January 15, 2021

Second Anniversary Of The Saddest Day

April 5, 2010. A day that will forever be stuck in my heart as the day I lost the best friend I never met.

I “discovered” Michael the same way most all of you did: Through his writings on this site. At the time I had been walking with the Lord for more than 35 years, but I seemed to be stalled. I was working on the fringes of the evangelical circus as I had for so many years. First in radio, then magazines, then books. I rose (or, as some would put it, sank) to the ranks of literary agent, and it was in this capacity I met Michael. I was looking for new writing talent, someone I could sell to a publisher to make money. Yet even though I did this, my reward was far beyond dollar bills.

Michael’s writing quickly began cutting down deadwood in the forest of my heart. Trees that I thought to be sacred were felled by the axe of his essays. He fiercely—but not unkindly—cleared away dead theology that blocked my view of Jesus. If Michael did just one thing for me, he righted the compass of my spirit to point me back to Jesus.

We began as client and agent, but quickly grew to friends. I remember a Friday night, standing in my living room in Tulsa, talking to Michael in the hills of Kentucky. I was confident I would have a book contract for him early the following week from Random House and wanted to go over the details with him. When I told him how much they were offering as an advance, he was silent for a minute, then said, “Wow. And all I hoped for was enough money to buy a pair of pants that fit.”

We talked frequently from then on, sometimes about the book he was writing, sometimes about this site, sometimes about his favorite theological topic (grace), but mostly about his (and my) beloved Cincinnati Reds. My greatest sorrow is never meeting Michael in person.

Today we will hear from a few others their thoughts on how Michael Spencer affected their lives. If you don’t know the founder of InternetMonk, let these words introduce you to our good friend. (Some from iMonk writers, and two from Michael’s theological members-only pub, the Boar’s Head Tavern.) Then check out the archives to read the essays that continue to challenge so many of us to focus on Jesus.

Is it ironic or prophetic that this second anniversary of Michael’s passing falls on Opening Day for the Cincinnati Reds? Whatever, I miss Michael very much.

If there’s anything I can say about Michael Spencer and his legacy, it’s that he reminded me to keep the focus on Jesus. Period. Some had to step out into the Evangelical Wilderness through storms of doubt and broken faith to find that. But for me, because I resonated so strong with Michael’s writing, he made sense of my growing unease in the evangelical world before my faith was shipwrecked. To read Michael Spencer now in hindsight, through all the snark and angst over the deep troubles one finds in many of our traditions in the Christian family, one sees the call to trust Jesus. That’s where he got it right, and where he was at his best. I love Jesus more today because I read Michael’s words, and I train to be a pastor today because of his friendship.

Jason Blair (Boar’s Head Tavern)

Kyrie eleison

I never knew Michael Spencer personally (face to face), but I’ve known him verbally over the years. You might say I have known him as I do so many in my profession . . . literally (that is, literately). That’s the beauty of sharing one’s mind through the written word. There is a very real sense in which we are granted the privilege of glimpsing the depths of another’s mind, even beyond her- or himself.

What a privilege we have to be able to continue to know Michael better, beyond his death, through his written words.

Indeed, what I had grown so much to appreciate in his life, I can see more so profoundly in his death: a sharp, questioning, authentic soul that paradoxically engaged us, both relentlessly and yet somehow mercifully. Michael’s heart and mind, through his written words, are what they are still because he knew Christe eleison. He was a candidly and cannily incisive man who nevertheless rested in Christ’s mercy—a warrior in words who was a peacemaker at heart, because he knew peace personally.

What a beautiful irony that he should have passed into the personal presence of Light Eternal (et lux perpetua luceat eis) at such a time, that we can memorialize him in 2012 upon Maundy Thursday. The engaging, struggling, grappling, and authentic mind now grows and seeks and thrives far beyond our earth-bound imaginations; but fulfilled in that restful, sated peace that passes human understanding.

Requiem æternam dona eis, Domine.

Craig Bubeck

I don’t remember when I started regularly reading Michael Spencer on Internet Monk, but I remember the first day that God strongly used him in my life as vividly as though it were yesterday. I was 29, holding down a full-time job while serving as the full-time worship leader and as an elder at my church, all the while trying to juggle the responsibilities of a husband and father of two small kids. I had been through a very dry cycle of burnout, but was getting pressure from my pastor to hang in there – that the church “needed me” and that I would damage it if I stopped serving in some areas.  After one long evening discussion with my wife trying to figure out what we would do, I turned to my computer to do some blog reading before bed, and at the top of the queue was an iMonk post entitled “Quit and See What Happens”.

His words were a bolt of lightning illuminating the truth of my situation.

“Take a sabbath from church. Yes, a sabbath. God wants you to enjoy him, life, other people, maybe another church. He wants you to get your sour, guilt-ridden, manipulated, beaten down face out of that circus and save yourself. Life will go on at church without you. If it’s a healthy church, they will support whatever will make you a better Christian. If it’s a sick church with no appreciation for what dealing with them is doing to you, attempting to explain your time away is waste of time anyway. When you return to being somewhat balanced and normal, you can explain it them, and suggest they do the same.”

Classic iMonk.

That post from Michael was the kick I needed to start making changes. The ongoing influence of his writing, and of the community at the Boars Head Tavern, have been key in my growth from the safe-for-the-whole-family world of American Evangelicalism into a much broader, richer, truer experience and expression of faith, and for that reason I thank God always for Michael.

