Home > Uncategorized > Perspective on the Phoenix Preacher

Perspective on the Phoenix Preacher

So it ends.

After several years, pastor Michael Newnham has decided to close down his Phoenix Preacher site for good.

He has done so once before, but this time there seems to be a permanence to it all.

Phoenix Preacher began as Michael’s own church blog, and soon was where he posted his observations on his less-than-positive experiences in one of the many Calvary Chapel affiliated churches. Michael discovered he wasn’t alone, as others with similar experiences discovered his blog, and began sharing their own unique, sometimes harrowing, heart-breaking stories.

Over the years, Michael sought to shift the blog’s focus to ministering to those in the church who were abused and hurt, as well as to share some of the good things that were happening throughout the church at large. In the blog’s later years, Michael tried to choose and pick his battles against abuse in the church while exposing his readers to Bible studies, the historic creeds of the church, and great figures from the church such as his beloved John Calvin and James I. Packer.

And through it all, there was the best, and perhaps only, example of online community I have ever observed or experienced. Pastors and laypeople interacted regularly; people discussed issues, often robustly and sometimes heatedly; people also laughed and fellowshipped the best one can do online; and people prayed, regularly, for one another.

Recent events, and God’s leading, have led Michael to shut down Phoenix Preacher for good. Though I hope that this turns out to be a temporary pause, I expect that it is more permanent, and for the best.

Phoenix Preacher means a lot of things to a lot of people, good, not-so-good, and in between.

My memories, and my experiences, are largely positive. I owe PP, and Michael, a great debt for their influence on my life.

Over four years ago, I was in a Calvary Chapel, struggling with life, trying to make sense of things – including how different the church was from the first time I was a part.

I went online to see if my experience was unique, or if others might have gone through similar experiences. What I discovered was a listing on an old internet bulletin board site for Phoenix Preacher.

I checked it out, right when the Joe Sabolick controversy heated up. Though my CC pastor was and is a good, solid man of God, I saw a few things regarding the people and their culture that jibed with what I saw locally, and I knew that I didn’t fit into that church. So I left…and for a few years was completely without a church.

However…after seeing the interaction between posters…and getting the courage to post myself…I became part of the community. And, for a time, PP became my church.

I found ways, online and behind the scenes, to contribute to Michael’s blog ministry, and eventually became a moderator. I got to experience first-hand a taste of the criticism Michael had to deal with on a daily basis, and got to experience some blessings from the meager articles and linkathons I posted over the years.

I was exposed to pastors and teachers, like Eugene Peterson and J.I. Packer, I might otherwise never would have given a thought to.

I was reminded of a compassionate Calvinism, as expressed in Michael’s ministry and that of one of his heroes, Steve Brown, that helped me more fully embrace Reformed theology.

Most of all, I was exposed to an incredible community of people, none of whom I have ever met in person, but who are as real as any person I see in the flesh every day.

I have made friendships and acquaintances I hope extend far beyond the expiration date of the PP blog. I’ve met people who emailed and chatted with me and supported me when I needed the encouragement. The mere give-and-take of daily interaction here helped me grow in some significant ways.

And Michael was the first pastor to really pastor me, to be the feet, hands and voice of Jesus without making me feel like I was on the clock and cutting into his valuable schedule.

I have a church now, and some semblance of community, though other circumstances in my life continue to prevent me from fully committing to community as my church would want me to.

That last part will be the most frustrating thing about the end of PP…so at least for a time I will probably try to follow the remnants of the community wherever they wind up.

Because what I will take away from my time at Phoenix Preacher is the importance of community.

Man was not meant to live alone, and though God said that in reference to Adam and Eve, I think it also applies somewhat to community.

Being a lone ranger for as long as I was nearly killed me. PP was like a breath of fresh air; in fact, by understanding its benefits and limitations, I understood that I needed to be in a good, Christ-centered, Bible-teaching church where I could become part of a local community.

PP would not have lasted as long as it had if it was only 40 angry ranters who didn’t give a lick about anyone else.

Community was a vital part of PP…and it is a vital part of any healthy church.

I’ve learned that community, even as flawed as it often can be, is vital to a Christian.

