Tag : church

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Pastor of the Week: Matt Stewart

By: Dezaray Barr

Matt Stewart

Rev. Matthew C. Stewart is the Senior Pastor of Sweetser Wesleyan Church in Sweetser, Indiana. He graduated from Houghton College in 1992 with a major in Psychology, a concentration in history and a minor in Old Testament.  In the spring of 2018, Steward will be graduating from Wesley Seminary with a Master’s of Divinity and certification in Church Revitalization.

“Since my college experiences were nearly three decades apart at two different institutions, the influences were very unique,” Stewart shared. “At Houghton, I was made aware of God’s mission field in a broader sense than my rural New York upbringing provided. The one unique venue that taught me a great deal was Sunday school with Dr. Bud Bence in the Houghton dining room. The class was engaging and challenged me to think of the world in different ways than I had before. Two other people that influenced me during the Houghton days also have connections at IWU. I spent a great deal of time learning about grace and truth by watching Coach Steve Brooks when I was part of the men’s basketball team at Houghton. Coach Brooks was great one-on-one with all his players and possessed an encouraging spirit. Finally, I was also impacted by Drs. Charles and Darlene Bressler when I spent my senior year living in their basement off-campus. They offered wisdom and humor on days they were needed.”

Stewart said that his experiences at Wesley Seminary have been fantastic. “I learned from professor and fellow students alike on a regular basis. ‘The Doctors’ as I would fondly call them—Lenny Luchetti, Bob Whitesel, Brannon Hancock, Ken Schenck, Kwasi Kena, Sofiya Fosua, and Colleen Derr—helped to increase my ministry capacity greatly in their classrooms over the past 4 years,” he said.

At just eight years old, Stewart received his call to ministry at a meeting in his home church. That day, he preached his first sermon on the way home in the car to his younger siblings, one of whom shares that moment as her day of salvation. “However, I ran from my call, like Jonah, for many years because I was painfully shy, hated weddings and funerals, and I wanted to have friends,” Stewart admitted. “I finally responded to the call after working a couple of years with an inner city youth group in Springfield, Massachusetts while witnessing the impact that a couple could have on the lives of many street kids. God providentially opened the door for our first church placement in Henrietta, NY. The way in which He did so assured me that ministry was where we belonged.”

Rev. Matt Stewart and his family

Every church is unique in its congregation. In terms of ministry, Sweetser Wesleyan is unique in possessing one of the most highly reputable preschool programs in the area. “The church continually receives rave reviews from teachers at Oak Hill that our students are the most prepared as they enter kindergarten,” Rev. Stewart said. “The word has spread among parents as the enrollment continues to grow to the point where a waiting list may become a reality.”

Sweetser Wesleyan also hosts a unique Bible quizzing ministry for teenagers. Bible quizzing enables teenagers to memorize God’s word, hiding it in their hearts and learning the truths of Scripture to the best of their abilities. Sweetser Wesleyan currently has three teams of Bible quizzers that compete and travel around the country.

Stewart calls his wife, Jennifer, the gatherer. “She has the God-given gift of having many people who are searching for a relationship with Jesus Christ dropped in her lap,” Stewart shared of his wife. “Without her as part of the team a major element of our work would be missing.” In his spare time, he goes by Pastor Mike and works with jersey dairy cows, selling milk, butter and ice cream.



Written by Dezaray Barr, PR Specialist for the Alumni Office. Dezaray is a junior Strategic Communication, Journalism and Honors Humanities triple major at Indiana Wesleyan University in the John Wesley Honors College. Visit Dez’s website at www.dezaraybarr.weebly.com.

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Pastor of the Week: Steve Colter

By: Dezaray Barr

The 100th Anniversary of Chapel Pike Wesleyan Church, June 16, 2017.

Steven Colter is the Pastor of Chapel Pike Wesleyan Church in Marion, Indiana. He graduated from Indiana Wesleyan University in 1990 with a bachelor’s degree in Christian Ministry and in 1993 with his master’s in Christian Ministry.

Colter said that IWU had a profound influence on his life and thinking. “As an older commuter student, I didn’t have a lot of interaction with the campus lifestyle and didn’t have the opportunity to build many close relationships except with classmates,” Colter shared. “Dr. David Smith was a favorite professor. He would never tell us what to believe about Theology, except he would present all of the options and then say, ‘Pay your money, take your choice!'”

