The
Inspiration
Project

WITH BRENDAN CORR

GUEST Darlene Zschech

Darlene Zschech

Episode 36

Darlene Zschech: Episode Description

On this episode of The Inspiration Project, Brendan Corr talks to Darlene Zschech the acclaimed singer and songwriter about where her love for music came from, coming to Christ at age 15, realising what God’s unconditional love meant to her, finding her voice in Christian Worship and what was life like for Darlene after her song ‘Shout To The Lord’ was discovered.

Among other things Darlene shares:

  • What were some lessons Darlene learned from School growing up
  • How she discovered her talent for singing
  • How Darlene became a Christian
  • What does it mean to achieve excellence in Christian Music
  • What it was like for Darlene starting out in a small startup Christian Worship group assembling extraordinary talent
  • Where does a good song come from?
  • What has it meant for Darlene to carry on the Legacy of the song ‘Shout to the Lord.’ And is it something that she is still able to celebrate
  • Is Darlene happy about the next generation of God-inspired songwriters whether they are recognising the continuation of the Spirit in the lyrics and the worship and intent

Darlene Zschech: Episode Transcript

Sponsor Announcement
This podcast is sponsored by Australian Christian College, a network of schools committed to student wellbeing, character development and academic improvement.

Introduction
Welcome to The Inspiration Project, where well known Christians share their stories to inspire young people in their faith and life. Here’s your host, Brendan Corr.

Brendan Corr
Hi, everybody. Welcome to another episode of The Inspiration Project, conversations with people who have found success in life and brought their faith along on the journey. Today I am absolutely delighted to be talking with somebody that I know we’ll recognise this name and be familiar with some of the work that this individual has been able to achieve in her life and bless others with. Darlene Zschech, it’s delightful to welcome you to The Inspiration Project. How are you doing?

Darlene Zschech
Thank you, I’m really good. Really good. Loving life on the Central Coast. We’re locked down like you guys are, but it’s okay. It’s all good.

Brendan Corr
Yeah, God’s own country, they tell me, up that way. Not that he has any favourites.

Darlene Zschech
Oh, my word. Yeah, it’s really stunning.

Brendan Corr
So Darlene, how long have you been up on the Central Coast?

Darlene Zschech
We are coming up for year 11 actually.

Brendan Corr
Feels like home now?

Darlene Zschech
Absolutely. Yeah. My husband says his only regret is that we didn’t do it sooner.

Brendan Corr
I hear that from people that make the migration, that they wish they’d gotten on early in life.

Darlene Zschech
Yeah.

Brendan Corr
All blessing.

Darlene Zschech
No, we’re doing really well.

Brendan Corr
Enjoy that space. Darlene, you are most known, by the people that will be listening to our podcast, as somebody that was part of the pioneering of a new wave of Christian worship. We’d love to hear a little bit about how you ended up in that sort of way. Was it something that you set out as a little person, to say, “I want to succeed in music?” What was the point at which that might have become a reality for you? Let me take you back to school. What sort of things were. What was life like for you as a student trying to think about your future?

Darlene Zschech
Yeah. Well, it was interesting. When I was at school, I was actually on a weekly television programme in Queensland, so school became… We had tutors to help us through when we were really busy, and then for me, actually, I just loved art and music and science, a bit of math. I tend to. Actually, I still enjoy a good bit of math. And I actually didn’t know, in my area in Queensland, I didn’t know anyone who went to university. University was for people who had a lot of money, and we didn’t have that option then. And so I just kept working, singing, doing jingles, studying music, and found out fairly early that I just loved not just singing, but I loved music. And then when I became a Christian at 15, things really changed for me, because I had to unlearn how to perform, so that I could step into that space of worship where there’s no performance necessary. It was an interesting schooling education pathway for me.

Brendan Corr
Yeah, I want to come back to that and hear a bit what it means for you to give release to your heart in worship that you do.

Darlene Zschech
Yeah.

Brendan Corr
Did you come from a musical family? Was that something that was inherent surrounding your environment? Is it genetic, trained? Where is your love of music stem?

