August 12, 2020

Who We Are

monk1I have received several emails from various people lately saying how much the  “old” InternetMonk is missed. How we have strayed away from the original intent of our founder, Michael Spencer. I need to say right up front that these emailers are correct. Today’s InternetMonk is not the same as yesterday’s InternetMonk.

When Michael began this blog about fourteen years ago, he labeled it “the power of opinion, the phenomenon of speech, the impact of truth.” In the early days, Michael wrote as much of politics as theology. He was a soldier in the culture wars. And he defended his right to have opinions on most anything.

Over time, Michael used this site to focus less on politics and more on what he came to call “Jesus-shaped spirituality.” He was a lifelong evangelical, but found less and less in that path that helped him in his desire to know and be known by our Lord. At some point he changed the subhead of InternetMonk to “Dispatches from the Post-Evangelical Wilderness.” He began to write essays that looked critically at evangelicalism. Then came his famous three-part series where he predicted the collapse of evangelicalism. It was at this time I came to know Michael and became his literary agent. I helped him secure a book deal with Waterbrook, and we began to focus on what he would write.

“Michael,” I asked, “if you were to only write one book, what would it be?” He didn’t hesitate for a moment.

“I want to write on Jesus-shaped spirituality.”

The result was Mere Churchianity: Finding Your Way Back to Jesus-Shaped Spirituality. Unfortunately, it was the only book he was to write. Michael was diagnosed with cancer in the fall of 2009, and passed away in April of 2010. Before he left us, he and his wife, Denise, asked me to take over this site and keep it going. I readily agreed, though I knew I was not the one to carry the torch alone. That is where Chaplain Mike came in. He agreed to be our primary writer and to help set the course for this ship to sail. We sought the help of some other writers as well. At that time, I was representing a number of bestselling authors and writers, names you would instantly recognize. But I knew these were not who we were to ask to write here. So we enlisted Mike Bell and Lisa Dye and Damaris Zehner, names none of you would know, but persons with the gift of being able to put their thoughts into words better, perhaps, than any of those bestselling writers. Adam Palmer jumped in to help at times. Martha of Ireland (even I don’t know her real name—really) agreed to join our troupe after several rounds of emails where I shamelessly got on my knees begging her to write. We have had some great guest writers share from time to time. And then there is Mule Chewing Briars, the newest iMonk to don a writer’s cap. None of these are “celebrities.” None is a “Christian leader.” Outside of this venue, they are simply husbands and wives and teachers and clerks and, well, whatever Mule is.

I don’t tell anyone what to write and what not to write. I have suggested topics at times to Martha, but she ends up taking them a totally different direction than I thought she would, so they don’t end up being my topics. I just trust these people, most of whom I have only met in person a handful of times, if ever at all, to help lead us in our wilderness wanderings.

We have not shied away from taking on the excesses in the evangelical world, just as Michael had done. Yet I feel that time is coming to, if not a close, at least a slow down. When Michael started, he was pretty much the only voice crying in the wilderness. Now we have new voices crying out daily. Rachel Held Evans writes that Millennials are leaving the church because they don’t find Jesus there. Exactly. I couldn’t agree more. But within a few days we have responses to Rachel, and responses to those responses. The noise gets so great that we can’t hear what needs to be heard: Jesus has left the evangelical building. Should we join the fray? Is our voice needed in this discussion? I think not.

We get our most comments when we talk about Young Earth Creationism, or homosexuality, or Mark Driscoll and John Piper. (Imagine the response if we were to come out and say Driscoll is a gay YEC, and Piper supports him … hmmm …) And if there is something pertinent that needs to be said about these or other topics, we will say them. I never, however, write anything or want our team to write anything just to get comments. I don’t count comments. I know how many people are reading, and that most of our readers never comment. I also get the personal emails where you tell me just how much a specific essay meant to you. I wrote a homily yesterday that I thought, honestly, was one of my best, but it got scant comments compared with me just mentioning the word “grace.” I don’t care. I write what I have on my heart to write.

This is not a money-making site. You people don’t spend much time or money with the few sponsors we have, so I don’t really go looking for more. I can’t in good faith charge hundreds of dollars a month when I know the return on investment for the advertiser just won’t be there. You do, however, give faithfully, and for that I am very grateful. Our costs are right around $150/month for hosting.

So what are we? We are a group of pilgrims making our way across an undefined wilderness, doing our best to keep up with Jesus. We are Lutherans, Catholics, Orthodox, and—yes—evangelicals who are holding hands and doing our best to write what may help you in your journey. We stumble and fall like everyone else. We seek God’s forgiveness constantly. We don’t have all the answers. Most of the time, we are even unsure what the questions are. But each one of the writers who contribute to InternetMonk are committed to Jesus-shaped spirituality.

That is who we are.

 

Comments

  1. I like the changes I’ve seen happening at iMonk. The emphasis is now on what it means, from the perspectives of writers with different viewpoints, to follow Jesus Christ. There is far more affirmation than there used to be, and less criticism. Egypt is far behind, and the wilderness is vast, but the Promised Land is taking shape for the Twelve Tribes.

    Keep up the good work.

