If you are studying systematic theology and have to work your way through Greek and Hebrew flash cards, you might think a nice quiet library would be the right spot. Not for Robert Gelinas. While working on a degree in biblical studies, he headed to a local jazz venue that stayed open late and offered bottomless cups of coffee. He would talk to the musicians about Jesus, and they would school him in the ways of jazz. "It was there," says Gelinas, "that I realized that jazz is more than music and, when understood, can be applied to prayer, Bible study, and the way we do church."
Today Gelinas is lead pastor of Colorado Community Church's Aurora campus, where he also founded Project 1.27, an adoption ministry that encourages the adoption of every child in the state's foster care system. (Gelinas and his wife, Barbara, have six kids—one biological and five adopted, including two from Ethiopia.) But these days Gelinas may be best known as the Jazz Theologian. He has a a website by that name, a book titled Finding the Groove: Composing a Jazz-Shaped Faith (Zondervan), and another coming in 2011, Strange Fruit: Responding to the Blue Note of the Cross (Zondervan).
Question & Answer
Who are your favorite jazz musicians?
I enjoy Miles, Coltrane, Charles Mingus, and Dexter Gordon from back in the day. Today I like Kirk Whalum, Roy Hargrove, and Marcus Miller. But my favorite jazz artist is the great American novelist Ralph Ellison, who demonstrated that jazz is more than music with his classic novel, Invisible Man. He showed that if we understand the basics of jazz, we can see it expressed in a variety of ways.
What's "jazz theology"?
Jazz theology is what happens when ...1
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