Is Repetition In Worship Songs a Bad Thing?

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As content curators in the worship community for some time, the Worshipflow team has seen our fair share of arguments about contemporary vs. traditional worship. It’s a war that has raged since the early days of the internet (and before, but the internet tends to escalate these things). In the end, it’s a fruitless war because both contemporary and traditional music have their place in modern worship; worship is a matter of the heart, after all.

We’ll defend both forms of worship when the time calls, and today we want to zoom in on one particular argument against contemporary that we strongly disagree with: repetition = bad. Specifically, repetition in choruses. We’ve seen more than a few traditionalists brand contemporary music as too repetitive and therefore too shallow. Let’s take a look at this argument to see if it holds any weight.

1. Repetition in Scripture

Immediately, we’ll point out that repetition is very Biblical, and the Hymncharts article on Holy, Holy, Holy explains why:

In the English vernacular, exclamation points are used to emphasize the importance of something. In the Jewish vernacular, repetition is used. The best example of this is when Jesus used “truly truly” to drive His points home. So, if a repetition of two is equivalent to an exclamation point, a repetition of three is equivalent to someone waving their arms and screaming at you.

Repetition isn’t a bad thing. In fact, God loves using repetition! He doesn’t need it, but we sure do. Humans tend to be rather forgetful and short sighted. God uses repetition as a gentle way to say, “Listen up, you.”

Furthermore, if repetition was a bad thing, why would God have living creatures around His throne declaring, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!” day and night without ever ceasing? If you want more proof, go read Psalm 136 and tell us repetition isn’t Biblical.

2. Repetition in Hymns

Here’s where we see that the argument against repetition shouldn’t be held by either side, because both sides use it. Ahead are a handful of examples of repetition being used in traditional worship music. Truly truly, repetition is a very very valuable tool get the point across.

Joy to the World, written in 1719:

While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat the sounding joy.

There Is a Fountain, written in 1772:

There is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Emmanuel’s veins;
And sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains.
Lose all their guilty stains, lose all their guilty stains;
And sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains.

Nearer My God to Thee, written in 1841:

Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee!
E’en though it be a cross that raiseth me,
Still all my song shall be, nearer, my God, to Thee.
Nearer, my God, to Thee,
Nearer to Thee!

Jesus Loves Me This I Know, written in 1860:

Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
The Bible tells me so.

3. Repetition as a Memory Tool

The list goes on and on of hymns that use repetition to convey Biblical truth, but it does more than that. Repetition also helps the songs be more singable. Worship music isn’t meant to be the most complex and poetically written stuff on the planet, it’s meant to be an avenue to worship God with fellow Christians. Worshipping together becomes a lot harder when half the people can’t remember how the next part goes.

There is a time and place to use the complex and poetic to glorify God. However, when it comes to getting all God’s people singing together, a more simple and repetitious approach ends up being far more effective.

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This Week’s Top Songs

Keep track of the top CCLI, Praisecharts, CCM and Hymncharts along with lyrics! There’s nothing like this list on the Internet! Go to the Top Songs page.

Find Hymns That Match Your Favorite Worship Songs

Which hymns go well with Bethel’s Goodness of God? Search at HYMNDEX.COM.

YouTube Worship Playlists!

From Worshipflow editor Don Chapman:

I like to listen to Youtube videos/podcasts as I drive around and have wished I could find a good, current playlist of all the top worship songs.

I can’t find any! So I made my own on the Worshipflow Youtube channel!

You’ll find playlists for the top CCLI, Praisecharts and CCM radio hits updated every week.

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