July 12, 2020

Not Every Post Is about Mark Driscoll: A State of the Blog Address

Cross at Gethsemani 1, by M. Mercer

It’s time, in light of the second anniversary of Michael Spencer’s death, to restate our reason for being here at Internet Monk, why we do what we do, and how we will continue to go about it. As lead writer, I hope I speak on behalf of all our contributors. They can mount a mutiny in the comments if they like.

There are a lot of minefields to avoid in this blogging business. One of them, for me, is the treacherous territory of obsession. It would be easy for Internet Monk to focus solely on prophetic critique and to become a one-trick pony. Lord knows, it would be easy to focus my writing efforts on analyzing and critiquing a few targets that drive me absolutely crazy.

  • Ken Ham, anyone? Or maybe I could set my sights a little higher and go after Al Mohler and others with more respectable credentials, and spend my days lobbing grenades and spraying machine gun fire at those crazy creationists.
  • Perhaps I should focus on going after the biblicists of the world, the John MacArthurs (and Mohler again) of the world, making it my mission to counter what I think is a flawed and indefensible view of inerrancy.
  • Hey, no greater villain these days than Mark Driscoll and the evil empire that is Mars Hill — why not devote my energies to ferreting out the fruits of his appalling ecclesiology and bringing evidences of spiritual abuse there and in other Christian organizations into the light of day?
  • Michael Spencer had great fun observing various parts of the evangelical circus and commenting with wit and wisdom on the sheer lunacy of some of its acts. Why not make that our site’s raison d’être, and spend my days pointing out the man behind the curtain?
  • We could turn our sights on the “Red-Letter Christians” too — the so-called progressives who counter the Religious Right by creating the Religious Left, thus compounding the problem rather than resolving it.
  • As one who is a mainline Christian, there is plenty to focus on in those circles as well — from the classic skeptical, anti-supernatural liberal tradition that gave the modern mainline churches their character in the 19th and 20th centuries, to the shallow, culture-bound theology that continues to characterize mainline Protestantism in many quarters, to the social activism that is not viewed as giving context to but actually defining the Gospel.
  • Quoting Yul Brynner — “Etc., etc., etc.” So many targets, so little time.
  • Apart from the “observation and critique” aspect of the blog, we could simply write about our lives, telling our stories, letting you know what’s going inside these brains and hearts of ours, sharing our experiences, pouring out our souls, journaling our journeys.

Any one of these or a hundred other subjects could become the focus of Internet Monk. There are other fine sites that do just that — center their attention on one particular theme or concern and run with it. They provide a valuable service in paying close attention to a narrow slice of the Christian pie. But our mission is broader than that.

Cross at Gethsemani 2, by M. Mercer

To put it simply, Michael wrote about what interested him, and his interests were broad. He wrote out of his own context as an evangelical, a Baptist, an English teacher, an American from Kentucky, a husband and father, a Merton afficionado, a music lover, and a minister of the Gospel. Most of all, he wrote as one whose heart had been captured by God’s grace in Jesus and as a stumbling disciple (is there any other kind?). He wanted more than anything that his life and the life of the people and churches he loved would be shaped to be like Jesus.

So, as we try and continue Michael Spencer’s legacy here on Internet Monk, I have developed a “mission statement” to describe how we will continue to cover a broad spectrum of interests like he did. I don’t think I can be any clearer than this, or say it in any simpler fashion:

We write at Internet Monk so that Jesus’ church will never forget Jesus.