Darlene Zschech
Yeah, probably both. Both my mother and father sang. They actually met in a choir, so they both loved to sing. My father did an album when he was probably 18 or 19, so pioneers. My grandparents grew up in church, and my grandmother always played the organ in church, so actually still have her organ at our home. So yeah, music flows right through. Music within the church flows through as well, although it wasn’t so experiential for me until I was older.

Brendan Corr
So you grew up singing around the local piano, or the house piano and knowing that music was going to be part of your future.

Darlene Zschech
Yeah. And I was paid full time to sing since I was 10.

Brendan Corr
Really?

Darlene Zschech
Being on this children’s television show when I was a child, I had to sing in the studio eight songs a week, learn them.

Brendan Corr
Wow.

Darlene Zschech
I mean, that was incredible training, and I said my schooling did suffer, but it was incredible training for me. I was always put in the studio with three great singers, they were called the trio, or quartet, maybe there were four of them. But anyway, they would put me in there as the child voice to make it sound younger, and so I was just schooled in the studio, singing, harmonies, excellence, fast. That was how I grew up, every weekend for six years.

Brendan Corr
So in the studio, it was concentrated into weekend time? You’re trying to do school…

Darlene Zschech
Yes.

Brendan Corr
Friday, and then working eight songs.

Darlene Zschech
Weekends.

Brendan Corr:
Oh, weekend. That’s a very heavy schedule for a little person.

Darlene Zschech
It really was, and we did a lot of dancing as well, so yeah. My mum, she was always, “You’ll be alright. You can do it. If you love it, it’ll be fine.” She never put up with any winging. Good Aussie Mum.

Brendan Corr
Did you love it, Darlene? Was it something.

Darlene Zschech
I loved it.

Brendan Corr
Yeah. Is the weekend better than the weekdays?

Darlene Zschech
Yeah. I loved it. I mean, I missed my friends. And I think if you talk to any child who grows up in some aspect of intense learning, whether they have a gift in some area, that’s often very common.You don’t get to do all the kid’s birthday parties, and don’t get to do all those things. But there’s always a cost to anything. If you want to bring excellence to it, there’s always going to be a cost, so I always had a choice. My parents, they’re like, “If you don’t want to do this, that’s fine.” But I just loved it.

Brendan Corr
I want to come back at some stage and talk to you a bit about what those foundational lessons, those life lessons that if you want something excellent, it’s going to come at some sort of a cost, and explore with you what has that meant for the excellence that you were able to achieve with some of your Christian music?

Darlene Zschech
Yeah.

Brendan Corr
Does it resonate? But let’s put pause on that thought, because

Darlene Zschech
Okay, paused.

Brendan Corr
Get back to you to the idea of. You mentioned you became a Christian at 15, so clearly, you’re part of a church family, or you’re familiar with church music and church life. What happened at 15 that made a difference for you?

Darlene Zschech
A few years before that, my parents got divorced, wandered away from the faith. It was like a crisis in my family. I moved out of home. It was a messy, messy time, and then my father rededicated his life to the Lord and found himself in a church in Queensland, and they had a youth programme on Friday nights. So he came, swung by where I was living, and said, “I’m taking you to youth.” And that was it. I went that night, I got radically saved, born again, radically. I literally, that old to new, it’s literally how it was, even at 15. Like I’d had a background of knowing about faith, I’d always had a heart that was very hungry for prayer. And for God, it was always like a softness in me, but I never had any relationship with God. And so this changed everything for me. It even changed. After a little while, I stopped singing secular songs, even at such a young age. When I think about it now, I think I was so gutsy. I think I was 16 and I went to the people at Channel Nine, who employed me, and said, “I don’t want to do this anymore.” Like a little old woman, and tried to learn what worship was. I think I cried for three years in worship. I couldn’t sing, I just would weep at the presence of God, and it took a long time for me to find my voice. Not leading worship, but just singing worship. And it was just God doing a deep work in my heart, that’s for sure.

Brendan Corr
You must have been on a trajectory for a solid career in secular music and secular entertainment. When you’re 13, 14, that was where things were heading. You have an agent, somebody that’s paving the way, and next steps.

Darlene Zschech
Yeah, they were always there. Now it’s called the TV Week, but we were always in those magazines. What are these kids doing this week? It was that kind of… In those days it was, when I went to church, people knew who I was.

