Simple curiosity sparked by a class assignment blossomed into an appreciation of the beauty of the Catholic faith, and now he’s on the forefront of the new evangelization.
Mike Allen is a native of Lexington, KY, and a graduate of the University of Kentucky in Lexington and Asbury Theological Seminary (M.Div. and D.Min.) in Wilmore, KY. After serving in full-time ministry in the United Methodist Church for almost twenty years, including 10+ years as a pastor, he and his family entered the Catholic Church in August 2005. Since July 2005, Mike has served as the Director of Family Life and Evangelization for the Diocese of Lexington, KY, and since 2010 has also hosted a daily radio program, "The Mike Allen Show," on Real Life Radio 1380AM and 94.9FM in Kentucky. He and his wife Angie have been married twenty-five years and have seven children between the ages of eight and twenty-one. He recently spoke with Aleteia about his work.
How did you get into radio? What’s the story behind “The Mike Allen Show”?
Not long after I became Catholic, I was approached by our diocesan Director of Communications, Tom Shaughnessy, about helping him start a panel/roundtable show with a few others to be aired weekly on our local Catholic station, sort of a "McGlaughlin Group" style show in which several of us would discuss particular topics of current interest. After doing that for several years, the radio station's general manager called me one day, quite unexpectedly, and said he liked my contributions to the show and wondered if I'd be interested in having my own daily show during drive time. He even suggested the title, "The Mike Allen Show." My show began in January 2010.
What do you hope to accomplish with your radio show?
My show is meant to bring the Catholic faith to bear upon a whole range of issues and topics that people think and talk about every day; current events, family life, moral issues, politics, pop culture, and sports. I also hope to build bridges with evangelical Protestants.
Describe some of the most interesting guests you’ve had on the show.
I've interviewed one of our Kentucky senators, Rand Paul, a couple of times; that's always interesting. I've also enjoyed conversations with attorneys from firms devoted to religious freedom, such as the Thomas More Society, the Becket Fund, and the Home School Legal Defense Association. I am also an admirer of Dr. Meg Meeker and Dr. Miriam Grossman, and have had each of them on the show a couple of times.
What else do you do besides the radio show?
I am the Director of Family Life and Evangelization for the Diocese of Lexington, KY, a position I've held since July 2005. I also teach one class (Geometry) at our local Catholic high school, Lexington Catholic. And of course, my wife and I have seven children between 8 and 21, so that keeps me busy.
You’re a convert to Catholicism. What were you doing before you became Catholic? What brought you to the Church?
Before becoming Catholic, I was a United Methodist pastor for a little over ten years, and a youth pastor before that. Growing up as a Protestant Christian, and shaped within an evangelical strain of United Methodism, I was largely ignorant of the Catholic faith and the Catholic Church. None of my close friends, really, were Catholic. Though I had relatives who were anti-Catholic, I had no real hostility toward Catholicism, just some vague perceptions about the Catholic Church, such that it was filled with a lot of nominal Christians, that it largely emphasized "rituals" over a real relationship with Jesus, and that they had some "weird" beliefs. I did have a sort of "distant admiration" for certain Catholics like Pope John Paul II and Mother Teresa, primarily because of their strong pro-life convictions, but looking back, it's almost as if I saw them as authentic Christians in spite of their Catholicism, if you can believe that.
My journey toward the Church began with curiosity, really. I was working on my doctorate at Asbury Theological Seminary, the professor gave us an assignment in which we were to read a novel from a provided list, and then write a paper regarding how the themes in that novel might be used in preaching. I read "The Heart of the Matter," a novel by Graham Greene, a British author and Catholic convert, who was no poster child for Catholic devotion but whose novels nonetheless have strong Catholic themes. I became quite enamored with Greene's writing and read several of his novels. In his books, Catholicism was a haunting presence, such that no matter how despicable the characters, they could never fully escape their awareness of the Church, even that they were damning themselves.
In his books, he had very vivid descriptions of the Mass, and writing as he was before Vatican II, he would include phraseology from the liturgy in Latin. Not knowing Latin, I'd find myself researching what a certain phrase meant, which gave me a better understanding of Catholicism, and I saw familiar patterns to my own Methodist liturgy.
That was really just the beginning of what I thought was an intellectual curiosity about Catholicism, what Catholics believe, why they do what they do, etc. What surprised me, over a number of years, was that I would discover that what I thought Catholics believed wasn't always accurate, or I would discover the reasons behind certain Catholic teachings and practices, including the biblical basis for them. As an evangelical with a strong love for Scripture, this had an impact on me. Sometimes I would even realize that what Catholics believed was not that different than what I already believed. I was beginning to see how truly reasonable Catholicism.
Sometime in early 2004, after years of first curiosity and then appreciation about Catholicism, I began to be attracted to Catholicism. All the disparate discoveries I'd made about the faith began to coalesce, and I began to see what I would describe as the comprehensive beauty and integrity of the Catholic faith, and I realized that I was being drawn to become Catholic.
What’s one piece of advice you can give other Catholics for the new evangelization?
We need to be animated with the lively confidence that the Catholic faith speaks to the deepest hungers of every human heart, and that God is already at work drawing people to himself.