Michael Spencer, R.I.P.

Michael Spencer has died.


He died on Monday night, a day after we Christians greeted the happy morning whereupon our Lord Jesus Christ conquered hell and the grave.  Michael is no longer singing words in a sanctuary.  He is there existentially and metaphysically in the resurrection, going forth with joy like a calf from its stall.  I envy him.

In the fall of 2004, Alabama football was floundering around with a child as its head coach, John Kerry was trying to convince America he could be President (eventually we would do worse), and I was twiddling my thumbs at a law office.  I was also bored out of my mind – listening to the same records on repeat, watching Simpsons reruns over and over and going to bed at nine pm on Friday night just to avoid the boredom.  I was also on the verge of quitting church and winging it on my own, just me and my own comfortable notion of a Jesus who cared very little for what I thought or how I acted.

I was tired of a falsely emotional Christianity.  I was sick of legalism and anti-intellectualism.  Catholicism actually sounded really good to me but I never came close to pulling the trigger.  And one day – I have no idea how – I came across the Internet Monk site while pretending that I was working at my desk in the law office.  Here was a guy, like me a Southern Baptist, asking questions and saying the things that I had always wondered about deep down.  I will not belabor the point by recounting the million different ways that Michael’s writing encapsulated my own needs.  But it did.  It was a collection of words and essays that simply changed my life.  I thank God for it, for him and for the fact that Michael pointed me towards Luther and Robert Farrar Capon and John Piper and Brennan Manning and Mark Driscoll and Eugene Peterson and a wild assortment of pastors and theologians who disagree with each other and with me but who understand – as sure the sun will come up tomorrow – that Christ has died and has risen and his great offer to me is unconditional love and grace and mercy and pardon.

That was the word I needed in a dark hour, and it was the word I heard.  I was and remain a miserable offender, but thanks be to God for a humble, flawed man in rural Kentucky who had something to say and said it loudly for thousands of us in the wilderness who needed his voice.  Michael once railed against what he called wretched urgency but he knew how urgent the Gospel is – that we must hear and hear now the good news that we are dying and dying soon but that Jesus the God-man has died already so that we might yet live.

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