Brendan Corr
So Young Talent Time, sort of.

Darlene Zschech
Yeah. Well, we had the same producers, and it was produced in Queensland by those same people, so it was funny. I still can’t believe that’s how I grew up. But I see now how God prepares us in advance. He prepares everything, it’s not wasted in His plan. And so then when I became a Christian, I straightaway started arranging choirs and harmonies, because that’s how I’d grown up, being trained by the best of the best in the industry, so I would lead all sorts of vocal arrangements, because that was my skill. And I still love it to this day. It’s like I love being in the back making people sound better. It’s just what I love to do.

Brendan Corr
Yeah, that’s beautiful. I wonder, Darlene, there must have been some vested interest in your career from other people. It wasn’t just yours, there were expectations and others who were feeling a role to shape what your future might have been, and what their future with you might have been.

Darlene Zschech
Yeah.

Brendan Corr
What sort of response did they give when you, as a 15-year-old, came and said, “I think there’s some change that needs to happen?” Did you get…

Darlene Zschech
I think because I was so young, and because my mum was present, it was actually fine. I mean, I think my poor mum was waiting for me to get a real job, probably still, because she loved it. She loved everything that went with it, and she was so supportive, and she still is, but it was probably a little bit disappointing at that stage. But I also was quite a broken girl. I think through that divorce experience, being the eldest, in those days, it. The judge asked me where the children should live.

Brendan Corr
Wow. Your siblings?

Darlene Zschech
My siblings, and I’m like, “Well, I guess the oldest should go with dad, and the youngest with mum.” It was a lot to put on a child.

Brendan Corr
That’s amazing.

Darlene Zschech
I grew up so quickly, and I felt like I couldn’t please anybody, so I ended up becoming just unhealthy with my eating, starving myself, doing all those things that young women in particular can do when they feel out of control, and they’re trying to control something in their emotional health. And it was from that place that I became a Christian, so I’m sure there was some level of oh, we’re sad that she’s not singing like she was, but there was probably also a great level of relief, because I started to get some counsel and work through some of those really deep identity issues that I took on myself. It’s like I blamed myself for a lot of things that were going on in my family, and which, I found out later, is very normal. As eldest children, we take on so much responsibility, but my yeah, I needed some help, and I was a desperate, desperate girl at 15. I was really broken. Living out of home, renting a little room at the back of a single mum’s house, and yeah, thank God He met me.

Brendan Corr
Yeah. Still with the trappings of success. You’re still involved in it?

Darlene Zschech
Yeah. Yeah, a bit messy.

Brendan Corr
Not glitzy and not glamorous.

Darlene Zschech
Yeah.

Brendan Corr
The things you’re describing, Darlene, about what you were carrying, those sense of responsibilities and those burdens of guilt, I suppose, in some respects. Was that part of the transformation, old to new, that you described? The radical shift that happened for you.

Darlene Zschech
Yeah. Definitely.

Brendan Corr
When you came to Christ, just tell me what was the new that replaced all of that?

Darlene Zschech
Yeah. I can say it clearly because it’s impacted me from that day till this, as I had a revelation of the unconditional love of God.

Brendan Corr
Wonderful.

Darlene Zschech
It’s the only way I can describe it, that through all my faults, sin, doubt, good, bad, the ugly, that the unconditional love of God was coming after me. And I got overwhelmed by it, I’ll never forget the night. Just me and another person responded to that altar call that night. And just every day, for months after, I just wept and wept every time I read the word. And the youth pastor, he started me in the book of John, and I got some prayer ministry and some counsel and because the church knew who I was, and it just. That’s why I love the church. A lot of people beat up on the church, but the church for me became my family. They welcomed me and didn’t judge me. They didn’t pigeonhole me. They just loved me and discipled me, and I’ll always be grateful. Interestingly, the two women that were appointed to disciple me was the music minister and the choir director. Yeah, and they both. One of them is with Jesus now, but the other one, she is just a rocking great grandma, and yeah, I’m ever grateful to God for them.

Brendan Corr
What a beautiful thing that this church could see beyond what the public image might have been, not elevated you onto a pedestal of celebrity, that saw the young girl that needed help and needed reaching and needed love.

