A version of this story appeared in the Ashland Times-Gazette. See the original story here.
Pastor Dan Allan has exited center stage at Grace Church in Ashland, Ohio, after 32 years as its senior pastor, but he will remain in a supportive ministry role at the church alongside the newly installed pastor, Josh Wilson.
Dan hasn’t retired, he said.
“I still feel like God has called me to do some things,” he said. “I haven’t gotten off the bus.” Rather, “I have changed seats on the bus,” he added.
It’s not the usual way a senior pastor steps out of the head leadership role, Dan acknowledged, but as he continues to minister and seeks “to make a smooth transition,” he will “gradually exit the side door.”
Throughout his ministry at Grace Church, which began as a youth pastor in 1984 and moved to senior pastor in 1990, his purpose has remained the same.
“I’ve never gotten over the fact that Jesus Christ saved me,” he said, making his “joy, hope, meaning, and purpose” for others to know it as well.
Called to be “a faithful shepherd,” Allan said, his ministry is “about people finding life in Christ.”
Led the congregation through a $1 million project called Grace Expansion
Revitalizing and expanding the physical structure itself to facilitate the programs and ministries of the church have been among Dan’s priorities.
“Two years after Pastor Dan’s call as senior pastor he led the congregation through a $1 million project called Grace Expansion,” said John Rowe, director of finances and facilities for Grace Church and Ashland Christian School, which encompassed a high school-sized gymnasium, locker rooms, a full commercial kitchen, nine classrooms and additional parking.
Remodeling Main Street in 1999 included replacing pews and upgrading entrances to the church.
A $3.5 million Stewardship of Life campaign focusing on “Time, Talent, and Treasure” encouraged congregants “to spend an hour alone with God and be challenged by God in these areas,” John said.
This endeavor expanded facilities at Grace with the addition of early childhood classrooms for nursery through fifth grade, a fellowship foyer called the Circle and an Ashland Christian School entrance upgrade.
Most recently, Refresh ‘21 and Refresh ‘22 are projects upgrading and updating the Worship Center and adjacent areas.
“Currently, by God’s grace and the leadership of Dan Allan, the church is debt-free,” John said.
‘Last two years have been the most difficult years to pastor a church’
Just as other professions have been challenged during the pandemic and social and political upheaval of recent years, Dan said, “These last two years have been the most difficult years to pastor a church in full-time ministry.”
Rather than get into the fray, Dan’s mission was to dive even more deeply into “what we do know is true” and on “what reality can I anchor my soul.”
His answer in the chaos and confusion is this: “I want to tell you about Jesus. (He is) the Way, the Truth, and the Life. That is the answer to everything.”
One of the principles he has kept in mind throughout the years is his place in the ministry.
“This is not my church. This is not my agenda,” he said, resisting “the pull from many agendas.”
He is excited about going forward in a new role, but ready to leave behind “all the bucks stopping at my table,” referring not just to being senior pastor, but to his leadership in Ashland Christian School and Grace College and multiple roles in the denomination on a national and global level.
“Leading a multi-generational church became more and more complicated,” said Dan, while looking back over a string of objectives he has achieved, from “strategically preaching through the whole Bible” by January 2021 to “leading us out of COVID” and transitioning to another pastor.
Wilson became lead senior pastor for Grace Church in March
Josh Wilson, formerly the church’s next generation pastor who took over the position of lead senior pastor in March, values what Dan will continue to contribute to the church’s ministry as pastor of ministry development.
“It is extremely humbling and honoring to be called to be the senior pastor at Grace, especially considering the faithful legacy Dan Allan has left here for more than three decades,” said Josh, calling Dan “one of his most trusted mentors.”
Like Dan, Josh was educated at Grace College and Grace Seminary. Similarly, like Dan, he expressed love for the community of Ashland.
To continue to preach the Gospel and to “make a positive impact in our community in ever-increasing ways,” Josh said, with Dan “and the rest of the amazing staff, with the incredible people at Grace, in such a great community like Ashland, is a dream come true,” Josh said.
“I’ve always had a strong passion to see a healthy church,” Dan said, developed with people “who really want to know God.”
“I enjoyed every minute of it,” he said.