Chris Hubbs (Boar’s Head Tavern)

The best compliment I have ever received is a reply Michael made to a comment I posted in regard to I forget what topic now: “That’s a very Catholic way of using Scripture.”  I can thank Michael in large part for getting me to use Scripture in any form, Catholic or not, outside of the routine “Go to Mass, listen to the lectionary readings, wonder how far afield the homily will wander from the actual readings”.

I encountered Michael and the InternetMonk site in response to a request on a Catholic blog: here is this guy who wants to know what’s the Catholic view on this certain topic, can you guys go over and give him an answer from your perspective?  Seeing as how I never can keep from expressing an opinion, this was a heaven-sent opportunity to inflict it on an innocent bystander.

Then I hung around and kept coming back because here was this exotic creature, a genuine American Evangelical (or was it Fundamentalist?  I was confused as to the difference , if any), one of those types that we generally only hear about over here on the opposite side of the Atlantic in relation to protests about the Ten Commandments in courtrooms or literal six-day creation to be taught in schools or, whenever a political campaign was running, the Moral Majority.  If we ever saw an example of the breed, it was on very late-night satellite or cable channels in the person of a big-haired televangelist speaking in what as might well be tongues, so different was the context of the belief being preached.  From an Irish perspective, our home-grown example would have been the Reverend Ian Paisley, who stood up in the European Parliament when Pope John Paul II was invited to speak and denounced him as the Anti-Christ (and I won’t even go into the massive influence Rev. Dr. Paisley had in Northern Irish politics all during the years of ‘the Troubles’).

Michael wasn’t like that.  For a start, he didn’t seem to think that Catholics would automatically be burning in Hell; he even seemed to regard us as Christians, even if he disagreed with certain doctrines or interpretations.  Yes, he came out of a Baptist tradition, but he wasn’t an alien.  The longer I stayed, the more I got to understand of what all these odd terms and foreign tongues meant; thanks to Michael and the discussions that were on iMonk, I finally learned – for instance – that we Catholics are amillenials (something I never knew before because the Rapture is not conceived of in the same way).  Here was a Protestant, a brother in Christ and not to be dismissed merely as a heretic (as the Popes since Vatican II kept telling us not to dismiss them) and what is more, he was willing to do the same for me and mine; it is presumptuous of me, but the best way I can describe my reaction to finally going beneath the surface and finding out “So what are these Evangelicals banging on about anyway?” is to swipe Tolkien’s description of the encounter between Gimli and Galadriel:

“Dark is the water of Kheled-zaram, and cold are the springs of Kibil-nala, and fair were the many-pillared halls of Khazad-dum in Elder Days before the fall of the mighty kings beneath the stone.” She looked upon Gimli, who sat glowering and sad, and she smiled. And the Dwarf, hearing the names given in his own ancient tongue, looked up and met her eyes; and it seemed to him that he looked suddenly into the heart of an enemy and saw there love and understanding. Wonder came into his face, and then he smiled in answer.

I enjoyed Michael’s podcasts.  I enjoyed Michael’s posts.  I enjoyed that even where there was disagreement, there was still the recognition of the Body of Christ.  I was and am very sad that he left us so soon.  I am very glad for the chance he gave me to meet you all.

Requiem aeternam dona ei , Domine, et lux perpetua luceat ei . Requiescat in pace. Amen.

Martha of Ireland

In late 2007 I was searching for some internet resources about what Baptists believe about baptism when I found a series of tremendous articles by Darryll Pursiful who blogs at pursiful.com.  As I started to read Darryll’s post on a regular basis, he kept directing me to another blogger named Michael Spencer at InternetMonk.com.  As I read Michael’s work I was immediately hooked, and couldn’t wait to see what he had for his audience to read the next day.  I commented to my wife that “Lots of people can write the occasional significant piece, but this guy does it day after day after day.”  Michael was brilliant, profound, witty, and most of all transparent.  Many times I laughed along with him, cried along with him, and screamed in frustration along with him, all with never having met the man.  Here was a Baptist who didn’t fit the mold, and wasn’t (too) afraid to lay it all out for everyone to read.

I had been commenting at Internet Monk for about nine months when Michael’s posts on “The Coming Evangelical Collapse” had been picked up by the Christian Science Monitor and Internet Monk took off.  His piece was an opinion piece, and while I knew that his arguments were sound, I thought I could offer some statistical support.  Michael accepted, and after having written a few guest posts, he graciously gave me an open invitation to contribute whenever I wanted.  (Unfortunately other life events has greatly curtailed this.)  Little did I know that in a few short months he would be dead.

His death hit me hard.  I felt that I had lost a mentor, a kindred spirit, and a friend.  Here was an extremely gifted man, who the world was just starting to get to know.  The book, Mere Churchianity, that he had just finished writing would have been one of many.

To end on a positive note:  I am happy to see that Michael Spencer’s voice has not been lost.  I am thankful that with the blessing of Denise Spencer, and through the efforts of Chaplain Mike, Jeff Dunn, and the other guest writers, the ministry of Michael Spencer and Internet Monk continues to live on and flourish.

Mike Bell

And finally, a word from Chaplain Mike:

I had been wandering in the post-evangelical wilderness for a long time. But I never knew what to call it until I began reading Michael Spencer. And I never knew a genuinely safe place to talk about it until I entered the discussions on Internet Monk. Then I knew I had found a guide, and a group of fellow-wanderers.

Several extraordinary, unexpected turns led to Michael entrusting the primary writing responsibility of the blog to me — a pure gift that I treasure. I strive to make sure we are carrying on his voice (and adding to it our complementary voices). Each day, we attempt to see to it that Jesus’ church will never forget Jesus.