Darlene Zschech
Yeah, I’m so grateful.

Brendan Corr
Connect you directly to your relationship with Jesus, but also be a vessel through their own care and love.

Darlene Zschech
Yeah.

Brendan Corr
What a beautiful story.

Darlene Zschech
Yeah.

Brendan Corr
You mentioned for the first three years, you could only respond to worship, that it was a vehicle of bringing you into the presence of God. I’m sure that is still the case, but when did it… You said finding your voice. How did that happen, that you began to feel you could leave your natural talents into that space of worship?

Darlene Zschech:
Yeah. Well, again through our youth pastor, he said, “Why don’t we put a band together and start doing ministry in high schools?” And that’s how I met my husband, he was drumming in the band. I started singing, not so much worship, but there are more songs that tell stories and that became a vehicle of communication for me. I could sing, I could tell a story through. They’re all stories of deliverance and forgiveness through Christ, and there were some great songs around that time that were like that. There’s less of that now, but there’s still a place for it, for sure. And so we’d go with the preacher, with our youth pastor, and we’d sing and the kids would listen, and then he’d just share for 10 minutes and kids would give their lives to Christ. And it was awesome. And then as I became more and more confident, I got more involved in the worship side of church. And that was just amazing. The other thing for me, I will say that I also felt, if I was going to lead worship, who am I? I can’t do that. I’m too much of a sinner, is what I just used to think. I’m just too gross, I’m too broken. I can’t do that. And again, it took a lot of discipleship and learning the Word of God, that God wasn’t after my performance, he was after me. And he said to me, clearly one day, you’re not for sale. You’ve already been bought with a price,

Brendan Corr
That’s good.

Darlene Zschech
So let it go, and let me use you. So that process.

Brendan Corr
Yeah. So your growth into that space was not a sense of, now I have acquired enough spiritual maturity or enough theology that I’m now eligible to take this microphone and lead, and have this voice. It was a deepening understanding that in spite of yourself, in spite of limitation…

Darlene Zschech
Yeah. And I didn’t lead worship until we moved to Sydney, and we were involved in a little church, Hills Christian Life Centre, through a series of miracles. And I won’t go into that, but there were only a couple of hundred, maybe 180 people in the church. And I was involved in the choir, leading the choir, that’s what I loved. And Brian had asked me to lead worship, and I had said no so many times, just like, “No way, no way.” And one day there was no other worship leader, and he was leading worship, and he just walked off the platform and gave me that look, like, “Do it.” In the middle of a service. And that’s how I started leading worship.

Brendan Corr
Wow, that’s incredible.

Darlene Zschech
I know, right? Because I just kept saying, “Nope. Nope, I can’t do that. It’s too much responsibility.”

Brendan Corr
So even though you knew you were talented, you had the voice, you had the musical skills to do that, the sense of still needing God to touch that, in that sort of space?

Darlene Zschech
Yeah.

Brendan Corr
And did he meet you? Did God meet you in that moment, Darlene, when you took that microphone and you stepped in? Was God there with you?

Darlene Zschech
Oh, undoubtedly. I remember the first thing I said to everyone, just shut your eyes. I just started singing. I mean, yeah, when I think about those days, and I literally was doing it because my pastor insisted that I did, there was nothing about me wanting it. Because as I said, I love arranging vocals, that’s what I love to do. And even when we put out that first album. What was it called? Anyway, I think it was Power of Your Love, maybe. And America, it went everywhere, and I’m the first female worship leader to do that in that way in America. And we had phone calls, people getting all upset, because they were meant to be the first, and I’m like, “I didn’t want this. Have it. I’m trying to get out of it.” But the more I read my Bible, the more I see there are all these leaders like Moses, and the stuttering leader and David, who didn’t even get qualified for the lineup. And I look at who the Bible picks, and I’m like, “Okay, I’m in good company.”

Brendan Corr
Amen. I understand what you’re saying about that. Even with all of the talent that you know God had blessed you with, that I still needed Him, His release and his anointing to bring that forward.

