7-11 song

In a 7-11 song, you might sing “Oh, thank heaven,” but hopefully you’re not praising a cherry-limeade Slurpee. The truth is that “7-11 songs” are contemporary worship songs with repetitive, simplistic lyrics.

If contemporary Christian music is like a 7-11 convenience store, then what are traditional hymns supposed to be like? A mom-and-pop soda shoppe? A sit-down restaurant? A mighty fortress with a firm foundation?

Previously on the Dictionary of Christianese I’ve explored terms like Jesus-is-my-boyfriend song and God-is-my-girlfriend song. The term 7-11 song falls into this same category of Christian slang about contemporary Christian music.

The idea behind 7-11 songs 7-11 song, 7-11 music is that they are loud, rhythmic praise choruses that keep the congregation singing essentially the same 7 words for about 11 times in a row. Get it? 7 and 11. “7-11 song” is also a catchy play on words for the ubiquitous chain of 7-11 branded convenience stores with their slick appearance and standardized inventory. As you can guess, calling a piece of worship music a “7-11 song” is hardly a compliment.

An easy example of what a lot of people would call a 7-11 song is “Trading My Sorrows” by the talented songwriter Darrell Evans. The chorus of the song goes like this: “We say yes Lord yes Lord yes yes Lord. Yes Lord yes Lord yes yes Lord Yes Lord yes Lord yes yes Lord amen.” As shown by this example, you don’t need to have exactly 7 words or exactly 11 repetitions to call a song a “7-11 song.” It’s a literary metaphor, folks! Not an algebra equation! Wiggle room is allowed.

For the record, I love Darrell Evans’s music and I love a lot of CCM music—and I’m not the only Christian who thinks that there is a place in Christian worship for these praise choruses and their repetitive refrains and bridges. But a lot of folks think the 7-11 songs are too simplistic to be worthy of use in our church services. Jerry Rankin tells it like it is in his 2009 book In the Secret Place: A Pilgrimage Through the Psalms:

Currently there is a great deal of controversy in churches over the style of music and worship. Those who have sung the traditional, well-known hymns in four-part harmony have been critical of the newer preference for praise choruses, many of which are sung repetitively. In a rather condescending way, these worship choruses, which are often faithful expressions of scriptural truth, are referred to as 7-11 songs, that is, seven words sung over and over eleven times. (302)

Randall Stephens and Karl Giberson, in their jointly authored 2011 book The Anointed: Evangelical Truth in a Secular Age, go so far as to make the claim that this genre of Christian praise music has merit:

Church musical fare combines traditional hymns sung by virtually all evangelicals—classics like “Amazing Grace” and “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”—and praise choruses preferred by the younger generation. The latter combine catchy melodies with rudimentary lyrics and have been dubbed “7-11” music—seven words are sung eleven times. Many evangelicals have experienced the powerful bonding that comes through singing such choruses with thousands of their fellow Christians, eyes closed, hands in the air, and swaying gently back and forth. (206)

It’s my fervent hope that these “worship wars,” which is actually a thing people say, don’t escalate any further. The last thing we need is for us to start arguing over worship music the way we argue over versions of the Bible. (Have you heard Christians belittle the Bible versions they don’t like by calling them the Newly Incorrect Version (NIV) and Not A Solid Bible (NASB)?)

Linguistically speaking, the terms 7-11 music and 7-11 song (and their minor variations such as 7-11 worship music and 7-11 praise song) all appeared around the same time in 2000 and 2001. I believe I’ve found the very first uses of these terms in print, but I’m always happy when someone is able to point me to an earlier example of the terms in use. If you can find an earlier example of these terms prior to 2000 in either a book, a magazine, or even on the Internet, please e-mail me at tim@dictionaryofchristianese.com.

See below for the full definitions of these terms along with a bevy of interesting quotations showing these terms in actual use by Christians in a variety of sources.

