Wretched Urgency: The Grace of God or Hamsters On A Wheel?

hammy.jpgI haven’t done the official totals, but it is obvious to me that “Wretched Urgency” is the IM essay that seems to describe the experiences and feelings of most of the people who say they like what I write. I even think the title may qualify as a “brand!” Time for the “Wretched Urgency” store!

Seriously, this is an essay about the pressure to “be a witness,” and it has reached a lot of people in a positive way. If you haven’t read it, I invite you to give it a try.

Continue to “Wretched Urgency: The Grace of God or Hamsters on a Wheel?”

20 thoughts on “Wretched Urgency: The Grace of God or Hamsters On A Wheel?

  1. Pingback: Sacred Journey
  2. WOW! WOW! WOW! Michael you are the man!

    I could speak volumes about my experience in an IFB church that parallels your experience to a tee. You were stronger than me, it busted me down me for several years I was so hurt. When I was engaged in the “fishing for souls” tactic I never felt right, it always seemed like it was some debate that I was suppose to win and convince the person behind the door they were wrong and if they didn’t change quick them or maybe their whole family was going to go to hell. In fact it was so insane that we use to gage success by the “weight of the fish”, in other words if you got a 45 year old person to make some kind of profession of faith you were said to have caught a 45 pounder! The older the person the better the catch because they put up the hardest struggle. The thing that brought me around was reading other books outside of the denomination I was converted in, and I saw that there were different perspectives to this thing called “walking the Christian life”. I read everything from Watchman NeeÂ’s Spiritual Life to Myers “Binding the Strong Man, and hundreds of books in between. Hopefully many people caught up in this “rat race” of high pressure evangelism will have an opportunity to read this article it will save them a lot of heartache in the long run.

    You are truly not alone in this experience, it took a lot of courage to write an essay like this and it was cathartic for me just to read it, as I am sure it was for you to write it. Keep up the good work Michael.



  3. This really lightens a burden I’ve had on my soul for a long time. I am in a similar situation to the one that you describe, in that the Christian leaders at my school are very big into the idea of “outreach,” so much so that the group I joined at the start of college has become exclusively an outreach group (that is, we have no events just for ourselves any more). It has become more and more like a job the longer and longer I have been here. I have had a lot of trouble reconciling this with Jesus’ saying, “My yoke is easy, and my burden is light,” and now I know why.

    Thank you so much for giving this advice. I don’t want to not share my faith, but I don’t want to feel like there’s a spear in my back every time I see a non-Christian either.


  4. Good article. Thanks. I linked it to my website for mothers, as I see a great deal of guilt driven living among my peers.

    Your comment on that tone occasionally in piper leads me to comment. I started reading “don’t waste your life” and got so depressed and full of anxiety I had to quit. The feeling lingered for months. Tommy and I were listening to his third reformission sermon last night, and he comments that we should expose oursevles to as much suffering as possible. I for one will not be following that advice. I took it with a grain of salt, as he was speaking to pastors, but that is the worst advice I could give to the women I minister to who are obsess about their children being kidnapped, rapped etc. For heaven’s sake Spiderman II kept me from sleeping well! I see his point, but it didn’t ‘jive’ with phil. 4:8. Am I overly sensitive to percieve a ‘wretched urgency’ to be willing to suffer? Just a thought.


  5. A spot on critique of fanaticism. I am listening to JP’s new series “The Blazing Center” to see if he has realized there is sometimes a fanatical, guilt producing edge to what he says. I am not hopeful. But I do believe Piper is so right about “the blazing center” of all things in the sovereignty of God and the supremacy of Christ in a quest for joy.

    The most I have seen him say is some of the later chapters on vocation in “Don’t Waste Your Life.”


  6. Thank you. Provocative as always.

    I’ve been in both camps and didn’t like what I was becoming in the “wretched urgency” world. Anytime people become targets something is wrong.

    Piper has helped and hindered me here. He has hurt me because his teaching tends towards fanaticism. But he has helped me to see that the goal is God’s fame.

    Thanks again


  7. Michael, as I wrote to you privately, this essay finally gave me peace in an area of guilt that I’ve lived under for decades.

    I have to share with everyone else that Michael wrote back,”Read that New Testament; it causes a lot of trouble!” Yes, Michael, it does. Thank God for that holy troubling of the waters.