Because of the online community at PP, I am a part of my church and still clinging to the cross, not wallowing in bitterness…or perhaps, dead.

I appreciate that Michael was respectful enough of the community to allow it to develop, and grow as it did.

I also appreciate Michael’s heart for hurting, lost people who were beaten down by the church and fell through the cracks, and his example in standing for those values even when the only ones who seemed to get it were his supporters.

It is unfortunate that things went as sideways as they did in the past week.

It is sad that misunderstandings may have developed that won’t be resolved until we all walk through the pearly gates, in the presence of Jesus.

You have your own story, your own perspective on Michael and Phoenix Preacher that is just as valid as mine is.

But…if you get that Michael Newnham loved Jesus, and cared about His people, and especially for the wounded sheep hurt by friendly fire from the church and by hostile fire from the world and from the devil…

If you follow Jesus yourself, and care for His people, and help care especially for those wounded by life and their own flesh and by the enemy and by others in the church…you’ll understand the most important things about Michael Newnham and his ministry.

It would be great for Michael to go another 20 years online. The things I just mentioned are things  you and I can do that don’t require Michael’s presence, nor a blog to encourage us on.

Following Jesus, and loving others – especially the wounded and hurting – are worthy ways to follow in Michael’s footsteps, online and offline.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:
  1. Believe
    June 18, 2010 at 8:08 pm


  2. briwd2006
    June 18, 2010 at 8:20 pm

    Alex, welcome!

  3. Sarah
    June 18, 2010 at 8:25 pm

    Well written, BrianD.

    It has been a wondrous 4 1/2 years for me on the blog. It was great to get to know you a bit, and to see how you have grown. Will continue to be praying for you as you find your footing in what God has called you to at your church and in your work.

  4. Phil Naessens
    June 18, 2010 at 8:25 pm

    Hi Brian,

    That pretty much sums it up. A community is what Michael created and I’ll tell ya it ain’t ever going to be duplicated no matter how hard anyone tries. His presence will be greatly missed.

    You played an amazing role as well Brian. Your link-a-thons were and are amazing. I don’t know how you did/do it but thank you for that!

    BTW: What is this “SMP” everyone is talking about?


  5. Believe
    June 18, 2010 at 8:28 pm

    Hey Bri…good to see you! Glad your continuing a forum.

  6. briwd2006
    June 18, 2010 at 8:32 pm

    Sarah, I was glad to see you there as well, and please don’t be a stranger.

    Glenn…a usable RSS reader and the ability to scan and pick out the good from the bad helps a lot 🙂

    SMP stands for Simple Minded Preacher, a private blog started by Calvary Chapel pastor Chad Myhre.

    Alex…I couldn’t stand back and let the forum die out completely…just like I and the other PP mods did a few years ago when we had to form FTA.

  7. June 18, 2010 at 8:45 pm
  8. Anonymous
  9. Not Alone
    June 18, 2010 at 9:31 pm

    Very nice Brian, well done.

  10. briwd2006
    June 18, 2010 at 9:34 pm

    Thanks,Not Alone!

  11. briwd2006
    June 18, 2010 at 10:08 pm

    Dusty…keep in mind 3or more links of anything activates the WordPress spam filter. I rescued your posts.

  12. ( | o )====:::
    June 18, 2010 at 10:11 pm

    I love ya bud!

  13. briwd2006
    June 18, 2010 at 10:20 pm

    Thanks for the sentiment Gren!

  14. June 18, 2010 at 10:24 pm

    Brian, I think I have a comment in the spam filter…I posted a list of our friends blogs…

  15. June 18, 2010 at 10:25 pm

    😳 I guess you just said that… lol thanks Brian.

  16. June 18, 2010 at 10:26 pm

    oh no…now there are three of the same comment…brian help. lol

  17. Mom
    June 18, 2010 at 10:27 pm


    that was beautifully said.

    I wasn’t able to read and post before comments were closed today–I’m working too many hours and practically fall asleep at the dinner table before stumbling to bed and getting up way too early the next morning. I did email Michael to thank him for all he’s done for this community.

