interview was done in Sydney in 1997. I caught up with Darlene
and Mark over a cappuccino at Cafe Tropez.I actually took a great
photograph of Mark and Darlene which appeared along with the interview,
unfortunately the photo got wrecked and was just one of the joys
of publishing a magazine. Mark and Darlene are a great couple,
they make you feel totally at home - Don Gillespie 2005.
Zschech is known throughout the world for the song "Shout
To The Lord" which has become one of the most popular modem
day praise and worship songs on the planet. Mark, her husband,
is responsible for video and production at their church and
together they make a powerful team that is dedicated to serving
the church. They don't claim to have all the answers, but it is
very obvious they are passionate about serving God and are totally
dedicated to inspiring and motivating people to a closer walk
with God. Receiving the first Gold award for a Christian album
in over 20 years (Sister Janet Meade received a Gold Record for
her "Lord's Prayer" album in the early 70's), Darlene
is Worship Pastor at Hills Christian Life Centre in Castle Hill,
give us your testimony, briefly.
D: I was
saved when I was fifteen and started going to church. God accepted
me as I was, warts and all. Two things, not having to perform
and being loved unconditionally, have stayed with me ever since.
My Christian walk has grown from there, but I've always sung.
My parents were both singers, so it is very much a part of me,
not something I just do on the weekend.
back on it now, do you feel you've gotten over your parents divorce?
took a long time for that to heal. But now, I have got a real
compassion for kids in that situation. It is now the rule, not
the exception. Our next generation is definitely going to need
answers. In our church, we've got a program called "KIC"',
which is `kids in change' and I am doing anything I can to help
that program because having taken years to work through that in
my own life I feel like I've got something to say, but it has
taken a long time.
hear so often from people getting divorced, "Oh, it won't
affect the kids".
parents are both very loving, but I remember being at the divorce
court. It was the first real divorce in our church, involving
four children, two parents who weren't prepared to give up any
of them and the judge said to my parents, "I wish you two
could get it together, because I've never seen two people so committed
to their children". It was a tragedy and I don't believe
a child can go through that naturally and not be affected. I had
grandparents who prayed for us and I believed that pulled us all
through. I really believe in the power of prayer, but divorce
can definitely leave scars. You may not see them immediately but
they'll come out somewhere.
a trend to blame parents for the way we are and not take responsibility
for our actions. But we have to accept what has happened and just
get on with the rest of life. Did you come to a place like that?
yes. But it was a hard road to get to that point. I had to go
round the mountain a few times before I realised that I had to
get over it.
As a teenager,
when I was apart from both of my parents, I still remember to
this day the times when I didn't hear from my father at Christmas
or didn't hear from them on special occasions but I don't remember
the gifts they bought me. As a child you think that gifts and
toys really matter, but even years later I can still pinpoint
those times. To a child those are the things that really matter
- the love, unconditional love which is not about money or gifts,
it's about time and relationship.
did you move from Brisbane to Sydney?
and I met in a church band. He was the drummer, I was the singer.
We eventually went back to Ipswich where Mark comes from and were
assistant youth pastors there. Mark really wanted to get to Sydney,
to get to play music. I did not want to move to Sydney. This was
about a year after we got married. I'd just rekindled my relationship
with my Mum and I did not want to leave her. No way! Mark felt
like God was really saying that we were going to move. So we prayed
together, probably for the first time in our married life. Mark
prayed, "We're going to move to Sydney, God. I really feel
this is you. Please tell us when". I'm secretly going, "Please,
God, let it not be".
day, we went to a little church on the way home where they didn't
know us. They had a guest preacher and half way through his preaching,
he stopped and said to us, "You two stand up". He said,
"This doesn't happen to me very often, but whatever it is
you two prayed last night, God says do it now". Nobody else
knew about it and I was devastated, so I asked God for one more
sign. How gracious He is. My Mum wasn't saved then and I knew
she'd be devastated, so I thought I'd ring her. When I rang, she
said, "If that's what God wants then you've got to do it."
