An Interview with Darlene Zschech
Published on 02 March 2021
Darlene Zschech is an incredible woman of God with global influence. Through her anointed song-writing gift and powerful worship leading, she continues to inspire people to encounter God and worship Him with authenticity and passion. Though most recognized for her worship gift, Darlene is also a sought-after speaker and author, and currently pastors Hope Unlimited Church on the Central Coast of New South Wales, Australia (now expanded into India and the USA) alongside her husband, Mark.
Darlene’s longevity and fruitfulness of ministry service is a testament to her highly respected spiritual authority and faithful, life-time commitment to expanding the Kingdom of God by simply loving God and loving people. In her own words, “First and foremost, I am a woman who simply and wholeheartedly loves Christ and serves Him through loving my family, serving the Church and speaking up for those who cannot speak for themselves”.
During the filming of an episode of Friends of Planetshakers, in 2020, Pastor Sam Evans and Joth Hunt had the privilege of interviewing Darlene whose inspiring story encouraged many.
Darlene, we honour you for being an inspiring example to all worship leaders in Australia and the rest of the world. How did it all begin for you?
Darlene ZschechMy Journey is just a testament of the faithfulness of God and nothing about my own cleverness. I got saved when I was fifteen after a rough patch in my childhood. My father rededicated his life to Christ and took me to Royal Rangers (the church youth group equivalent of the day), and I had a radical encounter with the love of God.
Since I was 10 years old, I'd been singing on television in Queensland, so I had to go through a journey of learning what worshipping was. I had to learn how to not perform and how to worship. The performer in me began to die when God said, “You don’t need to perform for Me”. It was like a real ‘unlearning’— weeping in the Presence of God everytime I would sing in worship. I knew the songs were ‘undoing’ me and bringing me closer to God.
I'm so dedicated to the House of God because the Church welcomed me as their own family when I made the decision at the age of 15. I found Jesus, but I also found a family. I didn't find a perfect church or one full of perfect people. None of us have that. Family is family. I found the unconditional love of God in and through that.
I met Mark at that church. We were in a band together and started to do high school ministry. We eventually came down to Sydney because Mark always wanted to live in Sydney. I never wanted to live in Sydney but through a set of miracles, we ended up really quickly living and working in Sydney. We went to Hills Christian Life Centre— it was about 150 people — and became part of the team. We wanted to do youth ministry but Pastor Brian said, “Hey I've got youth workers, I need musicians”. So we became part of the worship team under Geoff Bullock.
It was just an amazing season and again, I never wanted to be a worship leader because I was never confident at the front. I loved being in the back, doing song arrangements and sorting out problems. That's who I am. Then Pastor Brian had asked me to worship lead for a long time and I said, “You’ve got the wrong person!”. Then one day, there was no one that was able to worship lead so Ps Brian led as best he could. Then he turned to me, gestured for me to take over as the worship leader and left the stage. That was the beginning of my journey as a worship leader!
I'm always so grateful because he pulled something out of me that I never would have done myself. Great leaders see potential in others and help them discover it for themselves. I want to be that kind of leader as well. It was just a crazy, amazing thing— the breath of the Holy Spirit taking something and doing something beautiful. I am a very grateful woman for so many things, but first and foremost, the love of God. That's why I sing passionately because of what He saved me from and what He saved me to.
What an incredible story! Who inspired you in the early days to lead worship? Who did you look to?
Darlene ZschechWorship leadership and leading others in worship was never something I aspired to. The only thing that came into my heart was to get myself out of the way as quickly as possible so that people could see Jesus. At the time, there literally weren’t many women leading worship. There were a lot of amazing women singing great Gospel. I used to lead the choir because I loved intricate harmonies and vocals, and always encouraged the team to listen to The Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir and 2nd Chapter of Acts.