  2. Imagine the response if we were to come out and say Driscoll is a gay YEC, and Piper supports him

    Careful… poking the interwebs with sticks is ill-advised…

    • Also – I just wanted to state that I am thankful for all the writers who have contributed to this site. You guys and gals all rock.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Imagine the response if we were to come out and say Driscoll is a gay YEC, and Piper supports him

      Guaranteed Best-Seller. Right up there with a Vampire Romance set during a Zombie Apocalypse.

      • kerokline says

        Hey!…

        Warm Bodies was alright. I’ll take my Romeo and Juliet in a Zombie Apocalypse.

        I can’t wait for next summer’s blockbuster –

        A big city girl moves to a small town highschool, where she falls for a tall, dark, and mysterious boy who is actually…
        Cthulu.
        Their love could end the world.

  3. Totally off topic, but has there been an update anywhere with Eagle since the recent bad news? (I think one commenter – I don’t remember which post – said he was back in the hospital fighting a relapse of his infection from last year)

    If you are reading this, Eagle, GET WELL SOON!!!

  4. Jeff, I’d say Sunday’s homily is perhaps the best of yours I’ve read. But I’m not sure I’ve read all you’ve written. Whenever you quote from Fr. Capon my rating editor puts it in the top 5 percentile.

    I began reading here and listening to Michael’s podcast about 5 or 6 years ago. At the time I really needed to absorb what he was saying. I don’t feel like the site has lost Michael’s vision. However, it’s probably correct to say that all of us who have been long-time readers/interacters have continued to track in a similar trajectory.

    The efforts of all involved to enliven this community are greatly appreciated.

    T

  5. While I agree that Michael’s original intent and topics now receive far-wider coverage, I find many of those writers harsh, grating, and yes, repetitive. I’ve had enough about Driscoll, Piper, Mohler, Ken Ham, and RH Evans for this lifetime. Perhaps you are right; the whole matter has been exhausted. Yet — at least for myself — I have little interest in discussions regarding what I consider religiosity — discussions regarding liturgy, Lutheranism, Anglicanism, Catholicism, and Orthodoxy. I’d like to see occasional discussions about how people are finding Christ-centered communities outside traditional structures: in home groups, art and music communities, communal settings, even in pubs, or in other ways. It just seems to me that so much of religiosity is about works and disciplines — a more high-faluting form of evangelicalism, but blended with pietism. I’m still lost out here in the post-evangelical wilderness, and perhaps it’s my fate to wander the desert alone, but established churches seem to me far too tribal and in-group centered, and the pressure to raise money in a collapsing economy is overwhelming. I still read the blog daily — especially on Saturday mornings — and while there are occasional gems, the longer discussions of liturgical Christianity just don’t do a thing for this old Jesus hippie. But if it works for others, may God bless you!

    • Sorry about the lack of a pronoun antecedent in the first sentence, I’m referring there to writers of other blogs.

    • This kind of captures my own feelings. It’s not that I’m against the posts about a return to traditional modes of worship, I just find myself skipping them.

      But I think that Jeff is right, we’ve had enough of the deconstructionism already, we need to start building up.

    • +1

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      It just seems to me that so much of religiosity is about works and disciplines — a more high-faluting form of evangelicalism, but blended with pietism.

      “Pietism” as in “Don’t Think, Just BEE-LEEEEEEVE!!!!!”?

    • +1

    • donald todd says

      What happens when you read your way out of evangelicalism, don’t find what you are looking for in the older Protestant denominations, and end up Catholic? Not initially, but in time items such as liturgy become important because of what those items are trying to express or what they are attempting to lead the individual to grasp.

      It was the sacraments, in particular the confessional, which finally caught me. I saw John 20:23 in the confessional and wanted it.

      However I must admit that a good liturgy opens me up to worship in ways I never expected as a Protestant.

    • Clark, this was stupendous! Thank you!!

    • I have little interest in discussions regarding what I consider religiosity — discussions regarding liturgy, Lutheranism, Anglicanism, Catholicism, and Orthodoxy

      …betrays the likelihood you understand them very little. They are, at their core, the complete antithesis of religiosity. All individualism and hyper-spirituality is stripped away as we are all brought into a common spirituality.

      so much of religiosity is about works and disciplines — a more high-faluting form of evangelicalism, but blended with pietism.

      Yup. You’ve missed their point entirely.

      iturgical Christianity just don’t do a thing for this old Jesus hippie.

      Because it’s completely not about “doing something” for you. I encourage you to look more closely: It is inconsistent to claim love for God’s Word and hate the liturgy.

  6. IM is back to being a regular read for me. After Michael’s passing, it seemed that much was lost in the content of the blog for a while. Readership and comments seemed to decline. But that’s to be expected, right?…as a number of new writers hadn’t yet found their groove.

    I’m in the “post-evangelical wilderness,” even though attending an evangelical church. Far more “Christian community” (or insert appropriate other term) it seems happens with Christian parents/families on our kid’s baseball team than happens “in church.” Where will my family end up? Is there a final “church” resting place? Or will we drift in the wilderness? Like anything, InternetMonk must change. It can’t listen to the Woodstock soundtrack forever, and AOR radio stations will eventually lose all listenership because we all die someday.

