Recently my good friend Orion Stimpel and I had a good discussion about the pros and cons of singing two different kinds of songs in the corporate worship services of the church: (1) verbally-dense, theologically-rich songs, and (2) verbally-sparse, repetitive songs. Rather than reiterating our entire conversation, or trying to offer a full treatment of this subject in just one blog, let me summarize for you the positive argument I made for including a wise blend of both kinds of songs in corporate worship.
First, true praise requires biblical content. Light produces heat, and biblical truth gives rise to godly affections. So as a starting point, we must have truth or we cannot have worship.
Second, verbally-dense, theologically-rich songs, when they’re faithful to the teaching of the Scripture, provide the congregation with the content that gives rise to praise. Of course, when we sing too many of these kinds of songs, or when they get too linguistically complex, we can actually suppress godly affections and diminish heartfelt praise. We can subtly communicate that loving Jesus is solely matter of the mind when it’s not. Nonetheless, these kinds of songs are vital for corporate worship, and if I was forced to choose between the two options above, I would choose this one hundred times out of one hundred.
Third, verbally-sparse, repetitive songs, when they are faithful to the teaching of the Scripture, provide the congregation with an opportunity to meditate more deeply on one particular truth. They allow us to focus our minds on a specific aspect of Christ, and in this way they give rise to heartfelt praise. Of course, when we sing too many of these kinds of songs, we can breed a superficiality or an emotionalism in the church that looks like authentic praise but is not. Nonetheless, carefully chosen, repetitive songs are vital for corporate worship, and I think the church is the poorer when we dis-include them.
Therefore, it seems to me that the best case scenario is when we prayerfully and carefully blend the two, when we sing theologically rich songs that fill our minds with truth, and wisely-chosen repetitive songs that allow us to savor some particular truth. After all, both Psalms 117 and 119 are in the Bible! (If you don’t know what I mean, look them up.)