In leading worship, I would shut my eyes and say to myself from the start, “Get yourself out of the way so that people can see Jesus”. As the worship leader, we have the authority to announce and declare the Name of Jesus over every atmosphere and magnify Him above everything. It is not complicated. I keep it really uncluttered and the work in my heart is to remain child-like, not childish, but child-like in my pursuit of the fullness of Christ.
So through this journey, it has led you to plant a church. So tell us about that journey and how that came about.
Darlene ZschechIt's nearly 10 years since Mark and I have been on the Coast. We started to sense something was coming— a frustration within, but it wasn’t from anything specific. I think God does that sometimes to get us on our knees, wanting to capture our attention to talk to us. At times, comfort can make us a little deaf to what the Holy Spirit is trying to draw us into. Through a series of miracles, we found out through a friend that there was a church on the Central Coast that didn't have a pastor. Mark asked me one day if I wanted to go on an adventure. Thinking that he was finally taking me fly fishing—one of my passions— I was gravely mistaken. Mark had greater things in mind: pastoring a church! That’s the one thing we said we would never do, but God had other plans. He was at work.
Holy Spirit put a love in our hearts for the Central Coast. Mark and I had built our ‘forever home’ in Sydney, but then God challenged us,“I want you to let it go, even as great as this seems. I want you to empty your hands so I can fill it with the new”. So we said yes to this little hurting congregation of 120 people. If you can dream it, then you need to get on your knees to believe God for it.
The journey of Hope Unlimited Church (HopeUC) has been amazing and we’ve expanded into campuses now. We have an environment we’ve really built around the table that is organic and village-like. We are just going in the grace that we have for the season. We've done some things really well and some things not so well. But God is just good. We are grateful for the support God has gifted us with—friends all over the country that we could contact if we ever had any questions. There’s such a great atmosphere among the leadership of ACC (Australian Christian Churches). I love our pastors who are generous and willing to help each other.
Life adjustments had to be made. Where I used to live a life that was highly ordered, now I live on the Coast where I have learned to leave margin in my day to be interruptible to care for the beautiful people. These are things I’m so thankful to God for as it has enriched our lives. I’m so proud of Mark, my husband, who is a legend! He’d never preached prior and was always in the background. He has learned so much and grown greatly in his capacity— beyond his leadership teaching gift which he was heavily involved in prior. He’s actually a beautiful pastor.
We would love you to give us some thoughts on songwriting! Are you still cultivating that side of things?
Darlene Zschech Again , I didn't call myself a bonafide songwriter until I was probably about 40. Songwriting is a way to tell a story, perhaps to communicate a prayer or a tool to help put words to the unexplainable, the unutterable. I put myself in the shoes of a person who may be sitting in the crowd, full of grief and scared, wanting to pray but not knowing how to. What do I say in these moments? So I feel a responsibility to put some scripture to a melody that will be like a handle for that person to grab onto so they can start to declare the promise of God over their situation. This is my commissioning. I have never written songs for any reason other than to help give voice to the cry of the human heart to God. That is a great privilege and a great responsibility.
Sometimes the songs come easily but at other times, I really struggle. I'm much better in a team. I remember working with the very talented, Reuben Morgan, who has heard many of my songs, helped hone me in and challenged me. Other’s have pushed me out of the same chord progression and said, “Come on! That is not good, you can do better!”. I want to grow my talent as a songwriter and it never stops.
Is there any encouragement that you would like to share to creative teams all around the world?
Darlene ZschechI do get concerned at times for worship teams that work tirelessly for the Lord. Church congregations are so kind and want to put them on a pedestal. We have been so blessed and God has favoured us and given us favour in other nations. We've got to be so careful to steward this favour well. Don’t let your ego or pride get in the way and allow your soul to be fed on such things because the worship of God is unlike anything else. It’s not for sale. It's not a trade. God always says to us, “I want you to come with clean hands and a pure heart” (Psalm 24:4). Let us not be puffed up by compliments of our talents. God is the only One deserving of ALL the glory and honour. We as worship leaders need to be careful to remember this—what this is all about and who it is for.
To be continued...
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