April 4, 2017

Are You Annoyed by Singing the Same Chorus Over and Over?

I was, but God changed my heart.

How many times are we going to sing this anyway? I wondered as the worship band led the congregation through the crescendo-building “Oceans (Where Feet May Fail).”

The popular song by Hillsong United has become a staple on Christian radio stations and on Sunday morning church playlists, with its memorable chorus:

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior

But I was reminded of a complaint from a friend—how repetition in worship songs (and this song in particular) is an example of the problem he has with contemporary praise.

So, sure enough, I was immediately distracted and began counting how many times we were going to sing those same words over and over again—louder and louder each time. I gave up counting after six repetitions and immediately understood my friend’s frustration.

The heart of worship

A few years ago, the divisiveness factor of worship was off the charts at First EFC of Fullerton (also known as EvFree Fullerton). Dissension revolved around everything from the absence of the choir and the departure from hymns to the pain-inducing volume of the sound system, to the vision by the elders of moving toward “one worship voice” in the main services.

With each repeated refrain, the song transformed into a prayer for every facet of my life.
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Almost every conversation began with some expression of that person’s individual musical preference. What appeared absent at times was an understanding of the goal of worship: to selflessly give the gift of our heart, soul and mind to God, regardless of whether we are being led by a teenager struggling through the notes of a 150-year-old Fanny Crosby hymn or by a guitarist racing through a Chris Tomlin chord progression.

Through the Psalms, we are given 150 chapters to get familiar with the innumerable reasons and ways we might glorify God with the worship He so richly deserves. There is no one worship style. As the final psalm reminds us:

Praise Him with the sounding of the trumpet,
Praise Him with the harp and lyre,
Praise Him with timbrel and dancing,
Praise Him with the strings and pipe,
Praise Him with the clash of cymbals,
Praise Him with resounding cymbals.
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord,
Praise the Lord.

My soul will rest in your embrace

I got lost in the amazing ways God was leading me through the oceans of life.
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Several months later during a Sunday service, the worship leader asked the congregation to stand as the familiar notes of “that” song began to play again. Instantly, I asked God to penetrate my initial annoyance and show me something new. Specifically, I asked that He would be glorified by my gift of praise, regardless of repetition.

As we launched into the chorus, a whole new perspective of the song burst forth as the words came out of my mouth. With each repeated refrain, the song transformed into a prayer for every facet of my life.

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior

The first time through the chorus, I pondered how the Spirit could lead me where my trust is without borders as an employee at my place of work—where He could take me deeper than my feet could ever wander on my own.

The second time through, I was reminded of my role as a parent and how my faith must be made stronger in the presence of my Savior so that my children can’t possibly miss catching it in all that I do.

The third time, I asked God to let me walk upon the waters with Him in my role as a leader in my adult fellowship and within the church.

The fourth time through the same words, God set on my heart the importance of trusting Him without borders as a friend—specifically to those who don’t yet have a relationship with Him but could learn by watching me take a risk and share about my daily walk in the presence of my Savior.

The next time through, my prayer focused on my role as a husband and how He has blessed my wife and me by reminding us that He is with us wherever He would call us—no matter how deep or wide the water may seem on the surface.

Instead of counting how many times I was singing the same words, I got lost in the amazing ways God was leading me through the oceans of life. Through no effort of my own besides crying out to God, He had “schooled” me on what can happen when we focus on Him through worship.

From that point on, that song has no longer served as an annoyance. Instead, it is a deep reminder of God’s provision and of how He can change a heart in a way that might never have occurred had I insisted on my own worship preferences.

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