    Mark Traphagen


  8. The essay Wretched Urgency poses some questions, and hopefully causes the reader to ask some questions as well. One thing is certain; whatever emotional trauma affected Michael Spencer in his youth, God now uses that in him to help people. His talent to put his thoughts into words allows him to say what many of us might only wish we could verbalize. God’s work is evident, I think. Whatever pain is there from years in a guilt inducing church, and whatever joy is now found in writing essays for the internet, God is using for his glory. Contiue iMonk, in this work God has called you to, and may he continue to bless for His sake.


  9. Well done. I am formerly of the ABC, now seeking ordination within the CCCC. I have been a student pastor of a tiny Covenant church for over a year. But in July I begin my first full-time pastorate in a conservative UCC church. The Lord has been leading me into a similar understanding of the church as I find myself entering never-before experienced doctrinal waters. I want to thank you for laying it down honestly and concisely. I also want to thank you for affirming this denominational mutt’s own theological journey. You are not alone, brother.


  10. Wow. I got chills when reading this. I grew up in a similar church – with the same guilt regarding “witnessing” and letting your friends go to hell. As soon as I got out of the house and in college, I abandoned everything having to do with the church & Christianity. Now I am nearly 40 and trying to find my way back, but it sure did leave a bad taste in my mouth and there are still times that I totally lose the desire to come back into the fold. Thank you for this essay.


  11. Good post. Yes, too much “evangelism” is done out of a guilt induced by man and not God. Yes, too little emphasis is put on teaching and exhorting one another to live lives of purity and holiness and joy so that we might be salt and light. Yes, too many classes on witnessing are like getting door-to-door sales training.

    Now, in defense of Southern Baptists, not all SBC churches are like what you described and I wish you could have not painted with such a broad brush. Also, God does call missionaries out from the church and often does so by means of preaching of messages on the need to “go into all the world…” Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. Some Christians do want to learn how to communicate what they believe to others. Not out of guilt, but genuine love and concern. This week I spent time with a young woman who wanted to know how to explain her beliefs more clearly to a Jehovahs Witness friend. Two weeks ago I spent time with a man who wanted to understand more about Islam because a Muslim co-worker was asking questions. There is a place for teaching people how they can communicate their faith better.

    No, I don’t think you are a heretic. I don’t think you are hell-bound. I think you are right about much of what you wrote. It is a needed corrective. But can we agree that some could take it to the opposite extreme?



  12. Evangelize always, use words when necessary. – St. Francis of Assisi.

    I think this is the same point you are getting at. I agree with both of you. (Michael and Francis).

    Be the best Christian you can be. “You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” The best husband/wife, the best child, the best employee, the best boss, the best father/mother. That will draw others to Christ.

    I am a Catholic. I don’t hide my faith. I don’t shove my faith in others’ faces. I live it. I discuss it when appropriate. I am always prepared to account for the hope that is in me. And I know that I may never see what the Holy Spirit does with those I evangelize in this way. If they come to Christ, it may be long after I’m out of their lives. I’m a seed-planter. Only the Holy Spirit converts. My apparent failures in evangelization were caused by me being too gung-ho. You know, “Why can’t you see that Christ is the Son of God, it’s so obvious!!!! Here, let me argue it the 3000th time.”


  13. Yes, really, really good article. But perhaps really one sided.

    All that you write is true about the SBC. Went there for seven years, and avoided the class where everyone was to learn the vacuum cleaner salesman pitch. Wondered how it is that they can expect to get someone to nod their head after hearing a sales pitch and somehow consider this “mission accomplished” without even a nod to the Holy Spirit’s role in convicting men of sin, or His role in leading one to those who are ready to hear the gospel.

    But is there a middle, or even a higher, ground? One where there is a God-given burden for lost souls which compels? One where Holy Spirit guidance is prayed for so that God will providentially direct our paths to those who need to hear?

    Jim Gieseke
    Houston, Texas


  14. Absolutely, how I feel. Thank you for the encouragement….too often I think that the church I attend is only concerned about ‘evangelism.’ And when they say ‘evangelism’ they mean some program to attract people to church. We never seem to focus on the fact that God wants us to be and live holy lives. It is scary how much I agree with all you have written.


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