Repetition in Worship

  Every week, I try to write my worship teams a letter with some food for thought.  This week, I addressed the topic of "repetition in worship" and I felt called to share this letter with the rest of my followers, as it's a topic that often comes up in discussion.  

 

Friends,

  As we begin to add new songs to our repertoire, you’ve probably noticed that a few of our songs are really simple and repetitive, containing only a few short phrases that are repeated over and over again.

  When I first started getting into worship music, I used to question these kinds of songs.  The “musician & songwriter” in me actually scoffed at what I perceived as a lack of creativity.  Did the writer just give up after one verse?  Where they in a pinch to write a song, so they kept it to one verse and chorus?  What was the deal?  Why so little substance?  

  When I would hear one of these songs, rather than entering into worship, I would enter into boredom.  I’d “check out.”

  As time went on, I started to hear more and more of these simple songs in the worship setting.  The more I heard them, the more I would ask myself, “Am I missing something here?”  I would sit there and listen to people around me sing the same words over and over again, as if they were in a trance…  I’d watch them close their eyes in worship and transfer into what seemed like another realm.  What was going on?

  It wasn’t until I attended a worship night held by one of my good musician friends, a person I have a ton of respect for, that I came to embrace the beauty of repetition in worship.  We were deep into the night, we had been singing together for about an hour, and we were all pretty exhausted.  As our fervor and energy began to fade, my friend started to lead us into the song “Set a Fire.” 

 

“No place I’d rather be,

No place I’d rather be,

No place I’d rather be,

Than here in Your love,

Here in Your love.

 

Set a fire down in my soul,

That I can’t contain and I can’t control,

I want more of You, God,

I want more of You, God.”

 

  When he began this song and he started to repeat the same lines over and over again, I almost “checked-out.”  

  I was tired, my voice hurt, I didn’t have much left in me, and I was having a lot of trouble focusing on worship.  The last thing I wanted to do was send the next 15 minutes repeating the same lines, relentlessly.  From the outside looking in, this way of worship seemed superficial and pointless.

  But, after experiencing such a fruitful night of worship up until this point, my heart wasn’t so ready to “check-out.”  I made a decision to give this song a chance and do my best to pray with what my friend felt led to sing.  

  I closed my eyes and I began to sing the words.  It was strange at first.  There was no change in rhythm, no lifting melody line, no hard-hitting one liners…it was just repetition…

 

 “No place I’d rather be,

No place I’d rather be,

     No place I’d rather be…”

 

  Slowly, the words began to permeate walls that I didn’t even know I had built.  I sang the same words over and over again.  I prayed the same prayer relentlessly.  I gave the words I was singing a chance to sink in deeper.  I was giving God a chance to speak truth to me as I focused on just a few simple words.  

  There was no change or distraction to draw me out of the place I was in.  I settled into a steady rhythm of worship.  The words were so nestled into my mind that I began to sing with my heart.  The words poured out my mouth effortlessly, and my mind was free to receive the words of Jesus.

 

“…I want more of You, God,

I want more of You, God.”

 

  Before I knew it, my friend was no longer leading us, but our humble song continued to elevate.  The Holy Spirit had so obviously taken control of every heart in that worship space.  To this day, I have never experienced such a desperate roar of worshippers calling out to receive more of God.  

  As our voices began to settle, the words we were singing became little more than a whisper.  It was in those moments that I experienced an incredible sense of trust and faith in Jesus’ love for me.  Those moments of rest after a relentless period of repetitious worship were the epitome of peace for me.

  The words I sang over and over again were not only imprinted in my mind and heart, but they were used by the Holy Spirit to lead me into the absolute reality of the perfect fulfillment of God’s love.  

  As humans who fall very short of the perfection of God, it isn’t natural for us to accept the reality of His perfect love.  It doesn’t make sense to our brokenness.  Why would God love me?  Furthermore, why would He love me unconditionally?  His love doesn’t make sense.  

  More often than not, His love for us becomes more of a speculation - an idea - rather than an absolute reality.  

  But the reality is: God’s love is very real.  It is relentless.  It is more relentless than any amount of repetitious lines that we could bring ourselves to sing.  God’s love is infinite and it doesn’t make sense.  God’s love is perfect beauty.

  For me, singing repetitiously in worship is necessary to even come close to grasping the reality of God’s perfect love for me.  It will never fully make sense to me.  I will never be able to completely comprehend it.  There is always more to uncover and more to understand.  For me, the only way to accept a love so seemingly nonsensical is to sing of it over, and over… and over again.  I need a constant, relentless reminder lest I will doubt.  I could never sing of His infinite love “too many times.”

  Particularly, Advent is the time of year that I need the most “reminding.”  Think about it - God freely left His throne, a throne that rests in the perfection of heaven, in order to dwell amongst the brokenness of man on earth.  He left perfection to be among brokenness for the sake of our souls.  This is perfect love made manifest in Jesus Christ.  This is love that doesn’t make sense.  This love escapes my belief the second I stop worshipping and try to comprehend.  

  For me, relentless and repetitious worship is the best opportunity to surrender my understanding and accept the love of God that defies all of my brokenness.

  How could I sing of this love “too many times?”

 

Praying for you always, my friends,

  Mathias