Darlene Zschech: Life Audio. You know what I love about Christmas is that it’s like, I don’t know, God pulls back the canopy of heaven and the whole earth is singing scripture. You know, whether, whether you’re a believer or not, you know, people are gathered singing Oh, come let us adore him. And I melt because Some people don’t love that.
But I go, do you know what? The Holy Spirit will use anything to touch the heart of a human being. So I think that part of Christmas is miraculous.
Joshua Swanson: With Christmas around the corner, we wanted to publish this amazing chat we had with Darlene Chek, who of course needs no introduction given her rich history as a musician, songwriter, worship leader, and pastor. We started the conversation learning about Australian Christmas traditions and then went into a thoughtful discussion about the next generation, the state of the church, and the focus of her current songwriting sessions.
Welcome to A Conversation with Darlene Czech on The Walk Podcast.
Here we go.
The first question we asked was a tough one. What are some of your family Christmas traditions?
Darlene Zschech: Well, Australia. Australia and Christmas. So, we’re always at the beach. So, which is very different for you guys. But, yeah, we have, we sweat through a hot meal. I still don’t understand it, but it’s because we’ve been grown up with hot…
Hot as in spicy? No, hot as in turkey. And, you know, because we’ve grown up on Hallmark movies. And then we go to the beach to get cool. So, welcome to Australia Christmas.
Joshua Swanson: Then we asked, how big is your nativity set?
Darlene Zschech: Not, not so big. We do have one, but it’s not so big. Is the baby Jesus still intact, or? No, well, yeah, he’s, he’s been put back together.
Yeah, he’s still in there. A few little limbs looking a bit different, but that’s fine.
Joshua Swanson: Favorite Christmas dish?
Darlene Zschech: Um, ooh, favorite dish, well, I love doing the turkey. I really do. Um, and yeah, we, I love baking. So, anything deserty. Last year, my daughter and I made one of those, it’s a French thing, I can’t, crout, bouche something.
And it’s puff pastry filled with caramel and put together. With, filled with custard and put together with caramel like a big Christmas tree. And my part failed miserably, but my daughter’s part was perfect. So, that’s been my favorite thus far.
Joshua Swanson: And last, in a line of heart hitting Christmas questions, we asked, What’s your favorite Christmas carol?
Darlene Zschech: Oh Holy Night, by, I love Josh Groban’s version. I love it. But look, truly, you know what I love about Christmas? is that it’s like, I don’t know, God pulls back the canopy of heaven and the whole earth is singing scripture. You know, whether, whether you’re a believer or not, you know, people are gathered singing, Oh come let us adore him.
And I melt because some people don’t love that, but I go, do you know what? The Holy Spirit. We’ll use anything to touch the heart of a human being, so I think that part of Christmas is miraculous.
Joshua Swanson: We’ll be back with the serious side of our interview with Darlene Czech right after the break, but first we wanted to thank Planning Center for partnering with us on this episode.
Planning Center, if you don’t already know, is a set of software tools to help you organize information, coordinate events. Communicate with your team and connect with your congregation. And the unique aspect of Planning Center that you might not know about is that it has a shared database that connects you to all the other products.
So as you use individual products you contribute to the larger integrated system which then allows you to do specialized work without siloing information. It’s a truly scalable system that adapts to your needs and it’s built for the local church. So check it out at planningcenter. com That’s planningcenter.
Darlene has a long history as a worship leader, and so we asked for her thoughts on the state of worship music.
Darlene Zschech: Yeah, it’s a, it’s a really big question because culturally, you know, around the world, the answer to this question is very different. Persecuted church, when you hear them in worship or talk to them about worship, there is nothing to do with, um, anything that has to do with finance or billboard stats or.
Just nothing like that. And so it, you know, suffering sieves out anything that’s not pure. And so you end up with the purest of, it’s life or death worship, right? And then we get to other parts of the church, which still people with beautiful, beautiful hearts, but we, you know, Australia is part of it. We’re part of the comfortable world, you know, and comfort is our greatest enemy.
