I was talking on the phone recently with a worship leader friend of mine in Mobile, AL. He said he has a small clan of people in his choir that complain every time they sing any songs that repeat. “Too much repetition,” they keep telling him. I’ve often heard of such songs with certain repeating phrases or words referred to as “7/11 songs”: 7 words sung 11 times! While that may be a clever and catchy slam, the intent doesn’t wash with God’s Word on the subject…
To help teach his choir the Biblical precedent for repetitious song lyrics, my friend did a brilliant thing. He involved his group in a responsive reading of Psalm 136. As he explained it to me, he and his praise team would read the first part of each verse; then the choir and congregation would read, “His love endures forever.” That phrase, “His love endures forever,” is repeated at the end of every verse in that entire psalm! In fact, to drive the point home, the Psalmist repeated that wonderful axiom a total of 26 times! Talk about ridiculous replication! Some folks might even call that overkill! Ah, but there’s the brilliance in what my worship leader friend did: What upstanding, God-fearing choir member is going to question or complain about the Bible?
If we are going to throw out the practice of repeating lyrics over and over, then we will need to explain to the Children of Judah in 2 Chronicles 20 why they shouldn’t have sung, “Praise the Lord, for His mercy endures forever and ever.” No doubt they recited that amazing truth hundreds of times as they marched those ten or so miles to where they found their defeated and decimated foes!
Fact is, if we take away our privilege to repeat words in our music, we will have to remove that classic and dearly loved song, Alleluia, from our hymnbooks. And, oh yea, we’ll also need to stop singing all those hymns that so obnoxiously repeat the refrain after each and every verse…
Here’s the guiding principle for us: Let’s sing the words until our brains have caught up with our hearts. If it takes singing the same words 50 times, if it means singing only one song 10 times, so be it – if that is what it takes for us to finally express meaningful praise and thanksgiving “with all that is in us.”