Our prayers are with Denise, Noel and Ryan and Silas, Clay, as well as the worldwide family of friends and family who love Michael, the Internet Monk.



  1. It’s hard to believe it has been two years since Michael died. I loved his writings and as Michael Bell wrote above, I was amazed that he could keep on cranking out such inspired and inspiring pieces. He made me laugh and cry, sitting there alone at my computer, usually quite late at night. His writings were more than words; they were gifts that he kept on giving to the world even though he had a busy life himself. He was not perfect and he surely would be the first to let you know that, but his acknowledgment of that lack of perfection freed his readers to also be honest with themselves and others to some extent.

    I am so happy that Chaplain Mike and Jeff Dunn put in the time and work and money to keep this blog going. There are wonderful writers and commenters! It’s the best place to be on the internet.

    Thanks to all of you here.

  2. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    Michael Spencer.
    Internet Monk.
    One of those professional Christians who had his head screwed on straight. Real straight.

  3. I am trying to find the archived post ““Quit and See What Happens”, anyone have a link?

    • Me too! I did a search but didn’t come up with anything.

    • Michael may have removed it. He makes note of it here.


    • If you really do want to read it (because Michael did remove it), it is available here:


      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Don’t know why he removed it. It prefigures a lot of the themes in Mere Churchianity. And my writing partner (the burned-out preacher-man) has told me similar horror stories.

        Also, Michael’s conclusion and solution echoes what I’ve seen of Judaism, where a lot of emphasis is on Living Your Life. Like God is saying, “Keep my Commandments, but Live Your Life.” In a lot of churches, you give up having a life to be Godly/Saved/Whatever — from “worldly (TM)” or “fleshly (TM)” to “It’s All Gonna Burn (TM)”. You can lose your life and humanity until all that’s left is a worship bot, in Church doing Churchly things 24/7.

        • He did not really remove that post. There are many, many older posts that are unavailable Through the site archives because Michael experimented early on with various software, formats, and web services. This came to my attention only this week when I tried to find this post. In the days ahead I hope to be discovering many hidden treasures of Michael’s writing!

          • The web archive mentioned in my link is a great way to retreive older material.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            Were you able to recover any of his archived podcasts?

          • What explicitly is missing?

          • Chaplin Mike…you do a good job. Both you and Jeff Dunn do a good job keeping this blog going. But there are many times I wonder…

            What would Mike Spencer say about the following?

            1. Mark Driscoll’s “Real Marriage”
            2. John Piper’s Masculine Christianity
            3. John Piper on tornadoes
            4. Tim Challis on why women can’t read scripture in the presence of men…
            5. Issues going on with The Gospel Coalition
            6. Acts 29 movement
            7. How are mainlines responding to the issues in evangelicalism.
            8. Spiritual authority being used to silence dissent.
            9. Third Wave Movement
            10. and much, much more….

            You and Jeff Dunn have done a good job, but sometimes I wonder..what would Michael Spencer say….

          • Carmichael says

            Michael Bell says:
            April 5, 2012 at 10:50 pm
            What explicitly is missing?

            Podcasts 1 through 47 and 82 through 99 are missing. I’d love to have them.

            Also, if you could provide a Wayback Machine link to the post where Michael explained why he gave up the House Church and rejoined his local Baptist congregation, I would very much appreciate having that. Michael took it down because some of the things he said hurt specific people. I understand, but I have many times wished I could send that post to some of the (mostly) young people of my acquaintence who don’t think ‘church’ is relevant to their Christian walk.

            Thanks in advance.

  4. Rob Grayson says

    Through his writings, Michael introduced me to the grace of God – and the ridiculousness of our misguided attempts at proving how worthy we are – in a way I had never known before. I can honestly say that it began a life-altering process. It also led me to read and come to love wonderful writers like Robert Farrar Capon. I am very grateful for Michael’s life and legacy, and only sad that it was cut short.

  5. The first time I ever found this site I was doing searches on the internet for various things. At that time I was confused by a great many things in evangelical Christianity and worse I felt trapped. The culture I was in wasn’t kind to questions, or doubts, or anything that seemed to stray from the status quo. The first essay I read was Michael’s essay on our problem with Grace. I don’t mean to get dramatic here, but up to that point it was one of the best things I had read on the subject of Grace. I quickly bookmarked his site and over the next few months poured through his essays. Where I was stuck before I found this site the only people I heard from I felt was always guarding something. Where all I wanted was pure honesty I got guarded answers.

    But here was this man who not only gave the appearance of being completely open and honest, but also held no reservations and even opened up about painful subjects as well. As a person who suffered with depression before his essay on the topic was the best medicine I could get from someone relating to that subject whereas before all I could get from evangelicals was talk about open doors from something I did which just made things worse. I kept on reading and reading just about every essay in the archives I could, and what ended up happening was I started to get it. But then after months of reading nothing but the archives I started to read the actual blog and learned about the untimely passing of Michael Spencer. I was shocked and even though I had never met him, and never seen his blog while he was still alive his loss hit me not only because I felt for his family and loved ones, but it actually hit on a personal level as well.

    His essays and blog posts are some of the best writing I have read and I credit him with showing me that it wasn’t wrong to have questions and want true honest answers. He showed how making Jesus the center of it all helps it make sense. His book was amazing and while I hardly ever comment here I have been an avid reader for over a year now. I think those who continue on with this site do a great job in carrying on his work. Headless Unicorn Guy couldn’t have hit the nail anymore square on the head with his comment:

    “One of those professional Christians who had his head screwed on straight. Real straight.”

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      He had his head screwed on straighter than mine, that’s for sure.

