Pete and Repeat – Why Repetition Is Important in Worship

Have you ever heard anyone ask the question why today’s worship music has so much repetition in it? Have you ever asked that question? I’ve definitely heard these over the ten years I’ve been leading worship. It’s hard to explain to those older generations that there is a purpose to repetition. I’ve tried my best and over the years there are four reasons I have came up with. These are for those with inquiring minds.

  • Memorization – I think this is an obvious reason for repetition. We memorize scripture by repeating it constantly throughout the day. We write it on cards and post them everywhere so we can read it and repeat it. Why not the same with worship songs? There are times when people feel like church is not the ideal place to be; sometimes a worship song is rather dull during the service, you have “ought” with a brother, you’d rather sleep in. But there are times when your out away from church and a song gets stuck in your head, and in some minimalistic kind of way, it brightens and helps you through your day. Fortunately that stubborn ole worship leader wouldn’t quit repeating that one line so now it’s stuck in your head, at work. But your worshiping God with it, because it’s the only line you remember of the song.
  • Meditation – Meditation is another way to say ‘to dwell upon’. Meditating on worship lyrics as you sing them over and over is beneficial because it  teaches you to think about what your singing. We don’t just sing songs in church because we want to be entertained. We sing songs as a form or worship. We pray in song. We encourage in song. We lift up and bless the church in song. So when we meditate on the repeated choruses we are planting that message in us. Colossians 3:16 says “Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.” To dwell is another form or meditation.
  • Magnify – Things that are of importance are sometimes repeated for emphasis. The angels sing Holy Holy Holy. Jesus said, “Verily Verily”. Why all the repeating? To emphasize importance. Occasionally we sing a chorus a few times in a row to emphasize importance. Sometimes, we sing a line in a song to magnify seriousness. We say it over and over because we mean it, whole heartily! Third time’s a charm, right?
  • Maintain – Did you ever have to do write offs in grade school? It’s kind of the same thing. When we repeat a value or lyric or whatever is of importance, we begin to maintain that in our hearts. It’s no longer a value imposed on you but a value you begin to hold. Repetition of lyrics can cause you to maintain a wealth of scriptural obedience and biblical knowledge.  You begin to maintain a thought the more you repeat it. That is why we are commanded to “train” up our kids in the way so when the become older they won’t depart. In order to maintain a belief, there has to be repetition of the word. Which is why you return repeatedly to church every Sunday. To maintain your belief. You read your bible and prayer repeatedly everyday, If you didn’t, it would be no time before you’ve slipped away from your disciplines and you begin to doubt your beliefs. We repeat to maintain!

As a worship leader, when I repeat a line, a chorus, or even a song, I’m not doing it because I like to hear myself sing or I just like the song. I repeat it because there is an emphasis on one of these I have outlined. There is a method to my madness per se. I repeat because we need to memorize, meditate, magnify, or maintain.

Can you think of any more reasons.


About Kevin Riner
child of grace, worshiper of Jesus, husband, father, Pastor of Village Church, author of Faith Debugged

7 Responses to Pete and Repeat – Why Repetition Is Important in Worship

  1. dianehurst1 says:

    These are some great reasons for repetition. I have to say I totally understand those who don’t want to repeat the same song, though. Repetition within the song itself I’m good with. It gets to feeling tiresome (therefore hindering the worshipful feeling) sometimes when an entire song is repeated– though there are exceptions, such as for very short songs.

  2. Kevin Riner says:

    In cases where I don’t feel like repeating, I usually just pray or soak in the moment without actually participating. I think some worship leaders take it too far for sure but typically when I’ve experienced that, it’s usually an immature worship leader and thinks he’s/she’s conjuring up worship by manipulating our emotions.

    Thanks for reading and commenting Diane.

  3. Barbara says:

    This is how I look at it: if I had a bunch of my children (or just people in general) getting together to honor me, I would love to hear them talk about the many things they are aware that I am doing or have done for them ahead of hearing them repeat the same thing over and over. When I sing a hymn or any good praise song, I can focus on the many things my God and Savior have done and are doing. Repetition for me totally causes me to tune out, whereas speaking/singing a variety of things to bring honor and glory is very edifying to me, and it reveals much more of God’s character…this is best how I exalt Him/His name. 🙂

    • Kevin Riner says:

      Barbara, thanks for your comment and visiting my blog. I don’t want to “repeat” my reasons that repetition is necessary (pun intended). I do see your point. There are many things we can say to go so why repeat. I would say that another point to support my stance is we can say too much in one song. Sometimes, we need to focus on one thing and let our spirit just sit there for a minute and tell God over and over. I think if it’s good for the Seraphim, in some way, it’s good for us to repeatedly tell God.

      However, I think you make a good point too. Bottom line, what I’m trying to say is we shouldn’t get so tangled up in repeating a line over and over in a song. Sometimes, I think it’s necessary. Thanks again for your comment in this discussion.

      • Anonymous says:

        we are not seraphims. we are human beings. we were not created to repeat the same thing over and over.vain repetition. do you think God will hear you more because of your much speaking ?

  4. Joe says:

    over and over,,,it’s to put the audience in a passive state so they can drink the kool-aid. they won’t need a brain.Put a coda on it ! Seriphims repeat holy,holy,holy. But I’am a human being not a Seriphim.

  5. Kay says:

    I think sometimes that repetition in contemporary Christian music is less contemporary and more traditional than we knew! I sense that it harks back to VERY early church music: Gregorian chant, for example, when a musical idea is chanted over and over and over. From that grew early Catholic worship, with the priest’s back turned to the people while HE talked to God, and the congregation couldn’t understand his Latin anyway. What liturgical music existed back then was repetitive in nature, because let’s face it: the congregants were uneducated peasants and too “unenlightened” to have an authentic relationship with God themselves, so they were “chanted at” and encouraged to chant along.

    Not all, but much contemporary Christian music seems to operate on this same premise. “Don’t give ’em too much…they’re basically stupid and can’t handle actual music.” But on the up side, when there are three chords and one sentence to a song, producers of this music can make a lot of money churning out such “creations” one after another. Very little thought or effort needs to be put into it, and if worship teams sing this sentence and these chords for 20 minutes with looks of anguish on their faces…hey! People eat it right up and call it “spiritual”. No reflection or conscious thought required on the part of those producing the music, playing/singing the music, or “being ministered to” by 20 solid minutes of those I, IV, and V chords.

    There certainly is a place for such music. It helps the economy, right? The contemporary Christian music industry at least.

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