Interview with John Van Sloten

The Day Metallica Came to ChurchI first became familiar with John Van Sloten when I read and reviewed his book, The Day Metallica Came To Church. It is a terrific look at the ways in which God speaks to us (in more ways than just the Bible). John is the pastor of a church in Canada (remember that so that you catch his humor when I ask him about the Church in America). John and I were connected when I invited him to come out for our Absent documentary showing where James Hetfield (lead singer of Metallica) was at Central. John wasn’t able to join us but he did send me a book that I gave to James that night. I was impressed with how God orchestrates stories like that. To promote this interview, I’ll be giving away two autographed copies of John’s book. In order to enter your name into the mix you can do up to three of the following:
  1. Subscribe your email to my blog (you can enter your email into the box at the end of this post) ENTRY +1
  2. Tweet the link to this post (you can use the floating Twitter box to the left of your cursor on this post). ENTRY +1
  3. Leave a comment on this post sharing your favorite part of this interview. ENTRY +1
That’s three possible ways to get your name into the mix for a signed copy of The Day Metallica Came to Church. I’ll announce the winners on Friday, October 5, 2012. Jeremy: Tell us something odd/unique about you.
John: I cycled across Canada with 100 other riders in 2005 (7200 km, 10 weeks, best thing I’ve ever done!). Why? At the time our church was in the news a lot, and the ride’s organizers asked if I’d be interested in handling the media for the event. Foolishly, I thought, “If I want to do the media in an authentic way, I should probably do the ride.” (I wasn’t a big cyclist at the time, but became one.)
Jeremy: Where did you first experience the idea of co-illumination?
John: I was reading a book on Vincent Van Gogh (At Eternity’s Gate, by Kathleen Erickson Powers) and she was unpacking one of Vincent’s paintings, Still Life with an Open Bible. The painting depicts two books, a family bible (opened to Isaiah 53) and a humanist title, La Joie de Vivre, by Emile Zola. Van Gogh painted the two side by side because he wanted to make a point; that both Isaiah and Zola were communicating the same truth about sacrificial love. It was then that it hit me, what if this is happening all the time? God’s truth in the bible repeating itself in other creational/cultural contexts (God speaking via two books – the bible and creation). And what if God has always meant for us to know him via both of his books; the bible illumining truth in creation (via words), and creation illumining truth in the bible (via multiple creational languages). Two books co-illumining one another.
Jeremy: Do you think people are born leaders or develop into leaders?
John: Both. And I think they are called as leaders. In my experience leadership has been best when my Caller awareness has been clearest.
Jeremy: How can people put themselves into a position to influence culture?
John: Part of me thinks, “Don’t try too hard to make it happen… no one respects a culture influencing poser.” Another part of me thinks, “Listen. Listen to what God is saying through the culture, to you. The humility will be illumining. And if you then hear something, respond. Responding to what God is already doing in the culture gives you the best shot at rightly influencing that culture.”
Jeremy: Why are you a follower of Jesus Christ?
John: Because he saved my bacon. And then called me into this amazing life where I seem to be seeing his glory everywhere.
Jeremy: What do you do personally to fuel your spiritual life?
John: Long walks with my camera are a very centering activity for me. I seem to think most freely when moving. And when I stop, my camera lens reminds and teaches me how to see again. Macro photography has been a gift lately. Something about the fact of ‘another world’ comes alive via the very small worlds I photograph.
Jeremy: What is your hope for the future of the Church in America?
John: I hope things work out OK in America. But for Canada, I pray for kingdom come. 😉
Jeremy: Should we abandon the use of the word “Christian” for a better term? If so, what?
John: Perhaps we should worry less about semantics, and more about all of those behaviors that wrecked the word. I think it was Brian McLaren who first spoke of wanting to be called a ‘follower of Christ’, instead of a Christian. A whole bunch of us took on the new moniker and then proceeded to wreck it too. Maybe we should just be really nice and love God and neighbor and not give ourselves a name.
Jeremy: What blogs/websites do you regularly check?
John: I read Q, Cardus’ Comment, the Globe and Mail, Books and Culture, anything interesting that pops up on my twitter feed, hair replacement sites and a few others.
Jeremy: Which books have shaped your thinking?
John: Engaging God’s World (Neal Plantinga), anything by Abraham Kuyper, H. Evan Runner, Bavinck, Creation Regained by Al Wolters, and many other reformed thinkers. A great deal of my theological formation has happened via “non-religious” books on the creational topics I’ve preached on; topics like Van Gogh, wolverines, U2, the honey bee, Hugo Cabret, Rublev’s Trinity and Green Eggs and Ham (“taste and see that God is good!”).
Jeremy: What music moves you?
John: All kinds. I’ve preached Les Mis, Handel, Stravinsky, Bach, Arcade Fire, Rush, Green Day, Billie Holiday, Coldplay, Supertramp, Mumford and Sons, Peter Gabriel, Lauryn Hill, Regina Spektor, Joshua Bell, Alicia Keys, Bob Dylan, Feist, Samuel Barber’s Adagio and of course Metallica.
Jeremy: Any other thoughts or advice?
John: Listen. God is speaking everywhere.

Click here to see more Off the Record interviews.

**UPDATE: 10-5-12

Here are the winners of the autographed copies of John’s book. There were 18 total entrees between email subscriptions, twitter, and the blog comments. I used the DecisionMaker app on my iPhone to select the winners.

  • Dan King (from blog comment)
  • Justin Narducci (from blog comment)

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Jeremy Jernigan

Speaker | Author | Founder of Communion Wine Co.