Bible says hunger and thirst, you know, so we get comfortable, so we get sloppy, we get demanding, we get entitled, all those things that we think never will happen to us, but it does. It creeps in to the purity of our worship. You know, and I think that’s why we need each other, to keep each other accountable.
That’s why the church, the church, not the church, the institution, the church, the body of Christ, is so important, because we need to be able to sit at tables and talk to each other about these things and about the purity. of our prayers. It’s literally our prayers. These songs are our prayers. And, you know, I think we’ve just got to keep holding the line and holding each other accountable to the purity of our expression of worship to God.
Remembering that the song part as powerful as it is. And sometimes it’s the only way. You know, sometimes a melody is the only way you can express what’s tucked in here. But Romans 12 asks us to bring the whole of who we are as our offering of worship. You know, so, I guess my my plea to the West and I include myself in that is to be accountable to each other in the purity of what it is we’re about.
and who it is we’re about.
Joshua Swanson: Her answer begs the follow up question of how involved in the persecuted church are you?
Darlene Zschech: We work with an organization called Open Doors that all it does is work with the persecuted church. So a lot of the things they do, they’re like, turn off your cameras, turn off your phone, you know, no one can, there can’t be any mistrust in this area.
And yeah, they’re keeping people alive. But you know, a lot of these people who are living in these nations, um, Well, for example, my husband’s cousin, Wayne, he lives in, um, the Ukraine, he’s been there for 20 years. He’s, he’s part of the persecuted church right now. But interestingly, they’re not trying to stay alive.
They’re just trying to share the gospel. They’re, sorry, they’re not trying to stay alive. They’re just trying to share the gospel. They, he, he gave the right for life up years ago, he just said, Yes, Lord, use me however you want. If I live, if I die, I just want to share the gospel. And you find that sentiment often in the persecuted church.
Whereas, you know, in other areas of the world, it’s like, we’re trying to stay alive. It’s like. Oh, God, I don’t know. It’s just, it’s a big, it’s a big thought, right? Whenever we talk to Wayne, staying alive is never the front of his conversation. It’s how many people did I share the gospel with today. It’s a challenge to us, challenge to Mark and I every day.
Joshua Swanson: Next, we asked Darlene, how do you define worship within the context of the persecuted church?
Darlene Zschech: I just think it’s the worth of Christ. It, it, we gotta just keep it really simple. It is what it always has been. It’s, it’s revealing Christ. It’s, it’s bringing our affection and adoration in the whole of our life.
The pinnacle of it is what? It’s, it’s Jesus. So to worship Christ’s worth ship. It’s always been the same.
Joshua Swanson: We then asked Darlene, what is she doing when she’s not leading worship and writing sung prayer to foster a worshipful lifestyle?
Darlene Zschech: Yeah, it’s an interesting phrase, lifestyle of worship, which is, you know, again, Romans 12.
I sat with a young boy in the middle of Rwanda. We do a lot of work in Rwanda. And he represented just hundreds and hundreds of orphans, right? Teenage orphans. They’d really been brought up by worship music at night. That’s the only thing that would bring them comfort post genocide, right? So he said to me, Miss Darlene, why do you say lifestyle of worship?
Well, I guess it’s how I live my life. And he said, please can you not say lifestyle? He said, because it sounds like you have options. He says, can you just say it’s your life? And I’m like, okay, sure. I was like, The biggest, it was a beautiful slap from a teenager to me teaching me again about, you know, how we all put everything through our own filter of our own experience.
So that’s my first little part of that question. But I guess for my own family, it’s like, you know, when our children were growing up and now with our grandchildren, it’s about our, our conversations. How are we living our yes before God? You know, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve had to learn that my yes before God requires margin in my day.
When I was younger, I didn’t have much. It was on my schedule. So when the Holy Spirit says stop, move, go left, go right, I didn’t really have time. And I think that’s been a massive learning curve for me and my family. You know, my children are much better at it than I ever was. It’s taken me a long time to get good at that.
