Even during my first listens to Greater Vision’s most recent recording, For All He’s Done, one song began to stand out among the others. “Preacher, Tell Me Like It Is” is a fun listen musically, and also contains a forthright lyric pointed right at the preacher man. Even though it’s sung “to” the preacher, its message should be convicting to any Christian: do I recognize my need for preaching from the “whole counsel of God”? Do I desire a message that convicts, even at the expense of my pride? “Preacher, Tell Me Like It Is” really spoke to me, and I placed it #2 on my list of favorite recorded songs of 2013. Even better, it has become a smash hit on gospel music radio, reaching #1 on the Singing News chart for the month of March. It has been a great encouragement to me to see the success of this song, and this message.
The man behind this Greater Vision song, as is often the case, is Rodney Griffin, recipient of the Singing News Fan Award for Favorite Songwriter for an amazing fifteen years running. “Preacher, Tell Me Like It Is” is his 14th #1 song, second-most of any writer. And this is a song that deserves to be remembered among his finest. Griffin graciously agreed to share with me and the readers of Southern Gospel Critique the story behind “Preacher, Tell Me Like It Is”. Enjoy!
Did the idea for the lyric come from something specific, or a general observation about the state of preaching today? What was your goal for the message of the song?
I was out mowing my yard one day, and for some reason I began thinking about the growing timidity in our church pulpits. Some of the largest churches seem to hear the smallest dose of conviction from the pulpit. These days, it seems you’ll draw a larger crowd if you don’t “offend”. I believe, however, that you can present truth without a mean spirit. Even with a calm tone of voice you can relate the holiness of God, and its demands, to a listener. These professional “speakers” seem to stay away from any confrontation of sin. That goes against biblical principle. My goal was to encourage those pastors who desire to speak truth, to not be afraid to do so. When this life is over, we will be thankful that someone told us like it “was” and not like we “wished it were”. There is a Holy God, human sin, a wondrous cross and an eternity somewhere. We can’t get around it. That’s the way it is. Why shouldn’t we be honest about that and try to help people find the cross before it’s too late?
Musically, the cut has a distinct country sound, quite different from many of your songs. Were you trying to go “country” with it, or did it just come out that way?
When we recorded the track, at first, we wanted to stay away from the “country” sound. But, the more the studio instrumentalists played the song, the more “country” it sounded. It felt natural, so we went with it. I’m glad we did. It’s definitely a different musical sound for us and works well in concert.
Was this a song you felt you would be featured on from the start? Is it typical to write with yourself, Gerald Wolfe, or Chris Allman in mind as a featured vocalist?
I thought all along that it was a song that I would enjoy singing, but I wasn’t thinking of us when I wrote it. I was thinking more of a slower, progressive ballad sound, musically. In the end, I was glad that I got to sing the song. Every night, I just imagine sitting across from a pastor at his desk. If I could say anything to him, what would it be? This song is exactly what I would say.
Yes, I do write with certain singers in mind, but rarely do they end up recording the song. Haha!
The song has risen to #1 on the Singing News chart for March, which many consider to be a measure of success. And rightfully so, to an extent. As a songwriter, what makes a song a success to you? How has “Preacher, Tell Me Like It Is” measured up according to those personal standards?
Every artist and writer enjoys it when a song goes to #1. But, that excitement quickly passes as a new month comes, and a new song is named #1. To me, the greatest measure of success for this song is when a pastor comes up to me to personally and thanks me for writing the song. That’s success. To think that something I wrote helped a pastor to be more bold in the pulpit last Sunday….Wow. What could be more fulfilling?