Bethany Baptist Church, located in the inner-city Cleveland neighborhood of Glenville, has a motto: God’s People, Doing God’s Business, God’s Way. Dr. Steve Rowan, Bethany’s senior pastor, knows a thing or two about following God’s way, living that truth firsthand while following the journey of God’s call for his life.
“The same miracles people saw Jesus perform, he’s still doing today, from cancer survivors to people surviving tragedies to people coming to him who haven’t known him before. There is nothing God can’t do.”
Dr. Rowan didn’t always plan on going into ministry. His father founded and pastored Bethany for 35 years as Steve grew up and received degrees in public administration and law. But as he became increasingly drawn toward helping his father with ministry, and continued to develop an interest in theology, he realized God had placed the call on his life. “The call is what it is,” Dr. Rowan says, “and a call to ministry is a call to preparation.”
Dr. Rowan undertook significant academic preparation by earning two seminary degrees: an M.Div from Trinity Theological Seminary in 1990, and a D.Min from Ashland Theological Seminary in 2003. But he also kept his feet on the ground in a number of full-time jobs that connected him to the needs of the community. Over the course of graduate school, he worked for the county government, a law firm, and the Cleveland Foundation.
"My Ashland experience came at the right time, as I was beginning my pastorate at Bethany," says Dr. Rowan. "The coursework helped shape me spiritually for the ongoing challenges of ministry. My area of concentration, Transformational Leadership, provided me the tools and skill set I needed to lead a 94-year-old congregation into the new millennium."
For a decade, Dr. Rowan served as an associate pastor under the leadership of his father. Then, when his father fell seriously ill, he knew the moment to step up had arrived. His education, work experience, and father’s mentorship were God’s way of preparing him to become senior pastor of Bethany Baptist Church.
Celebrating 20 years as senior pastor, Dr. Rowan calls the experience a “glorious journey of highs and lows: triumphs, trials, sadness, and joy.” Ministering through every side of life—including officiating weddings and funerals in the same week—draws Dr. Rowan closer to God. “He brings you to it, and he’ll get you through it,” he says. “Your vertical relationship with God helps you deal with the horizontal challenges of relationships with people.”
From the beginning of his time in ministry, Dr. Rowan has been excited about the transforming power of God. “The same miracles people saw Jesus perform, he’s still doing today, from cancer survivors to people surviving tragedies to people coming to him who haven’t known him before. There is nothing God can’t do.”
God continues to work powerfully through Bethany’s passion for community outreach. Dr. Rowan describes their congregation as “an external church” that provides people in need with food, shoes and clothing, and referrals to healthcare services. Youth can connect through tutoring, activities, outings, and community basketball. At a storefront across the street, people can receive job training, legal resources, and help with writing resumes. Bethany partners with business leaders and 35 community organizations to make a difference, and Dr. Rowan says he is seeing the community change before his eyes.
“We are a good congregation. We have our flaws and challenges like anyplace else, but we are respected by the community. And if the community respects the work we do, they respect the work God does. It’s all about him.”