By Marlon Millner -- May 4, 2009
Michael Spencer was 16 when he became a Christian in the Kentucky Baptist church where his uncle was pastor. He started preaching shortly thereafter and hasn't stopped. Now 52, Spencer, a lifelong Southern Baptist, has served in youth ministry and as a senior pastor in his 36-years of proclaiming the Gospel. Along the way, he married and had two children, earned a master's degree at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY and became part of an intentional Christian community in Southeastern Kentucky.
In 2000, his life changed dramatically when he created a blog called The Internet Monk. Now one of the most popular evangelical bloggers on the Web, the iMonk sounds off with Patheos.com about Evangelicalism's decline, Pentecostalism's growth, the embrace of the Internet, and why evangelicals should not be anti-Catholic.
Q: The Internet Monk, is an interesting name for a Baptist preacher from Kentucky. How did that come about?
A: I was ordained in 1980, graduated from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and served in several churches as pastor and staff member. I've always been a great admirer of monasticism as a path of corporate spiritual formation. Thomas Merton became a bit of an obsession in the early 1980s and I've read most of his works. When I started blogging, I needed a name for the site and Internet Monk seemed like a name that described both my interest in Catholicism and the larger church, and also my desire to use new media to get my point of view out there. The Internet Monk morphed into "iMonk" a few years later. I have to admit I enjoy having an alter ego. But trust me, it's all an online persona. I don't have a cave or a car.
Q: What specific ancient practices might the more conservative Evangelical churches embrace and why?
A: Conservative evangelicals ought to embrace the use of the Christian year -- at least the major feasts -- to make Christ the center of worship and devotion, and pass on the core of the faith to their children.
The Christian year is a great way to teach and embrace the centrality of Christ. They could use the lectionary in worship and in private. We hear a ridiculously small amount of scripture as evangelicals. Most importantly, they could restore public reading of scripture as a discipline in worship. We could embrace the concept of spiritual formation and begin to use resources from the larger, more ancient church to address the fundamental issues of spiritual growth. So many are hungry to be taught the devotional disciplines on a higher level. Finally, evangelicals could stop being such knee-jerk anti-Catholics about the resources of the larger church.
Q: Is the Web a great equalizer of Christian voices? How has the Internet shaped your voice and given you a platform?
A: I could write a book about my experience with the Internet. In the year 2000, I started my blog to let off some steam and get the ego-stroke of seeing something I wrote "out there." Eight years later I have a half-million readers, a technorati rank of 2700 in the world, I've been quoted in Time magazine and featured on The Drudge Report.