Our series “Getting to Know the RTS Orlando Faculty” concludes with visiting lecturer, Dean of Students, and Director of Field Education and Placement, Reverend Mike Osborne.
Mike serves the students of RTS by leading Student Life initiatives on campus, assisting and mentoring those who are transitioning to full-time ministry, and teaching classes related to pastoral ministry.
1. Tell us a little about yourself.
I grew up in the small town of Union, South Carolina. Though I’m a rabid fan of Clemson football (go Tigers!) I attended Furman University (B.A. ’76), where I met not only Christ but also the woman who became my wife soon after we graduated. I worked six years in the commercial printing industry and then sensed God’s call to pastoral ministry. After graduating Covenant Seminary in 1986, I served four different PCA churches in Missouri, South Carolina, and Florida before “retiring” in 2019 to become the Dean of Students at RTS-Orlando. My wife Suzy and I will have been married forty-four years this summer. We have four adult children and eleven grandchildren. In my spare time I love to run, play racquetball, strum my guitar, read, watch movies, and hang out with friends around the dinner table.
2. You served as a pastor for many years before coming on staff at RTS Orlando. What led you to pastoral ministry?
I felt a desire to be a pastor and preacher almost immediately after my conversion in 1975. After a few years of stumbling around theologically, my wife and I were happy to discover Shannon Forest Presbyterian Church in Greenville, SC. Our pastor, the Rev. Al Lutz, took me under wing and mentored me. Week after week he met me for breakfast in a little diner, “explained the way of God more accurately” (Acts 18:26), and answered my questions. He gave me opportunities to teach adults, lead worship, and work with youth. Speaking in front of people was new and challenging for me, but I couldn’t get enough. Soon Pastor Al and others encouraged me to go to seminary. While a student in St. Louis, I interned at a large PCA church where God continued to shape my gifts and confirm my call.
3. You wrote a book about weathering the difficult seasons of church leadership, and now serve as an instructor in preaching labs and pastoral counseling classrooms. How have your experiences in pastoral ministry influenced your teaching?
When I launched out in ministry in 1986, I was naive about what it means to be a pastor. I thought, “I know the Bible pretty well. People are cooperative. I’m a decent communicator. What could go wrong?!” I soon found out that every church has a story and it’s not always a pretty one. Not only that, in every pastor’s story there are wounds begging to be healed. Put all these broken people together and what do you get? Often, it’s a perfect storm of colliding agendas, hopes, needs, and motivations. Over the years I have learned the importance of such things as earning trust, listening, taking time to introduce change, honoring the past, building a team, choosing your battles, having friends, and keeping the main thing the main thing. These are topics I like to talk about in the classroom and as I mentor students.
4. How has your work as a pastor and teacher influenced your Christian life?
The first thing that comes to mind is this: Being a pastor and a teacher keeps me honest. I can’t stand before God’s people and authentically share that which I am not experiencing. Pretty soon people who love me are going to see through my attempt to “fake it till I make it.” They will sense it if I’m not being real. So I’m grateful for my pastoral calling if only because it keeps me in the Word and in prayer, it convicts me about my idols and self-salvation projects, and it makes me accountable to my wife, friends, elders, and colleagues. Beyond that, of course, ministering to others brings me joy as I see the gospel take root in their hearts and set them free.
5. What Student Life projects are you currently working on?
Currently, we are working out an assimilation plan for new resident students that goes the full distance–from their acceptance to their enrollment to their arrival in Orlando and on into the fall semester. We started a Community Group for first-year students last year and it turned out to be very successful; so we are thinking through what changes, if any, we want to make in the group for next year. Throughout the summer we will plan the annual Kick-Off Dinner, orientation for new students, Women in Ministry Fall Retreat, second annual Arts Festival, and other community-building activities. Something is always happening in Student Life at RTS-Orlando!