    Michael did a good job describing what is wrong with evangelicalism and why he felt he was in the “Post-Evangelical Wilderness.” Maybe now we need to hear experiences from other writers who are in the PEW. Next it may be experiences from writers who are no longer in the PEW, but have found the promised land. Finally, maybe God will reform the church again and none of this will apply any longer. Like manna in the wilderness, wouldn’t that be a good way for IM to end?

    • Good stuff, Steve. While I’m not necessarily “post-evangelical,” I can see how much damage evangelicalism has done to some folks. I, too, am in an evangelical church, and with Internetmonk’s help (and a few others in my church), I’m trying to illuminate how certain Christian traditions, doctrine and dogmas can harm those within our congregation and those seeking a relationship with God and Jesus. It’s so dang easy to drift toward a Pharisee sort of faith…

    • Dana Ames says

      (Apologize in advance for all the scare quotes and parentheticals – I think the readers here get what is meant, and it’s the first time I’ve put these thoughts into words…)

      Steve,

      I’ve come through the Evangelical wilderness out to the “other side.” For years I was searching for “Christian community – or insert appropriate other term” in the church setting as well. In hindsight (and I could be wrong, so take this as you will), it seems to me that what people long for is basic friendship, and the Evangelical world has sort of turned Friendship into a “Christian ghetto” kind of thing too, like with the “Jesus junk” in “Christian Bookstores” (although we Orthodox are starting to have such things show up in our world -bleh!) and “Christian Business Directories” – and I’m sure we can think of plenty of other examples.

      When I was growing up, before the culture wars, my parents had friendships – of varying degrees of closeness – with people in their church, and with people in other churches, and non-churched people too. Everyone pretty much respected everyone else – no public shouting over issues of doctrinal purity, for example – and people were not expecting to get all their “friendship needs” met only by people in their own churches. And part of one’s sense of identity in a good way came with belonging to a denomination. I’m not denying there were problems, but, hey, we all used to go to one another’s church supper fundraisers, you know? And it was all good – especially the food!

      But nowadays, Friendship can’t be simply that; it has to have a Christian label on it, has to meet some sort of standard of Purity, pass some kind of test, in order to be deemed “biblical” – and, being squeezed this way, it has become devalued. Practically the only way Evangelicals have used the term Friendship in the past few decades is as part of the term “Friendship Evangelism” – which is simply manipulation – I thought so when I was still an Evangelical and FE was being touted as the new, great way to “win people to Christ.” In our very individualized, advertising-tailored-to-one’s-preferences culture, finding or making one’s own “tribe” or “family” – with a spill-one’s-guts intimacy level incumbent upon everyone, with no sense of degrees – becomes another expression of this individualism, which is, I think, a different sort of mindset than “making friends” is. Evangelicals (and others too, but not to the same degree, I think), mirroring the rest of our culture, have become afraid of and/or have abandoned the notion of Friendship in favor of this other thing… I find that to be really, really sad.

      So Steve, enjoy the friendships you have, in church and out of it, too; they are a blessing. People are in our lives so that we can love them and they can love us, at whatever intimacy level we meet one another. The process of the growth of that love is certainly one definition of “Jesus-shaped spirituality.”

      Dana

      • Dana,

        So glad you used the word “manipulation”! My wife and I have experienced pastoral encouragement on how to make friends with the world out there. Get them to be involved in x, y and z in your life so you can get them to come to church so they can tithe. Manipulation. What about a simple “love thy neighbor as thyself?” If I loved my neighbor as myself, I wouldn’t manipulate them into coming to my church, because I certainly wouldn’t want somebody to do that to me.

  7. I admit that periodically I read something here and think, “What does this have to do with Jesus-shaped spirituality?” or “Isn’t this Lutheran-shaped spirituality?” But then I remind myself that you’re all making great efforts to continue Michael Spencer’s legacy AND you’re NOT Michael Spencer. You are Jeff Dunn, and Chaplain Mike, and etc. etc., and you all have your own voice and viewpoint, and I just need to get that into my thick skull.

    This remains my favorite Christian blog site and I refer folks to articles here all the time.

    • I agree. I frequently cut and paste bits and send them to friends and family (sadly they might not read the whole thing!) I am so grateful for your input and it has helped me through some very difficult soul-searching times. I think the qualities of honesty and integrity are the hallmarks of this site; the highs and the lows are laid bare. You ask a lot of questions instead of giving easy answers. Jesus did that. It’s good. Thank you.
      And yesterday’s homily was top notch!

    • Rick, yes, yes and YES. I often send post links to friends via private messages on Facebook. And I have a FB community page that I have quoted Jeff and CM numerous times! I’ve taken breaks for one reason or another, but always return for some good, down to earth, real, meaty and Jesus goodness.

    • Lutheran shaped spirituality IS Jesus shaped spirituality, or at least, Jesus focused spirituality. The pull of the Lutheran tradition and the reason I converted is because it is hands down the most tenaciously Christocentric Protestant tradition, period.