That had to be God because it was a total miracle that she would
even talk like that. Six weeks later, we had moved and both had
jobs. We knew Pat Mesiti from Hills and we felt it was right to
go to there.
went from the largest church in the country to come to Hills Christian
Life Centre, which at the time had about a hundred people.
had no support. What we had was a word from God so we went on
that. We have always done what needed to be done. Hillsong Conference
was Mark's idea. For the first one, I did the lunches and played
piano at the rallies and did the billeting, and Mark did the tape
duplicating and all that. That was eleven years ago.
we arrived at Hills, we had an appointment with Brian and he asked
what we were going to do now that we were here. I said, "We've
always been involved in youth ministry". He said, "Well,
I've got a youth pastor, you're going to have to find something
else to do". We then got involved in music and that whole
area. It's never been a big deal for us what we do as long as
we're serving God and doing it with all that we've got.
are both travelling a lot, you're very involved in church. How
do you keep your marriage and family together?
cooking!! No - it's our priority. It comes above all else. My
ministry is our ministry. It's not my thing and Mark tags along.
His television work is our ministry. We have never, and will never,
separate it because it's too important. I really believe in any
ministry, if it's not working at home, it's almost false because
home has got to be great. Your ministry has to be coming out of
an overflow rather than just making it. Mark is so totally committed
to seeing me released into my ministry, and encourages me when
I feel I can't do it anymore. It takes a special kind of guy to
do that. Not every man could do it. I really believe our marriage
was not just a good idea, it was meant to be. We complete each
other. I could never do what I do without Mark. I need him and
he needs me.
you feel that you're under constant pressure with all your commitments?
don't do this because we have to. We do this because there is
a call of God on our lives. Yes, it is busy. Yes, there is a lot
to do, but we do this with God. This is not something we do on
our own. We don't come out at the end feeling like wrecks. That
could only be the Holy Spirit and that's actually what God promised.
He said that we will run and not grow weary. If you know in your
heart of hearts that you're doing what you're called to do, then
you have every right to believe that God will be the difference.
He has to be. You cannot exist without that.
our marriage, and our children to be a testimony to the grace
of God, rather than another Christian artist down the drain. No
be an ambassador of Christ, the Bible clearly says that you've
got to qualify for that. To be in a position of authority, to
be able to speak into other people's lives, the Bible says
to get your house in order.
us the story of "Shout to the Lord" - 1993.
came out of a very simple time at my piano. It was like the song
needed to be written and I was there. That's how I really feel
about it. I went into the piano room and grabbed my Bible - if
I'm writing I always have my Bible in front of me - and it was
very easy. I remember playing it to Geoff (Bullock) and Russell (Fragar), and it
took me a good twenty minutes. I was apologising and stopping
and starting, and saying, "You can change whatever you want
to change". In the end I had them standing with their backs
to me while I played it to them. Geoff just said, "That's
one of the most beautiful songs I've ever heard". It was
bizarre because we've never promoted it. It's just a song that
is easy for people to sing and the words reflect many people's
thoughts. It's easy for people to identify with. It's known right
around the world. I've had letters from Antarctica to Nigeria
saying how much the song means to people.
was a guy shipwrecked in Australia, on a fishing trip. The boat
was destroyed and he swam for ages to a buoy and thought he'd
never get saved. He said one of the things that really carried
him through in the nearly twenty four hour period where he was
sitting in the ocean was singing that song. It gave strength to
have been lots of things like that. The little son of a friend
of mine was in a tragic accident and was in a coma, and he's still
recovering, it's taken a long time. But I got a letter from them
saying that he was in a coma, couldn't talk to anybody, yet he
kept singing "Shout to the Lord". That was so powerful
to me, because it affected his soul and his soul could sing.
you feel any pressure to come up with another great song?
did initially, but I didn't write that song feeling any pressure
and I refuse to now. Different songs bring life to people in different
ways. One song I wrote for a lady in our church who had breast
cancer, "Let the Peace of God Reign", and that's something
she really holds on to.
There is a perception that Hills is a music machine and a money
machine. Just in the short time I've been meeting with you guys,
I realise it's not. What do you say to folks who have that perception?
the outside you could easily think that someone has sat down,
drawn up a marketing strategy, put all of the elements together
and decided that this is going to be a powerful combination. I
can tell you it's far from that. People forget that we're a local
church, they forget that we pastor the people, that we hold Sunday
services and that we're trying to get people saved. That is the
whole criteria for what we do. It's out of that, that all the
other things flow, be it albums, conferences or whatever.
is a question about whether Hills is a church or a music company.
