A Theology of Choruses

Church music discussions frequently center around the word, “chorus” (or “choruses”),…preferences aside, what does Scripture say?

The Church throughout history has been slow to step into her present day culture and has often distinguished herself by being culturally awkward or archaic, believing that adoption of contemporary methods is endorsement of contemporary sin. This has most clearly played out through Church music. Yet the full story is somewhat humorous. Traditional churches tend to shy from music from the current century (or half-century), thus for example, leaving today’s churches with music from the 18th and 19th centuries. To church leadership in the 18th and 19th centuries, though, such music was heretical and rejected (Musical instruments?!? Heaven forbid!).

Hence the Church plays this double standard of rejecting the current until it is archaic and then transferring it from rejected to revered. I do not write this as a blanket rebuke of ecclesiastical caution, but as an exhortation to the neo-post-modern Church to not throw the baby out with the bath water. Discretion most certainly has its place both in music and theology. Sadly, it has been widely neglected in both areas today, leaving a chasm between contemporary, often shallow, churches and traditional, typically more bible-based, churches (though some from both camps are shallow).

Church music discussions frequently center around the word, “chorus” (or “choruses”), citing vain repetition and maybe calling Matthew 6:7, where it says “and when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do,” to bear witness. First, as for the verse, take note that it says “when you are praying” — prayers may become songs, but not all songs are prayers, at least in the sense of Matthew 6:7. Second, the designated “vain repetition” is an unfair categorical prejudice, denying the worthy along with the worthless.

Meaningless songs that happen to have choruses are most often empty throughout and not as a result of having a recurring bridge and chorus. Neither is brevity an indication of a song’s sanctity. I have heard the cliche label of short modern choruses being “7-11 songs” — seven words repeated eleven times. Where these words are devoid of God’s glory, I wholeheartedly back such a condemnation. However, many a scripture verse has become a chorused song and is exceedingly worthy of being repeated eleven times or more. The Word of God bears me witness:

Revelation 4:8, “day and night [the four living creatures] do not cease to say, ‘HOLY, HOLY, HOLY is THE LORD GOD, THE ALMIGHTY, WHO WAS AND WHO IS AND WHO IS TO COME.'” (emphasis added)

Revelation 5:14, “And the four living creatures kept saying, ‘Amen.'” (emphasis added)

In conclusion, I’ll quote a song that, though it is not exceedingly new, is often sung repeatedly with emphasis and focus on the chorus.

All in All

Verse 1:
You are my strength when I am weak
You are the treasure that I seek
You are my all in all

Seeking You as a precious jewel
Lord to give up I’d be a fool
You are my all in all

Jesus, (Precious) Lamb of God, worthy is Your name
Jesus, (You’re the) Lamb of God, worthy is Your name

Verse 2:
Taking my sin, my cross, my shame
Rising again I bless Your name
You are my all in all

When I fall down You pick me up
When I am dry You fill my cup
You are my all in all

[Chorus, repeat as desired]

Sheet Music at HigherPraise.com

Song (c) Dennis Jernigan
Article (c) 2005 Veritas Road

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