The Important Ministry of My Friend Michael Mercer

One of the most popular Christian blog sites on the Internet is the Internet Monk. Begun in 2000 by Michael Spencer, who died all too soon in his 50s earlier this year, the site now features several contributors. The principal writer of the Internet Monk goes by the screen name Chaplain Mike. I want to tell you a little about Chaplain Mike, our growing relationship and friendship, and then guide you to a recent post that I think is worth your time to give you one sample of his writing. You will find such a treasure of past and current posts on this site that you will quickly see why I love it as I do.

The late Michael Spencer, whom I only met through the Internet like so many of you, introduced me to Chaplain Mike in a round about way. He did an interview with Chaplain Michael Mercer and offered the following introduction to his readers on November 17, 2009:

Chaplain Mike Mercer is one of the long-time faithful friends of this web site. Many of you will recognize him as a frequent commenter. Mike has gone the extra mile to befriend me and that has been a true gift.

I wanted to do this interview because Mike is now involved in pastoral care of the dying and their families as a full-time ministry. This is an area where evangelical ministers and younger pastors need encouragement and help. Because pastoral care is so closely bound up with the integrity of the Gospel as a Word from God for the dying, I think this is a very worthy subject.

Mind you Michael Spencer was already quite ill when he wrote these poignant words about my friend Michael Mercer. Mike Mercer They were proven true in Michael Spencer’s life as Chaplain Mike (photo at right) was there for him to the end. And they have been proven true for me, though as far as I know I am not dying quite yet. (Of course, we are all dying and God alones knows the date!) Chaplain Mike, and his dear wife Denise, have become good friends. He reached out to meet me personally earlier this year and now he has a child in a nearby Christian college we have shared a good bit of time together over the last six months. I look forward to more time in the future. This is a man who works all day in hospice care and chaplaincy and then goes home at night and works hours and hours on this web site. I cannot imagine how he gets this done but he does. And the material he writes makes me feel like an amateur. It is consistently good, down-to-earth, helpful and pastorally solid writing. If you are not a visitor to this site you should bookmark it and start reading it. (I hope you will not stop reading my blogs in the process but if you have just so much time pick Chaplain Mike first for reasons that you will quickly discover.)

Finally, here is the post Chaplain Mike wrote that I urge you to read as one example of his ministry of writing. The post deals with Harold Camping who has predicted the date of Christ’s return. Obviously Camping has failed numerous times in the past but this has not stopped him from continuing to pursue his weird ideas about the return of Christ. (If you listen to them “weird” is not too strong a word here.) Now Camping has set a new date for May 21 of 2011.

Harold_Camping_in_2008 By now everyone should see Harold Camping (photo left) for the fraud he really is but such is not the case. (You can Google his name and read more than you will want to find, pro and/or con!)

But as Lee Corso says on College Game Day: “Not so fast my friend!” Too many conservative Christians are still being taken in by these silly ideas which provide no real spiritual good to the people of God. In fact, this kind of foolish date-setting is totally contrary to the teaching of Jesus himself so what else is there to say?

Camping is the aged president of Family Radio, a ministry (I have been in their main studio in Oakland and was interviewed on their network in the past) that includes a whole group of stations which appeal to people who want “gospel hymns” of the early 20th century sort (nothing either contemporary or ancient here) and a mixture of odd-bird Calvinism and iconoclastic ramblings about doctrine and salvation. Camping does a call-in program on his network which should readily convince anyone that he is truly strange. He never lacks strong confidence that he knows precisely what the Bible is saying and everyone else is wrong if they disagree. (Sola Scriptura has run amuck more than once in Protestant history folks!) Once a member of a local Christian Reformed Church (CRC) Camping now promotes staying away from all churches and giving your money to his radio ministry! To my knowledge he was never an ordained minister in any church.

So why does Camping matter at all? In one sense he doesn’t. He is irrelevant and will soon be forgotten like the rest of us. But for now he still stirs up some pretty good Christian folks who listen to him and hunger for more than they get in their local church. He strikes a chord with these dear people and they support him. I find the whole story tragic-comic. When such older Christians could be investing in the next generation, and some really great missional causes and churches, they are giving their money to keep this man on the air with his odd-ball nonsense that only feeds fear and the desire to run away from real mission and church community.