Darrell Evans: A worship leader with a powerful vision

Monday 1st December 1997

One of the new wave of young American worship leaders, DARRELL EVANS has a powerful vision to see a revived church. Jill Crocker reports.

Darrell Evans
Darrell Evans

Just imagine driving past a church and hearing such loud music that something compels you to stop the car and go and investigate. You go through the door, a bit tentatively, and inside find not a few elderly people as you might expect but hundreds of young people 'worshipping their faces off'.

No, you are not dreaming, church really can be like this. So is the belief of one of America's newest worship leaders Darrell Evans. He believes unapologetically in using worship to reach non-Christians and on more than one occasion people have walked in off the street to meet with God in worship services.

Darrell, the eldest child of a military family, was raised on the west coast of America and spent his early childhood travelling in the USA and Europe. Coming from a catholic family, he grew up with a reverence for God but explains he knew nothing about a relationship with his heavenly Father. However, everything changed when both his parents became Christians through watching Christian television. As an 11-year-old Darrell himself had an experience of God during a worship service and he says he became a 'worshipper' of God before he even understood about becoming a Christian. Soon afterwards he made this decision at a Leon Patillo concert in 1980. He maintains that above everything it was worship that drew him in. Perhaps it was this early experience that has given him such an understanding of the importance of worship.

Music very quickly became part of Darrell's new life. He says he had just begun guitar lessons and after watching The Buddy Holly Story on TV, his mind was made up, he wanted to sing. I think the Buddy Holly influence must have soon worn off, but Darrell continued with his music. Spurred on by a Christian camp he began to learn choruses. You can imagine the fate of the Evans household with daily renditions of "More Precious Than Silver" or the only other chorus he knew, "Michael Row The Boat"

Once he'd learnt a few chords, Darrell began his songwriting career. He laughs as he thinks about those early songs where he says he tried to cram in six or seven ideas into one song. They might not have been masterpieces but "those songs must have been very precious to the Lord!"

Darrell's songwriting techniques have changed a bit since then. He says that most of his songs today are "birthed in times of worship and ministry. Usually God will initiate an idea, a thought or a phrase, and that will move into a song then I will go home, get out my Bible and draw from that, working on it in my room alone."

The first album, 'Let The River Flow', is a combination of songs celebrating the new things that God is doing across the world and songs of intimacy, entering into the presence of God. The album was recorded in one night of worship at Darrell's home church in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

It is the fulfilment of a dream for the young worship leader. His approach to this was very different from most who are looking for a record deal. Darrell explains, "I decided that I wasn't going to send out demos but instead continue to lead worship in my home church. I pursued God instead of a record deal." So how did he end up signing with Integrity? It is one of those friend of a friend stories. A friend put Don Moen from Integrity in touch with Darrell. Don came, heard the music and the result was this, Darrell's first album.

What strikes me most as I listen to this album is the honesty and frankness of the songs, that enable you to enter in to worship. There are many theories of how you draw people into God's presence. I asked Darrell what he considers the role of the worship leader to be. "My number one focus has to be ministering to the Lord, pouring out the perfume of my heart to the Lord. Then helping others to experience God's presence. If I get my focus right everything else falls into place - people follow you, because when the Lord shows up everything changes. I don't have to manipulate people; I just spend the time with the Lord and wash people's feet with worship and take that humble role. It's not very glamorous to wash people's feet. But this is the approach that Jesus took in ministry."

As you look at the worship albums released in the last year you begin to notice different themes running through them. It's as if God highlights different things about his character or our relationship with him at different times. Darrell describes worship as a life-long journey. "It is as if you have a backpack and you're on a journey with the Lord. As you go you need different equipment and he just adds it to your bag. But you don't forget about the other things already in your bag, you pull those out too." So with the new things God is doing in worship today, we still need to remember the lessons of the past. What are the new things God has been showing us in recent times? "One of the most significant things God has done in my life in the last few years," says Darrell, "is a return to a childlike heart in worship. That I am his kid and that my Dad is bigger... Now he is moving us into an appreciation of a repentant heart and a bride-like intimacy too. There are different season but you should never forget the other things God has shown you."

The role of the worship leader is one that Darrell has felt called to since the age of 16, particularly among young people. He explains that God is doing a new thing in worship to draw this generation to himself. In the past, outreaches to young people have used extravagantly packaged methods to attract them. Very often worship would be the last thing anyone would offer them, thinking it would be too old or too traditional. Darrell believes we need to stop apologising for worship. He says, "This generation is looking for something real, devoid of hype and free from man's manipulation." What they need is the real presence of God. "People don't give youth enough credit. They often have the ability to press in and go deeper in worship than most adults."