  8. Michael took the Evangelicals to the woodshed. A lot. People liked that, I think, but he could do that. Michael was an Evangelical. If I were to do that, it would be sectarianism or something far worse. My job right now is to learn to appreciate what remains in Evangelicalism that is good and still points people to Jesus.

    It’s true that posts don’t get 150 comments like they did when Mike was writing. Indeed, the best posts go uncommented a lot..

    Thanks for letting me write. Mike left some big shoes to fill, and am a Mule of shallow draught. My sufferings do not compare with what I read on this board, and are entirely of my own manufacture anyway. If I get too Orthodox, I apologize. It’s where I am.

    • Thanks for sharing your perspective, Mule.

    • Well Mule, what do you have to say to the Orthodox?

      I looked at the Orthodox and saw some of the same issues that Evangelicals face. Lots of beauty, but triumphalism and closed mindedness as well.

      I would love to read some of your thoughts..

  9. I certainly think it’s healthy to focus less on the excesses of the evangelical world, even though I would hold my hands up, and admit that those are the posts I am most likely to read and comment upon. But negativity and criticism (not that these are typical of this site, but are vices I recognise in myself) are in then end self-sustaining. We need creativity, encouragement and enthusiasm as well.

    As a student of writing, I have often been taught to write what interests and enthuses myself, and not what I think will sell. This site should could continue to write on the interests and concerns, collectively and individually, of its writers. That may mean getting less comments, or less reads for some posts. But the vibrancy and power of the writing will not suffer.

    Though I do enjoy your film reviews, and would love to read some more of them 🙂

  10. “We are a group of pilgrims making our way across an undefined wilderness, doing our best to keep up with Jesus. We are Lutherans, Catholics, Orthodox, and—yes—evangelicals who are holding hands and doing our best to write what may help you in your journey.”

    I appreciate this mindset, but I don’t see it in the tone. I don’t see a lot of wanting to hold hands with evangelicals. Instead it often becomes a session to bash evangelicals. How about stressing some of the good things evangelicals bring to the table.

  11. When I found this site, Michael Spencer was still with us, and this site was an oasis for me and it still is!

    IMonk, Rachel Held Evans and Peter Enns, among a few others, are my primary reading daily and I remain grateful for them.

    I think everyone who has been here a while misses Michael; but, his legacy is being upheld by the group of those currently here. Topics have changed and expanded, but the focus, IMHO, remains the same. This is a place of no smoke screens, no spotlights and no superstars. The writers remain humble and focused and honest.

    IMonk remains an oasis and I for one am so grateful for all the writing being done.

    Thanks so much for all the work you guys do!

  12. As perhaps the only “Jewish-Metho-Bapti-costal-nondenomi-matic currently worshiping in a UMC congregation but whose horizons are constantly being stretched and expanded by the likes of you (Jeff Dunn) and Martha of Ireland and Mule Chewing Briars and Lisa Dye and Damaris and, yes, even Chaplain Mike into areas of Christianity I thought I’d never go” here (what? I’m not?), let me just say that I liked the old (Michael Spencer) very much and I like the new (names above) very much also. That’s why I come here almost every day. This blog is food and drink to my hungry, thirsty soul. This blog, more than any other I’ve encountered, is the body of Christ in printed form.

    That’s one man’s opinion.

  13. I recall saying this before in a previous comment long ago, but it bears repeating. I think the IM writers today are doing an incredible job of continuing the legacy of Jesus-shaped spirituality, as articulated through a variety of expressions of the faith. That’s why I still read this blog daily.

    The second sub-heading of this blog, though, is “Dispatches from the Post-Evangelical Wilderness,” and that’s where I think most of us still in that wilderness find no one to speak for us (except maybe you, Jeff). Most of the writers here have either gone through that post-evangelical wilderness and come out of it and found their home elsewhere (Chaplain Mike) or never were evangelicals in the first place so never had to go through that wilderness at all. It would be nice, among the stable of writers, if there were someone who is still in that wilderness and still blogging about the homeless life there. This isn’t about hacking on conventional evangelicalism as much as it is about them looking for–or creating–their new home.

  14. David Cornwell says

    By accident I found this blog about the same time Michael Spencer learned of his terrible illness. I fell in love with it, at first by reading through certain subjects he had written about in the past, now carefully stored away in the archives. He had struggled, honestly, with some of the same religious accoutrements that had attached themselves to my own journey with Christ. For instance I remember finding in the archives his writings about revivalism and altar calls. It was helpful and comforting to read someone who could strike to the core of the issue, and pushing aside dross in the process. So, as a result, I then started reading the daily posts, the majority of which were written by Chaplain Mike.

    I could say more here about my own personal journey and how I arrived at my present station in life. But it really isn’t that interesting, and bits and pieces have ended up here over time anyway. I’ll just say that I share many things in common with Evangelicals, using an older meaning of the term. However I also, over time, have found myself making common cause with more liberal Christians when it comes to many cultural issues. I’ve found that this alone can bring people I’d like to be friends with to shouting volume and slammed doors.