Now, I think having a, as someone who loves to worship, Via music, um, we’ve always had a instrument, a piano, whatever, right in the middle of our house. So that it’s easy access. It’s, you know, you walk past and it’s just part of life. You know, the language of worship is not reserved for a rehearsal and a moment in church.
But it’s part of your everyday language. And I just think living, living lives that are… Always emptying your hands of the things that this world holds dear. And I think that’s one of the beautiful things when the Word says, you know, I lift up my hands as the evening sacrifice. I think one of the beautiful things about that pose is, you know, you open your hands, things have to fall out.
It may be you’ve held like this too. And again, that life of worship just, just keeps your hands open and your yes fluid. in your life. And, you know, loving Jesus. I mean, if it’s central, it’s going to impact every part of your life. Not just these moments where we sing our songs, even though that is powerful and important.
Joshua Swanson: How does someone like Darlene Zschech keep worship
Darlene Zschech: In the end, we are all responsible for our own lives before God. You know, so even I remember my first few years of coming here to Nashville and the industry word was so prevalent. And for me, I actually, I found it very, very difficult. I found myself getting a little bit judgy, which isn’t even my personality.
And I felt the Holy Spirit deal with me. He’s like, well, before you look at everyone else’s stuff, can we just talk about. Your attitude right now. I’m like, whoa, right? It’s funny how the Holy Spirit’s always working on our stuff, right? And I realize, you know I’m responsible for my life before God and I can you know my life before him means I’m I’m gonna love the best I can and stand with people in the industry people who I may not agree with People who I may not naturally walk with, but if God gives me the opportunity to walk with someone and we can speak about these deeper things and I get to know their story, it gives me a lot more compassion, they get to know my story.
And through relationship, you know, I get the privilege of maybe being able to speak into some of those things rather than just point the finger and being critical. Because what I know now. So there’s a lot of amazing people in this city who are living their lives before God with all of their hearts.
And this is the only vehicle they know. They have, they don’t know any other vehicle. They’ve never been told of any other way. And so for, for every person like that, they are on their own journey before God. And me being critical is not going to help bridge the gap, or bridge the great divide, let’s call it.
But me being compassionate, listening, praying for, walking with, that’s who, that’s what God has asked me to do. Because I have found some of the industry thing, some of it broke my heart. But when I start talking to the people about their own journey, I can kind of see why they are where they are. And I’m like, okay.
And you know, I think one of the great things about Worship Leader and what, what you stand for here and, and other people like it is that we’re looking for new ways. We’re looking for new ways for people to be able to earn livings for their family without compromising the things they truly believe in their hearts.
And so we’ve got to keep pioneering and pressing in for new ways so that you don’t have to switch off your soul to do what God’s called you to do.
Joshua Swanson: Darlene is referenced all the time by other Christian artists as someone they all look up to. So we asked her, how does that make her feel?
Darlene Zschech: Humbled. I feel a great sense of responsibility.
As, as a mother, you know, I guess the older I get, too, you know, I love people. I really love people. And, um, yeah, I feel a great responsibility and a great passion to pray for people. Because I think, you know, I think of the environment that, you know, young leaders of worship are growing up in today. And I’m like, man, they, they need, they need people of my era to be standing strong, to be praying for them, to be available.
for conversations and um, yeah, it’s humbling to say the least.
Joshua Swanson: We covered songwriting and asked Darlene what she’s been writing about lately.
Darlene Zschech: I mean, we, we’ve been writing about, I guess, who God is. You know, I didn’t really, of late, I’m not writing any songs about my feelings. I’m like, I’m just declaring.
Who God is, I think, you know, people have kind of scurried to their corners out of pandemic. There’s so much argumentative nonsense in the church. I’m like, seriously, people, if we can’t do a pandemic. We are not going to be able to do end times. Come on, they will know us by our love, not by all this nonsense.
