Darlene Zschech and Contemporary Praise Music
Updated March 16, (first published March 26, 2002)
David Cloud, Way of Life Literature, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061
Darlene Zschech (pronounced check) is a prominent voice in the Contemporary Worship 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 the senior pastors of Hope Unlimited Church, another Pentecostal church in Australia, but she continues to be involved in music projects with Hillsong.

Hillsong is hugely popular and influential and has invaded many independent Baptist churches.

The New York Times reported that Hillsong is “without a doubt the most influential producers of worship music in Christendom” (“Megachurch with a Beat Lures Young Flock,” Sept. 9, 2014).

Hillsong’s music is raucous and worldly. “In sensory stimulation, Hillsong’s productions rival any other contemporary form of entertainment” (Ed Stetzer, LifeWay Research,
New York Times, Sept. 9, 2014).

The co-pastors of Hills Christian Life Centre, under whom Zschech ministered for decades, are Brian Houston and his wife, Bobbie. The church features a large rock band with five back-up singers and a Word-Faith 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 published a tape set entitled Kingdom Women Love Sex, which doubtless was a top seller. (When I inquired about it at the Hills Christian Life Centre bookstore in October 2004, I learned that the name had been changed to “Kingdom Women Love & Value Their Sexuality.”)

When asked by a
Sydney Morning Herald reporter why the church is so successful, Brian Houston replied, “We are scratching people where they are itching” (“The Lord's Profits,” Sydney Morning Herald, January 30, 2003). That is right out of 2 Timothy 4:3, which is a warning of apostasy. It describes people who itch for a new kind of Christianity and heaps of preachers who 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. 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, and it has been sung even at fundamental Baptist churches.

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 purity 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. Mat. 24:3-4, 11, 24; 1 Tim. 4:1-5; 2 Tim. 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 contemporary praise music typically give 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” and very strict approach to doctrinal purity, but it is the Word of God and we are to follow it until Christ returns.

This strict biblical attitude about doctrine is 180 degrees contrary to the philosophy of the movers and shakers of the contemporary 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 might create disorder and confusion. They teach, in practice, that doctrine is less important than unity. They teach that women can be leaders. These things are in open and direct rebellion to God’s Word.

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. A participating Assemblies of God pastor stated, “THE BRIDGE BUILDING GOING ON BETWEEN CHURCHES HAS BEEN AWESOME.” In reality, it was spiritual confusion and gross disobedience to the Holy Scriptures (i.e., Mat. 7:15; Rom. 16:17; 2 Cor. 6:14-18; 2 Tim. 2:16-17; 3:5; 4:3-4; etc.). The Word of God commands us to earnestly contend for the faith once delivered to the saints (Jude 3), yet the aforementioned denominations hold dozens of heretical doctrines that are contrary to that faith, including the false gospels of baptismal regeneration and sacramentalism, both of which are under God’s curse in Galatians 1.

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 an ecumenical unity among denominations that teach 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 a 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 Darlene 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. It is the same vile heresy that Martin Luther protested 500 years ago.

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.

On July 3-4, 2015, Darlene Zschech and Hillsong joined hands with the pope at the Convocation of the Renewal of the Holy Spirit at the Vatican. On her Facebook page, Zschech said: “Honoured to be singing this week, with Andrea Bocelli, Don Moen, Noa [Israeli singer], with Pope Francis and thousands of worshippers gathering in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican. This is a celebration of unity and peace in the Renewal of the Holy Spirit. Amazing days for the Body of Christ.” The Catholic mass was celebrated at the event led by Cardinal Angelo Comastri. According to blasphemous Catholic dogma, the priest has the power to turn the bread into the actual body and blood of Jesus, and it is then worshiped in the form of the consecrated host. We wonder if Hillsong addressed some of their enthusiastic worship to Rome’s Host-Jesus? Pope Francis praised the charismatic movement’s zeal for unity and said that Christian unity is “rooted in a common baptism” (“Pope Greets Members of the Renewal,” July 4, 2015, FullyCatholic.com). According to Roman Catholic dogma, baptism is the new birth and the entrance into the Christian life which is then nurtured by the sacraments. It is a cursed “grace plus works” gospel (Galatians 1:8-9) which the Catholic Church in recent times has cleverly rebranded as “grace only.” In Rome, Darlene Zschech and Hillsong sang “God Is Here,” but whatever God they were singing about, it is not the God revealed in Scripture, for He does not countenance heresy, false gospels, and rebellion to His Word. We wonder if the Hillsong folk took the time to visit the Santa Maria Maggoire (Saint Mary Major) basilica to pray to the Queen of Heaven and to meditate on the statue just outside the church of Mary hanging on the cross with Jesus?