      And my writing partner has told me my head’s screwed on straighter than a LOT of the Christians he’s counseled over his career. (And THAT’s scary!)

  6. I was directed to Michael’s writings when I was going through a period of intense anxiety and depression which largely centered around my relationship with God. The first essay I read left me crying tears of relief that I wasn’t alone. It’s been seven years since I first started lurking here, and I’ve found such encouragement and grace. I’m grateful for the legacy he has left behind.

  7. I thank God for Michael Spencer.

    My relationship to the Internet Monk is one of those strange coincidences that only God can seem to engineer.

    I have been a believer since 1973. Since I have lived in many places, we have pretty well made the rounds as far as evangelical fellowships are concerned.

    My last one was a big stretch, 3rd wave charismatic where at least they recognized that going forward there needs to be some big changes. They kept on saying ‘God is building a new container for the future’. Only what they seemed to dream up looked suspiciously like baby boomer culture and a form of Christianity that is simply an expression and reinforcement of boomer and gen X ideals.

    I began to wonder if the problem was the church being stuck in the contemporary and never being able to see beyond that. Enter the Internet Monk. Here was someone online saying things I had felt for years. And moving in much the same direction as I.

    Since we are good evangelicals we say that the bible is all we need, and since the simple interpretation is the right one we end up every generation having to find it again. And the problem is we can’t see that our own culture and situation will cause us to interpret scripture differently in each generation.

    Slowly I began to realize that a big part of the problem is that our refusal to recognize the voice of the church throughout history has led to us having to constantly reinvent the wheel.

    I have finally come to rest at Canterbury. But I have felt all along the way the voice of Internet Monk encouraging me that I am not headed off to oblivion, but that the path is well trod and the reason it is so worn is that millions have walked before us.

    Thanks Michael Spencer, and Jeff and Chaplain Mike.

  8. God directed me to this site at a time when I was beginning to feel so completely out of step with other evangelical Christians around me that I was beginning to wonder about my own salvation. Michael’s writings and the responses from all of you made me realize that there are many, many others who are dissatisfied with the Church as it is now and who desperately want just Christ. I’m awed to be in your company and thank all of you for everything you’ve taught me the last several years. I’ll always be grateful to Michael for being honest and keeping it real.

    John 16:22

  9. Donalbain says

    I don’t think I ever agreed with anything that Michael ever wrote. But that is what happens when a liberal atheist reads the words of a conservative Christian. But, in a way that has never happened with only one other blogger, I loved him. His goodness was self evident in his writing, and his desire to make the world a better place was tangible. The world is a better place for having him in it, and I am a better person for having read what he wrote.

    • You are probably in the right place where the liberals call you conservative and the conservatives call you liberal. Which is pretty much where Michael was.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Unfortunately, often the only way you know you’re on the right path is when you’re getting shot at from both sides. (I think there’s some precedent mentioned in both Chesterton’s & Lewis’s non-fiction works.)

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      But that is what happens when a liberal atheist reads the words of a conservative Christian.

      Didn’t Oriana Falacci say something like “When an Atheist and a Pope agree on something, it’s important.”?

  10. Radagast says

    I started reading internetmonk around 2006-2007 having been directed here from another site. I think at the time I was satisfying an itch to see how the other half lives – being Catholic and all. But what I found was a man who could write authentically, with much depth and conviction. I soon read all of the archived essays and came back to lurk (I didn’t think my quality of writing was up to snuff with many of the commenters at this site to contribute on a regular basis). I found it interesting to hear his words as Denise approached the decision to become Catholic. I got a glimpse of his struggles with the faith, I respected him for his focus on Merton and enjoyed reading about his revelations after going on retreats at Gethsemene.

    I also enjoyed the folks he attracted to the site, the commenters who are both intelligent and yet tolerent of other points of view. This site has been a comfortable place to come to and very good place to exchange ideas, share emotions.

    I never met Michael, or talked to him though I listened to a few podcasts, but I was sad at his passing and even mentioned it to my wife who had no idea what I was talking about. I believe he enriched me and at times got me to think outside of my box, got me to think past the us and them mentality… and for that I am grateful.

  11. I stumbled onto Michael’s writings after he passed away. A google search led me to the Christian Science Monitor site where I read “The Coming Evangelical Collapse”. In words I could never write, he expressed many of the concerns that I had about the state of things. From there, I came to this site and devoured his essays. I found there what many of you have already expressed — vulnerability, humility, intelligence, kindness, concern, courage to address real problems, and most importantly a profound Christ-centeredness. I am honored and humbled to post comments with all of you here, and I appreciate the efforts of all of you who continue this man’s legacy.

  12. I echo the comments of the unmet mentor. When I was grappling with what Grace and the Gospel really was I had asked Michael if he could review my sermons to see if I was on tract. He agreed but within a week he was diagnosed. That’s why I love the “Classic iMonk” posts every Sunday.

  13. The Previous Dan says

    Jeff –
    Thank you for this post. I did not start coming here and reading until shortly after Michael died and so I have only slowly been figuring out what InternetMonk is all about. But I can say that Michael’s legacy here has influenced my thinking and caused me to reexamine many of my previously settled beliefs. Thank you to all of you who have carried on his ministry.

    • I, too, found I-Monk shortly after Michael left us here to go Home, and started with many of his archived posts. As all of us seem to be saying, his sanity and compassion spoke to me as a Christian (and like many other Catholic I-Monkers, it was a chance to understand doctrines and practices of the non-Roman flavor withOUT the nasty and untrue diatribes that are so EASY to find on line.)

