December 5, 2020

Michael Spencer Update, 3/9/2010

Chaplain Mike received this update from Denise Spencer today.

It is with a heavy heart that I bring my latest update on Michael. We have learned that his cancer is too advanced and too aggressive to expect any sort of remission. Our oncologist estimates that with continued treatment Michael most likely has somewhere between six months and a year to live. This is not really a surprise to us, though it is certainly horrible news. From the very beginning, both of us have suspected that this would prove to be an extremely bad situation. I don’t know why; perhaps God was preparing us for the worst all along by giving us that intuition.

The combination of the cancer and the chemotherapy is keeping Michael in a very weakened state. He is in bed all day, getting up once or twice only to eat a “meal.” His meals consist mostly of Ensure, with occasional mugs of soup, dishes of ice cream and milkshakes. He’s still taking fluids well, currently preferring Sprite and ginger ale. His tastes do change slightly from time to time, and I try to be ready to jump in whatever direction they seem to be moving. He is in no pain at all, for which I am unspeakably grateful.

Michael went through a period of depression, as I’m sure you would expect. He seems to have come through that now, for the most part. He knows he is dying, and he says he is at peace. Though he will still say with unashamed honesty, “I don’t want it to all be over at age 53!” he has the confidence of knowing that he has run the race God set out for him. He believes he has done the work our Lord intended for him to do, and if the last task God has for him in this life is dying, then he will do that to the best of his ability.

Through all of this, in every phase of illness, diagnosis and treatment, Michael’s faith has not wavered. I know most readers love Michael for, among other things, the transparency of his writings. If I may be allowed such honesty for just a moment, I will confess that I have been amazed at how strong Michael has been spiritually and emotionally from the very beginning of this ghastly journey. Day by day I continue to see the Holy Spirit at work in him, molding him, softening him, giving him a more childlike faith than I believe he has ever known. When the moment comes, I am assured Michael will be ready. I am the one who doesn’t want to let go.

Words can never express our gratitude for every thought, every gift, every note, every prayer you have blessed us with. Please pray for continued peace and strength for Michael, for me, and for Noel and Clay. This is the most difficult thing we have ever been through, and only with God’s help can we make it.


  1. Michael has ministered to me for years, affecting my understanding of evangelicalism, ministry, sermonizing, marriage, church growth. through this form I met many who I now call friend. Imonk’s ministry to me has been vital to my writing, my ministry and even my marriage. I will pray for Denise to have God’s own strength.

  2. Our prayers are with you all.

    I only recently stumbled across Michael’s blog, As so many others have said, his frank and honest writing about the issues facing the church have been comforting and also poignant. His transparency about his own feelings and observations, which have been completely free of artiface or pat conclusions, have been a breath of fresh air.

    I suspect you will all never know just how many people have read an imonk article at some point and come away with some helpful thought. And of course, I cannot speak to Michaels years of ministry off the internet.

    Thank you, and God bless you.

  3. Aussiejohn says

    My prayers and thoughts are with you all. I am thankful for Michael’s ministry. His willingness to say it like it is has given encouragement to many who have concerns for the path much of Christianity has taken.

  4. May the Lord bless and keep you.

  5. I am someone who has been in and out of the Faith for many years. Ironically, it was during my most recent bout with doubt that I discovered the Internet Monk – your post last year about atheism was recommended on an atheist bulletin board that I subscribed to. Even though I didn’t agree with your belief system (and still don’t to some extent), I really appreciated your compassion and refusal to blanketly condemn all atheists as “evil” or “immoral” as some Christians tend to do. I am only just now starting to pray again, haltingly and uncertainly, but you are in my prayers for whatever that’s worth.

  6. Wow. I am speechless and my heart is heavy.

    In 2009, my wife and I lost our brother. He died with a brain tumor and he was 30. We take heart that he was the Lord’s and the Lord was his. My wife and I will join you in your suffering for the Lord.

    Mike doesn’t know me other than that I have visited here and commented a few times, but he is a blessing to me and has given me much to think about. I will continue to pray for the Spencer family.

    Continue to be well my friends.

  7. I have had the amazing priviledge of listening to imonk’s podcasts and reading this blog and enjoying a cynical, and for once, honest portrayal of the church and Christianity. I can tell from the comments that I have read that the internetmonk has had more influence on people like me–young adults who are searching for truth–than he may ever know.
    Best wishes–

  8. I have been waiting for a post like this, and I am sorry to see it. Blessings to Michael and his whole family.

    Michael, thank you for your words. I will not forget them.

  9. I’ve never felt so deeply for someone I never really met. Michael’s writings have been a beacon of hope to me. None will ever know the impact he has had on countless.

    Imonk I hope you are overwhelmed with blessing, as God has used you as a fount to so many. Like so many others here I am still holding out for a miracle.

    May God look upon you with the eyes of His mercy, comfort you with a sense of His goodness, preserve you from the temptation of the enemy, and give you patience under your affliction.

  10. Michael and Denise, Clay and Noel,

    You are loved, and highly regarded, and deeply cared for.

    And not just by a community of believers all over the globe. But also by a Savior whom was not taken by surprise by this, and is working even in this situation for His purposes and for your best.

