Jim Minker and TheShovel.Net…
Over 15 years ago, Ros and I were in the heartbreaking process of wrapping up our work at a church we were employed by and had poured our souls into. As we helplessly witnessed the Synod barely even attempting to mask its systematic efforts to destroy the community of healing we had built, we commenced searching the internet for a new faith community we could be part of here in Calgary – a search that eventually ended with us starting our own.
However, in the process of that search, I came across a now long-dead messaging board with a group of people talking about a man by the name of Jim Minker and a strange and chaotically disorganized theology site called TheShovel.Net. Intrigued, I clicked over to his website and started to read, discovering something quite unlike any other.
It was, in all honesty, a complete mess of a website but the content of it was one of the best presentations of the New Covenant Spirituality Ros and I had literally been teaching for our entire careers to that point. While other theologians had been making deals with the devil to get their books published and their 15 seconds in the limelight of some religious TV channel, Jim had been quietly teaching and ministering to anyone who came to his site. His was a quality of transparent honesty, humble vulnerability and deep empathy coupled with a ruthlessly unswerving dedication to the truth of what Christ really came to do: To forever end religion and replace it with an intimate, conversational relationship with the living God.
In the midst of watching something so precious to us die, it was probably the most powerful validation of what we had been struggling to do we could have ever received.
While I never had the honour of meeting Jim in person, over the next decade and a half, we referred several hundred friends, family and clients to his site. Years later, I happened to spend a bit of time on his website and after reading through a set of comments, was shocked to discover that many of them had never left. The wisdom he was sharing with them meshed perfectly with the clinical techniques of psychological counselling we were walking them through and, entirely unbeknownst to me, Jim had essentially become a pastor to many of them.
Last summer, I began to receive messages from some clients who pointed out that they could no longer access Jim’s site. Initially, it just appeared to be a relatively common CloudFlare issue – so I ignored it. But, the site stayed down. His former/mostly archived site (ShovelShack) was also, strangely, devoid of updates.
Shortly after Christmas this year, I began to do a variety of internet searches and discovered that his ALS page, his ALS FaceBook page and his donation page had also vanished from the internet. The only trace of Jim that remained on the internet was his FaceBook page. Jim had finally shed the body he had suffered in for years and gone to be in the presence of the God of freedom and grace he loved more than life itself.
I began to search for a copy of the information on his site – in part due to a growing number of requests from clients for whatever we had of it. It took a while, but I finally found a rather skeezy outfit who could get me the last known complete backup of the text part of his site – an incomplete backup which was dated June 24/2018.
To describe the backup I have as even being, “A horrible hack,” is to insult all of the fine hackers the internet has to offer. It’s not even a complete backup. Jim served all of his audio teachings on the site from his Amazon Cloud account, which has now been closed. And, it’s a rendering of a Drupal Content Management System into HTML5 (so it can now be viewed on a mobile device) which looks like the original site, but nothing works other than most of the links to the text content his site used to offer – and even some of that had failed by the time of the backup.
Jim’s work, however, is too valuable to allow it to pass away with him. It’s too useful to our clients and, even beyond that, I want his words to remain available to my daughters when they get to the place in life where they need answers for themselves. As such, earlier this week, I registered a free domain, pointing it at a lifetime hosting account we own in hopes that at least what I have recovered of Jim’s life work will remain available, forever.
What was formerly known as theshovel.net has now been brought back to life at:
For historical and archival purposes, I’ve changed as little as possible of the 6320 pages of his site – only enough to get it to work on the new domain name. As such, some of the links will go nowhere and are there merely to retain the integrity of what Jim created.
And, though it will do no good for anyone without a web server to put it on, if anyone has the technical knowledge needed to restore this site or at least render it fully searchable again, I’d be happy to send you the archive to work on.
In memory of Jim Minker, and to the Glory of God.