Darlene Zschech
Yeah. And it is that. We can have all the talent in the world, but actually, when it comes to worship, the Bible says that actually, if it’s not overshadowed by the glory and the kindness of God, it’s noise. In Amos it says, “Away with your songs.” It just says, “Let’s get back to justice.” And it’s confronting the integrity of worship. It’s like, “Don’t bring me the performance without a heart after God.” And I think that’s the thing we’ve always got to remember when it comes to serving God. He’s not looking for perfection in talent and gifting. He gave us everything we need for our calling, but what he does ask is that our hearts are after Him. And I think that’s where you have to. It requires a humility of just knowing that if God doesn’t come through, it’s just going to be noise. It might be beautiful noise, but it’s just going to be noise.

Brendan Corr
Yeah.

Darlene Zschech
So I’ve always been very aware of that.

Brendan Corr
This might be the time to circle back to a thought that I wanted to ask you about.

Darlene Zschech
Yeah.

Brendan Corr
The lesson that you learned young in life, that if you’re going to do something excellently, you had to work hard, you had to really hone those.

Darlene Zschech
Yeah, hone the craft.

Brendan Corr
The craft of that. Is that contradictory to God just wanting whatever you’ve got? The simplicity, the mistakes, the errors, the failings, that’s good enough. How do you reconcile those into the, I want to do this excellently?

Darlene Zschech
Yeah.

Brendan Corr
It’s going to take work, and it’s going to take effort, and I’ve got to practise and rehearse, versus, the spontaneity and the freedom and the simplicity.

Darlene Zschech
Yeah. Yeah, I actually don’t think it’s contradictory at all. I think that when we’re talking about bringing an offering, or bringing anything to the Lord, even if you look at Cain and Abel, the first fight in the Bible. Genesis four is about an offering. It’s about worship. And in there it’s like the pleasing thing was about the one who brought it with a heart after God, and it’s like right throughout the Bible you see that. But there’s this defining moment, is to the end of… Might be Second Kings. Well, anyway, Araunah, there’s a King Araunah who is trying to help David bring an offering, right? He says to David, “Let me help you bring it, because it will seem good to the people.” But it’s like, “I’ll do the work, you just come and take the glory.” And David says something in there that I reckon is like a defining line. And he says, “I will not bring before my King that which costs me nothing.

Brendan Corr
Amen.

Darlene Zschech
So it’s saying, “God, I’m going to bring you my best. I’m not going to be sloppy in my pursuit, or fellowship of Jesus. I’m not going to be sloppy with it.” But more than that, he’s asking us, he wants all of it. He wants a life laid down. I say to our worship teams, practise and get the songs as excellent as we can, have a rehearsal, do the work, so that when it’s time to lead others in worship, there’s confidence. You’ve removed all the distractions, there’s a flow, but if you don’t have the excellence of skill in the bank, it’s very hard then to let it all go to flow together. I do think that excellence, if you look at the tabernacle and what was required to build a house worthy of our King, all the detail that went into it was so excellent. And then overriding it all, God keeps saying to all of them, “I’m looking at your heart. Come on, don’t let this work. Don’t strive for me. Receive me and let all of this flow out of a heart that is after me.”

Brendan Corr
That’s beautiful.

Darlene Zschech
A man after God’s own heart. David, in all of his frailty, that’s actually what God calls and he sees through all the nonsense. And he still says, “You’re a man after my own heart.” That’s astounding.

Brendan Corr
Beautiful. That’s a lovely example, and I think you’re right that, in that sense, you have reconciled those two concepts of you give your best so that you’re not concentrating on the chord sequence, or where things are going to be. You’re able to concentrate fully on the object of your worship.

Darlene Zschech
Yeah. Yeah.

Brendan Corr
The rest is solid.

Darlene Zschech
It gives you the confidence to just let it all go.

Brendan Corr
Yeah, that’s great.

Darlene Zschech
Because it’s like I know the basics, now we can flow and just have our ears tuned to heaven.

Brendan Corr
Beautiful.

Darlene Zschech
Rather than worrying about it, what’s that? You kind of missed the whole point if you’re doing that.

Brendan Corr
That’s good. Darlene, you’ve been describing this moment, unexpected opportunity, invitation, instruction to come and step up and lead this worship at this little church that you’re involved in.