    I must say, when I read the words tonight and grasped the implications, I cried. You all have meant so much to me– I’ve met many of you now, and have never met others, but as written letters in the past aided pen-pals in sharing one another’s heart, so has the Phoenix Preacher bonded us to one another.

    Dusty, I will visit your place often since the prayer thread was the place I most often visited. Thank you, Dusty and Sarah and Sister C for standing in the gap so many times.

  18. briwd2006
    June 18, 2010 at 10:41 pm

    Thx “mom” 🙂

    Dusty I’ll leave them up.

  19. June 18, 2010 at 10:46 pm


    Its been good getting to know you, and I hope that we can continue to be friends through facebook and blogs. I’ve appreciated each of your linkathon’s also bro! God bless,

    Jim Bomkamp

  20. briwd2006
    June 18, 2010 at 10:54 pm

    Thx JimB, and likewise to you and the other pastors.

    Linkathon will continue for now, probably at 2different sites.

  21. briwd2006
    June 18, 2010 at 10:56 pm

    Headed to bed…will check back early tomorrow

  22. June 18, 2010 at 11:10 pm

    From an SMPer, I will really miss PP. I started out on PP wanting to take Michael out behind the virtual shed and beat his brains out. Time spent reading the blog changed my attitude. I paid attention to Michael, and my heart changed about a great deal of things. I saw truth, and I saw compassion behind the sometimes overwhelming rage. I saw a heart for integrity in ministry that began to change me as a servant if the Body of Christ.

    I unloaded my story one day on PP, a long winded tale of my woes in Vineyard, and if I recall correctly, Michael was one of the first to respond with thanks, and he knew I was a CC flag waving lunatic. That stuck with me.

    I really will be in withdrawls over the loss of PP for a long time to come. It has been my 3rd most frequently visited web site for the last year at least, only being slightly edged out by SMP and Facebook. Funny how that sounds, but I realize even more now what a place PP has been for me on my own journey.

    Chad Myhre told me today as I was picking up his daughter for a visit, “Did you see that Michael is shutting down the blog?” I did not believe him. I drove all the way home thinking he was pulling my chain. I fired up my mac as soon as I walked in and clicked on the well worn PP quick link at the top of Safari. Who would have known I would be writing this now with real tears in my eyes?

    Thanks PP, Michael, I learned more than a blog would be able to hold from the family there.

  23. erunner
    June 18, 2010 at 11:45 pm

    This is a bittersweet day with the news about Phoenix Preacher falling on my birthday.

    You summed up things so well Brian. Thank you for all of your hard work to help make PP feel like home.

    I am so happy with my time at Phoenix Preacher and especially how it evolved. I went from being an enemy of Michael’s to becoming close friends with him.

    He extended me every grace when I was determined to undermine what he was doing. I was so angry and full of pride nobody could tell me as I wouldn’t have believed them.

    A day of prayer was a changing point for me and slowly things changed. I recall Michael wouldn’t acknowledge my posts for a time as I really couldn’t be trusted.

    But slowly our relationship evolved and we were both able to leave the past in the past and move forward. He gave me the confidence I could do a blog and it’s two years later and whatever good God has seen fit to do as a result, Michael shares in that.

    I have had the privilege to meet many folks from the blog and attended Oden’s church for a season as well. When we do the E-Fests it’s amazing how a group of such diversified people can get along so well.

    I believe if a lot of us could have met maybe things on the blog may have been different??

    It was a difficult last week to be a small part of. I really hope relationships haven’t been permanently damaged. From experience I pray nobody will hang onto any form of anger or bitterness. That was my undoing for so many years and how I regret it.

    I have grown to love so many of you and it’s gonna be strange without checking in to see how everyone is doing. Hopefully we can keep in touch one way or the other. God bless!

  24. paigemom
    June 18, 2010 at 11:54 pm

    Good word BrianD….. Gosh, Amen, amen. The PP has been an enormous blessing to me/us in SO many ways. Healing, encouragement, learning, making wonderful friends, prayers. So much!
    I truly hope that ‘it’s not over’, but may God’s Will be done above all.
    Michael deserves a Sabbath from the pressure, fo sho.
    God bless YOU BrianD. We’ll just wait to see what God has in store.
    Meanwhile, like you, I am deeply thankful for how my life was enriched by Phoenix Preacher.
    Bye for now.

