An Open Letter Regarding Michael Shank

I’ve been asked this everywhere I go, it seems.  I’ve been asked by some friends in Canada.  I’ve been asked by preachers in Ohio, North Carolina, Alabama, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Illinois, and several other places that I don’t even remember.  I’ve been asked by left-leaning brethren, one-cup brethren, and everyone in between.  They’ve all asked me the same thing:

Is Michael Shank really/still a faithful Christian?

One person had been told that Mike wasn’t a Christian at all, but had written a book to try to make money off the brotherhood.  Another said he had heard that Michael had been disfellowshiped and that “Randle” (from the book Muscle and a Shovel) either never existed or had left the church.  And today I heard the accusations of “Mike refuses to submit to an eldership,” “Mike doesn’t believe in paying preachers,” and “Mike is a heretic.”

Let me state this as clearly and unequivocally as I know how:

These are all lies.

I have known Mike since long before he ever wrote Muscle and a Shovel.  He is the same person now as he was then: one who cares deeply about  God, about Jesus Christ, and about being right with the eternal Judge of the universe.  He’s not perfect–none of us are–but in no way, shape, or form has he left the faith.

Some facts:

The congregation in Metropolis, IL grew when Mike was the preacher.  But he ended stepping down because of all the stress that he was under.  He tried to make ends meet by having his own electrical business, and was at one point in serious danger of foreclosure.  And through this time, he was still a member in Metropolis.  Obviously, Mike didn’t get into preaching for money.  And at this point, Muscle and a Shovel had been out for several months with very few sales.  He didn’t write the book for notoriety or money.

In the last couple years, Mike and his family made a very difficult decision, which perhaps has been the source of most of these unfounded rumors.  They decided they could no longer worship where they had been members.  I will not get into the specifics, but needless to say, they felt that they would be spiritually harming themselves to continue to attend there.

After visiting several congregations, they decided to do what the first-century Christians did, and began to meet in their home with some other like-minded Christians.  They still meet on the first day of the week.  They still teach the plan of salvation as seen in the Bible.  They still sings psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs without mechanical instruments of music.  They still take the Lord’s Supper each Lord’s Day.  They love each other.  They praise God, and they are bringing people to the Lord.

I don’t know where these rumors originated (I have my suspicions), but I do know for certain the names of some of those involved who are spreading these lies.  These people have been guilty of spreading gossip.  And of course, none of these people ever go talk to Mike and ask him about it.  They just spread lies to the world as though it were truth without bothering to look into it.

It reminds me of the time when Jesus had to put the apostle John in his place.  John came to Jesus, saying that there was this man who was casting out demons in the name of Jesus, and that John told him to stop–stop doing these good works because you don’t follow us!  Jesus told John, “Don’t forbid him!”

I plead with all who read this to remember what Jesus said after that: “He that is not against us is on our side.”

I know some of the Christians in Metropolis and spoke with some of them in person recently.  They spoke highly of Mike and his work.  They expressed their love for him and his family, and said that “anyone who knows him knows that he is a good, Christian man.”

A Plea:

If you hear someone putting down Michael Shank, ask them if they’ve bothered to talk to him, or if they’re just repeating gossip and rumors.  If they say something like “I got it from a reliable source,” ask them again, “Have you talked to Mike, or are you just repeating gossip?”

I speak as one who has known Mike personally for 12 years.  I speak as one who has exchanged literally hundreds (probably into the thousands) of emails with him and spent many, many hours on the phone with him (ask my wife…when she finds out I’m on the phone with him, she’ll say, “See you in a couple hours”).

All this to say, I know Mike.  I know his devotion to Jesus and to the doctrine of Christ.  He has not left the faith, he has not rejected the biblical concept of the eldership, he definitely isn’t opposed to paying the preacher.

In short, Michael Shank is a faithful Christian, and he is doing a good work for the Lord.

So, to paraphrase the words of our Lord, “Leave him alone.  Why are you troubling him? He has labored good work for Jesus.” (Mark 14:6).

A Final Thought:

The Bible condemns gossip and those who spread it.  The Bible also strongly condemns the person who sows discord among the brethren.  Those who are spreading lies about Mike are doing both.

Don’t be one of them.

-Bradley S. Cobb

11 thoughts on “An Open Letter Regarding Michael Shank”

  1. I am so sorry to hear about these rumors. I attest happily that his book, “Muscle and a Shovel” were directly or indirectly the impact for 23 new souls into the kingdom of God.

  2. I don’t agree with many of Michael Shank’s conclusions about scripture or his methodology in reaching them, but I will certainly agree with this you, Bradley, when you say that believers who gossip, spread lies and condemn others are seeking to divide the body of Christ. They’re doing wrong. They’re sinning. I’ll go further: What they’re doing is despicable.

