Alberta Church Draws Protesters

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Rev. John Van Sloten preached on February 13, using the new mayor of Calgary, Alberta, as part of his “text.”

Van Sloten is the pastor of New Hope Christian Reformed Church in Calgary, and has a reputation for incorporating new media into his services and finding God in contemporary culture. The service where he used the music of Metallica eventually became a book, The Day Metallica Came to Church.

This Sunday, he focused on how the church can become a better citizen, using as an example the God-like qualities he sees in Calgary’s new mayor, Naheed Nenshi.

Due mostly to the fact that the local newspaper “pre-preached” the sermon, as Van Sloten said, a few protesters who do not like Nenshi showed up at the church Sunday morning. There are some Calgarians who attack Nenshi for his religion and ethnicity and make claims about him controlling the press

The Gospel According to Naheed Nenshi” began as a response to the mayor’s unusual leadership, Van Sloten said.

In October 2010, Nenshi became the first Muslim mayor of Calgary, or of any Canadian city. With a population of 1.2 million, Calgary is a city known for its Stampede, its proximity to the Canadian Rockies, and its friendly cowboy nature.

Yet Nenshi, who does not necessarily embody any of these traits, got more votes than the total votes cast in the previous election. Besides Nenshi’s proficiency in social networking, Van Sloten believes “it’s a God-thing.”

“God built into you and me as citizens…an insatiable yearning for wise, humble, real, authentic leadership,” he said, “a deep desire for somebody who has that powerful position but is selfless, who cares more about us, the city collectively, than he does about himself.”

In his sermon, Van Sloten talked about what it means to be a better citizen, how God uses those in leadership and God is truly a democratic God.

By seeing Nenshi as an image bearing leader we “learn more about God’s heart and nature,” he said.

Church members were very positive about the service, Van Sloten said. Some spoke to the protesters.

Barb Bronson said protesters were “comparing [Nenshi] to Hitler and Saddam Hussein. “I didn’t take what they were saying about Nenshi too seriously,” she said, “But I was glad we’re a city that people can peacefully protest in and say what is on our minds.”

Nenshi was not at the service but said afterward, “”It was certainly interesting to be the topic of such a presentation. What’s very satisfying for me is to find that the messages of civic engagement and making Calgary an even better city resonate across all faiths and communities.”

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When did the gospel of Jesus Christ lose Christ and turn into a message concerning "civic engagement" in which a Muslim gentleman can serve as both its model and messenger? What is there in "the gospel according to Naheed Nenshi" that we can point to as good news for men, women, and children who are dead in their transgressions and sins?

As described here and elsewhere, “The Gospel According to Naheed Nenshi” serves only as yet another illustration of what Michael Horton referred to as "Christless Christianity" in his book bearing the same title. We must respect our leaders and can appreciatively thank God for a good many of them, but God forbid we confuse them or their civic goodness with Christ or God's redemption on account of his death and resurrection.

In response to Rev. Davelaar, I respectfully ask if you even had the courtesy to listen to Rev. Van Sloten's message before critiquing it? He applied common grace in a very creative, out of the box manner, but did not in any way compromise the gospel witness.
You asked 'What is there in "the gospel according to Naheed Nenshi" that we can point to as good news for men, women, and children who are dead in their transgressions and sins?' I submit that if you actually listened to the message, you would know the answer.
-Joshua Lickter, RCA Pastor and Church Planter.

Nothing in the article above leads me to believe that this minister preached the Lord Jesus Christ. It rather represents a moral discussion about good citizenship that does not belong in the pulpit of the Lord who gave his blood so that we might be saved. Had he preached the "good news" he would have called his mayor to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ, showing that the good intentions of this man's Muslim faith and his politics, whatever they may be, are not adequate to bring him out of darkness and into the light. Instead he gave his congregation reason to be further from the truth. How sad to see how the CRC has fallen. "come out from them and be separate, says the Lord." You have removed the offense of the cross and given the enemy an entrance into the house of God.

We need to be reminded that "The Gospel" is an historical event, God reconciling sinful humanity to himself through the given body and shed blood of his perfect, innocent Son who willingly bore humanity's curse upon the cross. That God's justice was satisfied by Christ's death was proved by his resurrection and ascension. The Gospel is good news, that while we were still sinners, still enemies of God, Christ died for us. It is the fact that we who were dead in our trespasses are now made alive in Christ that enables us to be citizens of God's kingdom and faithful citizens of earths kingdoms.

Having listened to the ten minute clip, Van Sloten's gospel was not the Gospel of Christ. Rather it was "This Muslim guy is pretty great, God is like that guy. Be like that guy. Be a good citizen of God's kingdom and of Calgary." Many of his scriptures were used as proof-texts.

Good preaching is difficult. It is a very scary thing to bring God's Word to a congregation. The Gospel is relevant enough. Trying to make it relevant actually hides the gospel.

May we all be spared from the warning Matt Papa sings about in his song, "Woe to You."

Where is the justice?
Who's preaching the truth
Your sermons are entertaining
And your churches are cool

You're grieving His Spirit
And You're winning the lost
To a worthless religion
'Cause you don't talk about the cross

WOE TO YOU, WOE TO YOU
YOUR GOSPEL IS TICKLING
OUR EARS TO DEATH
WOE, WOE TO YOU

Christian lyrics - WOE TO YOU LYRICS - MATT PAPA

I saw the video and I think I would be standing with the protestors.

This just out from Dr. Michael Horton, concerning common grace:

"When we, as Christians, affirm common grace, we take this world seriously in all of its sinfulness as well as in all of its goodness as created and sustained by God. We see Christ as the mediator of saving grace to the elect but also of God’s general blessings to a world that is under the curse. Thus, unbelievers can even enrich the lives of believers." (From Reformed Theology vs Hyper-Calvinism.)

I believe Rev. Van Sloten is merely taking this valuable Reformed concept, common grace, and using it in his presentation of the gospel.

-Joshua Lickter, RCA Pastor and Church Planter, Incarnation.

May we all be spared from listening to Matt Papa...woe to those that spend money on half baked songwriting.

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