  25. jlo
    June 18, 2010 at 11:56 pm

    Brian, thanks for opening up this opportunity to say good bye, or hello? To the friendships that were created over on the PP. I haven’t had much time to post this past week, as I’ve been dealing with a very sick, manic dog.

    I was mainly a lurker, but once in awhile I posted. What PP did for me was give me an understanding that I was not alone, that it was okay to feel the hurt imposed, but not okay to dwell on it. PP showed me how to process that hurt and to move forward.

    It also showed me there is a much broader view of what a Christian truly is, and not the single vision that I had been exposed to. So thank you Michael, and all the others who were brave enough to post. You all have made a difference in my life, my walk with God, and most importantly how I interact with others.

    God’s blessing on you
    Jody Lopez

  26. Buster
    June 19, 2010 at 12:52 am

    That was excellent, BrianD! Heartfelt and professional. PP would not have been around as long as it was if it had not been for you.

  27. brian
    June 19, 2010 at 1:01 am

    I was around for years and PP was a great place to post and ponder. I dont blame Michael, it is tough and takes a toll, he needs to take care of himself and those around him. He has earned a rest. I will miss it and I am thankful but Michael deserves the rest.

  28. London
    June 19, 2010 at 2:45 am

    Very well written BrianD.
    I’m glad you have provided a place for people to say what they need to say before moving on to the next chapters of their journeys.
    Thanks to everyone for the laughs, support, challenges and education over the years!

    It was one wild ride huh??

  29. Na'amah
    June 19, 2010 at 2:52 am

    as someone who was new to the PP site, BrianD you expressed well what the community has come to mean to me… surprises me how much the people in an internet community could become such an important aspect of my daily life.

  30. Babylon's Dread
    June 19, 2010 at 3:08 am

    Thanks Brian,

    From explosive beat downs to compassionate outreach PP was unmatched as an online community. Michael is a good man and a good friend. This has been coming for at least two years. Michael would come very close and then back away. We all have other forums to meet and connect. I just pray Michael will be ok.

  31. June 19, 2010 at 3:35 am

    I missed most of the goodbyes today because I had a wedding and mens retreat, but I would like to say my goodbyes as well. And of course thank you to all who interacted with me there.

    God bless you all, seek Jesus diligenty.

  32. briwd2006
    June 19, 2010 at 7:00 am


    Thanks for the kind words and recollections…

    I don’t plan to go anywhere and neither do the other bloggers listed on this site. I’ll say more later today on the subject.

  33. Anita Saunders (Nonnie)
    June 19, 2010 at 8:21 am

    Thank you Brian. You expressed what many of us are thinking.

    I have learned over the years that God walks us through seasons of life and ministry. When these seasons come to an end we either sigh a breath of relief that it is over OR we grieve that it has come to an end. For me the Phoenix Preacher blog was a community of believers from such a vast variety of “flavors” in Christianity and I know my life was enriched by so many. This is one of those seasons where I am grieving that it has come to an end.

    However, I have also learned that whatever ministry the Lord brings to an end, we can trust Him in it and know that a new season is beginning. We can now look forward to what the Lord has for us all.

  34. Linnea
    June 19, 2010 at 8:58 am

    Anita… #29 🙂 I needed that this morning!

  35. briwd2006
    June 19, 2010 at 11:20 am

    Great thoughts, Anita!

    I don’t want it to end either…just as long as something good begins in its place.

  36. pstrmike
    June 19, 2010 at 11:40 am

    always liked this blog, I’ll be interested to see what comes of it…. I’m going to take some time off the internet, I think it will be good…. 8)

  37. June 19, 2010 at 12:39 pm

    Well now I’m offended…because you and I have met, so that either means I wasn’t part of the PP or you totally forgot about our little bbq excursion in Louisville in September 🙂

    Just kiddin’ ya man…I hope you are able to continue your linkathons my friend.


  38. briwd2006
    June 19, 2010 at 3:32 pm

    Pstrmike, so will I!
    MLD, no 🙂
    Bill, me too.
    Buster, there’s an anti CC blog I won’t link to. There’s a zillion Calvinist bloggers out there.