Darlene Zschech
Yeah.

Brendan Corr
It’s not all that long, and you find that you’re part of a team that God seems to be using in a very significant way. Geff Bullock and these others who’ve become the go-to names of Christian music. What was it like at that time when you’re this fledgling little group, and you know that God has assembled some extraordinary talent, and that he’s doing something maybe that you hadn’t expected, hadn’t planned? What was life like to be part of that startup?

Darlene Zschech
Yeah. Look, I think one of the saving graces for us all was that we were in Australia, because it was really the American church first, then the rest of the world followed. But that American church went, “What is this?” And they kept flying from the States into our church, and often I’d go out just to lead a service and there’d be all record executives, and I’m like, “Well, what is going on people? Let’s just worship Jesus.” It was wild. But we lived in Australia, and I can see the kindness of God in that, because we were far enough away to just keep on keeping on. Building the church. Loving God, loving people. Being missional in our intent, being disciples, not celebrities.

Brendan Corr
Yeah, that’s good.

Darlene Zschech
And we had to become more and more intentional as the years went on, but there were some wonderful, just miraculous years.

Brendan Corr
Hard times, I imagine. Working hard, working long, inventing things that hadn’t happened before, and running risks.

Darlene Zschech
Yeah. I know, I’m producing albums, and I’m like, “How do you do this?” Having babies, staying up all hours getting albums over timelines, and it was hard. It was hard. But there was a beautiful grace on our team. My beautiful team. And there’s still so many beautiful things happening within that team. Yeah, it’s funny, when you’re doing something with a bunch of people, you’re shoulder to shoulder, and you have good leadership. That is one of life’s highlights. I think if you’re doing it on your own and trying to manufacture things and just work, work, work, that would be my picture of hell. I can’t do that. But I’m a team girl. And so that’s what it was like, that’s what it is still like now for us. In ministry, we only want to do it with a team, shoulder to shoulder.

Brendan Corr
Yeah, that’s lovely. Darlene, I’m sure that you’ve been asked this many times, and I don’t want to rehash something that is familiar to you. But where does a good song come from?

Darlene Zschech
Well, I can tell you where they start. They start with some sort of revelation. You got to have something to say. And I think a worship or a song of praise, they come out of this. Either you’ve been in the Word, or you’ve been in worship, or something has just sparked that writer within you, and you’re like, “That has to be said. I need to pray for that, or I need to say that.” I think that’s the first thing. You have to have something that needs to be communicated through song. I mean, the hard part of writing is finishing. It’s not starting. I think all the students at your school who are songwriters, they’ll all have lots of bits and pieces sitting here and there. And the easy part is starting. Great, I think that’s a really good chorus. But then you’ve got to do the work.

Brendan Corr
Where to next?

Darlene Zschech
You have to be disciplined to do the work and finish the song. Then, you have to be good at presenting the song to others for critique, and be resilient enough in your identity to receive it, apply it, and then change things if necessary, and then make that song into the best song it can be.

Brendan Corr
Yeah. So the idea of the spark that gives-

Darlene Zschech
The spark.

Brendan Corr
The initial momentum, impetus, then the discipline to refine it, work it, come back to it and…

Darlene Zschech
Yeah.

Brendan Corr
Those skills that you can develop, you need both, is what you’re telling me. The living relationship that allows a spark of revelation in your heart, your spirit, your mind, and the skills to bring that to something that is the excellent offering of praise.

Darlene Zschech
Yeah.

Brendan Corr
You want

Darlene Zschech
And look, some… I think when it comes to worship, so I’m very particular when I say that. I’m not talking about songs that you might write for a project, or something that maybe you’re a little bit more disconnected to. But when we’re writing worship and praise, we’re writing prayers, right?

Brendan Corr
Amen.

Darlene Zschech
And theologically sound prayers, hopefully, which is you also need others to bounce your lyric content off, because worship songs, they actually become signposts, historically, of where the church has been, or where you have been in God. And it’s really important, if you’re going to put these songs in the mouths of someone else, that we get the theology right.

Brendan Corr
Amen.

