Repetition in Worship

For years, we have all heard the arguments about choruses and how meaningless it seems to repeat over and over. I came out of a traditional background and could definitely sympathize with the argument. It seemed we felt that repeating a phrase such as “God is so good” or “Father, I adore You” over and over was mere repetition and held little value and very little meat. Because of the deeper text and poetic nature of the hymns, it would appear that they may be right. After all, most of the hymns have stood the test of time for the past century.

As a worship pastor, I would frequently be asked, “Why do we sing those songs over and over” or “It’s not my style to repeat a song again and again.” It bothered me that people didn’t understand what we were trying to do by helping them focus on God. It was more distracting for me as a young man to sing four different verses of a song and try to present it as worship to God. There was so much in some of the hymns that it was overwhelming at times.

My problem stemmed from the fact that biblically I could find no evidence of why we should sing things over and over. For me, it was a style and preference issue that I had found worked best. How was I to communicate that to our people? How could I help others to see the importance?

The Psalms held few answers because they too were quite wordy. It wasn’t until I heard a sermon from our pastor that brought life to a verse I had read many times. “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God, the Almighty who was and who is and who is to come” (Revelation 4:8). I found it amazing that I had read this verse a hundred times and only now realized the importance it had concerning our worship. The four living creatures would say this day and night and did not cease. It sure gives new meaning to the word repetitive! I wonder if God got tired of hearing it? I feel it probably didn’t do anything for the creatures. It had to get old, didn’t it? This was for all time, forever.

The clear reality is that God does like it because He IS Holy. The biggest obstacle in my worship is myself. When I begin to think about me, I lose sight of Him. Worship is not about what I will get, because it’s about what I can give. To sing, “I could sing of Your love forever…” over and over and be looking at your watch is not true worship. When we learn to get the focus off ourselves and how we are feeling during worship and get it on God and what He is feeling, we will come away with a real worship experience. It won’t matter how many times we have sung a verse or chorus, it will only matter that we are giving honor and glory and praise to the Living Lord who is worthy of it.

It’s a shame that many will have to wait until they enter heaven before they become worshipers. I believe that those very ones who discredit our repetitions here on earth will become true worshipers as they look upon the Creator of the universe and the Savior of their souls and sing, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord God Almighty.” They will not be able to help themselves as they fall to their knees when the realization of who He is becomes greater than anything they have ever known or imagined!  

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Stephen M. Newman is the author of Experiencing Worship, A Study of Biblical Worship, and Founder & Editor of Steve currently serves as Pastor of Worship, McKinney Memorial Bible Church, Fort Worth, Texas. Steve has extensive experience in both traditional and contemporary worship styles and has been serving in music and worship capacities since 1982. Steve earned a Bachelor of Music degree with emphasis in Church Music from Oklahoma Baptist University in 1986. He has also earned Master's of Worship Ministry and Doctorate of Worship Ministry from Christian Leadership Seminary, Elma, New York. Used by permission of ExperiencingWorship.