Dr. Rodney McGlothlin has been a college-town pastor before in cities like Stillwater, Okla. and College Station, Texas. But when he arrived at Brownwood’s First Baptist Church seven years ago — almost exactly seven years ago this Sunday — the presence of a Baptist college right across the street presented an altogether different dynamic.
“The university environment here is certainly different from those,” McGlothlin said in his office on Thursday. “But exciting also, because of the larger percentage of students that are here training for ministry.
I think even more than in the past, we’re thinking about the role that universities need to play in the future of Texas Baptist life,” he said. “They’ve always played an important role, but I think that role has been magnified in importance in recent years. So I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to be here to support that and hopefully be a partner in what that will become.”
McGlothlin has served as an adjunct professor and occasional guest lecturer at HPU, but said his favorite interaction with the university has been serving as pastor for many HPU students, faculty and staff. “Just the opportunity to get to know them and interact with them,” he said.
Brownwood’s congregation was smaller than the one he left in College Station seven years ago, but the city holds personal significance for McGlothlin. “This is the church where my parents had been members for the last 15 years of their lives, and the church that had loved them well,” he said. “Brownwood is the town where my father became the first of his family to ever finish college — with the GI Bill, as a World War II vet.”
When McGlothlin’s father went back to school for a Master’s degree in Brownwood, McGlothlin spent several summers in the town. His brother and nephew also attended Howard Payne. McGlothlin said he developed a “great affinity” for the city.
“It may be Texas’ best-kept secret,” he said of Brownwood. “It kind of was to me. I think this is a marvelous community, a great community,” he said.
McGlothlin thanked every congregant who has been a part of his tenure at First Baptist. He said as of now, he plans to stay in Brownwood for retirement. “The old saying is that ministers never retire from ministry,” he said. “So it will be some form of ministry and assistance, whether that be helping out as requested with other Baptist causes and Christian causes, or serving as interim pastor in other churches, filling pulpits — doing whatever opportunities are presented.
When all is said and done, this is where we plan to worship and serve. We have no plans, at this point, to relocate,” he said.
FBC associate pastor Joe Franklin said McGlothlin was a stabilizing presence during his tenure. “It’s been a time for the church to kind of rediscover itself,” Franklin said. “Rodney has been excellent at pastoral care, and what I would call shepherding these people. He’s good at taking care of folks.
“He’s an excellent communicator from the pulpit, and he’s willing to lead out on what might be challenging issues,” he said. Franklin credited McGlothlin with the vision for FBC’s children’s area, which he said helps address the needs of Brown County families. McGlothlin also helped make the church space more accessible.
Franklin said the church will host a series of guest speakers until a committee can decide on an interim pastor. Sunday will be McGlothlin’s final sermon. “It’s Pentecost Sunday this week, celebrating the birth of the church,” McGlothlin said. “I felt like it was a good day to be a last Sunday, because it feels like a transition time. But it’s the kind of transition that, hopefully, looks forward to what’s coming next.”