Denise Spencer: The Call

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.

The Call
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 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.

26 thoughts on “Denise Spencer: The Call

  1. Thank you Denise for ‘sharing’ Michael with us back then. May God continue to be with you in coming years.


  2. There were a lot of long sad goodbyes when Michael passed in 2010 and it feels like we have been going through that again recently. The face of blogging has changed over the past 10 years and who is to say Michael would not have ended IM himself by now. He talked about it, finding some of what he was looking for by launching a new blog, Jesus Shaped Spirituality. That may have been partly my fault. I started blogging in 2008 and he said watching me get all excited about building an audience and finding my sea legs was like watching a kid with a new toy. He was several years removed from IM having that “new car smell.”

    Blogging gave writers a voice on the internet that didn’t exist before. Social media gives everyone a voice. Anyone and everyone can post and share literally everything. I still enjoy a good longform blogpost but viewer numbers have fallen off greatly since Facebook, Twitter and Instagram came out. Michael found his voice at exactly the right time in order to influence many and gain a global audience. In Billy Graham’s autobiography, he noted that technology and media have changed in such a way that no one needs to do what he back in the 50’s and 60’s to reach the same audience. He was the right man for that hour, much like Michael was from 2000 to 2010. There will never be another exactly like him, and that’s okay. God works all things together…


  3. Denise, my favorite story from Michael about you two is how, as you started your journey to the Catholic Church, spending time in the sanctuary for you meant Eucharistic adoration, while for him it meant replacing a bulb in the projector! I know your journey caused him some angst in the beginning, but in the end it seems he had accepted it. Blessings to you and yours at this ending. AS Iñigo de Loyola used to end his missives, AMDG—Ad majorem Dei gloriam. For the greater glory of God.


  4. Thank you Denise. I will always be grateful for Michael and both the insight and sense of refuge he and his successors have given me through this site.


  5. One of the reasons the criticisms of evangelicalism that came from Michael never really bothered me is because they seemed to come from a family member who wanted to help rather than someone who just wanted to run evangelicals down.


  6. Thank you, Denise. Michael was special. We all mourned his loss.

    I was widowed this year, and the presence of my dear husband’s spirit still feels close by some grace of God.


  7. Martha of Ireland was a favorite of mine also. Much missed.

    Susan, I comment also on two other blogs: Dr. Roger Olson (Patheos Evangelical Blogs) and Istoria Ministries (Wade Burleson’s blog). I’ve been thrown off of at least three others in my day. I hope there will be some way to stay in touch.

    A ‘community’ doesn’t just ‘end’. A ‘blog’ can end. There is a difference, yes.

    I also await some news hopefully of how to keep in touch with the Imonk community, yourself included.

    There must be some way forward, though I do not know how it can be.


  8. They say it takes one to know one. As a former smoker I can watch an actor smoking in a movie and pretty much tell you if the person is a real smoker or just acting. Similarly I can watch a guitar being played and tell you immediately if it is acting or if that actor really does play. You have laid out Michael’s credentials here as a true player. He critiqued what he knew and was a part of. Thoroughly engrossed. He wasn’t looking in from the outside, throwing stones from someone else’s camp. He sought to better the Evangelical world by awakening it. He wanted his family to be their best selves. At least that’s how it began. The more he questioned assumptions and spoke openly of his doubts and quest for clarity and reality, the more threatening and destabilizing he became to the status quo. That could have left him isolated except for the fact that there are untold numbers of us that responded to that cry because we also desire a Jesus shaped spirituality and are willing to go through the sometimes painful, sometimes lonely quest of finding it. Thank you Denise for graciously sharing your gifted husband with us. I’m guessing that required some sacrifice of your time with him and your privacy. We are grateful.


  9. About “keeping in touch”, has anyone heard from Martha of Ireland? She seems to have gone silent (both here an in my emails) for a couple years.

    Around ten years ago, Martha was my “cold reader” for various fantasy fictions (including some Pony Fanfics I was involved with). As an old-school SF litfan, she was a kindred spirit.


  10. Thanks for sharing an honest , touching and loving remembrance of your husband. I believe his life’s journey had a wonderful, positive impact in this world. God Bless you and your family. Great way to say good bye to the many , loyal followers of the IMonk. He was special and he is with the Lord. Nothing more to be said by me except thanks to God.


  11. “Tom aka” once called Michael’s development of a tool, or grid, or filter called “Jesus Shaped Spirituality astute-sharp witted-acute-intelligent-clever-alert-canny-media savvy-perceptive-observant-discriminating-sagacious-sage-wise-far seeing-far sighted-cunning-artful-crafty-wily-calculating-on the ball-smart-savvy-heads up-sapient.
    In remembrance it’s possible to go about Michael Spencer.


  12. CM.
    Will we have any way to keep in touch with each other ?
    The future looks so blank and bleak.


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