If there is a single subject we’re about, it’s Jesus. Therefore…

  • If we write about Ken Ham or creationism, it is so that Jesus’ church won’t forget that the story of creation is meant to lead us to Jesus and not to give us a scientific account of origins.
  • If we write about issues regarding the Bible, biblical authority, inerrancy, or interpretation, it is so that Jesus’ church won’t forget that the written word is only given to lead us to the Living Word.
  • If we write about the abuse of power in churches and among church leaders, we will do so to point people to King Jesus, who took his throne by way of the Cross.
  • If we mourn and mock the evangelical circus, our goal will be to carry on the prophetic tradition that culminated in Jesus — who had only words of disdain for those who set themselves up publicly as spiritual leaders but who, by their actions and words made a travesty of holiness and missed Jesus altogether.
  • If we write about the Christian Right, the Christian Left, or any other group that sacrifices the faith on the altar of political expediency, it will be to remind the church that Jesus’ kingdom is not grounded in this world’s ethos, and therefore his servants do not fight to secure it.
  • If we focus our attention on mainline Protestantism or any other Christian tradition, it will be to explore and affirm where Jesus may be seen or, alternatively, suggest why Jesus may have left the building.
  • And, if we write about our own lives and experiences, it is to try and capture in a specific human story the mystery of how the living King Jesus walks among his people.

Internet Monk exists so that Jesus’ church will never forget Jesus.

This is what it means when we say we are attempting to carry on Michael Spencer’s legacy of Jesus-shaped spirituality.

I hope you will continue to participate and help us stay true to our mission.

Comments

  1. Michael Haggard says

    So just write about Jesus… we will know the fakes by contrast alone. Frankly the whole, “that guy doesn’t get Jesus,” thing is getting to be just another circus. I started reading the IM blog because I saw Jesus there… more and more I am just seeing lists of what he is not. True, not in totality, but with regularity. Michael Spencer wrote with joy that I am not really seeing in the blog these days.

    • The Previous Dan says

      Michael-
      I think writing about Jesus includes all of the above. Just like the Bible is all about Jesus and yet it includes much more than the four gospels. Much of what is written in the Prophets has to do with “you guys don’t get God at all.” So there is a place for that.

    • Amen, unfortunately…

  2. This is the reason I love this blot.

  3. You’ve got it Chaplain Mike, just do it all.

    DSY

  4. Blog! I meant blot!

  5. Don’t forget us wacky Pentecostals, who base more of our theology from experience than from scripture… and apparently the barking is God’s way of telling me, “Yo, dawg, buy a Lexus.”

    No, I fully agree: There’s a lot in Christendom that’s gone wrong, because of course humanity has gone wrong, and claiming allegiance with Jesus is not a magic fix-all. The corrective is always to refocus on Christ.

  6. I love the focus on Jesus. Anything else and it is not Christianity.

  7. Marie Whitehead says

    Dear Michael- I love the taking the time to re-evaluate why you are doing what you are doing here. The focus on Jesus is crucial as many of the leaders you mentioned seemed to have lost their way on their journey of loving and knowing Jesus more. In reality, we also lose our way often and so need you and the other writers to help point the way at times. We need to hear truth about what is wrong for we can get caught up in some of the wrongs ourselves. But speaking truth should always be shaped by love- not the “be nice kind of love”, but the radical love of the Lord even when he was upsetting the religious institutions of the day, or even when He was dying on the cross for you and me.

  8. As publisher of InternetMonk, I wholeheartedly agree with and endorse all that Chaplain Mike shares in this post. And I know each of our other writers do as well. That is why we selected them. We will each come at this from varying angles, but our one purpose is the same: To center our focus on Jesus in all we do.

    Well said, Chaplain. Very well said indeed.

  9. The beautiful thing about Internetmonk is not how it latches on to the latest evangelical news, or how it encourages us toward historical patterns or worship, or its commentary on Christian culture…It’s how IM frames those things in ways that we don’t see other places. That’s what brought me here, and keeps me here.

    In the words of Erskine Caldwell’s Cumberland preacher from the book Deep South, “Folks like to listen to me preach. They like to hear about lying and fornicating and stealing the way I talk about it.” I like the way the iMonks talk about life and faith.

    You know, it never hurts to have more posts on fornication, though.

    • Lee, you must be a prophet. Stay tuned to hear iMonk talk about fornicating tomorrow morning.

    • Hail LEE, the prophet from the south ….

