Tag Archives: Michael Shank

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

When Shovels Break (by Michael Shank) – A Review

I’ve known Michael Shank for the better part of a decade, and we both “cut our teeth” doing fill-in preaching for the same little congregation in Southern Illinois.  So, it was with great pleasure that I wrote the first real review of his first book, Muscle and a Shovel (you can read the review/article at BrotherhoodNews.com).  A few years have passed, and God has used Muscle and a Shovel in ways far beyond what I–or anyone else–could have imagined.

Soon after it began to spread through the brotherhood, Mike began work on his second book, When Shovels Break.  It has taken a few years, but it’s finally ready.

And let me tell you this: It is powerful.

While Muscle and a Shovel was written for the non-Christian, to help show them the biblical path to life in Christ, When Shovels Break was written for the struggling Christian, the wayward Christian, the unfaithful brother or sister in Christ.  It is a stirring testimony that no matter what you have done, no matter how far you have fallen away from Him, God is always ready to take you back and forgive you.

But there’s more to When Shovels Break than that–a LOT more.


A Sequel

When Shovels Break acts as a sequel to Muscle and a Shovel in many respects.  It follows the life of Michael Shank and his wife where the previous book left off.

But it also introduces us to one of Mike’s oldest friends, a man named John.  John and Mike had a lot in common: both came to Christ around the same time (both converted by “Randal”), worked  in the same industry, lived in the same neighborhood, even liked the same kinds of food.  In fact, John and Mike were as close as two friends could be.

The book begins [and this isn’t much of a spoiler, since Mike posted the first chapter on Facebook months ago] with John distraught over his sinful life, absolutely certain that he’s lost forever, not seeing any way of hope, and Mike trying to help him.  Then John lifts the gun to his head.

What could bring a man–a baptized believer in Jesus Christ–to such desperation that he thinks the only way out is to kill himself?  Could God ever take him back after all the sins he’s committed?  After he’s insulted his Savior by going back headlong into a life of sin?

A Message for the Church

Muscle and a Shovel was written for non-Christians, but it became a great tool to teach faithful members of the Lord’s church that evangelism doesn’t have to be hard!  It gave a clear and simple method to help show others God’s path to salvation.  It served to energize once-inactive Christians into active service for their Lord.  It helped remind experienced brethren of what they were fighting for, and the Lord’s church has become stronger as a result of God’s use of that book.

When Shovels Break is also a great tool for members of the Lord’s church.  Throughout the story of Mike and John’s life, you will see very clearly the importance of having brothers and sisters in Christ who care.  You will see the damage that can be done through a brother’s (or a congregation’s) indifference and the discouragement it can cause others.

This new book is also an example of God’s providence.  In the later part of the story, we get to see how God worked so many unexpected (and sometimes frustrating) things out in Mike’s life to bring him to the point of writing and publishing Muscle and a Shovel.  That bit of information is a nice little bonus to those who like to know “the rest of the story.”

You’ll also probably chuckle as Mike tries to show the Jule Miller Filmstrips to a bunch of drunks.

The Road Back Home

I surprised Mike when I told him that I thought the final dozen or so chapters were just as good–if not even better–than the story itself.  But I stand by it.

After concluding the story itself, Mike dedicates several chapters to a straight-forward conversation with Christians.  He devotes time to showing wayward members the way back home, but he also writes to encourage brethren whose strength may be faltering.  He describes some of these chapters as “God’s plan to keep you from ever falling away again–ever.”

And they are good.

The Survey

I’m not a prophet, but I believe the part of the book that will have the most impact within the church is where Mike gives the results of a survey he conducted, interviewing 400 people who have left the church.  It is an eye-opener–and it shows that the church itself must take at least part of the blame for their departure.

Final Thoughts

Even though I was already privy to part of the story (a side benefit of being friends with Mike since before Muscle and a Shovel), I got goosebumps reading through it.  Mike writes with a clarity and emotional power that makes you instantly identify with his struggles.  You hurt when he hurts.  You get frustrated when he is frustrated.  And you rejoice when he rejoices.

And you will never look at the Ego Board the same way again.

[note: I was not asked to write a review, but I thought it needed to be done]

To get your own copy of When Shovels Break, you can order direct from Mike Shank (or if you want it in Kindle format, it’s available here).