Decoding Your Worship Leader

I’ve pretty much done almost all of these, so I’m kind of exposing all my secrets. 😉 If you’ve ever played with me, just pretend you’ve never heard me say these. But here’s your favorite worship leader phrase, and what it really means:


  • “I really can’t hear my voice at all.” = I still have some other instruments in my monitor.
  • “It could just be me, but I’m hearing…” = It’s not me.
  • “Was I off-key there?” = First person to actually say yes gets a death stare.
  • “I feel like my monitor’s low.” = Turn my voice up in the monitor.
  • “What you’re playing is great, but…” = What you’re playing is not great.
  • “Can the drums go BOM bom bom BOM bom bom bo bom BOM bo bom BOM bo bom DO DOT DO DAT DAT” = “Drums play ‘With or Without You.’
  • “Just play whatever you want.” = Play a driving riff in the key of G on the 8th notes alternating between the 1 and the 5 notes.
  • “Maybe we should listen to the cd.” = This is not even working a little.
  • “Can you just play pads there?” = Can you not play piano there?
  • “I’ve been getting over a little cold for a while now, so…” = I’m insecure about my voice.
  • “Can a couple of you just sing melody?” = The 7-part harmony is killing me.
  • “I need everyone there at 7:30 sharp!” = Show up around 8:15.
  • “U2 is so cliche.” = I wish I was Bono.
  • “Chris Tomlin is so over.” = My songs would’ve won a Dove Award…it’s just all about who you know.
  • “Hey, you can use my amp.” = Your POD sounds terrible.
  • “What if you tried this.” = Play this now.
  • “Hey, did you happen to listen to the mp3’s?” = You didn’t listen to the mp3’s, did you.
  • “As the pastor mentioned…” = The pastor did a pretty good job, but here comes the real sermon.
  • “As the lights come down…” = The lights should have come down five minutes ago.
  • “As the band stops playing…” = Why in the world is the band still playing?
  • “As we gather this morning in this place…” = I was thinking about the chord changes so much that I can’t think of any words to pray.
  • “You sing!” = I forgot the lyrics.
  • “Let’s just take this moment to reflect…” = My capo is on the wrong fret.
  • “Everyone turn around and greet someone you don’t know.” = I have to change guitars.
  • “I heard there was a secret chord, that David played…” = I wish I was on American Idol. And/or Shrek.
  • “Let’s just start this morning off with a moment of silent prayer…” = Where is my drummer?!
  • “This is a new song.” = I wrote this song.
  • “I wrote this song.” = Check out the bookstore for my new record.
  • “Put your hands together!” = I know that sounds awkward, but so does ‘Clap!’
  • “Phil Keaggy once told me…” = Phil Keaggy said ‘Hey man, thanks’ after I adjusted his monitor when he played a concert at my church, and I can and do interpret those words so many different ways.
  • “I just don’t know if that song reaches the congregation anymore.” = I can’t tweet a setlist to all my worship leader friends that has ‘How Great is our God’ in it and maintain any semblance of relevant post-emergent-ness.
  • “I’m really more of a worship architect.” = Random nonsense words. (Dude. You’re a worship leader.)

As always, not trying to step on any toes here, and as mentioned earlier, this is moreso making fun of me, as I’ve done just about every one of these. Well, ok…it’s making fun of us collectively. 😉 Just seems like life goes a whole lot smoother when we can take ourselves just slightly less seriously than we tend to do. And we could all probably stand to do each of these just a little bit less, and treat people better than the production, as I can forget at times. Big God, small us.


P.S. And for the record, this is the quintessential ‘Hallelujah’ version. All the way back in the ’90’s. I know I’ve posted this a few times before, but every time I do, there’s folks that say thanks because they didn’t know he made it famous and have never heard his version. And this is the first time I’ve ever posted the ‘Live at Sine’ cut, which is in my opinion, the best one. Oh, and ‘quintessential’ = “I don’t know what I’m saying, but it sounds cool.” 😉

And if you’re really into it, here’s the also amazing recorded album version. Still a one take, and you can hear the producer at the end go, ‘Wow.’

41 thoughts on “Decoding Your Worship Leader

  1. “I heard there was a secret chord, that David played…” = I wish I was on American Idol. And/or Shrek.

    This is awesome. Great post.

  2. The good thing about me being one of the only sound techs at my church and a guitarist is for practices I get a very nice cardio workout because my leader is picky about monitor levels. Always good to run up about two flights of stairs two or three times a practice lol

    I wanna start calling my worship leader a worship architect lol and I can be the soundscape engineer lol

  3. my other fav is when people refer to themselves as “worship curator”. I guess that excuses them from leader/minister duties, and really just means “I pick out songs for Sunday, my responsibilities and/or enthusiasm ends there”

  4. Josh–haha Thanks, man.

    Shawn–‘Soundscape Engineer!’ Brilliant, brother!

    Naal–hehe If we ever play together, I’ll know what you really mean. 😉

    Justin–haha Was the song in 4/4? That is awesome!

    Peter Yock–haha 🙂

    Rhoy–such a great word!! hehe

    Kenrick–lol Never heard that one! That’s just great.

    Ryan–thanks, man!!

    Nate–haha Thanks, bro!