  3. I hear a lot of back and forth about the book, but one thing I’ve never heard is anyone questioning the brother’s faith. Good for him to have a friend that steps up and attempts to set the record straight. Prayers for those who have given in to the cancer of gossip, that they may find more joy in spreading the gospel than rumors, and grace instead of judgment.

  4. Even if the rumors were true, it seems that the Lord’s Army tends to shoot its wounded rather than to render aid. Some years ago I came to have some very honest, very carefully considered, very painful, and very unwanted doubts that I hoped to either resolve or to yield to the implications of those doubts. I believed that continuing to assert claims about God that I doubted would be dishonest and dishonoring of God. So I shared only the tip of the iceberg of those doubts with two trusted brethren where I was preaching and asked them to help me step aside from the pulpit for awhile without troubling the members. My goal was to let them know about the struggle without attempting to convince them-as I badly wanted to avoid disturbing their faith while trying, in effect, to regain my own. I also shared a basic outline of the doubts and their rationale with two fellow preachers. Within a few weeks the brethren in the local church where I had long served as the preacher decided that the best course of action was to announce to the congregation that I had left the faith and to attempt some explanation of why I had done that. This created the very scenario that I was trying to keep from happening by discussing the issue with them. I could not discuss the issue with members without disturbing their faith. The preachers I had discussed it with were kind and caring. I heard from other preachers with various responses to what they were hearing. Some were praying for me, some simply called upon me to repent, some were disappointed by what they had heard, and some (when in private discussions) share my doubts completely and continue to try to resolve them while doing their work. So the difference between a heretic and a sound brother is sometimes measured by the degree to which we reveal or remain silent about our honest thoughts. To denounce others based upon hearsay or rumor without attempting to understand is small-minded. To help a possibly-mistaken brother work through doubt is not an evil.

    1. I think every Christian at some time has had doubts. I have spoken of it often through the years, and everyone I have said it to agrees. It is a desperate soul who covers up his own doubts in order to feel superior to those who do. God will judge the judges.

  5. I encountered such devils in Houston back in 1981 and they eventually killed the congregation. These spirits are not of God no matter what they claim.

  6. Thank you for sharing. We love Michael Shank’s and his books. Several people have been converted as a result of his book in our community. Unfortunately that ugly “green eyed monster” also appears in the brotherhood. My husband and I have been a victim of that monster too. Keep doing what you are doing Michael…..there will always be someone who thinks they need to fix someone else. 1 Peter 4:15 comes to mind “But let none of you suffer as a murder, a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a BUSYBODY in other men’s matters”.

  7. Thanks for this Bradley. I hadn’t heard the rumors, but I’m not surprised by them. You did right to do your part to put them to rest.

    Grace and peace,
    Tim Archer

  8. Brad,

    It saddens me that you had to write this letter. I know Michael and have also spent many many hours on the telephone with him. It may come as a shock but… he’s not perfect! Nope, not perfect! He has made his share of mistakes just as I have. But in Christ we have redemption. IF any charge does prove to be meritorious does that change the fact that Michael is a child of God? No, it does not. He may not live up to the standards of man but, like me, he has given his heart to Christ, died to self and now lives for God.
    I think a source for much of this sort of problem comes from the fact that as believers, we tend to “worship” certain brethren and don’t really realize it. We expect them to be perfect as Christ is perfect and when they misstep we are crushed! I would submit that God continues to work in Michael as he does in all of his children and these sorts of problems for him are associated more with our brethren being shaped into Christ’s image (realizing worshiping brethren is wrong) and less to do with Michael’s own journey. I would encourage all believers to beware of our own tendency to worship certain brethren because they are leaders or good speakers or wrote a good book, etc. and to take our eyes off of our brethren and fix them entirely on Christ who is worthy to be worshipped!
    Finally, I’d like for you to have added just one more thing to your letter… A request for prayers for Michael and Jonetta and their boys.
    God bless you.
    God bless Michael J. Shank and his family

  9. All of this is the very reason the Apostle Paul said in 1 Cor. 2:2
    I am determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. And by-the-way, this is my favorite Bible verse.
    The minute someone starts trying to flush out sin and Satan, Satan will find someone to try and stop him. I’m now an old woman…have seen much, grew up in the church of Christ, my great grandfather preached the gospel across Texas on horse back. I’ve read both of Michael’s books…..I’ve heard him preach. He is an asset to the Kingdom of God. Let us THANK HIM AND CONTINUE TO ENCOURAGE HIM.

  10. I read muscle and a shovel and am now reading when shovels break. At the end of chapter 9 I broke down praying for forgiveness as I realized I was just like John from early on in my Christian walk and couldn’t understand why I was so disalusioned with my faith. I wasn’t one to read the Bible. I fell awry for decades going back to church half heartedly on occasion always giving up and walking away. I realized just now if you don’t read the Word and pray you can’t serve the Lord. Mr. Shank,Your books have saved my eternal life as has my brother for giving me these books! May God bless you and your family and may many see the truth and the love of the Lord in your words!

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