Am I the only one who tires quickly (after only the second repeat) of praise songs that go on and on and on and on and….? You get my point. I find it ironic that we live during a time when truly masterful worship songs are being composed and disseminated but also at a time when some worship experiences seem far from Christian.
I’ll try to illustrate my point and then voice my concern.
There are some worship leaders today (Stuart Townend and Bob Kauflin lead the way) who are writing theologically rich, musically beautiful, worship songs. Their lyrics engage both the heart and mind and their music transports us to an experience that seems like a foretaste of heaven.
Many others have contributed excellent works as well. But some songs lend themselves to mindless repetition. In some cases, the verses are OK but the refrain is so simplistic, it lends itself to endless repetition, to the point of becoming a mindless mantra. (Years ago, I stood next to one of my sons in a worship service singing “I could sing of your love forever” over and over to the point of mindnumbing madness. My son whispered in my ear, “I think that’s what we’re doing right now!” I was both sad for him and proud of him).
Sometimes I just wonder if some song leaders can’t figure out how to quit the song. They’ve repeated it so many times, they just can’t let go. This is more of a musical or leadership problem than a spiritual one.
But my concern goes beyond personal taste or style. At some point, after a song gets repeated numerous times, the experience cannot be considered meaningful in any thought-engaging way. It becomes merely an emotional experience divorced from the intellect. I think the scriptures warn against such activity.
When Jesus taught us how to pray in his sermon on the mount, he warned, “do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words” (Matt 6:7). I am viewing singing as a form of prayer in this case. The “Gentiles” he spoke of thought the value of their prayers were in their quantity. Quality did not matter, as shown by Jesus’ choice of the word “empty.”
Many pagan worship experiences disdain the intellect and seek to work participants into a mindless state where the spirits can transport people to experiences diametrically opposed to Biblical worship. God calls us to a holistic encounter of loving him with all our heart, soul, strength, and mind. We dare not settle for counterfeits.