    His ways are not our own, and though He may send us through the fire…He is good and He will not leave us alone to fend for ourselves.

    One day He will bring you all to completion, as He has promised in His Word.

    Perhaps Jesus will do a mighty miracle on your behalf.

    Whatever He does, rest in the fact that He loves you all and is with you every second of the day, throughout this entire process.

  11. There aren’t words. Michael, you focused on Jesus no matter what, and put Him at the center of everything, and that taught me to do the same.

    I’ve said this before, but I can’t wait to knock back some wine with you one day. That will be a good day. Love and grace and peace.

  12. Grace and peace, Michael. And thank you for all you have offered to us.

  13. I stumbled onto this blog a few years ago when I was an unbeliever who was skeptical and yet curious about the faith. Reading this blog was one of the things that helped lead me to Christ. It’s hard to know what to say in a time like this, I just want to thank you so much for the wisdom, honesty, and love of Christ you’ve shown in your writings. They have helped me so much. I’m deeply saddened by this news and my prayers are for you and your family.

  14. I am just, so, so sorry. As a wandering agnostic, michaels site has been a ‘Godsend’….?(Ha Ha, maybe that’s saying something!!!) No but really, Godspeed to you Michael……

  15. Mike L. in Monroe, WA says

    still praying and thanking God for iMonk….

  16. I am so sorry that Michael, Denise and their children are facing all this… having lost a sibling to cancer 3 years ago, i know it is a very hard journey.

    i will continue to pray for the whole Spencer family… this really is heartbreaking news.

    while I don’t know Michael “IRL,” and have had differences with him in comment sections of the blog, I felt I could speak about those differences due to his honesty, kindness and general good humor about life, even (maybe especially?) the hard parts.

    My deepest thanks to Michael and his gangstas for all they’ve done here, and to the Spencer family, for enabling him to do it.

    We love you guys.


  17. iMonk,

    You writings have changed the way I think about my faith and the faith of others around me. Thanks for all the encouragement over the years, for your insightful voice, your humor and grace. There is no doubt you are a prophet of God; a good and faithful servant. Be at peace.


  18. I miss Michael so much, my day isn’t the same without his daily posts and his weekly podcast… Michael has touched me beyond words.

  19. I can honestly say that I know what you and your family are going through. My husband, Rick, a pastor for 33 years (he was 53 too), died from a brain tumor on Christmas Eve. It is a very hard road that you all are traveling, but God is and will continue to carry you…even when you think you cannot go on. Keep fighting and enjoying each second that you share as a family…no matter how different it may be from what you once knew. I am glad that I found this site if for no other reason than being able to pray for your dear family.

    Debbie Starr
    Louisville, Ky.

  20. Michael, I’m grieved to read this update. You’ve been a light for the radical grace of the gospel and I’m grateful for your hard work and beautiful writing. My prayers go with you.

  21. My heart is heavy hearing this. Jesus hold them close. Praying for all of you and thanking God for you.

  22. We continue to pray for your family.

  23. I’m praying … we’re all praying for the Holy Spirit’s preserving strength and power in weakness

  24. Doug Messer says

    I just want to let Michael know how greatly I have appreciated his ministry via this blog. And honestly, that doesn’t really get at how thankful I am for the way in which Christ has spoken through him to me and so many others. And as was noted, his transparency is what has spoken volumes more than anything else…Though I think his willingness to be so transparent is also a clear sign of the wisdom through which he also writes on so many different issues, topics, etc. In particular, I would like to thank him for his “On Running Wounded” article…A friend gave that to me a couple years ago and it was timely and important on a number of different levels. As a minister who does a great deal of work with couples, I have found it to be an excellent resource to center around in discussing and grapling with the issues in our marriages–the depth of our depravities and the severe, transformative grace of God in the midst of that. Not only that, but it was and still is, such an extremely powerful word to mine and my wife’s own hearts as we have had our share of struggles…My sin is always before me. Thankfully, the grace and mercy of Christ is too…And it has changed/conitnues to change myself, my wife and our marriage. That article was/is an important part of a very difficult journey that we have had to take over the last few years…But it was/is (now more than ever), another evidence of the Lord’s beautiful, terrifying, hard and wonderful grace.

    A favorite poem from George Herbert (heard in one of Tim Keller’s sermons), speaks sweet volumes to me…Hopefully to you.

    A DIALOGUE-ANTHEM, by George Herbert

    Alas, poor Death! Where is thy glory?
    Where is thy famous force, thy ancient sting?

    Alas, poor mortal, void of story!
    Go spell and read how I have killed thy King.

    Poor Death! And who was hurt thereby?
    Thy curse being laid on Him makes thee accurst.

    Let losers talk, yet thou shalt die;
    These arms shall crush thee.

    Spare not, do thy worst.
    I shall be one day better than before;
    Thou so much worse, that thou shalt be no more.


    Again…Thank you for your openness and willingness to “go there” on so many levels and with so many areas of life…Praying for you and your family. Grace and Peace. Doug

  25. Susie Lackey says


    Praying God’s comfort, strength and peace upon you and your family though his journey ahead, and remembering back to our first study together and realizing that “life is difficult,” but knowing that God holds us in His hand. Blessings to you all.