  39. briwd2006
    June 19, 2010 at 3:36 pm
  40. briwd2006
    June 19, 2010 at 3:44 pm

    Ryan, I guess I did!

    That reminds me…I need to build a list of blogs for the regular pastors here. Soon…

    London, it was indeed.

    Dread, well said.

    Buster, thank you.

    Na’amah, hopefully you can find a place here or on one of the other blogs.

    Anita, wise counsel.

    Eric and Gren, we’re still here.

    brian, I agree.

    Shaun, you are always welcome here. Same for your colleagues too.

  41. Kevin McCullers (Captain Kevin)
    June 20, 2010 at 2:26 am

    Hey BrianD, great summary article. Thanks for taking the time to write it and for extending an invitation for PP’ers to join you here and on the other blogs.

    My mind is in somewhat of a fog (more than usual) about all of this right now. I know the family goes on, but it feels like the house we grew up in was taken over by the government and flattened by a wrecking ball to make room for a new freeway. Depressed…

  42. Sue
    June 20, 2010 at 12:17 pm

    yes, I agree with Kevin – great summary article! Michael has made mistakes – we all do – I for one don’t agree with things he has said from time to time, haven’t liked when he’s kicked off someone from time to time, but his site gave me a gift I haven’t found anywhere else. I went on the internet looking for a site like Briand did where I might find people who didn’t have a good experience with their particular CC and might understand my experience to some extent. I first found an atheist site who understood, but I did not identify with being an atheist. Then I found Michael’s site. I have slowly started being real with myself and allow myself mostly in private to look at and not deny the feelings I stuffed for so many years because I was taught I should’nt be feeling them. I was told I was like the Israelites who started complaining ater exiting. My feelings became so intense that I had to leave CC, and was in such a turmoil, because when I expected a peace beyond understanding, I got the opposite and blamed myself and felt condemned. I am a different person today and finding others who have had similar experiences has meant the most to me – so I am greatful to Michael for this the most – his site was the only connection I’ve had to the Body of C. I think his critics should know this that it has helped tremendously alot of us. They have not been there for me for one – Michaels site has. While I have not really been able to connect with anyone, I lurk alot and have enjoyed the conversations – I have a peaceful God in my life today.

  43. briwd2006
    June 20, 2010 at 12:58 pm

    Sue, I am happy we could minister to you.

    I hope someday you can find a good church that will love you and help you grow in Jesus, without the dysfunction and sin you had to endure before. I don’t know what that will look like or how long it will take, and in the meantime and afterwards we will walk with you in your journey.

  44. Em
    June 20, 2010 at 8:41 pm

    i’d made the decision to get on without the daily PP fix and i think my ‘good bye’ over there got posted… then i turned on the computer and the PP, itself, was saying good bye… somehow the shutting down is wrong and right also

    now I’ll stop by BrianD’s blog here to thank him, too and i imagine i’ll lurk from time to time, too 🙂

    memories of all who posted will continue and so will my prayers for you all – along with thanking the Lord – practically every commenter has blessed and enriched me…

    God keep all close and comforted –

  45. briwd2006
    June 20, 2010 at 8:48 pm

    Blessings, Em…but please lurk from time to time, and pontificate even 🙂

  46. November 16, 2011 at 12:56 am

    Don’t be surprised if he rises again…

  47. August 9, 2013 at 7:16 am

    Well said!

    Been a lurker from the beginning and touched down now and then. Often enough to get a feel for each regular poster. While I left Phoenix P some days feeling “slimed” by a certain poster who changed nomanclature every so often, I still had to lurk almost daily there.

    May this place bridge the gap for everyone. Michael N is a unique Christian voice that should never go silent. May he enjoy peace and rest and get renewed in all aspects.

    I think he will enjoy not being in the cross hairs and not getting slimed…

    But I also think he will pop if he has no outlet…Phoenix Preacher, what a great name for a blog that comes and goes.

    David Sloane

  1. June 19, 2010 at 10:43 am
  2. June 19, 2010 at 4:16 pm

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