Hillsong music is also permeated with Pentecostal latter rain heresy. Consider the lyrics to Hillsong’s popular praise anthem “Shout to the Lord.”

“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.”) Zschech 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 secular 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 liken a filthy rock singer to the “sweet Psalmist of Israel” or to say that 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). This is yet another example of what we have often warned about, that Contemporary Christian Music is a bridge to the world.

My friends, contemporary praise music does not exist in 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 prophecies fail; its healings can only on the rarest of occasions be authenticated; its doctrine is corrupt; its practice is confusion and disorder. It is one of the major elements of the ecumenical movement of these apostate end times. Through mysticism and sensual music it aligns Roman Catholics, Protestants, Baptists, and Pentecostals in an unholy union of truth and error.

Hillsong United is a youth ministry that publishes contemporary rock music.

In recent years, Hillsong has branched out to start churches in many countries. Among others, there is Hillsong Church London, Hillsong Cape Town, Hillsong Amsterdam, Hillsong Barcelona, Hillsong Stockholm, Hillsong Seoul, Hillsong Moscow, Hillsong New York City, and Hillsong Los Angeles.

Hillsong churches in the United States are pastored by Brian and Bobby Houston’s sons. Joel leads Hillsong Church New York, and Ben leads Hillsong Church Los Angeles.

Fundamental Baptists and Bible-believing churches that use charismatic contemporary praise music are playing with fire. They will learn, probably too late, that this music brings with it a philosophy that will 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.

We do not doubt that Darlene Zschech is sincere in her work or that she truly desires to worship God, but she and her fellow charismatic praise leaders simply do not know what they are doing. They are the blind leading the blind.

copyright 2013, Way of Life Literature

- Receive these reports by email
- "About" David Cloud
- www.wayoflife.org


Sharing Policy: Much of our material is available for free, such as the hundreds of articles at the Way of Life web site. Other items we sell to help fund our expensive literature and foreign church planting ministries. Way of Life's content falls into two categories: sharable and non-sharable. Things that we encourage you to share include the audio sermons, O Timothy magazine, FBIS articles, and the free eVideos and free eBooks. You are welcome to make copies of these at your own expense and share them with friends and family, but they cannot be posted to web sites. You are also welcome to use excerpts from the articles in your writings, in sermons, in church bulletins, etc. All we ask is that you give proper credit. Things we do not want copied and distributed freely are items like the Fundamental Baptist Digital Library, print editions of our books, electronic editions of the books that we sell, the videos that we sell, etc. The items have taken years to produce at enormous expense in time and money, and we use the income from sales to help fund the ministry. We trust that your Christian honesty will preserve the integrity of this policy. "For the scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The labourer is worthy of his reward" (1 Timothy 5:18).

Goal:Distributed by Way of Life Literature Inc., the Fundamental Baptist Information Service is an e-mail posting for Bible-believing Christians. Established in 1974, Way of Life Literature is a fundamental Baptist preaching and publishing ministry based in Bethel Baptist Church, London, Ontario, of which Wilbert Unger is the founding Pastor. Brother Cloud lives in South Asia where he has been a church planting missionary since 1979. Our primary goal with the FBIS is to provide material to assist preachers in the edification and protection of the churches.

Offering: We take up a quarterly offering to fund this ministry, and those who use the materials are expected to participate (Galatians 6:6) if they can. We do not solicit funds from those who do not agree with our preaching and who are not helped by these publications. We seek offerings only from those who are helped. OFFERINGS can be mailed or made online with with Visa, Mastercard, Discover, or Paypal. For information see: www.wayoflife.org/about/makeanoffering.html.