    I like the writers here and have learned much from each of them. They have opened doors to mostly vacant rooms in my mind and decorated them with the colors of theological and cultural beauty that are helping renovate my entire understanding and intellectual structure. And if I take time to walk into the room, sit down, pull my feet up, think, pray, and listen, then my entire being is better off for it. And when I leave the room I find I’m walking, in company, with so may other beautiful followers of Christ. Recently “Mule Chewing Briars” has opened a new room for me. When I look into it I’m often confused by the decorations and furniture, but if I take time to orient myself, relax a little, and listen to the sounds, gently breath in the drifting incense, hear the words of antiquity spoken again, then the sweetness of the Holy Spirit becomes real, and I become part of the Universal and Eternal Church in ways I have not anticipated.

    What I do not like here, when it is encountered, are the arguments and discussions that to me make little sense, I suppose because my Methodist past paid little attention to them. For instance the discussions about creationism, and how many days it took God to put all things in order. For me it is enough to say “the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof” and to know that the very act of creation is poetry, not science.

    Theological niceties built around certain doctrines that must be bent one way or another seem to me to be a waste of time and will never be settled. So why spend time in fruitless discussion? But this just my own judgement, and I am sure it is not shared by others here. Salvation that seems to be offered to just the followers of one strand of thought seems to me to be placing our judgement ahead of what belongs to God alone.

    I love the discussion about the history and practice of liturgical worship, because built into it are those strands that hold us together as a people, and again with the Church Universal and Eternal. Hearing how these old practices can be made new and reshaped to speak to our place in the stream of history is important to me.

    Also here I’ve learned to appreciate many writers that have helped open new vistas for me. N. T Wright and Robert Farrar Capon are just two of them. Both have literally reshaped some of my thought, revolutionized the meaning of old terms, and helped me focus on those things that are most important.

    Some of you will think this very strange, but one book has guided me this spring and summer. It is this: “The Return of the Chaos Monsters: and Other Backstories of the Bible,” by Gregory Mobley. This is a book that makes me think, not a book on propositional theology (thank God). But it has become personal this summer. My house is an old one, on the edge of 85 acres of corn or beans (depending on the year). The lawn is way too big for me. The house itself needs a lot of work. It belongs to my daughter and son-in-law and is part of their dairy farm, detached from the main section by one mile. We have lived here for five years now. But I have a spinal stenosis condition that in the past has kept me from being the best maintainer of this place. However over a thirty month period I’ve lost about 50 lbs in weight. Now this has paying off big time for me. I’ve been able to do much more physical work, walk further, bend, and do sustained work that has been impossible for me for at least twelve years. I’ve adapted the theme of the book, “the taming of the chaos monsters” to my own physical realm. Flower gardens are gradually being renovated, old bushes tamed once again, the yard given better maintenance, and old veggie garden reshaped into something entirely new. Eventually I plan to do some work on the house itself. Some of this still is in early stages, so it has not happened in seven days. Chaos makes attempts at creeping back in, and back and forth we go. But it has given me hope once again. I can see the fruit of my work. And I proclaim it as being good.

    Sometimes I feel like a misfit here. I have a lack of confidence that I should really say that much, perhaps just listen more and say less. Sometimes I write something which when reading it again later I feel regret for saying it the way I did. It can become too easy to be unkind when not face to face.

    For whatever reasons, however, I love to visit here. It’s evolving nature is not a problem for me. The writers are kind people. They are intelligent. Each of them writes from his/her experience and knowledge and walk with the Lord. We all benefit from it.

    Special thanks to Chaplain Mike and Jeff Dunn for putting your best into this effort. May God be with you.

    • Thanks for your thoughts, David. Really wish you’d join the guest bloggers.

      God bless you.

    • I almost always read what you write, David, and very often, it resonates, especially when you reminisce about people you have known. You have a gift for that.

    • I’m with cermak, David. Your words have always blessed me. Though I, too, have felt like a misfit here and now today (mid-2013) if I were to look back at all my comments since finding IM (sometime in 2010), I would crawl into a hole and never come out. I’ve worked out a lot of junk here. Maybe that’s a good thing. But I digress. Thank you, David.

  15. We’re not going to always agree on everything.

    When have Christians always agreed and understood the Christian faith the same way?

    But this is a great forum to exchange and discuss our views and beliefs…that Christ Jesus and His great love for sinners may be lifted up.

    Thanks.

  16. Unless I was caught napping, it has been quite a while since Eagle stopped by. And unless I misread between the lines, he had found an evangelical-flavored community that answered many of his current questions as he moved along his path. It seems to me that most evangelicals are like most of the rest of us, doing the best they know how with what they have been given. And at least speaking for myself, often not doing all that well at it. Time to stop flogging the dead horse and catch up with Spirit.

    What I most like about this place now is what I consider a true ecumenical spirit, not by agenda or doctrine, but by the shared love of Messiah Jesus. What I least like about this place is when some sectarian stands on their particular stepping stone, not budging and loudly proclaiming it to be the only way across the river. Please keep moving, you’re holding up play.

  17. Often I find myself in disagreement with some of the thesis of this blog, and I really miss the voice of Michael Spencer. But this is one of the best religious blog that I have ever read.
    Hats off to the authors of this blog.

  18. “I have received several emails from various people lately saying how much the ”old” InternetMonk is missed.”
    Jeff, I just don’t get it. I think this web site keeps getting better and better.

