Dear Pop Christian Singer,
If you’re writing something that values the message or the meaning of words, then this is not music but poetry, and has to succeed as a poem even apart from its being set to music. For reasons that are largely unclear, poetry is the most difficult sort of writing to do well and almost none of it has been written in fifty years. One can’t make up for bad poetry by singing it in extreme earnest or using various other tricks that have been invented to sell cigarettes, cars and sugar water. Keeping the massage simple, or using things that are repetitive, attention-grabbing, memorable, and easy to dance to or using Scriptural quotations that allow for tribal identification is fine marketing, but God doesn’t need pitchmen or a new ad campaign. Have you ever noticed how insipid and unpersuasive so many old ad campaigns are? This failure to hold up is the difference between what is beautiful and what is merely catchy, attractive, and sophistically persuasive. There is nothing of the Gospel in the latter. It’s the seed that fell on shallow ground.
This is not entirely a critique from the outside. I write a lot of first-draft theology that is largely focused on merely passing problems, and I don’t have the intelligence or the patience to write it as it should be done. You have your shock, cleverness, and earnest presentation and I have mine. Hey, a guy’s gotta do something. But let’s not kid ourselves that this is the level we were meant to work at.