Phil Laeger


Bessemer, Alabama is a pretty inauspicious place to begin a journey. The truth is that by the time my parents moved there in 1982, my musical upbringing was already well underway. At five years old, I was in church every Sunday with duet-singing parents, a pianist grandmother and a bass-drum playing step-grandfather (a story for another time)… it was no surprise that I gravitated toward creative pursuits.

Music was so much a part of my upbringing that I don’t really think I had any other choice but to pursue it as a career. More than that, for a kid that struggled socially—I’ll spare you the pity party—I found both an escape and a haven whenever I sat at a piano. More often than not, my fingers would wander from the music I was meant to be practicing on the page. As the years passed, I found increasing freedom in searching out my own melodies, music that gave voice to all the insecurities and doubts and fears (and, yes, faith) that were running around in my head and heart growing up. God was at work sowing seeds. In the words of the great Rich Mullins, “Sometimes my ground was stony, sometimes covered up with thorns, but only You could make it what it had to be.” God knew the journey I’d have to take in order for Him to make the soil of my heart into something useful, something good for Him to work with.

I started leading worship in Bible college after being asked to fill in for one chapel service. I am not exaggerating when I say I have no idea why. I really had never done anything of the sort before. I think people assumed that because I could play an instrument and sing (actually, up until that point I hadn’t done the two simultaneously), I must be able to lead worship as well. I bombed more than once when leading in those early days. I hid out beneath the bleachers before every chapel service for which I was on duty, just asking the Lord to get me through. I had a lot of stage fright back then. Still do. I felt such a weight to do it right. To point people to the Lord. To do more than just play and sing. To lead people somewhere. To be faithful and to be as excellent as I could.

My heart’s desire is still to be as excellent as I can, to be faithful in all that the Lord has entrusted to me.

I’ve been leading worship now for two decades and I’m still learning. The Lord is still at work in me, pruning and refining.

Lately, I’ve been thinking back to those initial stages of freedom I found through music. I find that my heart is stirred more and more to follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit in worship, to be musically prepared and spiritually surrendered. I want to search out the melodies of heaven and have them set people free on earth. That is my heart. That is my passion. Healing and freedom in Jesus’ name.

In that vein, I have started a venture with my lifelong friends and fellow worship leaders Anna Street and Marty Mikles called Outside Worship.

My greatest gifts this side of heaven are my wife, Sarah, and my three children, Samuel, Aiden and Hope. They teach me more about Jesus every day.

© 2018 Weathered Music. All rights reserved. All images courtesy of Lachlan Rennie.