Josh Dean grew up a pastor’s kid in Jacksonville, Florida. When he was seven years old, his dad began pastoring a small Baptist church in a trailer park community. “I was there all the time…and I’ve been serving ever since!” Josh says with a laugh. At ten years old, he gave his life to Christ and felt called into ministry shortly thereafter. “People in that church and community were so good to me,” he recalls. “At the time, I just assumed I’d be the pastor of a similar church one day.”
But God had other plans.
Dr. Ron Rowe, the area director of the local Baptist association and a family acquaintance, began mentoring Josh informally. “In a couple critical moments in my life, he saw more in me than I saw in myself,” Josh shares. “I didn’t have a big vision for my life. At the end of high school, Dr. Rowe encouraged me to expand my horizons and check out some secular colleges. He challenged me to learn how the world thinks, so I could relate to people outside the faith.” Josh took the challenge seriously, and ended up at the University of Florida.
“The first couple of years were tough on my faith,” he admits. “I was hearing things that I’d never heard before. It was a hard journey, but ultimately the right one.” God used the experience to mature Josh’s faith, and also to birth within him a passion for reaching the unchurched. “I have such a heart for people who’ve given up on church,” he says earnestly. “When Pastor Mike talks about how Orlando is one of the most de-churched regions of the country, I feel so excited to be part of reaching Central Florida.”
After graduating from UF, Josh took another step outside his comfort zone by applying to Princeton Seminary. “My years at Princeton were super formative. In my opinion, it’s a great place to go if you have solid evangelical convictions, but enjoy conversations with people who think differently as well.”
With seminary graduation approaching, Josh began networking with friends to explore job opportunities. “I heard of this church in Miami called Christ Fellowship,” he says, smiling. “After talking on the phone with a pastor, they agreed to give me an internship if I filled out an application. I was sitting in the back of a pretty boring class, so I googled Christ Fellowship and filled out the application.” A few weeks later, he had a phone interview, followed by an email welcoming him to the team. It wasn’t until after reading the job description that Josh realized he’d applied to the wrong church! “There are two Christ Fellowships in Southern Florida,” he laughs. “One in Miami and one in West Palm.”
After calling both churches to admit his mistake, Josh accepted the position in West Palm. Five days after graduating, he was interning in college and student ministries at Christ Fellowship, a nondenominational megachurch with twelve campuses. Over the next seven years, Josh would go on to serve in a variety of roles, eventually becoming Global Director of Pastoral Care.
While at Christ Fellowship, a co-worker (and matchmaker) urged Josh to meet a woman named Kate, who worked at a house for girls rescued from human trafficking. As a live-in house mom, Kate was the first stop for girls escaping unimaginable circumstances. “The day my coworker arranged for us to meet, I was moving and realized I couldn’t make it,” Josh remembers. “So I said, ‘Give me her number and I guess I’ll just ask her on a date.’ We went on a blind date, and here we are today! We’ve been best friends ever since.”
Kate began her master’s degree shortly after meeting Josh, and went on to become licensed in marriage and family therapy and mental health counseling. “She’s so gifted and talented,” Josh says, unabashedly. “God’s used her in my life in so many ways. When you grow up as a pastor’s kid with lots of eyes on you, there can be a lot of pressure. I was always pretty hard on myself, and I didn’t understand grace as deeply as I could have until Kate came into my life. To have someone know me so well, and yet still love and support me unconditionally…I’ve never had another human being do that for me at the level Kate did.” The Deans will celebrate five years of marriage this February. They have two sons: two-year-old Ezra and one-year-old Nehemiah.
When asked why he made the move to Grace Church, Josh admits he’d been eyeing Grace for a while. “I knew about Grace from a friend who’d served as an intern in the worship ministry. From time to time I’d poke around the website, and was very intrigued by the culture and vision of the church.” When he realized Grace was hiring a Connections Pastor, he knew he had to apply. Throughout the interview process, it became abundantly clear that God was guiding Josh and Kate to minister at Grace.
Looking forward, Kate is excited to counsel through Grace’s Care and Counseling Ministry. Josh, likewise, eyes the future with optimism: “My goal for Grace Communities (gCs) is that it would be really easy for people to get connected to other people who can help them grow in their faith. I love it when Pastor Mike says, ‘If you’re going to be a strong Christian, the church has to be at the very center of your life.’ I just couldn’t agree more with that statement. Christian growth doesn’t happen outside the context of community. Many times I’ve seen people get involved in church before they even believed in the doctrines because they found people who cared for them. My vision is that our gCs would create such an environment of care and connection that Grace Church would be a place where you can belong before you even believe.”
Josh goes on, “To do this, we need even more people to step up—more leaders, more hosts, more people willing to give gCs a try. Isaiah 54:2 talks about stretching the curtains of your tent to make room for others. When it comes to community, my challenge for the people of Grace is to stretch your tents—not because it’s easy, but because you want others to find what you’ve found.”