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      “Folks like to listen to me preach. They like to hear about lying and fornicating and stealing the way I talk about it.”

      i.e. “JUICY! JUICY! JUICY!”

      • I don’t know if you get alerts for this, but can you email me? jlteekell at gmail. I’ve been trying to track down your email but can’t.

  10. CM…& Jeff-

    I agree…the broad picture must be kept. However, I also hope it’s not at thee expesne of avoiding difficult topics. Some of what you wrote above I saw and continue to see affecting Christianity, friends, and others who I know or knew. Likewise I agree this is not a watch blog, it shouldn’t be an obsession. There are pitfalls and grander issues to keep in mind.

    But the cool thing is that you’ll allow a mutiny! 😀 As many places will not. On a side note it was kind of funny. Yesterday afternoon I went to an ubber, ubber, ubber triple dose pre-destination hyper Calvinistic church. It wasn’t my goal or idea…I went becuase a friend asked me to come to 1 servcie and I committed to it. As I sat through the Sovereign Grace service I heard the pastor make reference to evidence of the American revolution in the Smithsonian, the Declaration of Independence, etc.. as proof that the Revolution happened. He was trying to show the evidence existed for the resurrection in the tomb, and rebut agnostics and skeptics. As he was discussing the American Revolutuion I was thinking of what John MacArthur taught about the Egyptian reviolution and how the Egyptians were violating Romans 13.

    But for the most part I agree with you…I just ask that you keep in mind the broad picture of how some of what was written above harms Christianity.

    One more thought…it would be great if you had a book section to recommend books that you think would be helpful. Books such as Greg Boyd “Letters to a Skeptic”, CS Lewis “Mere Christianity” or Philip Yancey, “What Good is God?”

    Just my .02

  11. Clearly marking out the mission statement is appreciated. I’ve gotten a little weary about how so and so has totally missed the boat, or desparately needs our help. We need to be joyfully and intentionally identified FOR and WITH Jesus, more than against…… fill in the blank.

    It’s one thing to be in the wilderness, it’s another to celebrate being in it.

    This is still one of my favorite nieghborhoods, even if it isn’t real life.
    GregR

    • +1
      Here’s to hoping that the posts and comment threads that chronicle our collective momentary light afflictions will also encourage us to refocus on the eternal weight of glory.
      *clinking glasses*

  12. Bill Ferrell says

    I enjoy this blog, even when I disagree, which is rare. Much of Christianity is a circus these days, perhaps it always has been. I hope we can continue to discuss ideas with as much civility and grace as possible.

  13. Dan Crawford says

    Thank you, Chaplain Mike. You’re preserving Michael’s legacy in another way: you’re allowing him to speak for himself by giving us access to the Archives. I think we all miss Michael terribly, but we have his essays to remind us why we find this site so valuable.

  14. Thank you for your honesty and ability to re-examine. In all honesty, it is extremely easy to imply “These people don’t get Jesus as good as I do” and make a blog post about it. Everyone from bitter discernabloggers to sneering Christian Hipsters have shown how easy this is.

    Yes, I’m sure that it’s acceptable to respond and point out problems with the way Christians think about Jesus (and as the good Chaplain said, it’s hardly just the Evangelical Right that has a circus.). It’s good to encourage us to avoid the silliness of tacking our favorite political/memes/self-help thoughts onto the message of Christ. But spending the majority of your energy — whether online or in real life — pointing at things and yelling at them will hollow you out eventually.

    There’s a place for needing to critique, but if you focus is on the joy of Jesus you’re probably on the right path.

  15. Clay Knick says

    Keep on keeping on, Mike!

  16. David Cornwell says

    The balance found on Internet Monk is beyond compare. One of the strengths is the refusal to become centered around one area of peeve or tradition. Christians of diverse makeup are gathering here to share common concerns about the state of the church, theology, and spirituality. The steerage, it seems to me, is in good hands.

