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Song Story: ‘Shout to the Lord’

Song Story: ‘Shout to the Lord’

Editorial Team
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Originally Published in Worship Leader Magazine – May/June, 2005

Under her creative force and leadership, Hillsong Church in Sydney,  Australia, has released fourteen live CDs. She leads worship for the Hillsong television program that broadcasts to over one hundred and sixty countries; wrote the song “Shout to the Lord,” which is sung by an estimated 25 to 30 million churchgoers every week; and has a worship team of one thousand members.  (Most worship leaders have a tough time  getting five people together for a weekday rehearsal.) It’s hard to imagine this person who has had such an impact on a global understanding of worship once had a dream to sell motorcycle parts. It’s true. Picture Darlene Zschech toe to toe with the boys of Orange County Choppers—complete with Fu Manchu mustaches and tattooed biceps—trying to get them to buy clutch kits.

Somehow, it makes her so real. She’s not just a name at the bottom of a PowerPoint slide you see during church services. Or a person you see on the cover of a plethora of worship CDs. In fact, most see Darlene as a shining example of success, but before working with Hillsong Church, her business life was a struggle.  Zschech shares,

“We had big dreams and absolutely no physical way of making them come to pass. We also had two beautiful little girls with no family backup. It  was a very stretching time.”

I Can Relate 

It’s easy to hear the song “Shout to the Lord” and think that the person who wrote it must have been experiencing blessings galore. It’s so optimistic, so confident in the promises of Christ. However,  the opposite is true. This song was not written when Zschech was at the top of her game. One would even say that she was stressed out. And stress is a feeling that people can grab onto—something people can relate to. In an average church service, you could confidently declare that there are more stressed people attending than carefree ones.

It was during this, very real, strained period of her life that “Shout to the Lord” was birthed.

“It still takes my breath away to remember,” says Zschech. “I was not going to the piano to write an important song. I went to worship my God when I was at the end of myself. It was after another reminder notice came in for an overdue bill, and I kind of ran out of steam. But I went into a room where all the children’s toys were, and my very old, out of tune, upright piano. I opened my Bible to the Psalms and started to pray. Within about twenty minutes, ‘Shout’ had been composed. To be honest, I cannot really claim to have written the song—I  just started singing it, bit by bit, again and again.” 

Sitting on a Miracle 

So the truth emerges, a worship mogul didn’t write “Shout to the Lord”; it came from the heart of a simple worship er who was pouring her heart out to God in a time of need. She had no plans to run to the studio and lay the tracks for the next biggest thing. In fact, Darlene was unsure that the song would speak to anyone but her. It’s hard to imagine someone thinking that this song might not get acceptance from other worshipers. But, her attitude toward sharing her personal devotion was more akin to trepidation than the overwhelming confidence that this song deserved.

“After a few weeks, I played it to the music pastor and music director of my church,” Zschech says. “I was so nervous. I continued to apologize for the song, saying that they could change it or laugh at it. My confidence in presenting songs was so very uneasy (still is!). After I finished playing it for them, the music pastor was quiet for a moment before he said, ‘that  is such a beautiful song.’ I truly thought he was just being nice. But we introduced it to the church and they loved it from the first moment. I’d never seen anything like it. And the song took off on a journey of its own—as if God came and breathed upon it.”

This Is My Story  

It’s true that God had His hand on “Shout to the Lord”; however, It took a wise writer to find praise in a time of difficulty, to see that the prominent feeling in her heart was not one of despair or depression, but one of confidence, hope and the blessed assurance that Fanny Crosby also wrote about. That is the story of God. He is the great restorer. Even amid uncertainty in life, we can have confidence that the mountains will bow and the sea will roar at the sound of His name. “Shout to the Lord” is a majestic song, which declares the magnificence of the Lord in light of His redemptive story, a story that will end despair with justice and peace. “Yet it is also very, very personal,” Zschech adds. “It finishes with a strong statement of hope. Even today, I attended the funeral of an amazing young woman. She asked for her funeral to finish with ‘Shout to the Lord’ because of the hope contained in the last line—‘nothing compares to the promise I have in You.’

“I love to write songs that move people, encourage them to action, and talk about love and some of its amazing qualities,” she states. “Music is such a powerful language, and to use it to communicate a message is a great responsibility and an indescribable joy.”

Her passion to encourage worship in all areas of life comes through in the songs that Darlene writes, songs that call Christians to more than simply sitting through an occasional church service. “[At Hillsong], we teach quite an extensive understanding of what worship is-—far more than music or song, far grander than any event or service,” she states. “From Romans twelve, we teach that our lives should be lived ‘poured out’ as an expression of love and thanksgiving to our Lord and Savior. And as music was only ever created to carry and communicate the presence and Glory of God, we sing of His great love to the best of our ability and invite anyone who has ears to hear to join in the song.

The wonder of worship is that it is inclusive, not exclusive. Music is for the brilliant; worship is for humanity. It is simply beautiful.

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More from Darlene Zschech

Shout to the Lord

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