 

7-11 music n. Also 7-11 worship music, 7-11 praise music, seven-eleven music [Christian music whose songs have lyrics that contain only 7 words (or 7 lines), which are sung 11 times; a humorous allusion to the 7/11 convenience store chain] Music such as praise choruses, praise-and-worship music, and contemporary Christian music (CCM) that is alleged to be repetitive and formulaic; praise songs that consist of only a few words or phrases that are sung repeatedly.
Seven-eleven music is sometimes compared unfavorably with traditional hymns and gospel music.
See also: *7-11 song.
2000 London, Wiseman They Call Me Pastor: How to Love the Ones You Lead 239 : If you can bear another story about the worship war, consider this one. I received a letter from a long-term, now-retired church musician who wrote, “At our church we have ‘seven-eleven’ music; we sing 7 words 11 times.” 2003 biblicalevangelist.org (Mar.) : [Gordon] Sears offers a lengthy discussion on “Praise Verses” (what we refer to as 7-11 music) written by a layman, Fredrick Rohm. He notes that “the verses become a mantra designed to induce an altered state of consciousness” and points out that many of them are written by “Charismatics whose whole worship experience is designed to create an altered state of consciousness.” Unfortunately, as he notes, once entrenched in evangelical churches this style moves on into full-blown CCM music, usually starting with a traditional song with new accompaniment featuring a new beat (drums are popular for this). 2005 1000blacklines.blogspot.com (3 Jan.) : Sunday morning I visited a church about an hour from where I live…. Most of the songs I have never heard, but they were easy to learn. The most refreshing quality to these new spiritual songs is that they were not what my brother-in-law calls 7-11 worship music (songs with seven words sung eleven times). 2005 cschaal.blogspot.com (2 May) : I know that some dismiss the contemporary praise and worship style as “7-11 music” (you sing the same seven words eleven times). I won’t deny that at first glance some of the music found in “P & W” services may come across as meager. 2007 Ellingson The Megachurch and the Mainline: Remaking Religious Tradition in the Twenty-First Century 122 : Praise music is theologically thin, and because of its simplicity (one member of Zion called it “7-11 music”—seven words repeated eleven times) it cannot explain matters of faith in any depth. It does not serve a didactic purpose but is intended only to touch the emotions or cultivate an attitude of prayer. 2007 The Plumbline 12/5 (Sep./Oct.) on deceptioninthechurch.com : Gospel music should be a melodic expression, of more than a few repeated phrases, that includes a number of verses. Someone recently called praise and worship 7-11 music: 7 words repeated 11 times. 2009 wadeburleson.org (23 Jun.) : Mac has not taken us full blown toward the “7-11” worship music like many mega SBC [=Southern Baptist Convention] churches have gone. Jim Whitmire has introduced our church to a wide array of Christian music, while keeping many of our traditional hymns. 2009 music-at-bethany.blogspot.com (7 Aug.) : My mother-in-law calls contemporary “praise” songs seven-eleven music—seven words sung eleven times. 2010 Stetzer, Rainer Transformational Church: Creating a New Scorecard for Congregations 161 : I (Ed [Stetzer]) became a Christian in the 1970s. At that time the “7-11” music (seven words sung eleven times) was popular in Christian worship. I sang, “Do Lord, oh do Lord, oh do remember me.” 2010 redemptionministry.org (28 Jul.) : The present generation likes the 7-11 praise music, and that is fine if it meets their needs and allows them to worship. 2010 reformationanglicanism.blogspot.com (1 Sep.) : Here there were no choruses with “seven words repeated eleven times” (as it is with “7-11” music) with raucous, thumping Praise Bands, but here were grand hymns from the centuries past 2010 paulspassingthoughts.com (10 Dec.) : In many churches, they preach from the book of Psalms, but the singing in the same churches will be set to “Seven-Eleven” music, or seven words repeated eleven times, otherwise known as “praise and worship” music. 2011 puritanboard.com (22 Apr.) : In broad evangelicalism, it sure would be nice to move beyond the fad of the week, the obligatory “7-11” worship music (7 words repeated 11 times), the dark stage with theater lights, and the self-consciously cool pastor in casual dress. 