  19. Dan Crawford says

    I never expected Internet Monk to continue as Michael after his passing. Michael was a unique voice who could never be imitated. I continue reading every day – or at least every new post – not because I agree with everything written or the comments, or because I expect to have Michael’s sentiments slavishly imitated, but because everything I read (and I mean everything) is interesting and provocative and causes me to think more deeply about the topic than I might otherwise do. Keep up the good work.

  20. Richard Hershberger says

    “In the early days, Michael wrote as much of politics as theology. He was a soldier in the culture wars.”

    That was before I was reading the blog, but I have looked at some of it in the archives. Had I come here in those days, I probably would have left without a second glance. The internet is full of politics and culture wars blogs. This one evolved into something far more interesting. The new regime has retained what made it interesting to me. Others may disagree, but that is normal and healthy. We are not, nor should we be, all interested in the same things.

  21. This is simply the best blog and the only one I have bookmarked. While we may not always agree, for the most part we are free to explore and try on new things in Christ. I have probably loved the posts I have never responded to because they gave me pause to reflect rather than responding to some hot item. Keep up the great job and I am sure Michael would be very proud of you all !!!!!!!

  22. “she ends up taking them a totally different direction than I thought she would”

    The inside of my head is a strange and disturbing place 🙂

    Jeff is too modest; what happened is that after I left manifold comments of inordinate length on all kinds of posts, he said “If you’re going to be clogging up the inbox, you might as well write regular posts and be done with it” and I thought “I get to opinionate to literally tens of people? My vanity!” and the rest you all know.

    And if he was half as kind, supportive, appreciate and downright flattering to his authors and writers as he is to me, they have no idea the treasure they had representing them.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      The inside of my head is a strange and disturbing place 🙂

      I concur. And Martha’s seen a little of my “strange and disturbing place” as well.

  23. Jeff – I think this blog has evolved beautifully, and can’t help wondering if people who miss the “old” blog are forgetting Michael’s “Liturgical Gangstas” (and others like them)?

    This blog was evolving a *lot* while Michael was alive, and seemed to be heading in the direction of much of the current content.

    I think you and all of the writers here do a terrific job, and – as others have said – I love the ecumenism and focus on following Christ together. That’s what makes this place an oasis in the wilderness. (Of the internet in general, and of most xtian blogs in particular.)

    • Amen….this place is a living organism that cannot be static, or else it would be dead or dying. I liked it “before” and I like it “now”, and almost always learn, am challenged, or intrigued [except for the baseball stuff, which makes my eyes glaze over, but love the enthusiasm of those who do care about it!!!]

      What I appreciate and feel most blessed by are the real struggling humans who share here, for no monetary profit or fame, and in addition to the “real work” that they must do to keep the wolf from the door. I learn from the leaders of the Church, but hear more clearly from my sisters and brothers who are not paid professional Christians, but fellow travelers on a dark and bumpy road…….bless all who write as well as those who make thoughtful comments and observations!

    • I greatly appreciate the blog’s current positive tone and the emphasis on the broader Church. I would like to continue to hear from the”liturgical Gangstas”. Keep up the good work!

  24. Although I don’t comment very often, I have been a regular reader here for a couple of years. I started visiting the site after Michael’s passing, so I really can’t comment on the nature of the blog when he was still with us. I have read some of his work in the archives and listened to some of the podcasts, and enjoyed them.

    Regardless of what some may say, I think this site serves a very valuable purpose for those who on the post-evangelical journey. Of course its going to be different than what it was when Michael was here. The current writers have their own style and perspectives, and though I don’t always agree, I appreciate their insights and enjoy learning from the various Christian perspectives.

    And I think it is beneficial to have writers such as Chaplain Mike who have been through the wilderness and have now found a home. It gives hope to those who are still in the middle of the desert.

    Keep up the good work.

  25. I really think we are in an era shift, and the changes in the church are just the beginning. As Chesterton is my witness, there are( and were in his time) many that think that the church belongs to the Dark Ages. The truth is that it is Christianity that led out of them, and to me will be the leader into this next one- which looks like an informational age. There was a time when people lived with the same people their entire life on Earth, and it was a patriarchal time in the church. This evolved to a time of printing presses and industry and away from medieval structures and the church opened to a time of conscience. Today, the people we encounter are often only for a season. It is definitely a more plural world with a post modern ethos tugging at many. To me it seems the coming call is for a matriarchal time. I could go on but I personally skip long posts so often that this is too long.

  26. cermak_rd says

    I guess you would say my exit out of the wilderness was a little more off the beaten path than most other folks here. Mere Churchianity was probably the last Christian book I ever read. I was already getting established in my new religion when I stopped by Internetmonk for the first time. I keep coming back because I like the people and I really enjoy watching Chaplain Mike finish this leg of his journey and discern his vocation. I like Jeff’s openness and personalism and in Martha I find a familiarity with the Catholicism that a few of my family still follow. I don’t comment on every thread as I’m clearly not going to have an opinion on topics germane only to Christianity.