  5. Leonard Cohen FTW!!! I wonder if he knew how many people would cover that song when he wrote it?…..Oh…..wait…’s Leonard Cohen….it’ll only ever be big if it get’s covered;)

  6. hahaha Totally! And I’m not a huge fan of his version…lyrics seem too deep for the way he performed the music. In my humble opinion, of course. 🙂

  7. “As we gather this morning in this place…” is my (least) favorite. I pretty much want to walk out on a pray when it starts that way 🙁

  8. “Can we get an epic drum fill going into the chorus?” = Play the drum fill from ‘In The Air Tonight’. Now. And for every subsequent drum fill ever.

    “That was great. Let’s play it a little more straight this time.” = Please! Stop trying to be creative. It’s killing us. Dead.

  9. Mike–lol Same here. And then one day I said it. I almost just walked off stage. hehe

    Chris–haha Thanks, man.

    Conrad–nice!! That’s so true…’play straighter’ means ‘just stop trying to be creative.’ hehe Nice one.

  10. “I just don’t know if that song reaches the congregation anymore.” = I can’t tweet a setlist to all my worship leader friends that has ‘How Great is our God’ in it and maintain any semblance of relevant post-emergent-ness.

    Haha! That’s totally me. Funny thing is, people actually sing and like that song. I was leading worship once for a service where the speaker had specifically requested it right before her talk. After some Jesus Culture and Hillsong, the slides for that came up during the intro and I heard a girl in the back say: “Oh! I know this song!” Doh! We tend to forget that even though we’ve heard and played some songs a billion times, the congregation often hasn’t. Guess certain songs are overplayed for a reason. 😉

  11. nice one about the drums. Would it kill us to learn a few drummer terms? double time, half time, star pattern, four on the floor. That’s just off the top of my head, any drummers want to weigh in here and add a few?
    Our main leader often goes “more like- boom, bah-dee, boom, bah” complete with the airdrums but we love her for it. 🙂

    • Star pattern? Please help!

      The others are kinda general music or jazz terms, like swing the eights, straight eight, straight four, or my personal favorite, “five-four-like 12/8, please”. 😛

      Cymbal music? Tree? Does that count?

      *Justin loses all drummer cred*

  12. Being a worship leader, this post acknowledges my frustrations more than it points out my flaws. I literally laughed out loud so hard on some of these. “Maybe we should listen to the cd.” = This is not even working a little. hahaha, YES, I’m glad I’m not the only one. Good post.

  13. “As we gather this morning in this place…”

    Perfect! lol These are the first words of every worship set, every Sunday, everywhere.

  14. JK–absolutely. It’s terrible how we can slip into choosing setlists by coolness instead of by what will reach the congregation. Whenever we do ‘Like an Avalanche’…so so response. Whenever we do ‘How Great Thou Art’…huge response. Of course, everyone’s mileage may vary on that. 🙂

    Mark Colvin–great point! A quick ‘drumming for worship leaders’ class should be offered everywhere!

    Justin–lol I just stick with ‘Larry Mullen.’

    Josh–haha Thanks, man.

    Zach–lol Yep. Inexplicably…yep.

    Andrew–hehe We’re basically all one and the same person, it looks like. 🙂

  15. Being the rhythm guitarist/lead guitarist (the only guy who plays electric) I love when my drummer says, “I’ll lock onto what your delay is doing” because what he really means is go home an practice with a metronome so I don’t have to work so hard keeping you in time.

  16. Great stuff, and yeah they rarely listen to the mp3s I give them. These days its youtube links and I do get a little feedback that they’ve looked. I try to choose videos with the lyrics in them. The line I always remember is:
    Worship person: can I get more of me in the monitor?
    Sound Guy: can I get a little more talent in the monitor?
    I think we’ve given up worrying about stage volume — everybody likes it pretty robust and the sound guy we have now gets it. And he knows he can’t bring the mains up enough in our small church to compensate so he just doesn’t worry about it. The unshielded box drum pretty much dictates the level.
    Congregation? they don’t know, don’t care, enjoying the sounds. 🙂

  17. Matt–lol That’s awesome. I usually have to tell drummers not to do that, because then they start to mimic what me delay is doing, and the whole point is tension with the beat. Well, assuming I’m in time. 😉

    Randy–haha Ah, unshielded drums. Yep, when that’s going on, can’t worry about a silent stage. 🙂

  18. Just wanted to pop in and wish Paul Hewson a happy birthday (cuz we all know he’s an avid reader here, along with his pal Dave Evans…right?).

  19. KennyG–well, they prefer to remain anonymous readers, but they do read nonetheless. 😉 😉 I have the right to believe whatever I want to believe.

    Kind of like John Mayer and The Gear Page.

    Naal–I have not yet…is it good?

  20. It’s pretty funny, and paints a good picture of the egotistical rock and roll archetypes. It is rated R, though. So take the suggestion with a grain of salt.

  21. I’ll give it a look! 🙂

    For what it’s worth, I do appreciate the warning. I tend to look more at content and purpose than ratings, as I find them to be much more conservative than my views in some areas, and much more liberal in other areas. I really appreciate your warning for all party’s reading, as we get folks from all backgrounds here. 🙂

  22. Haha, great list!

    Just ran across this site cause I saw your speaker comparison on youtube and followed the link. Your writing is witty and well-informed.

    I’m also a worship leader at a couple churches, as well as a guitar instructor, studio engineer, and general tone addict. Your site will be a good resource for me. Thanks.

  23. Haha quintessential, its actually okay to use since its a Martix Vocab word 🙂
    “Hope, it is the quintessential human delusion, simultaneously the source of your greatest strength, and your greatest weakness.” -Who said it?

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