Nevertheless, and event recently passed that I would rather have taken time to mark on this blog. Michael Spencer, aka The Internet Monk, died from cancer a few weeks ago.
Michael's work on his blog at www.internet monk.com has been especially helpful to me over the past few years in my continuing journey to slay the dragons that continue to invade my little kingdom. The center of his writing was a call to Jesus-shaped living, as opposed to church-shaped living. That was his way of talking about the gospel of grace that Jesus embodied and lived. By drawing a clear bright line between Jesus and the church, Michael invited criticism, but I think more often that not he was spot on. And he relentlessly applied his Jesus-shaped lens to a wide range of life including some very difficult and thorny real life questions. It wasn't about abstract philosophy, but about flesh and blood discipleship.
I join many other people in my thanks to Michael for his work, and for those who seek to carry on his legacy through the website.
For those of you who have not yet been introduced to Michael Spencer, I suggest you read the excerpt from Michael's book Mere Churchianity. It is being published soon, posthumously.
Here, Michael discusses who he is writing the book for. It seems to me that he has discovered an unreached tribe, hidden from or ignored by vast numbers of church people, and has aimed his message deep into that unsurveyed segment of the evangelical map.
But I’m not writing to church members who are happy where they’re at or to Christians who are heavily invested in the success and propagation of the church as an organization.
I’m writing instead to those who may still be associated with the church but no longer buy into much of what the church says. Not because they doubt the reality of God, but because they doubt that the church is really representing Jesus. I’m writing to people on the inside who are about to leave or have already left. I’m writing to those who are standing in the foyer of the church, ready to walk out, yet taking one last look around. They haven’t seen the reality of Jesus in a long time, but they can’t stop believing he is here. Somewhere. And they’re unsure what it will mean to strike out on their own.
Mere Churchianity is written for people who have come to the end of the road with the church but who can’t entirely walk away from Jesus. In the wreckage of a church-shaped religious faith, the reality of Jesus of Nazareth persists and calls out to them. I’m talking to those who have left, those who will leave, those who might as well leave, and those who don’t know why they are still hanging around.
And I’m writing to the outsiders who might be drawn to God if it weren’t for Christians.This is very typical of Michael's writing. Unsparing, willing to drag into the light the skeletons most people would rather not talk about. He calls it likes he sees it. There are lots of people that fit this bill, but much of evangelical pop-culture has no idea how to engage with them.
I never knew Michael, but I will always appreciate him and his work. I look forward to sharing a beer with him when the world is remade.