    I’ve always been a mainline Christian. However I’ve never absolved it from those errors which lead to disarray and decline. I’ve usually, however, had a connection with the evangelical world. In the past this was a source of strength and the infusion of something vital. Yet for so many years now, this world finds itself in even great disorder. But still, I want a connection that, more or less, has retrained its sanity. So, I thank God, for Internet Monk, Chaplain Mike, and Jeff. And to all the unusually gifted writers who give voice here.

    One element seems to me to be missing. We need some voices from the black church.

    • Yes, I would absolutely love to hear from our African-American sisters and brothers. If anyone has suggestions, let me know.

      • I wish i could fill in the “african american” role i’m a canadian born to immigrant Nigerian parents & a member of a liturgical Evangelical church(they exist). Perhaps you can Contact Rodney Thomas , from political jesus?

  17. Adam Palmer says

    This isn’t just a great philosophy for Internet Monk; this is the focus I try to view my day-to-day life with. I don’t always succeed, but doggone it I try. Thanks for articulating it so succinctly, Chaplain Mike.

    ap

  18. Thank you for the focus upon the the one and only reason of life – Jesus Christ. And this last weeks journey into Easter. It has been enriching and very insightful. This website is like no other – to be stretched in the faith of The Lord. Help me (all of us) to “Love you God and my neighbor” for when I am full of myself, it is all my self and not you, Lord. May all who are involved on this website be favored by you, Lord to draw all worship and praise to the only One worthy of all worship and praise, the Lord Jesus Christ by whom we pray.

  19. I have been reading this blog for about 6 years and have learned so much, for this I cannot thank you enough for all of yours (and Michael’s) work. My views have been radically changed from that of a cookie-cutter evangelical to …. well, I have no way to describe what I am now! 🙂

    Michael Spencer started another blog a few years back called, “Jesus Shaped Spirituality” (http://jesusshaped.wordpress.com/). He didn’t post much on it, but what he did do was try to make it “Jesus-centered” and let the more controversial topics stay on this blog. Has there been any interest in reviving this long-abandoned blog? It might be a good contrast to what takes place here.

    • Here’s a bit of Michael’s bio from Jesus Shaped Spirituality. I like to think that he’s in heaven right now, cooking Italian food for the mob.

      “Michael could be described as a libertarian-leaning conservative politically and an adventurous pilgrim theologically. He owes a lot to Baptists, the Apostles’ Creed, Raymond Brown, Ed Beavins, Eugene Peterson, Robert Capon, C.S. Lewis, the Gospel of Mark, Michael Horton, Greg Boyd, N.T. Wright, Shakespeare, his Dad, several pastors and always Martin Luther.

      Now that his kids are out of the house, he would love to move to a little church near a good uh….coffeeshop and a minor league ball park, work with university students and cook Italian food for the mob.

      If you want him to talk about Jesus or Post-Evangelicalism in person, he’d love to do it.”

  20. As Michael Haggard (and others) have said, keep the focus on Christ crucified for sinners.

    Yes, there is a good purpose in critiquing. We never judge anyone’s salvation. That doesn’t go on here. But it’s alright to point out when someone place us back at the center…instead of Christ and His cross.

    Methinks.

  21. As Michael Haggard (and others) have said, keep the focus on Christ crucified for sinners.

    Yes, there is a good purpose in critiquing. We never judge anyone’s salvation. That doesn’t go on here. But it’s alright to point out when someone places us back at the center…instead of Christ and His cross.

    Methinks.

  22. humanslug says

    As an evangelical (at least, I suppose I’m still an evangelical), I’d like to see more discussion and think-tanking on some practical things that people like me can do to bring about needed change and reform in our local evangelical communities. I’d like to hear from some evangelical pastors and leaders from churches that are promoting a more Jesus-centered, love-practicing, thoughtful, and intelligent yet humble brand of evangelicalism. I’d like to hear how they got started or how they managed to redirect their church’s focus and ethos from a feel-good, entertainment-driven environment to one that is truer to the teachings and example of Jesus.
    I guess I’m just looking for some hope — because sometimes I feel like I’m serving salad at a shark convention.