Darlene Zschech
And there are some early songs in Hillsong where I look back, and I’m like, “I don’t think that’s in the Bible.” But we were just having a go, and you can tell that the lyrical content gets stronger as we get stronger, which is kind of the fun, it’s growth, right? We all have to grow.

Brendan Corr
Yeah, that’s great. You spoke a little bit about the need to accept criticism, and a positive way to do that. You’d also be conscious that there were probably large sections of the Christian church who were concerned about the direction that you were part of and taking Christian worship and Christian music, and some of the conversation you just had. How did you respond to that at the time? What was that doing for you, for your team that were involved in that space?

Darlene Zschech
Yeah. I mean, you end up having to block out the critics who aren’t walking it out with you. Like I always say, you can criticise all you want, as long as you’re going to walk this with me. Right? And we’ll work it out together. But if you’re going to sit on the outside and point the finger, then I actually am not going to listen, because we don’t have any relational context. And I’m in a relationship. I love relationships, so for example, there was one sector of the church in our nation who started publicly criticising our songs. And I’m like, “Hang on. The Bible says to talk to your brother or sister.”

Brendan Corr
First, yeah.

Darlene Zschech
You’re out of line, people. So I rang the head of the church and said, “I want to have lunch with you. I want to talk about this. Tell me why. I know we’ve got stuff to learn. Tell me where this is coming from.” And so graciously he’s a lot older. He said, “Sure thing.” So we went and sat for hours and talked theology, and I wanted to hear his story, where he came from. He graciously heard mine. And by the end of that, we had agreed that the public-pointed finger was not helpful for the church at large.

Brendan Corr
Yeah, good.

Darlene Zschech
And let’s work on having open communication here so that we can be stronger. Because actually, the Word of God says they, the world will know us by our love. And criticism with no understanding is so damaging. I kind of went after some of the relationships that I felt were really important to build the church. Not our church, but the church. And that ended up being a really special relationship for us, so.

Brendan Corr
Wonderful. That is a wonderful thing. That’s great.

Darlene Zschech
Yeah.

Brendan Corr
Darlene, you’re probably best known for a song, Shout to the Lord. What has it meant for you to carry that legacy of that moment, that beautiful, universal, effective song? Is it something that you’re still able to celebrate? Are you-

Darlene Zschech
Yeah.

Brendan Corr
You feel that you want to be known for something new? How does that work for you?

Darlene Zschech
Yeah. Yeah, I certainly don’t It’s just part of the God story in my life, so there’s nothing in me that’s trying to separate from that, but I mean, that season in our lives, I’ll never forget it, and writing that song and just holding it for quite a while, and finally, playing it to Geff Bullock who I made stand in the corner and turn his back to me, because I was so embarrassed. And I’ll be like, “My Jesus change it if you want to, I know it’s not very good. My Saviour I did the whole song like that. And at the end, he just turned around with tears in his eyes, and said, “That’s one of the greatest songs I’ve heard, and we’re doing that this weekend.” I’m like, “You can’t, but it’s awful.” That’s where I was in myself, and he was just so encouraging. And that weekend we were having church at a little stadium thing in Castle Hill, and it was shut down that weekend, so we were in the Rosehill Racecourse. And we were like the church that followed the cloud for years because of a whole lot of things. And so the church was there, and I remember the speaker. We did that song over an offering, we didn’t even do it in worship, we did it over an offering and people began standing up and just weeping. And the guest speaker said, “I don’t know what that was, but that’s going to go all around the world.” I can’t take credit for it. It’s between Psalm 96 and Psalm 100. Psalm 100 finishes with, “Shout with joy to the Lord all the earth.” Is actually how it starts. So it’s that prayer, it’s just a simple prayer. It’s not a musical masterpiece, it’s a simple prayer. And yeah, before I got this phone call from this pastor, a very famous pastor in America, who was calling me at church. And I just kept saying, “No, you want to talk to my pastor.” So I put them back through. And then they’d call back, “No, I want to talk to you.” And I’m like, “No, you couldn’t. I’ll put you back through.” It was wild. They were weeks that were wild that turned into years that were wild. Getting a letter from the middle of nowhere, the most crazy story, a broken family in the middle of a hard part of Alaska. And the song had been out just for a tiny little bit, and I don’t even know how it got there, but I was like, “Wow, this song has gone around the world.” It’s like I sang it, and then it left my life.This is before Spotify, and it just was like that. It just left my life.

