Chris Poulsen is a musician, youth pastor, theological student and father of four children under seven, a combination that allows him to serve God with all his talents, writes Julie Houghton.
How did your interest in music start?
Early on, my dad was a big influence musically. He played trumpet in a big band, and as a kid I would find myself hanging out with all the musicians, sitting on the drummer’s lap as he played etc. I used to listen to a lot of big band music as well as African-American gospel music.
How would you describe both SCAT and the Chris Poulsen trio?
Scat and Chris Poulsen Trio are both very much an extension of the personalities who make up the bands. Scat is a four-piece combo with keys (me), double-bass, drums and a vocalist. It’s fairly straight-ahead accessible swingin’ jazz with some fun quirks.
The trio is an instrumental group—just keys, bass and drums, and is a little more funk/fusion style, along the lines of American bands like the Yellowjackets and Snarky Puppy; and we’ve actually had the honour of performing support slots for both of these amazing groups and others in the past.
How do you connect your music with your faith?
With Scat, we’ve actually had lots of opportunities to connect with people in all kinds of different situations around the world. We’ve been involved in running church services and leading jazzed-up, re-harmonised worship songs—even in a short tour of USA; and we’ve been involved in Christian music festivals around Australia and New Zealand, as well as featuring in regular jazz festivals and jazz clubs etc.
With the trio, we’ve performed in Kathmandu, Nepal and have run various music workshops at schools. It’s such a blessing to serve others by bringing joy through music.
As Martin Luther said, “The Christian shoemaker does his duty not by putting little crosses on the shoes, but by making great shoes, because God is interested in good craftsmanship.” And so I just love making art and music to the best of my ability in order to serve God by enriching the lives of others.
Did you grow up in a church family or did you come to it later?
I grew up in a Christian family, and came to faith at the age of four. Though there were some years I went a little cold, I am so thankful for the relationship I’ve had with God all these years. God is faithful, and gracious. My wife Emma and I (and our four young children) worship at Grovely Christian Community Church where I am also employed part-time as youth pastor.
You are halfway through a Bachelor of Theology at Queensland Theological College—not too many musicians do that, so what motivated you?
I am really passionate about the stories told in the Bible. They are so profound and amazing, and they tell us so much about life. I constantly want to understand them more, because they always point to God’s character and what he has done for us. There is so much beauty there. The study certainly helps with my ministry work in the church, and I think it also continues to inform and inspire my creative endeavours. Understanding the underlying theological framework gives me clarity in the way the Bible’s message really hangs together.
What would you like to achieve over the rest of your life?
I’m really happy just being creative. I think that’s what God has called me to be—wherever that leads to is up to him. And no doubt, we’ll continue to work with kids and youth, sharing the beautiful message of the Gospel with people who need to hear it.