2011 Stephens, Giberson The Anointed: Evangelical Truth in a Secular Age 206 : Church musical fare combines traditional hymns sung by virtually all evangelicals—classics like “Amazing Grace” and “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”—and praise choruses preferred by the younger generation. The latter combine catchy melodies with rudimentary lyrics and have been dubbed “7-11” music—seven words are sung eleven times. Many evangelicals have experienced the powerful bonding that comes through singing such choruses with thousands of their fellow Christians, eyes closed, hands in the air, and swaying gently back and forth. 2011 Marschall Johann Sebastian Bach 96 : Dr. Bill Bright once told me of his displeasure with “7-11 music” in churches, by which I thought he meant the bland, Muzak-style of song. He explained that, no, he meant the bland music that consisted of “seven lines, repeated eleven times.” 2011 LaRue I Believe I’ll Testify: The Art of African American Preaching 39 : A Presbyterian pastor in Philadelphia who refused even to consider a genre of music other than the old traditional hymns said he simply could not bring himself to sing what he called “that 7-11 music—the same seven words eleven times.” 2012 biblicallythinking.com (8 May) : The hymns of old have all but disappeared as well, replaced by choruses of what one brother-in-law refers to as “7-11 Music” (the same seven words repeated 11 times). 2012 redletterchristians.org (6 Oct.) : On more than one occasion I have heard praise music called “7/11 music,” the same seven words sung eleven times. Because I tend to run in mainline church circles, this commentary is often served with a hearty serving of condescension and a generous side of superiority. After all, all that silly “praise” music is theologically shallow and in no way brings glory to God…. Now do not get me wrong, when I hear praise music that has a “Jesus is my boyfriend” vibe or organ music that seems better fit for a carnival, my skin crawls and my soul is not moved. 2012 amazon.com (18 Nov.) : [book review of Bryan J. Sirchio’s The 6 Marks of Progressive Christian Worship Music (2012):] My father-in-law, a rock-ribbed Christian Reformed Church member, refers to praise music derisively as “7-11 music: 7 words repeated 11 times.” And yet the mainline church seems to have trouble finding a “third way” between “Jesus is my boyfriend” praise music (as this book refers to it) and the good ol’ hymns from 100-200 years ago. 2013 columbiafavs.com (24 Aug.) : Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) often uses short, repeated choruses that detractors call “7-11 music”—seven words repeated eleven times. 2014 ststeve.com (28 Nov.) : She often told us how much she appreciated using the 1940 Hymnal when she visited us here in Baltimore. She enjoyed the old hymnal because it contains much of the great church music she had known and loved all her life, but had been abandoned by her own parish. No less important, she enjoyed it because of the profundity of the words set to that music. Much it is not merely poetry of a very high order, but is also sublime in its theological expression. Her own church had adopted a book of praise songs of a type that has become increasingly fashionable—and not just with younger congregations. She found the words and the sentiments they express very much less than inspiring. A retired Methodist organist was less polite. “We call those songs Seven Eleven music,” she sniffed. “They consist of the same seven words repeated eleven times.” 2014 patheos.com : I’ve been Presbyterian for many years, in a church that uses the lectionary, sings ancient hymns (thank God, no 7-11 praise music) and recites creeds and ancient prayers. 2015 Watson Big Jesus: A Pastor’s Struggle with Christology 155 : Today’s “praise songs” are loaded with adorations of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. Like many of you, I often refer to praise songs as “7-Eleven music” because, you know, there are seven words sung eleven times for the purpose of producing a hypnotic trance in the worshipping community.
7-11 song n. Also 7/11 song, 7-11 praise song, 7-11 worship song, seven-eleven song [a song whose lyrics contain only 7 words (or 7 lines), which are sung 11 times; a humorous allusion to the 7/11 convenience store chain] A repetitive, formulaic praise song or chorus that consists of only a few words or phrases that are sung repeatedly; a song that is representative of *7-11 music.
Seven-eleven songs are sometimes compared unfavorably with traditional hymns and gospel songs.
