About Mario

Prior to joining OBU, Dr. Mario served both the church and the academy. Dr. Mario most recently served as senior pastor of Gretna Covenant Church in New Orleans (2015-2020). Before pastoring in New Orleans, he served in Hispanic, Asian, and English churches as a multi-ethnic ministry strategist. In the academy Dr. Mario has served at NOBTS as an adjunct [Español]; Memphis Center for Urban Theological Studies as academic affairs specialist; Victory University (Memphis TN) as Old Testament Adjunct and academic counselor; Union University as Contemporary Christianity adjunct and founder/coach of the Union Judo Club.

At OBU Dr. Mario serves as the Auguie Henry Chair of Old Testament and Hebrew, Diversity Committee Member, and the Faculty Rep. for the Deaf student association. As an active member of the Evangelical Theological Society, Mario serves as the Southwest regional President and a member of the Hispanic Scholars section Steering Committee for the National Evangelical Theological Society.

Dr. Mario’s research interests include Biblical Interpretation, Ancient Near Eastern backgrounds, language acquisition and multi-ethnic ministry. As a multi-ethnic believer (Filipino, Cajun French, Spanish) Dr. Mario has been a guest lecturer on many multi-ethnic ministry topics.


Dr. Mario and his wife, Rebekah, married in 2012. His wife has served as a licensed social-worker (LMSW) in Memphis and New Orleans. Mario and Rebekah have one daughter Catalina Rae Noemi Melendez.

In his spare time Dr. Mario enjoys playing music, and practicing martial arts. He also is an avid maker of things.

       Institutions of Training

Leavell College

Bachelors of Arts in

Christian Ministry

Union University

Masters Christian Studies

Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary

Graduate Biblical Languages

New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary

ThM & PhD Biblical Interpretation

Minor in Old Testament

The Full Story

I was born and raised in Louisiana and am proud of the beautiful deep south culture that I’ve been raised in. My upbringing was slightly different than most down here due to my ethnicity. My Grandfather was Filipino, and my Grandmother was Cajun French. My mother’s side landed in Louisiana because that whole side of the family is Marines.

     My first church was an independent fundamental Baptist church until I entered high school when we switched to a Southern Baptist church and Pentecostal high school. This was the era that I began realizing my purpose in life. Through several mission trips and amazing encounters on the mission field, I knew that my life was to be dedicated in some way to the cause of making disciples of the nations. 

     Through my life, I’ve learned that my calling is for discipleship by means of teaching and preaching of the Word. I believe through proper teaching and discipleship, the divisions in the church can be healed for the sake of the kingdom. 

The first institution I attended was Samford University for a BA in Ministry. However, when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans I moved home to help all my family rebuild. Thus, I finished my BA at Leavell College. I then chose to attend Union University so as to study under the amazing professors they had at the time. My principal supervisor was Ken Easley, a very notable SBC professor in his day. After my master’s graduation, I struggled to continue into a Ph.D. program. However, I was convinced that if the Lord permitted I should gain as much knowledge of the Word as possible so that I might help others proclaim sound doctrine in their ministries.

 After three years of working on a Ph.D. in Biblical Theology at Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary, I transferred to the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary to pursue a Ph.D. in Biblical Interpretation. In hopes of aiding in the unification of the divided church, I decided upon this generalist degree. Furthermore, the three primary points of theological division in Christendom can be summarized as biblical interpretation disputes: ecclesiology structure, soteriology, and sacraments. My doctoral focus has been upon the second of the three. 

At the heart of my studies and the division of soteriology is Habakkuk 2:4b. Since its initial writing, Habakkuk 2:4b has been a battleground for understanding the doctrine of salvation. However, there is a complex argument within Protestantism concerning this passage. The Protestant argument centers on the use of the word faith and how it is interpreted through related texts and the whole of the biblical narrative. Denominations within Protestantism have based their doctrines of salvation on varying interpretations of Habakkuk 2:4b.

     To aid in healing the divide, I wrote a dissertation focused upon "covenantal evocations within Habakkuk." Throughout my research, several conclusions have been drawn: (1) believers have faith, (2) the Lord is faithful, (3) these two aspects of faith, together, lead to salvation. No one should dismiss the role of the believers having faith, nor the Lord remaining faithful. I hope by understanding these truths, the soteriological divide can be unified.

     As a minority, I am keenly aware of the racial and cultural divides within the church. However, racial and cultural divides are social and anthropological issues, not fitting for biblical scholasticism. Thus, in my academics I focus on the biblical interpretation divides and in my ministry, I work on the racial and social divides. I have just recently published a book on the struggle for mutli-ethnic people in the church (see my publications page).

     I now work at Oklahoma Baptist University as a professor of Old Testament and Biblical studies. I hope through my teaching and mentorship of students, I can begin to help affect the next generation of church leaders. Furthermore, I hope that this position will avail me opportunities to preach and speak on multi-ethnic ministry and diverse ministry methods.