      This is one of the few sites that is bookmarked on EVERY computer I touch (and I have to change seats at work a lot, so that makes for a fair number of computers with I-MONK at the very top of the drop down screen.)

      As others have stated far better than I, I have found the regular community here to be my religious studies on-line coffee and reading group…..and sort of a mini-church, at least to my heart and soul!

  14. Jack Heron says

    It was only last year that I discovered iMonk, so I regret greatly that I could only ever look back on someone I did not meet until they had gone. Nonetheless, Michael’s writing totally drew me in. He had the mark of a great essayist – I read him because his thoughts are well-sculpted and utterly his, not caring in the slightest whether we would have agreed or disagreed.

  15. I noticed several in the comments that have only been acquainted with Michael for the past year or so. If you never listened to him speak (or if you miss hearing him speak, like I do) I have collection of his podcasts here: http://themasterstable.wordpress.com/the-imonk-podcastradio-archive/

    I was privileged to know Michael in person before even learning about Internet Monk. I’ve thought of many different things to say here, and I’ve started twice and deleted it all. I am going to leave it at that – I was privileged to know Michael.

  16. Jeff, the responses to this post, and the revelation that there are more treasures buried on the web, prove that it’s time for a sequel to Mere Churchianity.

    Can you bundle up some of these classics by topic, and with a little editing and proofreading, publish an anthology-style volume? Kind of a “Portable Spencer”?

    And then another?

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      How about a title like “Musings of the Internet Monk”?

    • It is being worked on as you speak, er, write, Ted!

      How many do you think would buy such a book?

      • I’d buy such a book. I’d love to have a collection of his writings in print. If you can collect the ones at archive.org, that would be terrific.

        I was somewhat disappointed with Mere Churchianity… I can’t put my finger on why, but it was as if his voice changed and he was saying things with a little more edge than I remembered from his posts. So a collection of essays would be welcome, to me at least.

        • He did have a different voice in the book, but I wouldn’t call it more of an edge–to me it seemed like he was holding back a bit, tailoring to a broader audience. In the imonk essays, which were presented more to a live audience, he had a lot more punch, and this was backed up by his real-time comments to others, which I miss very much.

      • How many? No clue. Is anybody buying books at all these days? Besides you and me?

      • I’d buy it and extra copies to give to friends. What I want to know is, how well has the first one done?

      • I sure would!

        Just a question (I know sub-zero about publishing!)…would a Kindle book be easier or cheaper???

        Not rhetorical, btw.

      • Readers of Internet Monk told Michael for years he should write a book. His response was that no one would buy a volume of 50 essays on different topics. I told him then he was wrong about that. I would still love to buy that book.

        Also, I’m stockpiling print copies of books; that Y2K thing could happen yet.

        • The Previous Dan says

          If not Y2K then solar flairs, emps, or hackers. But, yep, it’s all going to come crashing down and then all those books will come in real handy. The thing about paper is that it is thinner, lighter, and has better resolution than even the best tablet pc.

      • Count me in; if it’s less than $20, maybe several copies..

  17. I found this site when experimenting around looking for another Michael Spener’s web site to see how well indexed it was. This was when over 20 comments for a post meant passions were stirred.

    I found out MS articulated my feelings about the church (lower case c) better than anyone I’d read or heard. This was during a lead up to being told that since I wasn’t YEC I was likely not a Christian.

    And more interesting, to me, was that the MS I was searching for is an atheist. And has become a somewhat regular reader of this site. But still an atheist.

    Interesting the paths we walk.

  18. When I Am Weak: Embracing Weakness and refusing to be a good Christian.
    Don’t know how I landed at IM about two and a half years ago. My first encounter left me in tears, and gave me back a little slice of hope that maybe, just maybe, Jesus does set the table for sinners like me. Lord knows I never heard anything like that back in my fundy days. I am grateful beyond words for M.S. and I.M.

  19. I was looking for info about a fellow, now deceased, named Dr. Bruce Morgan (one of the greatest prophets to the post evangelical world of our generation) when I stumbled into Michael’s site. I am forever greatful for that turn! God bless you Michael.

  20. Michael Spencer might seem the voice of reason in comparison to the other Evangelicals whom he critiqued, but was as bigoted and opinionated as anybody in the blogosphere. For example, he had nothing good to say about Swedenborgianism (which he considered a cult) or Ethiopian Orthodoxy (which he thought over-emphasizes the Virgin Mary), and nurtured the same sort of vitriol for Bill Clinton that Evangelicals nowadays reserve for Obama. Even if he didn’t think that the pope is the antichrist, his wife’s conversion to Catholicism was clearly a painful issue for him, so let’s not paint him as this friendly ecumenical figure. And for liberals, his “Jesus-shaped theology” (to use his failed attempt to coin a marketable buzzword) is not much of an improvement over “the Evangelical Circus.”

    • If everything you say is true, then isn’t it just incredible that that bigoted, opinionated, failed marketer of catch phrases has had such a profound effect on all of these people. I guess it proves that even the worst of us can make a difference if at the conclusion it remains to be about Jesus. And hey Huey, you must be a real kick on the local memorial circuit. I think this post was about honoring a man who has obviously touched numerous lives in a substantive way, not arguing and comparing notes. My two cents. Your comments just jumped out as jarring and out of place in the context.

      • …may I add ungracious, un-called for, and unkind….?

        This says much more about Huey than Micheal. 🙁

    • He’d probably like this comment. Yep, he was a sinner, probably more stubborn than most. He knew that. He knew that meant the Law had done its work and the way was clear for the Gospel to do its work.

