The Jazz Theologian

The Jazz Theologian

Jazz Theology: Understanding the Basics

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In my book, Finding the Groove:  Composing a Jazz-Shaped Faith, I sought to put on to the page what we see
on the stage.  We do not need to be
jazz musicians to practice a jazz-shaped faith.  Rather, there are basic concepts that are most easily
observed in music but are in no way limited to those who play instruments.  Once we are familiar with the basic
elements we begin to notice them elsewhere in art, poetry, novels and sports. 


There are three fundamentals to jazz and thus a jazz-shaped

Syncopation:  Accenting the offbeat.  This is what allows jazz to swing and when applied to prayer or Bible study it brings to light not hidden meaning but meaning that is often missed.


Improvisation–when we are so familiar with the basic groove of God’s word and the way of Christ we are in a position to experiment and play a little.  Improvisation is the result of living in community with other practicing Christians who allow us the grace and encouragement to find our own voice.

Call and Response:  The essence of a jazz-shaped faith is listening.  God called to his creation on the first page of scripture and continued to call to Adam and Eve as they hid in shame.  When we develop our ear for the voice of God and the needs of others we place ourselves in a position to respond by donning the towel and basin and serving others as Christ did.


A jazz theologian is someone who incorporates these fundamentals into evangelism, spiritual direction, community, scripture, calling, incarnation & resurrection, pain & the cross.  

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Nathan Crawford

posted April 20, 2010 at 10:52 am

I think that these are the key to any good attempt at spiritual formation. As I’ve thought more and more about the way the contemporary church shapes Christians, it’s not about an active listening or call and response, but about sitting and taking in whatever it is we think is important. I like the idea that central is not only listening, but then responding, which is definitely an empowerment of the laity.

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