Note from CM: I thought it only right for us to hear from Denise Spencer as we get ready to wrap up Internet Monk. She knew Michael best, and understands more than anyone else his heart for Jesus and the ministries to which God called him. I cherish our friendship over the years and her continuing encouragement and support. The active phase of this blog is ending, but I know that this friendship will go on, and for that I am most grateful.
By Denise Spencer
“…How shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?” (Romans 10:14)
Michael was a lifelong church-goer. Not only did he come from a Christian family, but his uncle was the pastor of their church. My perception of Uncle Offutt was of a deeply dedicated Christian, a man of firm principles, a strong presence in the pulpit, and a shepherd who truly loved and tended his flock. In return, the flock held him in very high regard.
I was never sure if the vocabulary associated with men of the cloth came into that church with Uncle Offutt, or if it preceded him. I attended a church in the same town, and our vernacular included words like “minister” and “pastor.” But for Michael’s home church, there was one prevailing title for the clergy — “preacher.” A young man wasn’t called to the ministry; he was “called to preach.” He wasn’t going to be a pastor; he was going to be “a preacher.” Yes, there would be deacons’ meetings and hospital visits and weddings and funerals. But everyone knew the preacher’s main job was to preach.
When Michael made his profession of faith as a teenager, several young men had been called to preach in recent years, and more would follow. It wasn’t long before Michael became one of them. As Uncle Offutt was revered by his congregation, these up-and-coming preachers were also admired. It was a respect Michael felt deeply. Once he described it to me as feeling like a “young prince.” This became the foundation of his self-esteem and, to Michael’s thinking, a tangible reason his parents could be proud of him.
So imagine this preacher-boy’s frustration when God began opening doors for him…in youth ministry. Part-time youth ministry. Full-time youth ministry. Even a position that was part youth ministry and part senior adult ministry. (Now that was interesting!) Michael truly had a gift of preaching, and it made no sense to him that God would so endow him and then keep the carrot dangling just in front of his nose.
At long last, Michael became a pastor. It will probably come as no surprise to you that he liked the Sunday morning sermons much better than he enjoyed those weddings, funerals, hospital visits, and deacons’ meetings. He was hurt if he perceived that people didn’t appreciate his sermons, and felt like a success when the message hit home.
After four years of pastoring, God handed him a made-for-Michael position at Oneida Baptist Institute in Oneida, Kentucky. As Campus Minister, Michael counseled students, taught Bible classes, ran the Baptist Campus Ministry program, and preached in the daily chapel services several times a week. The Lord saw fit to combine Michael’s love for kids and his gift of preaching in a way that almost seemed too good to be true.
But wait. There was more.
2 Timothy 4:2 says, “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all long-suffering and teaching” (NKJV). As if the Campus Minister position wasn’t already fulfilling enough, Michael the preacher became the Internet Monk. What a wonderful outlet for his beliefs and ideas. People listened and responded. Through his writing, he worked to convince, rebuke, teach, and exhort people all around the world. Using technology he never would have dreamed of when he walked the aisle as a teenager to answer his call to preaching, Michael and http://www.internetmonk.com fit together like a hand and glove. Whether writing about doctrine, current events or personal experience, he pecked at the keyboard and the words flowed. It was what he was called to do. He was a preacher, after all.
Thank you for being Michael’s congregation. Thank you more than words can ever say to Chaplain Mike for faithfully carrying on this ministry for the past 10 years. Thank you, Jeff Dunn, for all of your help in those early days. Thank you to so many who have written essays, commented in the lively discussions, and contributed in so many various ways.
And thank you, Michael, for proclaiming the Gospel with such energy and passion as you shared your gift with us all. You are remembered, and you will always be loved.