Brendan Corr
Yeah, and taken. Yeah.

Darlene Zschech
And ministered. And if I sing that song around when I’m travelling, it still has such an impact. And I was so surprised in the last Maverick City album, they use a line out of it in their first song. Martin Smith, who’s a great friend of mine from Delirious, rings me, he goes, “Do you know that Maverick City have put our songs in their song?” And I’m like, “Really?” He’s like, “Yeah, listen to this.” And it was just crazy. I’m like, “How can this be?” I don’t know.

Brendan Corr
Are you happy the next generation of God-inspired songwriters are recognising the continuation of the Spirit in the lyrics and the worship and the intent?

Darlene Zschech
Look, I am so passionate about the legacy of worship. We got into, I think, in the Western world, we definitely got into dangerous territory, where it got a bit starry. And that’s got nothing to do with what worship is all about. And you can see this new wave of Jesus chasers who are old and young, but passionate, who are we’re all learning more about what worship actually means, and good theology of worship. And what I do love is that now, rather than just the West, it’s like now our influence is coming from Nigeria, Way Waker. Our influence is coming through Ireland, and some of the most amazing songs that are being birthed out of young people whose grandparents were in Welsh revivals, and it’s like this legacy of faith is stunning. India, Cambodia, it’s like we’re all being impacted because of technology. It’s like a more equitable understanding of the when the Word says on the earth, every man, woman and child, they’ll bow their knees to declare Jesus as Lord. I feel like we’re coming closer and closer to seeing the reality of that picture.

Brendan Corr
Amen. Yeah, it’s wonderful.

Darlene Zschech
Yeah, it’s quite stunning.

Brendan Corr
Yeah. Darlene, you’ve used some phrases in this conversation that have really. They’ve touched my heart. You spoke earlier about the songs that you were writing, and that your team was writing, were putting prayers in the mouths of other people. That’s such a beautiful expression, beautiful idea of what we want to be able to hold those beautifully crafted poetic prayers that used to be part of the prayer book, I suppose that people. Yeah, I would use it in the same way for somebody that is gifted and anointed to put the words we want to say into a phrase and a harmony and melody that we can use. And you just talked about Jesus chasers, the new generation. I think that’s a beautiful phrase. Darlene, thank you for your time. We’ve spoken a bit longer than probably we intended to.

Darlene Zschech
Yes.

Brendan Corr
I hope your listeners are still with us. I’ve really appreciated this conversation so much, and you’re known as a worship leader. And I think beyond that, it’s been lovely to see that you are a worshipper, and I acknowledge that you’ve been doing that in this conversation. That you have let the Spirit.

Darlene Zschech
Thank you, Brendan. It’s an honour.

Brendan Corr
Thank you for your time. Thank you for your ministry, and we’ll continue to pray to open doors and anoint the work that you do for Him.

Darlene Zschech
Thank you, friend. You too.

Darlene Zschech

About Darlene Zschech

Australian Darlene Zschech is acclaimed all over the world as a composer, worship leader, pastor, author and speaker, and became most well known for her involvement in the worship team at Hillsong Church, Sydney, Australia over many years. Although she has achieved numerous gold albums and her songs are sung in many nations of the world, Darlene’s success simply stands as a testimony to her life’s passion for serving God and people with all her heart. Alongside her husband Mark, they are the Senior Pastors of Hope Unlimited Church (HopeUC) on the Central Coast of New South Wales, Australia, which has now grown into India and the USA.

Photo of Brendan Corr

About Brendan Corr

Originally a Secondary Science Teacher, Brendan is a graduate of UTS, Deakin and Regent College, Canada. While Deputy Principal at Pacific Hills for 12 years, Brendan also led the NSW Christian Schools Australia registration system. Brendan’s faith is grounded in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and a deep knowledge of God’s Word. Married for over 30 years, Brendan and Kim have 4 adult children. On the weekends, Brendan enjoys cycling (but he enjoys coffee with his mates afterwards slightly more).