DARLENE ZSCHECH AND CONTEMPORARY PRAISE MUSIC
Darlene Zschech (pronounced check) is a prominent voice in the contemporary praise movement. For 25 years she was “worship pastor” at Hills Christian Life Centre, Sydney, Australia, and has published many popular worship albums under the Hillsong Music label. She is also associated with Integrity Music and the Hosanna label. In 2010, Darlene and her husband became senior pastors of Church Unlimited, another Pentecostal church near Sydney, but she continues to be involved in music projects with Hillsong.
The co-pastors of Hills Christian Life Centre are Brian Houston and his wife, Bobbie. The church features a 12-piece rock band with five back-up singers and a positive prosperity message. In 2002, the church took in $10 million in tithes alone, not to speak of the sale of music and materials. Brian Houston’s book “You Need More Money” teaches the way to prosperity through giving and “kingdom living.” Houston says, “If you believe in Jesus, He will reward you here as well [as in Heaven]” (“The Lord’s Profits,” Sydney Morning Herald, January 30, 2003). His wife and co-pastor Bobbie has a tape set titled “Kingdom Women Love Sex,” which doubtless is a top seller. (When I inquired about it at the Hills Christian Life Centre bookstore in October 2004, I learned that the name has been changed to “Kingdom Women Love & Value Their Sexuality.”
When asked by the Sydney Morning Herald reporter why the church is so successful, Brian Houston replied, “We are scratching people where they are itching.” That is right out of 2 Timothy 4:3, which is a warning of apostasy, of people who itch for a new kind of Christianity and of preachers will scratch this illicit itch. “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears.”
Zschech’s song “Shout to the Lord” is used widely in contemporary worship circles. The album by that title remained No. 1 on “praise and worship charts” for over 30 weeks and is still in the top 10. It won Song of the Year at the Dove Awards in 1998. It has been estimated that it is sung by 30 million Christians around the world.
One of Zschech’s themes is the importance of ecumenical unity. For example, she makes the following comment about the album “You Shine” — “There is a new sound and a new song being proclaimed across the earth. It’s the sound of a unified church, coming together, in one voice to magnify our magnificent Lord” (from the album cover).
She gives no warning about the fact that vast numbers of churches are apostate and that the Bible says that unity apart from doctrinal agreement is wrong. The New Testament warns repeatedly that the end of the church age will be characterized by apostasy and spiritual confusion rather than faithfulness to the truth (i.e. Matt. 24:3-4, 11, 24; 1 Tim. 4:1-5; 2 Timothy 3:13; 4:3-4; 2 Pet. 2:1; Jude 3-4). That is precisely what we see when we look at Christianity today. Yet, the authors of most of the modern praise music give almost no warning about apostasy.
In an interview with Christian Leader magazine, March-April 2002, Zschech said she had a vision about the importance of unity:
Q. What do you envision for the future of the contemporary worship movement?
Zschech: You know, I had this vision a few years ago of how God saw the worshippers and worship leaders, linked arm and arm – the “musos,” the production personnel and everybody that is involved in the worship of God. There were no celebrities out in front. We were all together in the line just walking together. It was how I imagined God’s heart for what we are doing. We were all in line, and we were slow, but we were all walking around and we weren’t leaving anyone behind. We were taking everyone with us. But then I saw a picture of what it is like now, and although we were arm in arm, there was a struggle going on. People were running forward in pride while others were shrinking back out of insecurity. There was very little movement because of disunity. I think that means we’ve got to become strong people so that we can stand strong together. God says he will bless us, and when God says “blessing” it’s an out-of-control blessing, but that only comes when we are bound together.
This is a vision of her own heart, because it is contrary to the Scriptures. The New Testament nowhere says that God’s blessing is out of control or that it only comes when professing Christians are “bound together.” To the contrary, the Bible says God’s blessing is always under control, always orderly, never confused. “For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints” (1 Cor. 14:33). “Let all things be done decently and in order” (1 Cor. 14:39). Paul instructed Timothy to allow “no other doctrine” (1 Tim. 1:3). That is an extremely narrow approach to doctrinal purity, but it is the apostolic example that we are to follow until Christ returns.
This strict biblical attitude about doctrine is 180 degrees contrary to the philosophy of those who are creating the modern praise movement. They teach that the Holy Spirit cannot be “put in a box,” meaning we cannot be sure how He will act and that He can create disorder and confusion. They teach that doctrine is less important than unity. They teach that women can be leaders. These philosophies are in open and direct rebellion to the Word of God.
Zschech participated in Harvest ’03 in Newcastle, NSW. The ecumenical rock concert, which featured U.S.-based evangelist Greg Laurie of Harvest Ministries, brought together a hodgepodge of churches, including Presbyterian, Assemblies of God, Anglican, Seventh-day Adventist, Church of Christ, and Roman Catholic (“Hunter Harvest — Rock Evangelism,” http://members.ozemail.com.au/~rseaborn/rock_evangelism.html
In a 2004 interview with Christianity Today, Zschech expressed her radical ecumenical philosophy: “I’ve been in the Catholic Church, in the United Church, the Anglican Church, and in many other churches, and when worship is offered in truth, this sound emerges-regardless of the style. It’s the sound of the human heart connecting with its Maker” (quoted by Michael Herman, “Zschech, Please,” christianitytoday.com, June 4, 2004). She doesn’t explain how worship can be in truth in the context of denominations that teach grievous doctrinal error.
