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April 29, 2024

Pastor Dan Allan’s Call to Vocational Ministry

Written By Grace Theological Seminary

Dan Allan isn’t your typical seminary graduate. Fortunately, we love unconventional stories. From an undergraduate church music major to a senior pastor of 32 years, Allan knows that God uses all interests and passions to equip His shepherds.

A conversation with Allan reveals practical wisdom from decades of Christian service. He acknowledges that Grace Seminary provided a crucial foundation for his life in ministry. Every step of his story spells out the goodness of God.

The oldest of four, Allan was born and raised in a suburb of Detroit. He describes his childhood as “idyllic.” His family served God faithfully, and his grandfather served as a bivocational pastor. His parents regarded church attendance as crucial, and so Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night, the Allan family took their seats in the pews.

“Church was an unquestionable part of our lives,” said Allan.

Growing up, a vocational ministry job had never been on Allan’s radar, but through a speaker at the Christian summer camp he worked at, God slowly introduced the possibility into his heart. The summer before college, he committed to vocational ministry.

During the same summer, a chance encounter with a Grace alumnus paved his way to Grace College, where he double-majored in church music and music education.

At Grace, Allan met his future wife, Holly Straits. They began dating, and during that time, God’s call to vocational ministry solidified in Allan’s heart. He began a music internship at Holly’s home church, Ashland Grace. As he grew familiar with the intricacies and processes of the church, he realized that if he was going to pursue church work seriously, he needed a solid theological foundation. Where else to turn but the school where he earned his undergraduate degree?

In 1981, Allan completed a one-year biblical studies certificate at Grace Seminary. This certificate, coupled with ministry experience, allowed him to accrue a master’s degree in Christian ministry in 2016 from Grace Seminary.

“I wasn’t the classic three-year program M.Div. guy, but the seminary profoundly impacted my life in ministry,” said Allan. “No question about it.”

According to Allan, Grace Seminary ingrained in him the absolute inerrancy and necessity of God’s Word. Though raised as a Bible-believing Christian, Allan had never seen such an emphasis on scriptural authority and sufficiency.

“I grew up with, ‘Don’t go to movies, don’t do this, don’t do that,’” said Allan. “Legalistic things. And that just wasn’t cutting it.”

At Grace, Allan dove headfirst into the richness of the Word. It transformed his perspective on vocational ministry so much that when he became senior pastor at Ashland Grace, he committed to preaching through the whole Bible. He fulfilled that commitment over a 30-year period.

Allan recalls a saying fastened to the wall in the McClain basement, where he attended chapel as a college student: “To know Christ and make Him known.” These words have always remained at the forefront of his mind throughout his ministry. Even still, they challenge Allan to make Christ the end of all his striving.

After completing his biblical studies certificate, Allan began working as the worship leader and youth pastor at Norton Grace Brethren Church. In 1984, he took a position at Ashland Grace as the youth pastor. Five years later, Ashland Grace offered him the senior pastor position.

Before accepting the position, Allan turned it down twice. He had embraced working somewhat behind the scenes in youth and music ministry, but the thought of running the show daunted him. The demands of his current job had also wearied him, so he was uncertain whether he was even capable of serving the church well.

But through prayer, Allan received encouragement from God.

“The Lord said to me, “Look, you can maintain this, but you’re going to have to stay tight with me,’” said Allan. “‘You can still do this job.’”

Allan served in the role for 32 years, and it’s proved to be one of the most rewarding decisions of his life. He feels that his calling forced him into an active relationship with God. Preaching weekly and shepherding others mandated that he had to engage in an active relationship with God. He loves the job.

“I love getting up and telling anybody that will listen, ‘This stuff is too good to miss out on!” said Allan. “‘You’ve got to get this life of Jesus.’ I love seeing people get it.”

After retiring as senior pastor, Allan assumed his current position as the pastor of ministry development at Ashland Grace. He still preaches on rotation, but he finds that the new role gives him more time to encourage and support people.

Aside from his church service, Allan spent 15 years on Grace College’s Board of Trustees. Currently, he serves as the executive director of the Charis Fellowship.

Allan knows that wherever he goes, there is an opportunity to minister. He’s just as comfortable talking about Jesus from the pulpit as he is sharing the Gospel at community pickleball.

“In this stage of my life, what is passionately driving me?” said Allan. “I just want to know and enjoy Jesus more. And I want to talk to anybody that wants to talk about it. To know Christ and make Him known has my riveted attention right now.”

Allan was named the 2023 Distinguished Seminary Service Award winner for his contribution to ministry and the advancement of God’s kingdom.

If you’re interested in pursuing vocational ministry, learn more about a seminary degree in Christian ministry and explore admissions at Grace Seminary.