      • I found iMonk after dabbling in liberal ELCA churches in college, experimenting with E-Free, Campus Crusade after that, and then almost converting to Rome while in a Catholic grad school. Started researching history and theology more to determine whether Rome had changed its doctrines as much as friends had claimed, and I landed here somehow. He confirmed all of my reasons for not seeing baptist, nondenom, charismatic churches as serious, in an entertaining way. I found the confessional Lutheran Blogosphere at the same time and returned to the LCMS of my youth, but kept coming back here because it’s the best ecumenical, Christ-centered blog on the internet.

    • Sorry to see that you seemed to have missed what MS was all about.

      Michael Spencer might seem the voice of reason in comparison to the other Evangelicals whom he critiqued, but was as bigoted and opinionated as anybody in the blogosphere.

      He was willing to point out issues when and where and how he saw them. Most want to sweep them under the rug. He was also know for say he was wrong about something and apologizing.

      For example, he had nothing good to say about … or Ethiopian Orthodoxy (which he thought over-emphasizes the Virgin Mary),

      I remember that post(s). He had a student from there who was constaintly correcting everyone who discussed the Gospel message and didn’t include Mary. To the point of it being very disruptive.

      and nurtured the same sort of vitriol for Bill Clinton

      I don’t remember it coming through that way but all of us should think long and hard before we raise up someone for accomplishments in one area while ignoring huge moral failings in other areas.

      Even if he didn’t think that the pope is the antichrist, his wife’s conversion to Catholicism was clearly a painful issue for him
      Yes it was. And he went back and pulled many of his anti Catholic articles that in hindsight he realized where emotional attacks and not reasoned ones based on biblical principles. In the end he seemed to make peace with his wife’s conversion and even talked about appreciating much the RCC had to offer. But he did make it clear he could not imagine every crossing the Tiber.

      so let’s not paint him as this friendly ecumenical figure. And for liberals, his “Jesus-shaped theology” (to use his failed attempt to coin a marketable buzzword) is not much of an improvement over “the Evangelical Circus.”</I

      From my reading of him for something like 5 or 7 years he never thought of himself as such. And I never saw him attempt to coin any phrases outside of using them as a short hand for his message. And yes, liberals who really don't believe in the core evangelical message will never like much of anything he said. He was wanting to "fix" evangelicalism, not destroy it.

      • Last para is me. I messed up the ending tag.

      • This is how I remember those conversations as well. Sometimes he was just ranting about an event going on in his life and over time and after some thought he would sometimes go back and amend those comments.

  21. I stumbled onto iMonk in, what, 2007? 2008? Dunno, but I’ve been reading for at least 4 or 5 years. Ever since I found it, I’ve been hooked.

    Honor must be given where honor is due. Michael Spencer was a man whom God used to help shape me. His words, his essays, his thoughts, his prayers- these became a part of my daily rhythm, my life. He showed me so much more than I ever though I could see. He showed to me that Christianity was much bigger than I could have imagined; even if I knew this intellectually, he revealed it to me in reality. He gave me this safe place to voice my thoughts, concerns, and prayers. I have learnt here not only to debate, but to listen and learn.

    Most importantly, he showed me Jesus. Whatever his flaws, whatever our disagreements, he kept pointing to Jesus. That was, in the end, what did (and has) endeared him to me. He didn’t have all the answers, but Michael did point to the Answer: Jesus. Christ and Him crucified. The Lamb of God. The Risen Savior. For this, beyond everything else, was Michael’s pearl of great price.

    I count Michael Spencer among my mentors in the Faith. May God grant rest unto His servant, and may he come to share in the Resurrection and Eternal Life which our Savior has won for us.

  22. I found Michael through a friend while attending a class on Theology, I had never heard of Michael at all. But my friend told me that I sounded like someone who would like what Michael was saying. That night I started to read through the archives, the more I read, the more amazed I became. Here was someone who GOT what I was struggling with, who could give voice to my angst and pain, especially at the way the church was being run.

    I had never heard anyone with the guts to just say it like it was, I fell in love with what Michael represented, a way to get back to what Christianity is supposed to be about, putting the Christ back in Christianity.

    I was so enamored that I wrote a letter to Michael, but what I didn’t know was that Michael was already ill. Denise responded that he was sick and could not answer, I felt like a giant heel. My astonishment turned to concern, the day Michael passed, I cried, a hero had left a void. I wasn’t sure anyone could again voice my heart with such clarity as Michael had done. In these two years, this site has changed my life, I’m Roman Catholic now (and may be Orthodox in the near future), which is the opposite direction from being a Southern Baptist.

    I will always have a huge debt of gratitude to Michael, Denise and the people who run this site. I stopped for a moment at work today when I realized it had been two years, we lost a very dear friend last week. And another just missed the reapers fingers last night, so it’s been a hard week. I didn’t cry on the outside, but on the inside, I cried all day.

    I just can’t articulate with words, how much Michael, and everyone here means to me.

    He will always be my hero, and he will always be missed.


  23. Michael helped me see that Christianity was more about following Jesus than about following the Christian religion. I thank God for Michael Spencer’s time on earth and the Internet Monk site.

  24. I stumbled upon internet monk through the podcast. Having been just run out of my first church job, I was becoming quite skeptical of evangelicalism, so I was looking for resources on Zen Buddhism and Spencer came up on a search for “monk.” My first reaction was, “Who’s this whiney hick with the gaul to criticize Rick Warren? Is he jealous or does he just hate Jesus?” …so blinded was I by the glam of celebrity pop-evangelicalism. But I couldn’t stop listening. There was the ring of truth to it, and I found myself quickly questioning things I never considered before. I have never enjoyed so much learning how wrong I was about so many things. Spencer knew how to serve up the best sacred cow ever. He opened my eyes to the broader Christian tradition and served as a portal for my online theological self-education that is becoming a lifetime hobby. What I have learned here from him and others has drastically altered the course of my life for the better, and I am grateful to continually drink from the well. Before coming here, I was a trend-seeking “worship leader” chasing a church growth pipe dream. Now I am an organist and choir director exploring the depth of riches in 2000 years of church music, and I have found a spiritual home that is truly shaped around Jesus.

