Worship Changes Everything: Experiencing God’s Presence in Every Moment of Life, by Darlene Zschech. Bloomington, MI: Bethany House Publishers, 2015. 256 pp. $14.99.
“If you can casually meander through worship, then I would dare to say that maybe, just maybe, you have not entered into true worship at all” (9). In the introduction to Worship Changes Everything, Darlene Zschech defines worship as “our response to His majesty” and as such, this mutual encounter should significantly affect the focus and passion of our worship “because when God comes close, everything changes” (9). A prolific composer of contemporary Christian music, Darlene Zschech is an internationally known singer, worship leader, and speaker. Well known for her accomplishments while at Hillsong, a Pentecostal megachurch in Australia, she is considered by many as a pioneer within the modern worship movement. Many believe that worship is what occurs “at church or what happens for a particular hour or two in the week,” but to the contrary, “because God is ever-present and He is truly worthy,” Zschech’s purpose is to argue that worship is something that should occur during “every moment of life” (25). Thus, she states her thesis best near the end of the book: “Worship changes everything because it invades and pervades every aspect of our lives” (246).
Zschech divides the twenty-one chapters of her book into two sections. The first section serves as a foundation for the second: God’s worthiness, presence, and love causes a response of love, praise, and gratitude from the worshiper. The second section comprises the bulk of her work, delineating every conceivable arena of life as an act of or avenue for worship. Although not grouped as such, her areas of worship discussion fall within several categorical sub-themes. First, we worship by loving others by serving through missions along with positive attitudes and words. Second, we worship in spite of and through suffering, grief, doubt, and confusion. Third, work and money can be expressions of worship. Fourth, marriage and family are avenues for worship. Fifth, worship occurs corporately, privately, and in eternity. Only one chapter stands alone: the love of self as worship.
There are two primary arguments used to support the author’s thesis. This intention was made clear by the book’s division into two sections. The first argument was that worship changes everything “when we worship God for all He is worth with all we are worth” (13). The second argument was that worship changes everything because “as we worship God in and through the relationships, activities, and places in our lives, His power changes us” (79).
The first primary argument is supported by six secondary arguments connected by a progression of thought with the first three focusing upon a loving and present God who is worthy of worship and the last two chapters focusing upon the worshiper’s response of gratitude and praise. The fourth chapter is pivotal in that it addresses the mutual love between God and the worshiper.
Zschech’s second primary argument is supported by fifteen secondary arguments. These secondary arguments do not represent a progression in thought but are connected to the extent that they are areas of life that the author posits as worship opportunities. For example, “serving is worshiping” (80), “words and thoughts in every walk of life can express worship” (123), “money is a golden opportunity to worship” (145), and “work is to be worship” (177). Other secondary arguments include mission and positive attitude as well as loving others, family, and even oneself as ways to worship.
Several strengths of the book emerge. Scriptures permeate the text, adding strength to arguments when correctly interpreted, such as worship beginning at salvation (245). Quotes from a wide range of well-known individuals and theologians as well as religious and historical figures provided added support to some of her arguments, such as statements from Luther and Wesley regarding work (178). Another strength of this book is Zschech’s passion to positively exhort all believers to worship—especially the hurting, downcast, and unloved—by using illustrations from personal interactions and struggles, such as her emotional turmoil during chemo treatments (112).
A number of weaknesses also emerge in this book. Many Scriptures are misused, weakening the arguments supporting the thesis. For example, she views Hosea as analogous to true worship as being a love story in which God woos the worshiper (50–52) rather than a picture of the believer seeking God in righteous obedience (Hosea 10:12, 12:6). Zschech uses paraphrases rather than translations, taking Scriptures out of context, misinterpreting Scripture, and stretching scriptural meanings frequently throughout the text. Examples of this include the positing of Esther as a foreshadowing of Paul (129) and insinuating that Jesus was “negative about money” (146) without giving a balanced picture of what He and the rest of Scripture teach in terms of stewardship. She changes scriptural narratives to fit her charismatic perspective, such as healing in services (70), activating the Holy Spirit with faith (242), and elevating the health/wealth philosophy, relating the parable of the talents “to the world of commerce” and that “it is okay to want more” (174). She often incorrectly quotes Scripture or adds to it, forming different ideas, concepts, and theology, even suggesting that if James and John “truly wanted to be at Jesus’s left and right side, they would have hung on the crosses next to Him, in place of the two criminals” (84). She occasionally makes false claims contrary to Scripture to make her point. Although Jesus was driven by the Spirit (Mark 1:12) or led by the Holy Spirit (Luke 4:1) into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil (Matt 4:1), she claims Jesus “was not driven there” but “volunteered so that He could understand and relate to the times when we’re tempted and feel alone” (235).
Further, the quotes chosen seemed randomly added to fit with the author’s thoughts and were biased, which gave the appearance of credibility, but falsely presented theological agreement, such as equating Cyprian to Joel Olsteen (210). She also frequently shifted topics but either did not relate the topic to worship (187–193) or returned to it in a different context (194–95). Many sections did not tie themselves to worship at all (201 and chapter 16).
Zschech argumentation was often flawed. If one follows her use of Ephesians 5:21 as an argument for worship being related to the mutual submission within marriage, the logical conclusion would require God to submit to us (186). She also twists the Great Commandments towards a skewed conclusion: “How can we love our neighbor as we love ourselves if we don’t, indeed, love ourselves” (161)? Six pages later, her logic could be summarized as follows: self-esteem determines my worship, which allows me to accomplish my destiny.
Charismatic theology is the permeating perspective of this book. The health/wealth prosperity gospel (155, 157–58), the use of miraculous gifts in church (212), and charismatic terminology (236) are present. Other philosophies and religions are used to support her perspective, including negative energy (119) and chaos theory (127), as well as determinism and/or destiny (127, 167, 187).
The topic and theme of this book is timely and valuable within a society that is becoming increasingly hostile towards Christianity. Its format and readability make it accessible to a popular audience, particularly those who are fans of Zschech and/or are in theological/doctrinal agreement with her.
Scott Walker Bryant
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary