Are You Too Repetitive?
Over the years I have heard the battled cry of “why do we sing songs that simply repeat choruses/verses/lines? I despise repetition!” It is nothing new and, in many cases, well founded – in some – a mere matter of personal opinion. Just recently, I received and email from a friend about such a topic. It challenged me to look at how I handle song choices and, most importanly, how I lead and present them to a congregation.
The biggest obstacle that we will always face as worship leaders/pastors with repetition is that there will be those who simply do not like anything repeated – at all. Even the simple chorus of a childlike song:
Yes, Jesus loves me
Yes, Jesus loves me
Yes, Jesus loves me
The Bible tells me so
could cause some repetition haters into a moment of distraction. To a point, I can understand the psychology of where they come from. I multi-task…and deal with short bits of information. If you talk to me…tell me once – and I’ve got it. If you tell me twice – you are wasting time that could be spent doing something else. Move on…I’ve got it. Its a quirk of mine. Understanding my quirk causes me to understand why someone else may have an issue with repetition in songs. At the same time – there is a need to repeat certain things for clarity and retention. My wife also knows that there are times that, if she doesn’t come back and say something important a second time, the importance of how much it means to her may be missed on me. Likewise, in the song above, songwriters and educators have long understood a very valuable principle in repetition:
There’s Power in The Number 3
Think back to the song above. As you scan the lyrics we find the main theme repeated three times each chorus. The series of three is common, especially in children’s songs. Having the repetition makes it easier to remember. The same holds true for worship songs today in a spiritual sense as well. There are many times I will repeat a chorus or a phrase three times because the first time sung it may be new to a conversation, the second time the words begin to parse the lips of the congregation as they now become familiar in tune and slowly begin to resonate. The third time they become proclaimed from the lips and heart after being seen by the eyes, meditated on by the heart, and now professed by the mouth.
There’s caution to be had in this area, however. There seems to be a trend of repetition these days in “worship songwriting” that grows out of lack of focus rather than need of focusing on a central point. With that being said…
Make Any Repetition for Purpose – Not For Filler
Look back at most any hymn in the hymnal. (For those of you who are unsure of the terminology – in the medieval days – prior to the late 1990’s, there were these books called “Hymnals” filled with many wonderful songs of praise and adoration…) You will find verses and choruses filled with flowing language. Contrast that with today – we see songs written that will repeat the same verse for verse one, two and three…and then the chorus is the same line repeated over and over. To top it off – we end it with a “powerful” bridge of “woaaaaah oh ohhhhhh woaaahhhhh ohhh ohhhh! (repeat)”
Can we get real for just a moment and speak some truth? This – is filler. Let’s take the spiritual nature out of this for just a moment. I’ve been around Music Row in Nashville and worked around the music industry long enough to know that if a song came across an A&R rep’s desk with some of the same elements in it – the comment “guess he/she got bored and couldn’t find a 2nd verse/3rd verse/bridge/etc” would be made. Why do we treat a song to be passionately written for God the same? If you are a songwriter – and you write for worship – can I challenge you to PLEASE not waste a single spot in your offering for single word or beat given to mere “filler”? PRAY, instead…that the HOLY SPIRIT be the filler to GUIDE your writing.
One Final Thought – The ULTIMATE Repetitive Worship Chorus
I am passionate about wanting to get to Heaven. I hope you are, too. God can’t come quick enough. I LOVE and ADORE the imagry given to us about worship in Heaven in the books of Isaiah and Revelation. As a final thought – I want to turn your attention to Revelation 4:8 – one of my favorite passages in the Bible. Here, we have an interesting sight – these creatures all gathered around with the Heavenly hosts…and the Bible tells us that they NEVER cease to say:
“Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty,
who was and is and is to come!”
Are YOU ready to get repetitive on THAT chorus?