Kristene DiMarco is a dynamic worship leader and songwriter with Bethel Music and Jesus Culture. She recently released her song, “It Is Well” for radio (available here) and is known for drawing people into the deepest, most intimate places in worship.
WorshipU featured Kristene in our “Ask Me Anything” discussion and she answered questions about song-writing, her personal journey as a worship leader, and more. Join her as she shares her insight on all things worship.
Have you always known that this was your calling?
I didn’t always know that my calling was to lead worship, but I’ve known since I was 5 that I was a singer. I would stand up on chairs around the house and sing. Then when I hit 16 years old, my worship pastor put a microphone in front of me and said, “Today, you’re a worship leader” and I just kept on going.
Who inspires you when it comes to worship and leading?
People who inspire me are those who have strengths that I don’t have. Jason Upton first inspired me to write because his lyrics sang exactly what he would say. Rita Springer was also a huge influence on my life, especially with respect to her longevity and endurance. All of her songs have a theme of believing when you don’t see. And Misty Edwards could declare the most obscure things with such power and faith that you would instantly believe whatever she sang!
It’s so important as a worship leader to believe what you sing, to really believe it.
How did you start songwriting?
I started taking notes in my journal when I was quite young – I was always a writer of words. Often when I’m spending time with God or reading scripture, something will pop into my head. When the phrase “Redemption’s better than perfection” first hit me, I thought, is that even true? So I started reading about the resurrection and I did some biblical research until I could actually believe it. I started journaling phrases along that theme like “the darker the night, the brighter the day” and those became the lyrics of that song. It’s important to pay attention to how you receive information from God because He wants to be part of it all. If you’re writing out of experience and getting healing from past pain, that can be good.
But anything inspired by the Holy Spirit will always be dripping with hope.
How do you nurture your writing gift when the words aren’t flowing easily?
As artists, we tend to be extremely critical of things. So I had to learn to love everything that came out in the writing process and I embraced the journey of discovering, “What’s the sound that’s on my life?” I made a whole album that speaks of my writing journey but it didn’t sell well. Co-writing is also a great way to break through dry times. It can be a little humbling yet brilliant to have more than one mind at work on something. For instance, “It is Well” is a song that I would have put on the back burner if it wasn’t for the input of others.
What is your advice for those who feel called to worship and songwriting, but who struggle with insecurity?
The only way to get past those things is to go right through them. It’s actually a mindset – if you consistently think a certain way, a rut will form in your brain, like water following a path that’s been carved out over time. Insecurity comes from self-doubt and either you don’t know what’s true, or you don’t believe what’s true about you. I had massive insecurity and really struggled with it for so long but God put His finger on the self-doubt in my heart and I could feel it stealing away my destiny. I had a choice: do I lie down and give up or do I rework the way I think? For about six months, each time a thought came into my head, I would stop it and intentionally redirect it. Sometimes it was as much as every minute but there’s no other way around it – you have to confront your doubt and replace those thoughts with truth.
What do you do in the dry seasons when you feel like you’re not hearing from the Lord?
I remember reading somewhere, “You’ve perceived the kingdom but you are in need of endurance so you may lay hold of it.” I don’t think that God ever ignores us. But it’s easy to simply take Him for granted in the seasons when we feel His presence and then to lose hope when we don’t feel Him. Something that I’ve written recently says this: “He turns all of our dark roads to gold behind us.” He permeates everything. He was there, even when it wasn’t obvious. So, never give up! We weren’t intended to live without the presence of God.
What is the best worship-leading advice you’ve been given?
Firstly, that it’s important to guard worship and be sure that it’s done in spirit and in truth, not to engineer a response. The whole thing about singing only what you believe was a big deal for me. Oh, and don’t pretend to be somebody else. We all have influences but don’t mimic others. I spent a long time trying to sound exactly like Misty Edwards. I would try so hard until God said, “I’m trying to find you in there, so that I can anoint you and use you, and you’re hiding yourself.” God looks to anoint YOU- He’s not looking for another version of someone else.
Which truth stands out most to you in this article? Please share with us in the comments below.