The story behind this video begins in May 2004...
I had an uneasy feeling when the call came that Saturday
“Hi . . . ahhhh . . . is this Pastor John Van Slo . . . ten of
New Hope Church?” It was a woman’s voice. She sounded
hesitant and a little bit uncomfortable, like she’d never
made this kind of call before.
“Yeah,” I replied warily. I was in the middle of watching
a hockey game, trying to relax before Sunday morning’s
sermon. I didn’t much feel like doing any church
“What can I do for you?”
Her next line stopped me dead. Now she was all business.
“My name is Lisa from Warner Music Canada, and
I represent the heavy metal group Metallica. Is it true
that you’re going to be preaching on the band tomorrow
Suddenly it felt as though I was watching this conversation
unfold in slow motion, as if my mind was outside my body.
Represent Metallica? What? Really? Then my heart started
to race. She went on, “And are you actually planning on
using some of their music in your church service?”
I didn’t know how to reply. This must be some kind of
joke call from someone at my church. OK, it’s not really
a church in the usual sense—it meets in a community
center gym where there’s bingo on Saturday nights. We
meet there because we want to get past some traditional
church barriers—like imposing buildings.
A few friends knew how stressed I was about the risk of
preaching a sermon on Metallica. It’s such a crazy topic.
For weeks I’d been doing all kinds of heresy self-checks.
Doesn’t Metallica play for the “other team”? Could this
get me into a lot of hot water with the church? Perhaps I
should have picked a safer musical genre. Or maybe just
stuck to the Bible.
For a second I wondered if my prankster friend Geoff
was setting me up—he’d probably gotten his wife to call.
“Who are you again?”
Now the voice was more forceful. “I represent Metallica
and the band has asked if we could come to your church
tomorrow with a camera crew. We’d like to tape the
“Are you serious? A camera crew? Is this for real?” The
phone started to slip out of my hand as I began to sweat.
“We’d just like your permission.”
“Oh no,” I thought. “Metallica is going to sue us! Weren’t
they the band that took down Napster, the pioneer online
file-sharing website, when they first started illegally
distributing Metallica’s tunes? And now they’re coming
after me!” My heart was pounding in my right temple by
this point, and in an apprehensive voice I asked, “What
for? Why in the world would Metallica want to get a
video of one of our church services? What are they going
to do, sue us?”
She must have pulled the phone away from her ear and
wondered what kind of idiot she was dealing with. “No.
They don’t want to sue you. Lars [Ulrich—the band’s
drummer] heard about your church service this week,
and all they want is to see it for themselves. The band
left town this morning, and they’re already setting up
for their next concert, so they obviously can’t be there
Dazed, but a little more convinced, I told her that she
had my permission. “C’mon down. Bring cameras. Bring
anyone you want.”
I put the phone down and breathed hard.
For a long time.
Then I laughed to myself.
Did that just happen? Is Metallica really coming to our
church? How cool is this?
Sure enough, the next day three sharp twentysomethings—
the Warner Music reps—all dressed as
though they were going to grandma’s for brunch after the
service, showed up at our church, camera in tow. I was
wearing my standard preaching attire: khaki knee-length
shorts and a T-shirt. Our community was in its typical
last minute pre-service preparation mode: some were
grabbing bagels and coffee at the back table, others were
sound-checking the media and queuing Metallica music
videos, and the rest of us were wandering to our chairs
as the house band up front opened with four screeching
back-to-back, full-on, headbanging Metallica tunes
with dry ice and concert lighting).
Strange, perhaps, but that’s what we do here.
Then I got up to talk. And something happened. I wasn’t
thinking about the camera, the crowd, the Warner reps,
or the pressure. At that moment I suddenly felt deeply
moved, profoundly and reverentially aware. After our
band’s lead guitarist struck his last chord, the room was
vibrating. And as I stepped into the energy-saturated
holy silence, I wondered if I’d be able to live up to the
power and truth that this music invoked. Would I
faithfully honor it and give it its due? Had I read it right?
The moment actually felt quite strange; as though I could
have just as easily been onstage at a Metallica concert,
passionately voicing a few existential questions to a heavy
“Do you guys have any idea what’s going on here?”
“Do you understand why this music is so deeply relevant
“Do you have any idea why it matters so much?”
But I wasn’t at a concert; I was in church. And I wasn’t some
kind of rock promoter—I was a preacher. This morning
was not really about Metallica; it was about God.
Excerpt from Pastor John Van Sloten's Book, "The Day Metallica Came to Church"
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