So, let’s get back to scripture. Let’s talk about who Jesus is. Let’s talk about the finished work of Christ. Let’s talk about the hope that we as the world have in Christ. Let’s talk about the things that unite us. It’s not about all the things that divide us. You know, I, that’s what I’m writing about. And I, I’m, um, I’m pretty passionate about trying to find songs again.
You, you, you hear them coming through songs again that are just declaring the nature of God and not my take on that. My theology on that is like, no, no, no, let, let’s just go back to the things that we know about our God. That’s, I, I believe that’s what we need to write about so that we can sing these songs and be united where, where there is unity, God commands blessing.
So if we’re not seeing any blessing, we look at the disunity. I go, it’s not rocket science. And worship through song. You know, if you look through history, there’s these songs that have theologically brought the church together. So they’re the songs we’ve got to fight for. And really, I don’t care who writes them.
Let’s just get them and start singing them. And, and. And get this unity in the body of Christ. Get some engine on it. Let’s go.
Joshua Swanson: As a leader, Darlene is seeing and experiencing the burnout facing the global church, and so she had some advice on that topic.
Darlene Zschech: I would say, like, take your rest. If you need to take rest, take your rest.
We are, we just did this little series that actually came out of one of our campus pastors. who the Holy Spirit arrested him post pandemic, everyone’s talking burnt out, burnt out, and he, he just went before the Lord and the Lord, the Lord said to him, I don’t want you to burn out. I want you to burn in. I want you to burn in and start looking up scriptures about the fire of God and, and where that passion for Christ comes from.
Strip back all the expectations and all the voices. I think the voices and, and just the, The chaos of the voices is making people really tired. Strip it all away. Take your rest if you need some rest. Put in a good Sabbath. You know, we have a day, we have a weekly Sabbath. I do a little mini daily Sabbath where everything’s on hold until I’m just, get my moment with Jesus.
Do what you need to do but then let God burn in you. And do whatever you need to do to get back to that spot because from that place you’ll find, you know, you’ll find your new energy, you’ll find new joy, and joy and strength, you know, if you don’t have joy you won’t have strength, right? Joy of the Lord is my strength.
So if you find you’re burning out, you’ve got no strength, you will have, your joy will be gone, you’ll notice. So do what you need to do to get those things back in your world. If you need some help, you need some counsel, you need some holiday, do all that, but don’t do it as a, I’m out. Do it as a, okay, this is a comma, not a full stop.
Take your breath and then get ready because we are, I believe we are at one of the most important seasons in history and the world’s had a shaking. Hebrews tells us that, you know, whatever can be shaken will be shaken. The things that remain will be pure. Your life being shaken out of God’s call on your life is not the will of God for you.
It is not. So just look at the disciplines that maybe are not there, or if you, as I said, if you need rest, take it, but then get back. Get back in the lane. Get back in what God’s called you to do. If you need to silence the voices that are telling you, you’re done. The church is old. The church is not relevant anymore.
Cut those voices out of your life because the church is the thing that Jesus said he will build. The gates of hell will not prevail. The church, the things that are not of God are being shaken out, but the things that are of God remain. His church. It’s not a brand. It’s his body. It’s like, come on, surround yourself with people who will love you enough to speak life into you.
Get back in the lane and let’s go. Look, we’re doing it together. Make sure you got good people in your world. I think, I think these days more than ever, we need to have good people in our world who love us enough, you know, to walk through the hard things with us, to laugh with us, to cry with us, to encourage us as you get back in your lane and get ready for what’s ahead.
Joshua Swanson: We then asked Darlene who her mentor was.
Darlene Zschech: I have an intentional, um, relationship. accountability pathway with all the worship leaders in our church, um, and our children. And, and to be honest, now that they’re all adults, it, it works both ways, which I love, but you know, I, um, I was just talking to someone recently about even songs, you know, people, um, we’re mentoring people in that songwriting process.