M: I can
answer that question very quickly. We are a church. Our mandate
for our church is to reach and impact the world. One of the ways
to do that is through praise and worship music, but that's also
the mantle that God has given Hills Christian Life Centre. We
are one of the leaders in the area of praise and worship but there
are lots of other churches in the same area, like Paradise in
Adelaide. We're not the only people doing it and we're looking
abroad ourselves to see what we can embrace to help the local
church. It's like Brian's ministry and giftings in leadership.
God has clearly given Brian those giftings and abilities, so do
people say that we're a motivational factory? It's the mantle
that's on the church, and we could completely change our personnel
tomorrow, but the mantle that's on Hills Christian Life Centre
would still be there. The church is the answer and it's the dedicated
machine that God ordained to preach the gospel. It's not record
companies, it's not artists, it's not individuals running around
doing their own thing. It's actually the local church, because
it's not until you get in the local church environment that all
the pieces of the body add up and become a complete body and are
much more effective. So our mandate is to be a local church, but
we want to reach and influence the world.
more public area of our church is the music, but we have a great
youth program, we have a counselling and medical centre that's
seeing over four hundred people a week, every week in our pastors
meetings we pray for all the hurting people and see the needs.
We are committed to seeing the answers and we want to be a voice
in the community. We want to be a big church that has a voice
that can make a difference. It's very hard to do that when you're
tiny, although not impossible, but we want to have a voice rather
than be dictated to, because we want people to see the church
as the answer.
about the pastor of the little country church who comes to the
Hillsong conference, sees everything happening, and when he goes
home, he's struggling with a piano that's out of tune, a guitar
player who can't really play, and so on.
Hillsong conference we have things to help small churches. The
thing I love is that we were there. We started as a really small
church. We didn't start with the staff that we have now. We started
where every little church is now, with just a few dedicated people.
we teach, I suppose, isn't so much skill and talent, it's much
more about attitude and approaching things enthusiastically, rather
than concentrating on not being a very good piano player. You
can take an OK musician, but if you can change the way they think
then all of a sudden the whole dynamic changes because of the
way they approach everything. Talent does attract talent, there's
no doubt about that, but you've also got to build a platform of,
"We're going for it! I've got the resources God has given
me and I'm going to apply that 100% and just let the gospel do
the work". You've got to put in the effort behind that.
qualifies you to do what you're doing?
that I'm a servant of God. I don't have any particular qualifications,
no background in this industry. We've never been a record company
before, grown a large church before, or run conferences that 50,000
people attended before. We don't have any qualifications but the
fact that we serve God, we outwork the calling that he's given
us. My personal thing is that I want to see the church fulfilled.
I want to see the church reach its full potential. I think that
we can do that in all areas of life, not only in praise and worship,
but in lots of other areas.
to the small church. I was at a conference once and a girl said,
" I am the music director, I am the band, I am the singer.
We've got thirty people".
I said, "Why don't you start having rehearsals?"
She said, "Why?"
I said, "Have you got anything for people to come to?"
"Well, it's only me".
I said, "Why don't you just pray and have rehearsals."
For three weeks she went to rehearsal on her own and she thought,
"What am I doing?"
a letter from her about three months later saying that the fourth
week a musician turned up and after three months, she's got two
singers and two players. You can either sit there and complain
about what you haven't got or get out there and start doing it.
If God has given all of us what we need to move forward, he doesn't
just dangle a carrot in front of us that we can't have, he gives
us a dream and a desire in our heart so that we will get up. He
doesn't do it just to frustrate us. If you dare to put Him to
the test, if you dare to actually trust Him, He is so faithful,
He always meets you halfway. Always - but you have to take that
first step. Never once has God let me down. I've let myself down
and a lot of people have let me down, but never once has God let
expected our church to fall over. We had a time of adjustment,
with everyone rethinking things, but what happened? We had all
these writers suddenly spring up, and I really believe that a
lot of the songs we're doing now are by far our best songs ever.
If someone's not going to do it, he just goes, "OK. Tag.
