Mike Glodo is Associate Professor of Pastoral Theology and Dean of the Chapel at RTS Orlando.
(For an introduction to the series, see here.)
1. Tell us a little about yourself.
I’m a native of the lower Midwest, the son of a railroader, but have lived in Orlando since 1991 when I began to teach at RTS, except for six years in Detroit when I was the head of my denomination, the Evangelical Presbyterian Church. I first worked as a CPA after college, but have served in ministry for about thirty-five years. My wife of thirty-five years is an excellent school teacher, my daughter works for the Yale University School of Music (her alma mater) and my son just received his accounting degree from Stetson University and is, we hope, in the final stages of being offered a professional opportunity. Besides being a disciple of Christ, a husband, and a father, the role that most defines me is that of minister of Word and sacrament.
2. You’ve held various pastoral roles and primarily teach courses related to pastoral ministry. How would you describe your call to ministry?
The process of my calling involved a very clear and deep sense that I was called to be a minister of the Word for the sake of Christ’s church. This sense has been my North Star as I have taken on different roles and callings during my thirty five years, whether as a pastor, professor, administrator, or church consultant. My calling is to hold a Bible in my hand, understand its teaching and relevance to the work at hand, and explain it to others so that they might fulfill their calling as a believer, seminary student, pastor, elder, or other ministry leader. I trained as a Bible man, I taught Old Testament for twenty years and New Testament concurrently for ten of those years, I still teach hermeneutics, so whether it’s in preaching—the majority of courses that I teach—or pastoral theology, I teach them as a Bible man.
It may sound odd, but ministry insiders will understand this—the work is constantly trying to take my Bible from my hand. Church members more and more value the therapeutic. Church leaders more and more value the managerial. Even in theological education, administration can at times tend to be rewarded more and have more influence that the simple opening, understanding, and exposition of scripture. This is why as a homiletics professor I try to preach like a local pastor more than a conference speaker. If I preach the same sermon ten, twenty, or thirty times, I’m going to get really good at it and it’s going to set an unrealistic standard for communication and delivery for an ordinary pastor. If I preach like a local church pastor, I may not come across like a slick conference preacher, but I feel like it’s more honest for my students and more realistic. I tell them that a pastor is not the host of a cooking show making food into performance, but is a mother trying to raise healthy children. For them to know I’m preaching new sermons most of the time, just like they will have to as pastors of local churches, helps them be more confident and realistic.
3. How has your service as a pastor influenced your Christian life?
My general outlook as a Christian is that I am not my own, but have been bought with a price, so I am to live in a way that glorifies God. Whether as a pastor or a professor, my first calling is to be a lamb of Jesus and a follower (disciple) of his. Every Christian, not just pastors, are to be “living letters” of who Jesus is. My times as a pastor, though, confront me with the reality that I have been entrusted with more souls than my own. I’m not a motorcycle rider, I’m a bus driver. The life of each individual Christian is God’s business, but it’s doubly so for a pastor.
So first I would say that my spiritual health, humility, prayerfulness—in general, godliness—is vital not only for me, but for those whose lives have been entrusted to me. This includes my wife and children, of course, but as a professor this includes my students. Every student who sits in my classes is a lamb of Jesus, entrusted to me for spiritual formation and soul care, not just for skill development or offloading information. Jesus knows his sheep, therefore, in his service, I am obligated to know them as best I can. This is a pleasure, by the way, not a burden, but it is part of my calling. I think this helps me teach them better, too, because it helps me address more their specific needs, issues, and questions, and guide them toward answering God’s call on their lives.
Second, my service as a pastor has left me spiritually rich. I tell the students, “Never trust a skinny cook.” I’ve been very blessed to drink from the well and eat from the feast while pastoring and teaching others. Ministry has never become mercantile to me—it can become that and I understand the temptations to do so. Becoming mercantile can mean less grief because we don’t allow ourselves to be vulnerable or can mean less self-examination to recognize our own weaknesses and limitations. But since growing into Christlikeness is to be a lifelong process for every Christian, I can’t withdraw into a professional shell. I have the privilege of sharing in the treasures of God’s larder even while commending it to others. I’m a better Christian because I am a minister, and I don’t take that for granted. It doesn’t always happen that way, but it’s something I urge upon our students.
4. How have your past leadership roles in the church and in your denomination influenced your teaching, both inside and outside the classroom?
It has helped me tremendously in two ways. First, it has given me a bird’s eye view of the church. I see the panorama of my own denomination, but through experiences like working with many local churches and international partner churches and serving on the Executive Committee of the National Association of Evangelicals, I have a better sense of the broad span of the church. This has helped make me more mission-focused among other things. Second, it has given me access to the experiences not just of a handful of congregations I might have served in a career as a local church pastor, but to hundreds of congregations. I have been privy to and often intimately involved in the successes, struggles, and solutions of those churches and their pastors. Pretty much every week I meet, speak, or correspond with a pastor trying to solve a problem, set a vision, plan a sermon series, reflect upon his calling, or potentially anything else in the unimaginable range of things pastors and churches deal with. All of that returns with me to the classroom for the benefit of my students. I also work with churches on a regular basis—churches in leadership transition, addressing missional opportunities and challenges, resolving conflicts, etc. My past roles have been invaluable because they have provided me with experiences and insights that are helpful to students, pastors, and churches as I reflect and pass them along.
5. What projects are you currently working on?
I’m finishing up a study guide on Martin Bucer’s The True Care of Souls for use by our Paideia Center’s spring read. I’m beginning work on an article for a church-oriented semi-academic journal on the importance of the historia salutis to the ordo salutis. The ordo salutis is the topic of the whole issue, but the historia salutis is critical, especially for the new Reformed enthusiast, to frame God’s decrees in the context of redemptive as a primary axis by which to read the Bible and for preaching. As Vos said, history is the sphere of revelation. It’s also in history where the grace of God is received by the believer.
I’m also wrapping up a 3-4 year project of helping reorganize my presbytery to move “from maintenance to mission.” I’m very encouraged by this, though the proof will be in the pudding in the years ahead. I’m not sure what’s next. So much of my ministry has been responding to the needs of the group—be it RTS, my students, particular churches, my denomination, or my presbytery. This hasn’t often led to output with which I become identified in name. I’m at something of a crossroads in trying to discern whether I should remain content to work for the greater good or whether I should complete some projects with my name on them such as producing a few books.
My late colleague Roger Nicole and his wife Annette never had children, but Roger was an infamous bibliophile who owned perhaps over 40,000 volumes between his theology and detective novel collections. He often joked, “My books are my children,” perhaps reflecting Annette’s occasional reminder how expensive his hobby was. Although I have written a handful of academic pieces, my professional output has largely been people, so I guess my “children” are my books, meaning the people to whom I have given my life. Those people are scattered across the country and even the nations. They aren’t neatly lined up on a shelf, they aren’t a line on a vitae, they are, by God’s grace, making a difference where they are. While writing takes hope—hope that what’s written will be interesting and helpful to others—this has required of me faith, faith that an “open-handed” approach to life and ministry will have been, in the end, not a foolish choice.
What projects I take on for my next twenty years of ministry will depend a lot upon who’s listening, what they need to hear, and whether I have enough wisdom and faith to do what God wants me to do.