And I was just saying, how is it? It’s crazy how when people want, want feedback, except they don’t really, you know, it’s like, can you please give me a comment on my song? And I used to say, Oh, sure. And then I’d give them comments that I’d never hear from them again, you know? And so now I say, before you give me that song, do you really want feedback?
Will you take this as personal or will you take this as about the song? Because I won’t, I won’t do this unless. You are ready for feedback and then it’s not going to hurt the relationship. And I guess I approach mentoring even with our worship leaders like that as well. I’m very, you know, they ask for feedback and I’m like.
Do you want feedback? I know you’re asking, but do you really want feedback? Because I’d love to give you some, but I want you to know this is about something that I know you can change and strengthen in. This is not about who you are as a person. This is about your doing, not your being. And You know, so I’ve learned a lot about mentoring while being in these relationships that are for me very intentional and they’re on a daily basis with quite a lot of people, more than I expected, but, and it’s a great honor and privilege and I find myself learning so much from them at the same time.
Joshua Swanson: Next up, what is Darlene’s take on the next generation?
Darlene Zschech: Yeah, I get really, um, frustrated when people beat up on the younger generation because I actually think they’re born with, um, I don’t know if I can say this on camera, but like, they’ve just got no room for any, I’ll say nonsense, I was going to say BS, but I’m an Australian, that’s what we do.
It’s like, they just, when it comes to faith, They’re like, give me the real thing. Don’t give me the platitudes. Don’t give me pat answers. Tell me what does it mean to follow Jesus? I just love that they’re black and white. I love that they’re bringing creativity because I think even though we’ve got a lot of music, We may have lost a lot of creativity in the last 10 years and I think they’re bringing back creativity.
It’s like the subject matter remains the same, but the way we present the subject matter has to change. Every generation has its own way, its own sound, and it’s part of the beauty. And yet, when the older generation gets stoic and… Threatened and we shut down these ideas and I’m like, just, we’ll get out of the way.
Just come on through like they’re ready, they’re ready to lead the church and lead the charge. We’ve got to be ready to cheer them on and hold up their arms and say, you’ve got this. It’s your hour. Let’s go. Um, and I, I just think that if we don’t, and I’m talking to my era. If my era don’t champion, not just the next generation, but the one after them coming through, we’re going to end up with a stodgy old church that’s still singing the same songs, and we haven’t released the creativity of the next generation, which the world needs.
It aches for it. And It’s not mine to bring. I have my part to play, but there is a whole new generation of people who are ready with great ideas and they’ll say things differently than we’ve ever said, because they’ve got to reach their generation for Christ. And, and I want to be one of the ones who are cheering them on all the way.
I just think sometimes the church would get so threatened and I’m like, why is that? Why is that? Because if we weren’t, if we were, I think it goes back to identity, the age old problem of identity, who we are in Christ. If, if we know who we are, then we’ve got room for everybody. If you’re still wrestling identity in Christ, you’ll always be a little bit worried about if someone’s going to outshine you or not.
It’s, we’re not the ones that are outshining anyone. We’re trying to bring glory to the one who shines the most. And when we have that, when we have Christ, that centerpiece of Christ, solidified in Him building our own identity, then there’s room for everybody. And us together is what makes the church fabulous.
It’s us together.
Joshua Swanson: The last question we asked is why did you become a pastor?
Darlene Zschech: Oh my goodness. We never wanted to be pastors. I, like I loved being a worship pastor. I loved it because I love, you know, the privilege of shepherding people. That was never about platform. That’s just about loving people, loving their families, you know, discipleship, love, love, love.
Births and deaths. Like that’s my calling. I love shepherding. Um, the fact that I could sing, I grew up singing. I mean, that was just. It’s always been, I don’t know, I still go, Oh wow, what a privilege to lead people in their prayers. And I do get… very feisty when I lead worship. I guess I just get so, I just want everyone to see Jesus.
So I get very focused. But when someone suggested to us, um, to take on a church, Mark and I are like, that is the craziest thing anyone has ever said. There were a few things that we knew it was time for us to move on from where we were. You know, that sense of frustration, and it wasn’t one thing in particular.