    But, as someone who grew disenchanted enough with Christianity to shake the dust off my sandals (really, I wear cheap plastic sandals all through the summer) and go elsewhere, and I have met a lot of other folks who have had the same experience if not the same journey (Jews who used to be Christians is a relatively small niche!), I think I might sometimes have something to say.

  27. Highwayman says

    Jeff – I always enjoy your writing and your honesty and I thought yesterday’s homily was excellent. I’m also amazed at the continuing quantity and quality of Chaplain Mike’s output, even when he tries to give up. Yes, I appreciate the other writers as well, but you two deserve special mention.

    I first came across IM in 2009 at around the same time as my wife and I stopped attending the church where we are still technically members, and I have found it tremendously helpful, not least because the discussion is almost always courteous (or appropriately moderated). It’s brought my attention to all sorts of things which I would probably not have thought about otherwise.

    The lighter content often contained in Saturday Ramblings, musical offerings, etc., help to stop the whole thing from getting too sanctimonius, although the American sports and cultural references can be totally incomprehensible. I realise it’s not your fault you’re American and I don’t think we’ve got any directly comparable blog in the UK, so we’ll just have to put up with it!

    However, we all move on, change is inevitable and a sign of life so it wouldn’t be healthy if the content on here didn’t change, but I really appreciate you (and all who comment) making the wilderness a more friendly place than it might otherwise be. Many thanks.

  28. Knitting Jenny says

    IM was my lifeline to Jesus when I couldn’t see Him through all the mess that was my exit from evangelicalism. I found IM when I was on the edge; I read posts and comments throughout my wilderness wanderings and I continue to read here daily after finding a safe place to land. All the authors and commenters here give me a lot to consider, and I’m always challenged. I rarely comment, but today I just wanted to say thank you to everyone here.

  29. Jeff, Michael Spencer made me cry with his heart-touching writings. You challenge my thinking and make me smile. Chaplain Mike teaches me and inspires me. I love you all.

    Sometimes I am too tired to read everything and comment. Often I feel I am barely a Christian. But I keep coming to this blog and reading. Thanks to all that you, Chaplain Mike, Martha, Mike Bell, Damaris, Lisa, Adam, Mule Chewing Briars do here.

    • Joanie, I agree with you.

      The reality is that Michael is no longer with us, unfortunately. But the editorial team has kept this a safe place for Christians of any denomination, and even non-Christians, to discuss and reflect and be touched and learn from each other. Thank you all for that.

      I just don’t see why some people feel the need to become confrontational in their comments, or to complain about the direction of the blog. I think we ought to be respectful of each other, and appreciative of the authors’ efforts; if there’s a post I dislike, I just ignore it, and go find something else to read (or pray some, although I haven’t done a lot of that lately).

  30. IM I like who you are and I like who you are becoming. I started visiting IM after reading a book review that mentioned Chaplain Mike and IM. For me IM is an Oasis! It is so good to have found others who share similar experiences and soul-searching questions. I love the diversity, the richness of thought, the honesty, and the respectful dialogue that is expressed here. Saturday Ramblings is a fun relaxing way to start my Saturday mornings! Thank you IM writers and commentators …I like who you are and what you write, I like observing the evolution of IM and that you continue to grow. May God continue to use you and lead you in grace and truth.

  31. I was diagnosed with, and treated for, esophageal cancer in 2009. I was blogging elsewhere, and never came across iMonk back then – I was a little busy with trying to survive the treatment, and instead confined my writing to my Caring Bridge site.

    All that is preamble; my way of saying I never knew this site as anything other than it has been since I found it after returning to blogging. I subscribe via RSS feed, and steer folks here via a links page I put up on my blog every Saturday; sometimes only one article, sometimes multiple articles. I don’t have to agree with everything written here, anymore than I expect anyone to agree with everything I write. While I only rarely comment, it would have to be a rare day indeed to miss reading a word that all of the respective authors here put up, and I thank all of you for broadening my view of Christ.

    At some point, I may have the time to browse the archives and read Michael’s work – that which hasn’t been abstracted or reposted – but as it is now, I’m deeply appreciative of everything you do here. Sometimes the comments are on a par with the article itself – a rare enough thing in the blogging world. Please tell me that I wasn’t reading correctly when I thought I saw an allusion to the possibility of the site closing its doors?

  32. I’ve been reading internetmonk since the beginning, it has evolved with Michael when he was still with us. He used to be Calvinist and conservative but eventually changed, his death was hard for me, I had sent him emails a few times and felt like he was my friend. But I felt that the blog really took off after his death, I really appreciate Chaplain Mike and Jeff’s posts, in my humble opinion it improves upon Michaels writing. I’m tired with all the progressive vs conservative wars myself, I love Rachel Held Evans and her writing resonates with me but I have many issues with her positions. I have a hard time liking Calvinists like Piper, Sproul etc but I can’t bring myself to say they are the enemy. I’m tired of hearing about new Christianity a la Rob Bell or Mclaren, for me following Jesus was always what it was about, and the evangelical circus was something I avoided for over two decades because I could not find Jesus there. Sometimes I wonder if we are finally waking up or we are going over the cliff.