    • The Previous Dan says

      Yes. While I appreciate the mainlines (more than ever since become a reader here) I don’t think the answer is for all of us to leave our churches and become Lutherans. I too would like to hear from those who have seen real revival in their “revivalist tradition” churches. And I’m not talking about holy barking 🙂

  23. Joseph (the original) says

    i appreciate the focus of this blog whether it is addressing controversial Christianese circus stunts or quiet reflection as the topics lead the readers thru church calendar meanderings…

    i used to ‘feel’ strongly about how Jesus was misrepresented by the crazy uncle types & how they should be discussed by those that need a voice to vent. i realize though that i am not going to change the misrepresentation of Jesus by those that i feel have besmudged His reputation…

    my rants will not change the way others represent the God they claim to worship. i choose to avoid those people. i don’t need to conjure up some fake Christ-like affection for them simply because they claim to be in the same spiritual family. i will not be rubbing elbows with them in this life & however God wants to deal with such a situation in the next is fine with me. since He will not be misrepresented then there will be no need to put up with such craziness…

    carrying on the Spencer legacy cannot be replicated, however, it can be honored. and i do believe this is how everyone keeping this site going feels. not a cheap/lesser imitation, but a loving & respectful continuation of what we (the regular readers) enjoyed about Michael Spencer’s voice in the midst of the Evangelical wilderness we are stumbling thru looking for an oasis on our journey…

    blessings…

  24. The Internet Monk has given me permission, and given me the courage, for my own journey in the evangelical wilderness. I didn’t even know there was such a phrase until I stumbled upon IM. Many times when I was so scared of what I was doing, you have lifted the lamp up ahead of me on this path and waved me forward. I cannot believe I have come to the place where I am at this point. All I do know is that I needed and found the constant encouragement to keep on walking.

    Thanks Chaplain Mike, Jeff and all the other IMonks for encouraging one scared and lonely pilgrim. And Jeff thanks for the laugh-out-loud moments too!!

  25. “[Michael Spencer] wrote out of his own context as an evangelical, a Baptist, an English teacher, an American from Kentucky, a husband and father, a Merton afficionado, a music lover, and a minister of the Gospel.”

    You forgot “Cincinnati Reds fan.” 😉

    • Yeah, well I have a thing about that, you see…

      • I am Michigan gal Tiger fan! Do I risk being banned for rubbing salt into your wound? (However, the Reds are my 2nd choice!) Tigers Vs. Red Sox: Detroit Earns The Sweep With Walk-Off Win In 11th, 13-12
        I give a amen to Adrienne for her comment.

  26. This is the only blog I have ever read or participated in and I often find I don’t have sufficient time to get into the mix. At any rate, it was, when I found it, and continues to be, a lifeline where honest searchers can have real conversation that includes doubt and query without the threat of burning at the stake. Jesus said seek and you shall find but it seems when you ‘get saved’ everything has been found, thank you very much, so enough with the seeking already. Here are the rules, the lingo and the parameters. Stick to them and you are safe. It’s nice to be in the company (virtual though it is) of fellow seekers whose world is not shattered in the face of the occasional and inevitable errors that come with the legitamate search for the fullness of Christ. He will be found by those who diligently seek Him!

  27. Right on! Now all I have to do is follow this in my own life. But I guess that’s what The Walk is all about. Thanks for articulating this so well Mike!

  28. In my daily prayers, I thank God that I am an iMonk, and not a hypocrite like all those fundamentalists, TV evangelists, or “progressives.” Fundamentalists believe too much, while liberals don’t believe enough; both fall into the pit. iMonk should hew to the Center–which is Jesus Christ–and not shrink from condemning those who fall short of truth, and befoul his holy name with their man-centered theologies.

  29. yay! I like this post. It easy to become a critic…. and be grumpy… and then turn into a MacArthur….

    I like this post very much.

    Something I need to work when I write about Eschatology.