A Different Sort of Man: Remembering Rod Rosenbladt

Reading Time: 3 mins

The more I got to know Dr. Rosenbladt, the more I saw that he wasn’t a man divided.

As an academic, professor at a small Christian college, pastor, and father figure to many, Dr. Rosenbladt was different. Yet, attempting to describe exactly how he was different leaves me at a loss. I could certainly list off a bunch of anecdotes in hopes that you might get a better picture of him, but even that won’t get to the heart of the matter. He had a special spirit and rare composure that made him distinct from so many of his colleagues. 

My first experience with Dr. Rosenbladt was during my first semester at Concordia University Irvine. I didn’t know who he was or what he taught; I didn’t know anything about him other than his name on the program handed out as a chapel speaker on a day early in the semester. My first introduction to this incredible man wasn’t in the classroom but in the pulpit. Now, I would love to tell you all about the powerful sermon he gave and the incredible and forceful delivery of the Word that shaped me into the preacher I am today. But the truth is, I don’t remember the sermon at all. However, I clearly remember thinking, “That was different.” Different in a surprisingly good way. He seemed upset, frustrated even, and gripped by a passion that I wasn’t used to hearing from the pulpit. He preached as if it mattered, not casually, but in a life-and-death sort of way.

Of course, it wasn’t long until I had him as a professor, and like so many others, that first class left me with a desire to take absolutely everything he taught. His words and insights accompanied me through the formative years of my life. It seemed natural to talk with him as his demeanor cheered on my distrust of bureaucracy, all the while directing me toward friendships that were worth risking everything for. At the time, I had no idea how radically different this was. How strange that one professor would impact my life in such a profound way.

The more I got to know Dr. Rosenbladt, the more I saw that he wasn’t a man divided. He did not say and do one thing publicly and then speak and act differently behind closed doors. He was who he was, and this was different in every way that mattered. I remember walking with him after a class back to his study when I told him that I thought I wanted to go to seminary to become a pastor. He stopped and seemed concerned; he hesitated, and for a moment, I thought perhaps I had made a mistake. But his concern was for me; he didn’t want to see me get hurt in the ways that academic institutions of the church seem uniquely qualified to do. Then he gave that quick smile, lit a cigarette, and told me that what I was endeavoring to do was an honorable profession, one that we needed good men to embrace, and in fact, he was proud that I would make such a journey.

Dr. Rosenbladt’s influence on my life would go far beyond the classroom. He wasn’t just my professor or the professor of my close friends; he was my wife’s professor as well. She was my fiancé then, and together, we asked Dr. Rosenbladt to officiate our wedding. I have pictures of him in robes and vestments, looking very uncomfortable as he stood before us to proclaim the Word of God. Now, this sermon I remember, or at least some of it. In fact, I’ve stolen parts of that sermon for wedding addresses I’ve given over the years. After all, he did there the same as he always did: he took the situation before him and proclaimed into it the doctrine of justification. I recall family members speaking about the sermon afterward and saying, “Well, that was different.” Yes, yes, it was.

Though I had just graduated, Cindy had one more year to go, and while I found work before we headed off to the seminary, she became Rosenbladt’s TA. We were all used to seeing him with men, helping and shepherding them as he taught and encouraged them along their chosen paths. But here we saw him not with another son but another daughter. And what a father he was. I will fail to express what he meant to my wife – his impact upon her was even greater than his impact on me. She would certainly echo his own words, “When good fathers die, it’s always too early.”

And a father he was—a good one at that. When I found out I was to be a father, I asked Rosenbladt if he would meet me for a beer. I confessed my fear and my worries about what was to come. What did it mean to be a father? What sort of father would I be? We had a long conversation where he refocused me on the gospel and on the need and power of forgiveness in Christ alone. 

When 1517 Executive Director, Scott Keith, told me that our beloved father in the faith had died, I simply responded, “Shit, always too soon.” And while I lament the loss of men like Rod doing work on the front lines, I find assurance in the message that he delivered to so many of us. A message that puts us now on the front lines to preach Christ crucified until a more glorious day dawns. And to do this is to be different, very different.