I think sometimes the Holy Spirit does that. You don’t really know what’s going on, but you know you have to be on your knees. And it was over a period of a few years. And I just never forget one day Mark says to me, Do you want to have an adventure, a new adventure? Now, I had always wanted to go fly fishing, so I’m like, Are we going fly fishing?
He goes, No. I’m talking about pastoring a church. Now I look back and go, Fly fishing would have been an awful lot easier. But, you know, we just, there’s that, that moment in, Genesis, where with Abraham and Isaac, it’s that moment where it says that God calls Abraham, Abraham, and it says in there, Abraham says yes.
But actually, that yes is this word h n a n y, h h n a n y. And it actually means, before I know what you’re asking, my answer is yes. So Mark and I in that moment we did our Hineni again, which is like a lifetime of Hineni’s, right? It’s like, God, before we know, our answer is yes. And then literally we went on this miracle journey of taking on this church that didn’t have a pastor.
The pastor had done the wrong thing. It was a broken down church. I won’t get into all the details of why. And we got offered to go to all these amazing churches. But we felt this hundred people. God was calling us to and to see what God has done and we can’t take any credit because we have made so many mistakes and I’m sure we got a lot more to make, but how he’s brought people just together, you know, I asked the Lord for a new picture.
I’m like, God, I don’t want to do church. As I’ve known, I don’t want to, I don’t want people to walk in and walk out and not be seen. I can’t, I can’t do that. I can’t reconcile that in my heart. And he just gave me this vision of a table, just a table. It was the longest table I’ve ever seen in my life. If I shut my eyes, I can see it anytime.
I can see it. And I thought to myself, I don’t know about pastoring a church, but I can do a table. I can do a table.
From that position is how we’ve gone into pastoring. It’s like, we’re going to set the table. So I get emotional, but we want to set the table for people to hear the word, to worship the Lord, to be together with the saints. I don’t care what they look like or what their background is, but there’s always a seat at the table, at God’s table.
Jesus always hung out with the people, that all the religious just… not good enough. Our community, aching for truth, needs to find a table where they’re not going to be judged when they walk in. Because they’re confused, or broken. I was confused and broken. Might have looked different, but there was a place at the table for me.
If there’s a place at the table for me, there’s a place at the table for everybody. That’s the church. I see it. That’s the church, Christ’s body. Where we break bread together. Where we celebrate together. Where we cry together. Where we, where we build each other up together. Where we sing our songs. And where we get fueled at the table, like at a family table.
We get fueled. To go. And then we go. We’re not going to sit at the table all day every day. We get fueled there. To go into our highways and byways, into our missional lives, into our hineni lives. I don’t see it as much harder than that. And I go, when we make it hard, then it becomes exclusive. And that was never God’s idea for His precious bride.
So, you know, I think we’ve got a lot of things to get right. But you feel the Holy Spirit at work. I actually feel quite honored. To be alive for this time in history, I really do. I think it’s, I think if we can humble ourselves and get it right, and say our sorries, and get on with the real business of declaring the gospel, we’re going to see some amazing things in the future.
Joshua Swanson: Thank you to Darlene Zschech for spending time with us and sharing some of your wisdom and your hearts. A video version of this interview is live on our YouTube channel. Our handle is TheWorshipLeader. If you haven’t done so already, it would mean a lot to us if you would subscribe to our podcast and leave us a review.
For those of you wondering about Israel, please check out Worship Through Israel and fill out the contact form. To stay in the loop, go On what we’re up to next year in Israel. All right, until next time, I want to thank the team at Life Audio for their partnership. If you go to lifeaudio. com, you’ll find a collection of faith centered podcasts about health and wellness, parenting, current cultural events, Bible teachings, and more.
So check them out at lifeaudio. com. I’m Joshua Swanson. Thanks for listening.
Darlene Zschech: Life Audio.