’ve heard hundreds of thousands of Christian songs, I can’t recall hearing another Christian song based on this, the central and classic of our Resurrection Sunday greetings. And for that alone, like you say, I can’t imagine Resurrection Sunday without it anymore, either. And besides that, it’s a great song. Just the musical element of the song, it has the energy and joy that ought to be our response to the Resurrection.
Michael: Yes, I agree with that.
Daniel: So, do you want to switch up the order, and maybe I’ll do my number 1 first, and then you finish out the list?
Michael: Sure, go ahead!
Daniel: So my number 1 is Power of the Cross.
Daniel: I think this will be to the Gettys what “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” was to Isaac Watts. There have been hundreds of thousands of songs written about the Cross. I’ve heard so many of them. It’s hard to say something fresh, or something familiar in a fresh way. And this song does.
But I think one of its greatest strengths is its structure. I probably ought to devote a full post to this at some point. The short version is that this song illustrates what I think may be the biggest way you write a song differently when you’re writing for congregational singing instead of Christian radio. When you’re writing for Christian radio, and for a song that a performer is going to sing live on stage from memory, you’re avoiding repetition in the structure of your verses. Because the professional singers singing it on tour are usually singing from memory, if the verses are too similar, they’re hard to sing from memory.
But when you’re writing congregational music, congregations don’t sing from memory. They’re singing from hymnals or projections. So using parallels is wonderful. It’s an effective way to tie verses together, to give a song a unity of concept, to build the idea. And the Gettys use the parallel structure really well in this song. “Oh, to see the dawn,” “Oh, to see the pain,” “Oh, to see my name.” Those three verses just build and tie into the previous verses. And I think this song is fresh, well-structured. I think it’s my #1. What’s yours?
Michael: My #1 is “Living Waters.”
Daniel: I was wondering if that would be on your list!
Michael: Yes. This one’s a little different. It’s different from most of the other Getty music, different lyrically and melodically, but mostly different in how Christians respond to it, I feel. I still distinctly remember the first couple of times introducing this song to our church. I’ve never seen people catch onto a song and love it as instantaneously as this one. The lyric connects with our generation by asking questions, but unlike current trends, answers them simply and beautifully with Scripture.
The melody really makes me think of Robert Lowry’s style, and really seems to transcend time and all other barriers. This is the one I feel is most likely to stand the test of time for those reasons.
Daniel: That’s interesting. So, I thought it might also be fun. Were there any that you really wanted to put in the top 3 and didn’t quite have space for? Any honorable mentions?
Michael: “Good Shepherd of My Soul.”
Daniel: I love that one. Interestingly, it didn’t occur to me to put it in my honorable mentions, but I love it.
Michael: Yeah. That one, like “Living Waters” in a way, I’ve really heard how people connect to that song, that melody and lyric combined are beautiful in a way that people seem to connect with.
Daniel: Okay. Were there any other honorable mentions you had before I jump into mine?
Michael: “Power of the Cross” should definitely be on that list.
Michael: Yeah, that would probably be the main other.
Daniel: Yeah, that’s a good one. So I actually have—I believe all three of my honorable mentions are songs that neither of us has mentioned up till this point in the podcast, believe it or not!
Michael: All right.
Daniel: “O Church Arise.”
Daniel: Content-wise, it just says something other songs don’t say. I think it has a good chance of lasting.
“See What a Morning.”
Daniel: Up until they came out with “Christ Has Risen, He Has Risen Indeed,” this was their best Resurrection song.
Daniel: And it’s still a good one. It’s still a good one.
Daniel: And finally, this one’s really subdued, and because it’s so subdued, I don’t know if it’s caught on as much as I wish it had, but I’d like to see it. “My Worth is Not in What I Own.”
Michael: Yeah. That’s a good one too.
Daniel: So those are my honorable mentions. Now I have one hot take, because what’s a podcast without a good hot take?
I actually do think we’ll be singing “In Christ Alone” 100 years from now, because it’s built such a momentum that I think it’s still going to be sung 100 years from now. but I don’t know if it’ll be their #1 most popular at that point.
I wouldn’t be half-surprised if their most popular song 100 years from now is maybe “Living Waters” or “Power of the Cross” or “Christ Has Risen, He Has Risen Indeed.” I think there’s an element of the appeal of “In Christ Alone,” where it could be to the Gettys’ music what “Rescue the Perishing” was to Fanny Crosby. In Fanny’s lifetime, “Rescue the Perishing” was far and away her most popular hymn. But it’s because it met a need for that moment. It filled a void that that generation wanted filled. There was a great emphasis in that generation on the Social Gospel. And I’m talking about the 19th-century version that was concerned with fathers wasting a family’s livelihood on alcohol, widows and orphans, and reaching people, often new immigrants, in deplorable in big-city slums. Not what Social Gospel is used to mean today, but what it meant 120 or 130 years ago. That song spoke to that need and met that need. And we still sing it some today, but we sing “Near the Cross,” “Blessed Assurance,” “Redeemed,” and “To God Be the Glory” probably more often than “Rescue the Perishing.”
Daniel: And I think that In Christ Alone—the interesting thing about this song is that it’s also song in a whole different context that had a similar moment. It came out in the early 2000s at a point when a lot of the lyrics, especially in Praise and Worship music, they weren’t bad, but they weren’t especially deep either. And it’s also the same time period when you have a lot of Christians were returning to the five solas of the Reformation (sola Christus, Christ alone; sola fide, faith alone; sola gratia, grace alone; soli deo gloria, Glory to God alone; sola scriptura, the authority of Scripture alone). And I think this song kind of almost became a generational anthem for those involved in bringing the solas back to the forefront. And I think it means something unique to our generation in a way that other generations may not resonate with quite as much. We’re the ones doing our best to bring back the five solas. What I should say is, this song came out at a point when we needed a song like this to unify us, to stand around as our anthem.
What I hope is, Lord willing, that our children and grandchildren will have such a foundation in the five solas that it’s be second nature to them. And they’ll still appreciate “In Christ Alone” because it’s a foundation that they’ve grown up with and always had. But it might not mean quite as much to them because they haven’t had to fight the same battles our generation had to fight. There’ll be a new generation, new battles that they’ll be fighting, and a new song that will resonate with them. But at the same time, I think that we will be singing “In Christ Alone” 100 years from now, because it’s built up such a momentum that I do think it’s at least a 100-year momentum.
Michael: I would agree. And that actually—a lot of those thoughts were probably why I didn’t put it as my first #1 song.
Daniel: But it’s a good thing. Every generation has battles that it’s in the middle of, and every generation needs songs to unify that generation around, whatever the emphasis is, whatever needs to be said in that generation.
I think you take a song like “Living Waters,” which is deeply rooted in Scripture, or a hymn like “Power of the Cross,” a good song about the Cross is timeless. “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross,” I don’t care how many centuries it is until Jesus comes back, I wouldn’t be half-surprised, if Jesus comes back 500 years from now, if we’re still singing “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross,” if we’re still singing “Power of the Cross.” And, quite possibly, “In Christ Alone,” too.
Daniel: Any other thoughts before we wrap up this episode?
Michael: I don’t think so.
Daniel: All right! Well, thank you for joining to day, and thank you for listening to the Tomorrow’s Hymns podcast. You can follow us at tomorrowshymns.com or on your favorite podcast app. And if you have questions or comments, you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.