2001 concernedmembers.com (28 Sep.) : The songs in the praise books are far more like chants than the songs in the other book. I have heard the songs in the praise books referred to as 7-11 songs—that is, 7 words, repeat them 11 times. 2003 amazon.com (5 Oct.) : The other very destructive part of CCM generally is that we have raised a group of young evangelicals who are biblically illiterate. They sing the words but have no background on where in the Bible those lyrics or thoughts can be found. Many are “7-11” songs—seven words repeated 11 times over. People are attracted because of the music and many probably stay only because of the music. Are they truly growing as disciples in the Lord for which they are commanded? 2004 mandolincafe.com (21 Jun.) : We are tossing out a lot of heritage in going to “all praise music” in church. I call them 7-11 songs—7 words, sing them 11 times. 2004 Denis, Denis To Be a Christian: A Seeker’s Guide 31 : Sing songs that edify one another. Avoid what are called “7-11” songs. These are meaningless songs that are made up of 7 words and repeated 11 times! 2006 Gaines Perspective 103 : Church was most certainly not a “pep rally” fueled emotionally by singing what someone has referred to as “7-11” songs. 7-11 songs are songs with seven words sung eleven times in an attempt to build an emotional frenzy typically interpreted by many to be the moving of the Holy Spirit. 2006 thepetrazone.net (3 Nov.) : We all are tired of the same 7-11 praise songs…. Sure makes me long for hymns. 2007 network54.com (10 Jan.) : Originally termed praise song or praise music, then praise and worship—now it is worship music. Worship music is set in some musical style often with repeating, short, easily sung chorus parts. Repetition is this why the expression 7/11 songs defined as “seven words, repeat eleven times .” 2007 folkslisten.blogspot.com (31 May) : I often hear people mock praise choruses by calling them “7/11” songs. This is because it seems that you repeat the same 7 words 11 times. Now I will admit that in many cases there is lots of repetition in the praise choruses. But what makes that wrong? 2007 christianway.org (7 Oct.) : The praise bands and “7-11” worship songs just don’t do much for me. It seems like entertainment instead of church. 2007 billswasteofair.blogspot.com (29 Oct.) : Why do we assume that the “7-11” songs are more “spiritual” than hymns? In case you don’t know what a 7-11 song is, that is a chorus where you sing 7 lines 11 times. 2008 lavistachurchofchrist.org (30 May) : Another concern that I have about most praise and worship songs is the nature of their lyrics. We are to “teach and admonish one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” (Colossians 3:16). Teaching and admonishing, at least in a scriptural sense, requires words. The purpose of words is to say something, but the fact is that the typical praise and worship songs simply do not say very much. Some have referred to them as “7/11″ songs—seven words sung eleven times. Aside from their subjective, emotionalistic characteristics, they also tend to be very repetitious. 2008 Texas Monthly (Jul.) : The worship center was no more than half full at the starting time on the day of my visit…. At the appointed moment, the stage lights came on and the band launched into its first number, which surprised me. Instead of the increasingly common “7-11” songs (seven words, repeated eleven times), they rocked out on a close paraphrase of the Apostles’ Creed, repeating themselves only on a chorus of “I believe.” 2008 extremetheology.com (14 Oct.) : I am so done with rock and roll praise bands and their vacuous repetitious 7/11 “praise songs.” 2009 thedoormagazine.com (14 May) : “Worship choruses” have come a long way in the last 20 years. Those who still make the tired jokes about “7/11 songs” and the like have obviously never listended to Crowder or Tomlin, and speak out of profound ignorance. 2009 Brestin The God of All Comfort: Finding Your Way into His Arms : I was one who used to join in with scoffers of contemporary praise choruses, calling them 7/11 songs (seven words sung eleven times). But the Lord has changed my heart, showing me we are to sing all kinds of praise to God, including the simple yet often deeply contemplative praise choruses. 2009 Rankin In the Secret Place: A Pilgrimage Through the Psalms 302 : Currently there is a great deal of controversy in churches over the style of music and worship. Those who have sung the traditional, well-known hymns in four-part harmony have been critical of the newer preference for praise choruses, many of which are sung repetitively. In a rather condescending way, these worship choruses, which are often faithful expressions of scriptural truth, are referred to as 7-11 songs, that is, seven words sung over and over eleven times. 