I recently listened to a message delivered by a music pastor at a pastor’s conference on the subject of song selection. He touched on issues related both to text and musical style, but it was an illustration given on the former that I found the most astonishing of the several things he said with which I took issue.
During his talk, this pastor bemoaned the paucity of traditional hymnody useful in reinforcing a sermon on maintaining moral purity. Having expressly and repeatedly stated that the primary criterion he wanted to encourage his listeners to adopt for song choice was, “does it communicate God’s truth to God’s people?” he then gave as an example of his implementation of this his selection of “Slow Fade,” a song by Casting Crowns to pair with his pastor’s purity message. An excerpt of that text follows:
Be careful little eyes what you see
It’s the second glance that ties your hands as darkness pulls the strings
Be careful little feet where you go
For it’s the little feet behind you that are sure to follow
It’s a slow fade when you give yourself away
It’s a slow fade when black and white have turned to gray
Thoughts invade, choices are made, a price will be paid
When you give yourself away
People never crumble in a day
It’s a slow fade, it’s a slow fade
Let us ignore at this time that this writing itself falls short of any quality standard except that for the lyrics of pop or rock music. Instead let us measure it by this pastor’s own watershed principle (in so doing we shall also ignore whether this text which, in the music pastor’s own words “describes the journey into sexual immorality” functions more as a sing-along illustration than as worship)– does it communicate God’s truth to God’s people?
Despite some opacity of meaning in a few lines (i.e. thoughts invade), the theme of consequences to choices does emerge in these lyrics and, in the final stanza or coda, a reference to the “Father up above” who “is looking down in love” (rather than holiness, curiously) indicates our accountability to God. God’s truth is present here, if somewhat tangentially. But is it communicated best by this selection rather than one of the following older options?
Holy, holy, holy!
Though the darkness hide Thee,
Though the eye of sinful man Thy glory may not see;
Only Thou art holy; there is none beside Thee,
Perfect in power, in love, and purity.
Breathe on me, breath of God,
Until my heart is pure,
Until with Thee I will one will
To do and to endure.
Lord Jesus, think on me
Nor let me go astray;
Through darkness and perplexity
Point Thou the heavenly way.
Lord Jesus, think on me
When floods the tempest high;
When on doth rush the enemy,
O Savior, be Thou nigh!
Is it “Slow Fade” or “Holy, Holy, Holy” that reminds us that maintaining a proper view of God’s holiness will cause us to put off uncleanness? Is it Casting Crowns or Edwin Hatch that helps the believer voice a plea for the empowerment of the Holy Spirit? Is it the song from 2007 or from 430 that best expresses that Christ is the one through whom we access grace in time of need?
Perhaps the simplest pertinent question to answer would be, which of the four texts above communicates God’s truth to God’s people the least fully (the number of weeping congregants notwithstanding)?