This past summer, God gave the Jason Harms Quintet, the opportunity to spread the Gospel among the people of the Dominican Republic through jazz.
We were invited to play at a club in Santiago. The house band gave us a half-hour before they would take the stage that night. Once all the technical issues were worked out, we had about twenty minutes to play. We started our set and out of nowhere, it seemed, people began to fill the place.
The leader of the house band was so blessed with the music he became frustrated that the growing crowd wasn’t more attentive. They seemed to be enjoying the set, but he wanted them to enjoy it more.
After twenty minutes, he took the microphone and started laying into the audience. I only understood two words of his minute-and-a-half speech: “attencion” and “musica.” I thought we were done for the night, but he turned to me and said, “Keep playing!” in English.
We were at the point in the set where we usually play our testimony songs. The house had been silenced to better enjoy the common grace of God in the sound of jazz. And we were able to articulate through song why this common grace exists—to lead us to the fullness of God’s grace in his Son!
Later, we were at one of the largest radio stations in the country for an interview. The hosts were firing back and forth at each other in Spanish, and then one turned to me and asked in English, “What song should we play?” I said, “Track three, ‘Give me Jesus.’”
One of the interviewers said, “‘Give me Jesus?’ Why do you play that song in jazz?” I responded, “Regarding music, I love the sound of jazz. Regarding theme, I love the truth of Jesus. So that is what I love to play.” They put the song in and within the first few bars, they were so much enjoying the sound, they had to give to the theme a listen.
In cross-cultural missions, there are many barriers. Music cannot break down all of them. But the pleasure we take, Christians and non-Christians alike, in jazz can establish a powerful connection and a means to sow his word. We sing about Jesus not knowing who the Lord may give ears to hear.
The Gospel doesn’t need any help from jazz; it is Christ who saves and nothing else. But God uses all that he has made to break into our hard hearts to reveal himself as our greatest need and greatest pleasure.