2009 Viola Finding Organic Church: A Comprehensive Guide to Starting and Sustaining Authentic Christian Communities 230 : Many of the tunes that have come out of the charismatic movement are “7-11 songs.” That is, they are comprised of seven lines that are sung eleven times. 2010 zachicks.com (4 Jan.) : A while back I offered a post, giving reasons why the use of so-called “7-11 songs” is valid. The phrase “7-11 songs” is usually used as a pejorative to encapsulate what many traditionalists criticize as the shallow, mundane, and overly repetitious singing of a song. “Seven words, sung eleven times,” so they say. 2010 Clark Jr. Tune My Heart to Sing Thy Grace: Worship Renewal Through Congregational Singing 142 : I often hear a similar complaint from two sides of the so-called worship wars. One side said, “We are tired of singing the same old hymns over and over.” The other side says, “We do not want to sing those ‘seven-eleven’ songs over and over again.” 2011 Christianity Today 55/5 (10 May) 61 : After I’d made fun of praise choruses, calling them “7/11 songs” (7 phrases sung 11 times), a pensive friend said to me, “You would never make fun of someone who prayed simply. Why would you disparage those who sing to God simply?” 2012 stevemillikan.com (25 Apr.) : There are a few contemporary songs that I really like but precious few. I probably like them because they touch my heart, not quite sure why. My church uses the occasional token hymn so they can say that they still use them but mostly we sing the 7/11 variety—the same 7 words 11 times over (and I’ve counted as many as 14 repetitions). 2012 redemptionministry.org (6 May) : I hate 7-11 songs. They are pluralistic, emotionally-driven, but without substance (unlike the Psalms). They are way too heavily weighted to “praise” with very, very little weight given to instruction. I’m not talking about individual songs, but the whole group of 7-11s taken together. 2014 teampyro.blogspot.com (25 Feb.) : When I was a worship leader, I refused to do any doctrinally incorrect songs, or “Jesus is my boyfriend” stuff, or hypnotic music (MacArthur hilariously called them 7-11 songs—7 words repeated 11 times). 2014 Bringle, ed. Introducing Glory to God 3 : The past generation has also witnessed an upsurge in what is variously referred to as “praise and worship” or “contemporary Christian” music. In contrast to hymns, this alternative genre sometimes assumes popular song form, with verses, a refrain, and a bridge; sometimes it takes the shape of a single chorus sung repeatedly to create a particular worshipful mood like exuberant joy or contemplative peace. Because of this repetive structure, songs in the “praise chorus” repertoire, whether hailing from the United States or elsewhere, have sometimes been caricatured as “7/11 songs”: seven words, sung eleven times over. 2015 McDonald Blue, Baseball, Virginia 174 : Our church does not sing 7/11 songs—those are the praise and worship songs that consist of seven words sung eleven times. Our church still sings out of the old hymnal. 2015 reddit.com (Jan.) : A 7-11 song is a song where you sing the chorus 7 times and the bridge 11 times. Most likely, you’re smart and realize that nobody actually only does a chorus and bridge exactly 7 and 11 times, but it’s a joke about constantly going back to the chorus and then singing the chorus again and again. As we all know, the chorus and the bridge are the best parts of the song, right?

2 thoughts on “7-11 song

  1. I wonder if “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is
    and is to come.” qualifies? If that’s the case, then repetitive,
    simplistic lyrics started in heaven and were brought to earth in the book of Revelation.

    Then
    again, “For He is good, and His mercy (favor) endures forever.” is
    another “7-11” song that has been sung on earth in Solomon’s time and
    most probably all the way back to the Exodus.

    I
    know you’re merely writing about the term, but I thought it might be
    good for whoever invented it to know some of the Biblical melodies it
    includes. :-)

  2. Oh, and I
    get that “7-11 song” is meant to apply to some contemporary worship
    songs. But some I’ve heard it applied to are deep and profound despite
    being simplistic and repetitive. I wouldn’t want to too quickly judge a
    song and end up singing it forever in
    heaven. The Pharisees too quickly dismissed Jesus as being simplistic
    and repetitive, too. Just throwin’ it out there… “7-11” away at your
    own discretion and conviction level. :-)

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