Jazz and the Church

Last Tuesday marked the end of this year’s Jazz Festival, and being a big jazz fan myself, it was exciting to be able to take in some of the shows. Interestingly enough, I also had the opportunity to hear Christian speaker Robert Gelinas the week before, a pastor from Colorado who calls himself the “Jazz Theologian.” His book, “Finding the Groove,” draws parallels between key elements of jazz music and the church. In essence, jazz can serve as a modern-day parable or metaphor for the church.
Consider these elements...

Syncopation is that creative element within music that does things differently, playing notes and phrases where we wouldn’t normally expect to hear them. The church, while having certain boundaries established by God, also has the freedom to experiment, to see what “sounds” good in order to accomplish God’s will.

Improvisation is another element where musicians are called upon to put something together right now, and to do it well takes practice and experience. The church is a living, breathing body, and its needs are not always written in stone. Thus, we must often improvise, making quick decisions, while also calling on God’s wisdom and experience. Spontaneity, however, can often be a beautiful thing.

Ensemble means that the musicians are playing together. While they have freedom to create and improvise, they are nevertheless playing the same song, and must be sensitive to each other’s movements in order to maintain their common goal. In like, the church, with its freedoms and individuality, must still function as the body of Christ, reading the same piece of music: the gospel.

“There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men.” – 1 Cor. 12:4-6