I sat not so long ago, at a local jr. high school, at a jazz concert. I was there to give support and love to the students of ministry. I had an amazing group of very talented musicians. Even at a young age some of these students were committed to pursuing music as a life time thing. One of the students, whose mom was a concert pianist, was already thinking about studying tuba...of all things, and pursuing a scholarship to a prestigious music school. Going to these concerts were almost as big to these students, as if I showed up the play-offs of my more athletic students. I would get emails and phone calls reminding me. I did it not out of obligation only I really do enjoy music. I in addition, actually rather like jazz, the smooth and soothing sounds. On a few occasions, in my more hip moments, I have found a cool little coffee house that has jazz nights. I will sit and sip my coffee, and enjoy the notes as they wash over me and relax, as I drink in the bitterness of black coffee with the mixture of sweet melodic notes of the performance. This was not one of those nights or moments.
As I sat by myself in the balcony looking down on my students and the other student musicians, it was not smooth or relaxing. It was actually rather uncomfortable and a little disconcerting. The director was as it seemed a very passionate and dedicated man of the arts. He walked them through a long playlist of what I am sure were, past tense, great pieces that he had found. The thing of it was, there was something missing. It wasn't the same blue notes of musical depth. Musically, the notes were there and present. Physically, there was talent and the pieces were performed, and I am sure practiced. The issue was there was a sense of discomfort and disjointedness to the whole thing, as the students seemed to struggle to find their way through the music and give it life. The one poor guy looked like he was going to sweat right through his crisp white shirt and freshly pressed black pants. It was not natural and it did not flow. The pieces were written from a heart of someone who had something to say, express, and with a true depth. Jazz is the music of the soul and heart. It connects to center of the person who wrote it and originally performed it. My talented and well meaning students did not make that connection.
Like any good, “posty” and “emergery” I read Miller’s “Blue Like Jazz” a few years ago, about a young man’s spiritual journey and religious exploration, etc… Recently as I re-read the book, it struck me that is where I (we) live in JH/MS ministry. We are leading students who are in a desperate search for the true story, heart, and depth of what it means to be a Christ Follower. They show up, look the part, say the right word, and give their best effort. We like the director and we are trying with all that we have to lead them and pull out of them something more. The reality is JH/MS faith is messy, disjointed, sometimes disconnected, but powerful journey of exploration.
To me JH/MS ministry is THE emerging church. You want to know where the church is headed or you want to be a part of where it headed, get involved in JH ministry. With God’s power and call on our lives we grab the baton of youth ministry and look out at our group of students and say “let’s really play something beautiful.”
To be continued…?