  33. I rarely comment but, like so many others, just felt the need to say how much I enjoy this site. I found it just after Michael Spencer’s passing and have read it faithfully ever since. My husband has been a full time student for the past 4 years and has not had time to read much more than what was required of him. I have read him so many articles at night and he now has your site marked as his home page. I just want to say “thank you” to all of the writers here – you can never know how much you have meant to us!

  34. Yup, things have changed. Michael was Michael, and you guys, well, you’re not! I don’t mean that as some sort of put-down. I loved IM before, and I still love IM. Not every post interests me, but as often as any blog out there, the stuff here is compelling and important. Not for everybody, sure. But still fundamentally Jesus-shaped, that’s how I see it.

  35. I found Michael at a time when I was leaving the circus tent, his words said things I had only dared think privately. He gave a voice to my anguish, and then he was gone. I never even got to meet him, much less tell him how much he meant to me.

    This is not the same site that I found in 2009, nor should it be, in 2009 it was already changing. The tone and direction were slowly evolving, such is the nature of our belief and the direction of the church. The one problem that I struggle with is sometimes it’s hard to find time to read every article, every day. So I pick and choose, and lurk more now than I did before. When comments go into the hundreds, it can become a task just to keep up, especially with a busy life.

    That being said, I still read, I still visit, I think I always will. I left the circus here, joined the Catholic church because of Michael, and then moved onto the Orthodox faith where I have finally settled.

    Don’t change, or rather keep changing. What you do matters, the very fact that you pull voices from so many sources is virtually unheard of today, and it still matters. The evangelical church is becoming aware of the problems that it has caused, and will continue to do so, but that doesn’t mean there is a shortage of topics. I love that I can hear voices from different faiths, sharing a common thread of love and respect.

    That is a legacy that Michael can be proud of…

    -Paul-

  36. Klasie Kraalogies says

    Sure, things have changed. As someone who knew Michael, from both the old Internetmonk and BHT days, and even had a long phone conversation with him when I was in a difficult spot, I appreciate the work done here. Sure, I often disagree with the folks here, but so did I with Michael.

    When one reads something, something that is honest, fresh, and truly searching, without overt agendas, it is simply good taste and manners to allow the authors the freedom to write how they see fit, to go on the ride with them, and if you want to, shoot them down in flames 🙂 They cannot write for us each individually – they are not writing to fulfill our personal needs (which seem to be the complaint that some have here, reading through the comments).

  37. I started reading Internet Monk around the time that Michael was reexamining his Calvinism. Michael wrote so clearly and honestly that I felt as if I knew him. I never met him face to face. I suspect that some of the “complaining” emails are really ways of grieving the loss of friend.

    I don’t comment regularly, but I do read and look forward to reading most of what is published here. Thank you for all of your insights, love and hard work.

  38. James the Mad says

    I found this place about a year before Michael quit writing, so call it the fall of ’08. I really appreciated his writings, to the point of mourning when he passed.

    But as others have noted, even then iMonk was evolving, if only because Michael’s beliefs were evolving. He wasn’t writing from a finished place, but from wherever he was on his journey on the day he sat down in front of his computer. So even if Michael was still here this wouldn’t be the same place it was nearly 4 years ago.

    As for where we are today, I find it to be consistent with the directions Michael was taking it before he left us. And even if perhaps we’ve strayed a bit from the exact path Michael might have taken us on, so what? We knew there would be some drift the moment others took up the duties of running and writing for the site.

    After all, Jeff and Chaplain Mike are not Michael clones – we wouldn’t actually want them to be. Rather, they are men who shared Michaels heart, and his vision. And frankly, I think they’ve done a darn good job.

    Thank you, Jeff and Chaplain Mike, and guest bloggers, for keeping Michael’s vision alive. The writings here, and the community that has developed this blog, are far more valuable than simple words can express.

  39. I’m gonna play the DA here. I don’t think the change is so drastic. Yes, Michael’s voice was unique, and can not be replicated. But here’s my list of things this blog has continued: Diversity of perspectives – Michael frequently had guests and panels precisely so that multiple viewpoints could interact. Community – the consistency and importance of issues being discusses here have continually brought people together for discussion, exchange, and the kind of mutual edification that only take place through good natured (usually 😛 ) debate. Creative exposition of the nature of grace, continued exploration of the broader Christian tradition, and speaking truth to power without being controversial for controversy’s sake (which bespeaks great integrity, IMO). These were the marks of Spencer’s writing that really captured my attention, and the continuing team has not missed a beat on them, as far as I’m concerned. So the affiliation of the main writer switched from SBC to ELCA. This is naturally going to affect the flavor of the blog. But not the substance or the quality. I owe a tremendous debt to those who labor to keep this site going. It’s practically been my homepage for the last 5 years.

    I have observed probably a few too many transitions in leadership in ministry in my brief tenure as a church worker. What always happens is people complain and compare new leadership to the old. IMO, it is rarely because of an actually deficiency, but more often the new leadership becomes just an excuse to grind an old axe. People complain about the emphasis on Lutheranism and liturgy they are seeing here. Well guess who did more than any single individual to sell me on those things? Michael Spencer. Go back and look.

  40. david carlson says

    your missing a baptist. Of all the things that made Michael, being a baptist was one of them It is a different mindset.