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The Best Teacher I Never Knew: Michael Spencer 1956-2010

I never did meet Michael Spencer – I never even traded a direct correspondence with him – but during the last five years he became one of the most significant teachers and mentors of my life.

Yesterday Michael passed away. He was, hands down, the best Christian writer on the internet.

I don’t remember why I first stumble across the Boar’s Head Tavern – it was sometime back in 2004 or 2005 (an eternity in internet years) – but I found a lively, witty, sometimes biting and sarcastic, but most importantly, intelligent conversation about Christianity. The writer in that group who caught my attention was Michael Spencer, and his personal blog, internetmonk.com, soon became a favorite haunt.

He was prolific, writing a staggering volume of breathtakingly insightful, piercingly true, and emotionally wrenching prose. As a preacher he stood for the unadulterated gospel of radical grace by Christ crucified and risen; As a pastor he stood for the first-order of faith over pedantic theological bickering; As a thinker he stood for the open and honest inclusion of life’s pain, hardship, and failure. Altogether I think he may have been the best example of a postmodern theologian; a deep and honest thinker whose theology consistently cut triumphalism and foundationalism off at the knees because it was rooted in the clear-eyed practice of real life ministry.

And when he wanted to he could even be funny.

His writing has profoundly shaped my faith. His skirmishes with the “fighting fundy’s” and neo-Reformed of the blogosphere we’re epic, and made me cheer. He modeled a way of interacting with hostile commentors that was fair and balanced, yet ruthlessly intolerant of hijacking agendas. He introduced me to Robert Capon.

Finally, in his wrestling with cancer these past few months he, yet again, vividly demonstrated how grace is the power that overcomes our greatest enemy, and steadfastly modeled how the weakness of God is stronger than the strength of men, the infection of sin, and the fear of death. He remained, up to the very end, a teacher – and a very fine one at that. For that, Michael, I thank you.

It’s true, of course, that Michael is better off, that we should rejoice for his present place of comfort with God, and that we will see him (and perhaps be taught by him) again. But we are most definitely not better off – not by a long shot – and in the meantime we should also grieve his loss alongside our hopeful rejoicing. But more than anything please be in prayer today for Michael’s friends and family, for none feel that loss like they do.

UPDATE: Andrew Jones excellent post remembering Michael reminded me that Michael’s first and only book, Mere Churchianity, is coming out in September and can be pre-ordered now on Amazon. Please buy this book today. You won’t regret it.

Other bloggers remembering Michael:

Mike Bell (“Chaplain Mike” the current host at internetmonk.com)

Elle Pyke

Trevin Wax

Scot McNight

Frank Viola

Andrew Jones

David Fitch

David Hayward

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  1. denise says:

    What a tragedy! Sounds like we have lost another great “voice in the wilderness”……..the world needs more people like this, not less!

  2. Jason, I think the title “Best Teach I Never Knew” is really a fitting title for Michael. I found myself tearing up yesterday when I heard the news of his passing. Quite interesting that so many of us could be quite profoundly impacted by a man we’ve never even met.

    Michael’s writing was on of the most intriguing to me and drew me into seeing the usefulness of Christians blogging. He was the first Christian blogger I really started following and his combination of insightfulness and transparency was a breath of fresh air.

    I grieve his loss but also find myself thankful that he is with the Lord and thankful for the impact he’s had on so many of us.


    1. Linkathon 4/7, part 1: Michael Spencer » Phoenix Preacher
    2. Tributes to the Internet Monk | internetmonk.com
    3. In memoriam: Michael Spencer « BrianD blog

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