So why has worship been something we are embarrassed of? Why is it something seen only behind the closed doors of the local church? Darrell believes we have missed the key of revealing God to non-believers. "You never have to apologise for a childlike expression of worship even with non-Christians. In fact, that is what they need to see."

Darrell feels so strongly about taking worship to where the young people are, that at the beginning of the year he founded River Flow Ministries. The aim of the ministry is to "help plant churches that are going to reach out to the college community, near campuses and universities, to reach the group that no one's reaching. We hope next year to plant one or two and then next year many more."

Most of the songs on 'Let The River Flow' speak about the move of God's Spirit. As Darrell travels around the USA he is able to see what God is doing in different places. "We see the Lord is really pouring out his Spirit on this generation. It looks a little bit different everywhere we go, it has its own unique flavour, it takes on its own shape." I ask him what part he and the band play in this? "We are not just travelling around doing concerts," replies Darrell, "but actually acting as 'revivalists', calling people to a return to a bride-like, childlike, repentant heart. Some churches have us stay extra time to help bring about the release of renewal and eventually revival." So is it true that we are on the verge of revival? "I think we are on the verge of seeing the greatest revival this world has ever known and we are just seeing sprinklings right now, here and there.

"If you look in Joel, chapter 2, there is a description of the progression of revival. First there is a call to leaders to repentance, then a call to God's people to repentance and then it says God sends abundant showers of rain. As a result there is oil, which represents healing, and God's anointing and the new wine which is God's presence. Then it says, 'I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh and all who call upon the name of the Lord will be saved.' Jesus himself said about new wine that it needs new wine skins, new ways to contain it. Many who taste of the old wine never want to taste the new. I think the people who have the hardest time embracing what God is doing 'now' are the people who embraced what God was doing 'then'.

"So that is what God is doing, he is renewing his Church. He is bringing us to repentance and we are getting our aroma back, the aroma of Christ. We don't smell good anymore. If we did, our churches would have to have services every night to contain all the people who were coming to him. God wants to draw us so close to himself again that we begin to be like him. I think many people are going to come to Christ as a result of Christians being renewed. We haven't really seen anything yet." What about your church in Tulsa, what is happening there? "They are experiencing a lot of growth. You know our pastors went to Toronto and Pensacola and the Lord has brought a renewing to our church also. But as a result probably a third of the people have left. They brought me in a couple of years ago to lead worship and it is a style of worship where you can't hide very well, it's almost confrontal at times. Although so many people left we never saw the numbers go down because there are so many hungry and thirsty people coming. In the last year we have seen more people come to Christ in that church than in the previous 12 years put together."

Continues Darrell, "It used to be a very comfortable, yuppie church, very reserved. But now it's a nut house! There are people waving streamers, banners, Dads are taking the hand of their children and dancing up front before the Lord, the women are up there already... It's a beautiful thing in terms of worship."

Darrell has spent much of the year touring with the band, but what about more albums? After the firs album was released on Integrity Darrell signed an exclusive contract with them for songwriting and two of his songs featured on the 'Song For The Message: The Way Of Love'. I ask him about the plans for the future. The good news is we are promised a new album which is to be recorded at the beginning of 1998 and is expected to be released in the summer. Darrell is also to become one of the first artists to record on Integrity's new label Vertical Records. This is a label designed to bring praise and worship to the 18-25 age group "who would probably look at an Hosanna Music album and say. 'That's my parents' kind of music!'" Vertical will be using styles of music that are much more accessible to them. Darrell's first album on this label is to be called 'You Are I Am', a studio remix of seven songs from 'Let The River Flow' and three new songs. It is expected to be released in the USA in January 1998. You get the impression as you speak to Darrell that the events of the past year or so are much more than a good career move but that this is a fulfilment of a lifelong dream. "For years as a child I would sit down with the road atlas and I would dream of all the cities I would go to. This is not just to put on a promotional tour because I have to sell a certain number of CDs, but because the Lord has asked us to do this. To model something different and wash the feet of his Church and the lost with worship."

I hope that Darrell's travels will soon bring him to the UK. In the meantime we will have to wait patiently for the next album. CR

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.
About Jill Crocker
Jill Crocker is a radio presenter for UCB Europe and the latest member of the ever growing Cross Rhythms team.


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