Next. You're it!" No-one is indispensable to God.
you being involved in seminars around the world now, how does
that relate back to the church and also to you as a couple in
now, we just take it for granted that people understand about
having a servant heart, about as a musician when it comes to praise
and worship, that you're not the artist. You lay that down to
be part of a team, to be committed to your pastor and his vision,
despite yours. You know that praise and worship is always going
to be the secondary area in church, it's never going to be the
number one. It is a part of the bigger picture. We often take
it for granted that people know that, but you go to places around
the world and they don't.
very strategic about our travel planning now but if we really
believe that God wants to say something to people, then we will
go. Often we work with Brian and Bobbie, and the four of us will
travel together as a team, but we don't go to things because it
will be good for our image or whatever. We go because we believe
that it's in the right timing, We never just go to do our thing,
we're always sent by our church, then you know that the people
at home are praying for you and it's powerful. This keeps us accountable
to our church, which helps keep our motivation, our heart, all
that in order. We have very honest relationships with Brian and
Bobbie. We can talk about anything and we get the truth. They
have been in place for a long time and I've got to say about them,
that they are the best pastors that I could ever wish for and
I defend them wholeheartedly.
else you'd like to add?... and I hate it when people say that
in an interview.
only people would believe the word of God and take it at its full
value. I have been down the path where I went after things and
that really appealed to me and all it brought me was frustration.
I decided that we would just seek after God, whatever it is He
wants. We will be available and whatever He wants we will do.
We don't focus on all that has happened to us. The shock is that
you stop sometimes and you look behind you and all these things
that you didn't search for, you didn't strive for, things that
you would never dare to ask God for, are sitting there.
the fact I had to walk away from my family when we first got married
because their voices were so negative, and in the last three months
my family is getting saved one after another. That's God's promise.
If I build His house, he'll look after mine. If I do seek Him
first, then He will honour that. If people could just trust God
in that because it is a big step, to take our eyes off our desires
and literally hand them over. Be available to God and the results
will be beyond your wildest thoughts and dreams. That's what He
promised us. I continually have to check on my attitudes, the
Holy Spirit reminds me to get things dealt with all the time,
but that's what I want. We're on the edge of something powerful
in our country, we need a country full of artists who have that
are you accountable to?
to Brian and Bobbie, and we feel very comfortable with that. With
the pressures that are on you in life, if you cannot go to someone
and say, "What do you think about this?" all of a sudden
you can be down a path where God doesn't want you to be, and you
don't understand how you got there and you don't feel like you
made any wrong decisions, but all of a sudden you're off the track.
It happens so suddenly.
invitations I get now, Mark and I go through with Brian. All my
invitations look great, so you need wisdom and you need people
around you who are totally honest. We want to be accountable.
If you want to be an artist, great! God has blessed a lot of people
with great gifts, and that's great, go down that road. But if
you want to give everything to praise and worship, then that's
what you do. It is not about your art. It is about God. It is
something that is holy and is sovereign, and is not about you
and I. It is about God.
about bringing people into the presence of God.
very different from being an artist and that's where a lot of
people get it wrong.
new buzzword we hear is being a "worship artist".
is a "worship artist"? I'm a worshipper, just like you're
a worshipper. I might be a worship leader and I might write songs
but it's just a tool so that people can open their hearts and
worship the living God. I don't know what that's got to do with
me being an artist. I still write and sing other songs, but I
know that's not the greatest call on my life, so that's why we
have decided to dedicate our lives to seeing people open up and
enter the throne room of God. When they're open like that and
the word is preached, they'll never be the same. That is fantastic
and that's where the preaching and the worship work so beautifully
Music fell into the trap of having to produce 6 or 8 albums a
year. Is there pressure at Hills to produce more albums?
we are not a record company, we don't feel the pressure of putting
out another product to boost sales. We are a local church, so
our albums represent the resource of the local church. We have
to fit that into the church's schedule, so in terms of our church
calendar there's not much room to be doing an album a month. The
songs that we use are the ones that come out of the life of our
church. There are probably some opportunities for us to repackage
some songs. Already we've just recorded a new album called "All
Things Are Possible". We've probably got enough new, fresh,
alive, great worship songs to record another album next month,
but that's not going to happen. So it's got to come out of the
life that's really happening in church.
another misconception, I suppose, that people do have about us.
They think that we would never sing their song. We're not that
narrow to think that this has got to be the Hillsong show. This
is actually about the body of Christ, the church. So, if there's
a song out there touching people, we want to know about it!