Repetition in Worship


Hello brothers and sisters in worship!

As I sit here practicing for tomorrow night's praise team rehearsal, I'm lead to think about repetition in worship. Has anyone ever looked at this topic? A quick Google search, my generation's go to strategy, revealed the following blog (check the link) which was a nice read, but I would appreciate a Reformed perspective on the matter.

I wonder if sometimes we say something is too repetitive because we do not particularly appreciate or connect with a certain type of worship. So rather than examine why we have this attitude, perhaps it's easier to say that the song is too repetitive because that is a sentiment that has been shared before and we know it will go over "well" with whomever we are sharing it with?

Those are my thoughts, not yours. But, I would love to hear your thoughts too!

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There are a number of possible reasons a person will complain about repetition. Here's some thoughts, FWIW:

1) If they complained about repetition, they were already unengaged in worship before the repetition occurred.

2) If they complained about repetition, they likely also think the service is too long.

3) If repetition bothered them, they are likely looking for theological content instead of/at the expense of meditating and experiencing what the words mean for them today. This is ok to a point. The question is whether the worship leaders can lead the community into meditating when the repetition will occur. The thinkers will likely come along then.

4) If people are complaining about repetition, are the worship leaders making the repetition eventful. No musician/composer repeats just for the sake of repeating. The repetition must have a purpose, an effect. What effect is a given repetition meant to create in a worship service? Obviously this depends on the song, but if the musicians don't know what effect the repetitions are meant to have and only do the repeats because the music says so, there's a worship leadership problem that needs attending to. 

Make repeats eventful!

Sometimes the song doesn't lend itself to repetition. For example: Lord I Lift Your Name on High. The song tells the story of salvation...He has left the cross, the grave and gone to heaven. When this song is repeated, it seems like a let down to me to start over back to the grave.

Some songs just don't have enough musicality or message to bear repeating, especially if the repetition goes on and on.....


Thank you for this reflection Mike. I wish there was more intentionality about teaching a congregation to treat repetition as an opportunity for reflection and for broadening the words in our hearts into prayer, or to make the connections between what we are singing and our day to day life. This is more possible as you repeat a song because you already know the words and so your heart can soar from them. However, if this isn't introduced as a possibility or an aim of repetition, I'm not sure people know what to do with that time. Then repetition can feel tedious. It's a discipline to focus in that way.