  25. I remember when I sat down at the computer and typed into google “Where does a Christian go to in a Spiritual Crisis”. The first hit was for the Christian Monist blog. It was through the Christian Monist that I found IM. MS was already sick and CM was writing. But I went into the archieves and found some gems.

    I can’t tell you IM what this place means to me. It’s been a shoulder to cry on, a place to take refuge. It’s also been a place to vent and a place to try and let go of past experiences. This place has been like family. I wish it wenr’t virtual…but in person.

    I need to get to bed but I’m going to try an evangelical church this weekend. That and I’ve been asked by a freind to come to another service as well. This will be interesting….. 2 services in one day. I’ve avoided most churches like cancer and went to 3 services last year. So I guess that is progress in the right direction. but you know what I also discovered in reading Philip Yancey’s “What’s So Amazing About Grace?” I leanred that there is a huge difference between forgiveness and pardon. I wonder how many people mix them up. Count me as one of them! 😉

    • Eagle,

      A couple of (hesitant) thoughts for you.

      You had mentioned previously that if Chaplain Mike had a church in your city, you would want to go. I think that there might be a Chaplain Mike in every city. He (or she) may just be a little hard to find.

      Secondly, try to look for the good in what you experience. I know that if I go to a church looking for what they are doing wrong, I will always find something, and never be happy. This doesn’t mean shutting your brain off at the door, but rather giving fallible human beings a chance.

      I greatly appreciate your comments here on internetmonk, and would love to hear how your weekend went.

    • Eagle,

      Part of me wants to scream… NO don’t go back!

      Am I over-reacting? Yes, it is Easter weekend after-all.

      I hope you will share a bit about it. You do speak for some of us!

      • I hear you Gail…I really do. I posted an update on the April 7th post. The real question is will there be a place big enough and patiant enough for my doubts, concerns, etc.. I do not intend to repeat the past. Yet at the same time my life feels so miserable since this all started. It’s almost 4 years and I still am trying to fgiure things out and let go of past expereinces.

        But I don’t enjoy where I am in life and I realize that many sides have their flaws and no one is perfect. I just think many of the fundagelicals are in denial about some aspects of faith.

        • Eagle, I will look to find your update for the 4/7/12 post.

          It took me almost 7 years after I left the evangelical circus to listen to Christian radio/music or read Christian books, & that includes the BIBLE. (not proud of that) My heart was furious & hard and I was miserable… Life just sucked the living out of me. God imo is very odd.

          I am delighted to hear that you do not intend to repeat the past… your eyes have been opened… so there is no going back. Just know, even if this sounds as corny as can be… that you are in my prayers a lot. You have a way of naming truth/ reality that tickles my fancy.

          Yup no-one is perfect…( I still have a mini grudge from the gals at my old church who mastered the art of whitewashing their reality… and yet being 100% proficient at dealing with the speck in my eye while ignoring the plank protruding out theirs, UGH…. my best to you!

  26. Another Mary says

    Can’t remember exactly how I found it, about 3 years ago. My spirit was hungry and his writings answered a need. It flat blew me away to read someone who was completely commited to Christ and yet willing to be transparent about the mess we have made of the church on many levels.
    I know I am not alone in saying that I just miss him. I miss his voice, irreverence, his total love for Christ and dead on commitment to exploring the journey.

  27. sarahmorgan says

    I’ve been reading IMonk for almost 10 years, I think — 2002 or so? I found it through Amy Welborn’s first blog. I can’t thank Michael Spencer enough for all the words he wrote during that time — they were immeasurably edifying. The first half of that time was when I lived in one place, and the essays showed me about what kind of evangelical one ought *not* to be and how to firmly center oneself in Jesus, important words for a worship leader making the transition between worshipping God the “old” (traditional) style and worshipping Him in a more modern, in-the-here-and-now style. The second half was after I moved far away to a new location, and my faith was nearly destroyed in a spiritually abusive evangelical church, and other local churches I attended after extricating myself from the first were so self-centered, self-exalting, and self-serving that I just can’t accept them as actual churches led by Christ. Michael’s essays were often like a lifevest that prevented me from sinking throughout all that unexpected church/spiritual turmoil, and taught me that being exiled in the evangelical wilderness wasn’t the same as being abandoned by God. I was exactly the kind of person he wrote Mere Churchianity for, and I hope, in some way, he is now fully aware of how many people he blessed with his own spiritual wanderings while here on earth.

  28. I first started reading IMonk around 2005 or 2006, and to this day can’t remember how I found it. I know Michael Spencer was fond of the phrase “post-evangelical wilderness”, but oddly enough he led me through my pre-evangelical wilderness. After college, over a period of a few years I turned from a non-practicing Catholic to a faithful attendee at an EV-free church. My husband grew up in this church, and it wouldn’t have been my first choice. Michael showed this snarky, sarcastic liberal that there was a way to exist thoughtfully and/or uneasily in the evangelical church and to make a home there. Seven years later I love these people dearly, with all their flaws and foibles, because I see myself in them. Michael’s constant reminder of grace is never far from my mind, and his essay “When I am weak” still comforts when I’m feeling decidedly non-victorious. Lord knows I didn’t always agree with him, but he pointed me on the path toward God more than anyone else on this earth. And what a community he created here!