Zschech and Hillsong performed for the Roman Catholic World Youth Day in Sydney on July 18, 2008. Pope Benedict XVI was present and conducted papal mass on the last day of the extravaganza. The mass is a supposed continuation of Christ’s sacrifice. The consecrated host is said by Rome to become Christ himself and is worshiped as such when placed in the monstrance and eventually in its own little tabernacle. Hillsong, led by Zschech, performed after the Stations of the Cross. The 14 Stations allegedly depict Christ’s trial and crucifixion, but beyond the fact that this is not faith but sight and the pictures of Jesus are fictional and are forbidden by Scripture, several of the Stations are purely legendary. Jesus supposedly falls down three times, meets Mary on the way to the cross, has His face wiped by a woman named Veronica, and is taken down from the cross and laid in Mary’s arms. None of this is supported by Scripture. The pope promised a plenary indulgence to anyone who participated in World Youth Day. This is the forgiveness of the temporal penalty (referring to a penalty owed either on earth or in purgatory) due for certain sins.
Phil Dooley, youth leader at Hillsong, had only positive comments when interviewed in regard to the Catholic World Youth Day. Dooley was interviewed by The World Today, a news program aired daily on the Australian Broadcasting Network, when it was announced that the Pope was scheduled to attend the event. Dooley said: “I think anything that is encouraging young people in their spirituality, and I suppose putting Jesus up there in our state and in our city is a positive thing. Look, I think just generally in church life you’ve got to be relevant to each generation, and I think any church is understanding that if we want to … if our message is going to be accepted by the new generation then we’ve got to relate to them in a way that they understand” (“Catholic Youth to Congregate in Sydney for 2008 Festival,” The World Today, Aug. 22, 2005). It is unconscionable to have such an opportunity and not use it to warn that the Roman Catholic Church preaches a false gospel. John warned: “If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds” (2 John 10-11). To pretend that the Roman Catholic Church’s “spirituality” is acceptable before God and that its Jesus is the Jesus of the Bible is to be partaker of its evil deeds.
There is also the false Pentecostal latter rain theology in some of the Hillsong music.
“I believe the promise about the visions and the dreams/ That the Holy Spirit will be poured out/ And His power will be seen/ Well the time is now/ The place is here/ And His people have come in faith/ There’s a mighty sound/ And a touch of fire/ When we’ve gathered in one place” (“I Believe the Presence” from Shout to the Lord).
The lyrics to Zschech’s “Holy Spirit Rain Down” begin: “Holy Spirit, rain down, rain down/ Oh, Comforter and Friend/ How we need Your touch again/ Holy Spirit, rain down, rain down.” Where in Scripture are we instructed to pray to the Holy Spirit? To the contrary, the Lord Jesus Christ taught us to pray to the Father (Mat. 6:9). The charismatic movement is not in submission to the Word of God and does not care one way or the other that there is no Scriptural support for this type of prayer.
In an interview with CCM.com in October 2003 (“20 Things You Probably Don’t Know about Darlene Zschech” by Christa Farris), Zschech said that she is “a bit of a hippie at heart” and described herself as “hopelessly devoted” to rock star Olivia Newton-John. She said that her favorite movie is “anything with Julia Roberts in it.” (Roberts became a super star by playing the role of a prostitute in “Pretty Woman.”) She said the three people she would most like to meet are Billy Graham, Bono of the rock band U2, and Mother Teresa. She said that her teenage daughter’s favorite music includes the rock band Coldplay. The band’s song “We Never Change” has the lyrics “Oh I don’t have a soul to save, Yes, and I sin every single day…”
In one of her books Zschech said: “I once watched Sting in concert (he was absolutely incredible!). So much gift for one human being! Thoughts raced through my head, ‘My goodness, Sting, you are like king David, full of psalms, melodies and music, and you sing as if you don’t even know that His hand is upon you. You are so close to the heart of God. You are a master poet, full of love, and your capabilities are not because of your own natural abilities, you have tapped into the source of your Creator’” (Zschech, The Kiss of Heaven, 2003).
To say that a filthy rock singer is like the “sweet Psalmist of Israel” or that such a rock singer has tapped into the source of his creator is pure nonsense. The Bible says the devil is the god of this world and the unsaved walk not according to the God of the Bible but “according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience” (Eph. 2:2). Instead of telling her readers that she went to a String concert and loved it and leaving them with the idea that it is fine for a born again child of God to attend filthy rock concerts, she should have repented and apologized for disobeying God’s Word, which says, “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them” (Eph. 5:11).
My friends, contemporary praise music is not coming out of a spiritual vacuum. These are days of great spiritual deception and apostasy, and central to that apostasy is the Charismatic movement. Its visions are false; its doctrine is corrupt; its practice is confusion and disorder. It is one of the glues of the ecumenical movement of these end times. It brings together Roman Catholics, Protestants, Baptists, and Pentecostals in an unholy union of truth and error.
Fundamental Baptists and Bible-believing churches that use charismatic contemporary praise music will find that this music brings with it a philosophy that will soon change the character of any fundamentalist church.
We need to worship the Lord God in spirit and in truth continually, but we do not need the unscriptural contemporary worship movement as our guide.
I no not doubt that Darlene Zschech is sincere in her work or that she desires to worship God, but she and her fellow charismatic praise leaders simply do not know what they are doing.