    Longtime lurker, very infrequent poster, but always reading. Rest in peace Michael, and bless you Denise, the Spencer kids, and everyone who works so hard to keep IMonk running.

  29. I never knew Michael in person, but it felt like almost a physical blow when I learned of his death. I started reading his blog almost two years before he died, and it was and continues to be a crucial help to me in a time of doubt and searching and analysis after having suffered some varied abuses too long and hurtful to detail here, and a lot of the goofiness of the evangelical circus. I’m still not certain exactly where I will land, only that it will be somewhere where Jesus is at the center of things (and a lot of other things aren’t!). And Michael has a lot to do with that.

    Yup, he had his head on straight, and he never minced words. I’m thankful for CM and all of you who carry on his legacy, but I still miss his unique prophetic and so very human voice. I hope I get to have some long conversations with him in Heaven someday.

  30. thank you for continuing ‘IMonk’

  31. I am a Democrat, liberal, Catholic woman and I loved Michael’s writings, opinions, rants. (It’s interesting that he has a number of Catholic women here who love him.) I didn’t always agree with me, but mostly I did. I would say we agreed on things maybe 90% of the time. There were some times when he got annoyed with some commenters when I was not annoyed by them. He banned a woman who brought up a number of times the way she prayed and worshiped and I was saddened by that because I liked reading that woman’s comments.

  32. Dan Crawford says

    Nearly six years ago, I stumbled on Internet Monk when I was surfing the web in a desperate attempt to relax from a hard day in ministry. The post I read had to do with the toll that ministry takes on families, and how ministers because of their idolatry of the institution and the “job” make it even more difficult for their spouses and children. He wrote so well and so bluntly that I knew I had to make Internet Monk a place where I stopped every day. He could at the same time amaze and irritate me. His emphasis on Jesus-shaped spirituality helped center me when I needed to educate my congregation about the real importance of the church. His thoughts on infant baptism, on the other hand, provoked a comment from me which suggested that Michael had slipped into a peculiarly Protestant form of works righteousness.

    Michael never disappointed me. He was, sometimes in spite of himself, one of the most ecumenical (in the best sense of that word) Christians I ever encountered. He seemed to delight in finding Christ even in theologies and worship incompatible with his own views. And his incisive critiques of the various foibles and perversions of Christianity, especially media Christianity, showed how counterfeit and potentially destructive they were.

    Michael loved Jesus, and his passion for Christ put me to shame. I am, after all, priest, a minister like Michael, but all too often too much caught up in matters which are in the grand scheme of things, fairly trivial. Reading his posts, I found myself sitting at the feet of one of the best retreat masters I had ever had.

    Michael was a lover, and lovers are impassioned. They are often not the most comfortable people to be around, but one could never hope for better friends or companions. I am not ashamed to say I shed some tears the day he died. Rest in peace, brother in Christ. Pray for us who continue to walk the Way.

    And though Michael is no doubt rolling his eyes as I write this, he always stuck me as one of the most Catholic Baptists I’d ever encountered.

  33. I found Michael in ’07 or ’08. I first heard him on an interview with Steve Brown on Steve Brown Etc. What struck me was his Kentucky accent. I’m from West Virginia, and here was a guy on the radio saying what I was thinking in a voice that sounded oddly familiar. I’ve been a regular reader and sometime commenter ever since.

    Mike Bell commented above that MS was coming up with great material almost every day. As a person that does a little writing, and has recently taken up blogging, I always marveled at how prolific a writer he was. It was as if there was years of “stuff” rattling around in his head, and when the flood gates opened, they really opened!

    On a personal note, Michael once off handedly quipped that he’d buy a cup of coffee for any pastor who read Peterson’s “Five Smooth Stones for Pastoral Work.” If happens that I have family in eastern Kentucky not far from the school where Michael worked. I decided to take him at his word, read the book, and pop in and meet him in person some time when I was in the area. He died before I finished the book. He owes me a cup of coffee, but I’m pretty sure I’ll get to collect one of these days.

  34. I, too, do not know how I found IM 2 1/2 yrs ago either. I’m not a blogger, I can barely work a computer, much less know how to find blogs/writings like this. I concur with above posts, that there were others out there thinking what I was, but able to write and express it so well. I, too, cried–there was a glimmer of light.on which to hang my frustration with the Church and the church. It’s been great to go back and read M Spencer’s writings/essays…I do hope that they can all be ‘found’ and posted….or compiled in a book? That would be great!
    Thank you, again, to all of you who have kept the legacy of MS.

  35. I came across iMonk in ’05 doing a google search on “Youth Pastor”, hoping to get some random ministry tips. Instaed Michael’s writings expanded my horizons and changed my life. God was truly working beyond what I could hope or think.
    When you think about how’s ingle-handedly prolific and incisive he was, keep in mind that he was with one hand tied behind his back. He was carefully guarding his words so as to not incur problems for the private Christian school where he served as teacher and chaplain, and yet he still managed to speak as a prophet to the evangelical culture.

  36. I first came across this site many years ago, and was impressed by how well Michael really understood what was going on in evangelicalism and why so many of us were looking for a different way to follow Jesus (my family and I found it in a mainline denomination). Like many others, I was saddened to hear Michael has passed on, but grateful this mission he started continued. This blog, and its comments, are a regular part of my weekly reading and a source of both inspiration and comfort. Michael got it, and so do the people who have carried on for him.

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