Colter did not choose to become a pastor. “I grew up in church and saw that most pastors were not treated very well by the parishioners,” he explained. “Poverty seemed to be the means of keeping them humble, at least in the minds of the church leaders. I was involved in every aspect of church life as a layman: Sunday School teacher, youth leader, trustee, bus driver, board member, visitation committee or whatever there was that needed to be done. I just never felt a call to ministry.”

In 1982, Colter picked up the teens of his congregation from a retreat they were on at the Island Wide Youth Collaborative (IWYC) in Champaigne Urbana, Illinois. “At the last rally, Dr. John Maxwell gave an invitation to all who were open to ministry to come forward. I was only there to pick up our teens, but I prayed a very simple prayer and told God that I was available. Nine months later, after the birth of our third child, my wife and I attended a couples retreat. Dr. Paul Mills was the speaker, and though I don’t remember now what he was talking about, he said, ‘God doesn’t want your abilities, He want’s your availability!’ At that moment God spoke to my heart and asked, ‘Steve, are you still available?’ It was as though I was taken back to that arena where I had prayed many months before telling God I was available!  That moment is still as clear to me as on the day it happened.  No, I didn’t choose ministry, but God chose me!” Colter said.

Steve Colter and his wife, Cheri

Colter began as the Pastor at Chapel Pike in 1992. “I had been a youth pastor for just three years and had no experience as a pastor,” Colter said. “I guess they were desperate, and they invited me to come anyway. It has been a long journey of seeing several different congregations come and go. Most of those who were here originally have passed on to glory or have moved elsewhere. However, one of the joys of staying in one place for a long period of time is the privilege of watching the children grow up, marry and begin bringing their own children to church. I have been able to dedicate several of our children to Christ, officiate at their weddings and watch them use their talents to serve the Lord.”

Colter married his high school sweetheart, Cheri Hiatt. They have been married for almost 43 years and have been blessed with four children, three of whom graduated from IWU. They have nine grandchildren, ranging from 19-years-old to just five-months-old.



Written by Dezaray Barr, PR Specialist for the Alumni Office. Dezaray is a junior Strategic Communication, Journalism and Honors Humanities triple major at Indiana Wesleyan University in the John Wesley Honors College. Visit Dez’s website at www.dezaraybarr.weebly.com.

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Pastor of the Week: Reverend Jaci McNeil

By: Dezaray Barr

Jaci McNeil and her husband

Reverend Jacqueline (Jaci) D. McNeil is the pastor of Faith Wesleyan Church in Rockford, Illinois. She was ordained in 2002 through IWU’s online adult program. “Being an older student, with small children, IWU offered me the chance to get ordained via the internet,” McNeil said. “It’s a fantastic way for people like me to further their education.”

“I had worked in youth ministry for 20 years and began to feel that I should pursue ordination, but having been raised in a denomination that is against female ordination, I couldn’t believe
that’s what God wanted for me,” McNeil shared. “I fought it for about two years. Finally one night, I prayed that if God wanted me to become ordained that He would make it crystal clear to me. That week, a
total of 5 men came up to me and said things like, ‘You’d made a great pastor,’ or ‘You should get ordained.’ After the 5th man spoke up, I quit fighting and began my journey.”

McNeil has been at Faith Wesleyan Church for 11 years. “The congregation was told by the District Superintendent that they had two choices: 1. Close the church or 2. Accept a pastor of the District’s choosing. At that point there were only seven people left in the church. Those seven people didn’t want to see the church closed, so they accepted the District’s condition,” McNeil said.

Today, the church has over 50 people. “Our church is a multi-generational church, the oldest member being 88 and the youngest member being 5. We believe all generations should worship together on Sunday morning,” McNeil said. “There’s no such thing as ‘Children’s Church’ here. We are so invested in everyone worshiping together that we even have an 11-year-old boy singing and a six-year-old boy playing the guitar with the band.”

Her advice for IWU students is, “Learn to do something PRACTICAL. Yes, we ministers need to
learn to preach and pray and visit the sick, but sometimes we need to step in and fill a void. Maybe learn to do plumbing or woodworking. When we first came to this church there were zero musicians. Zero. We started doing karaoke, but knew if we were going to grow the church, we were going to have to change that. My husband and I gave our 14-year-old son a guitar for Christmas and told him to learn how to play. I bought myself a bass guitar and learned how to play. Later, I learned how to play the acoustic guitar too. Today, 11 years later, we have a fully stocked band, complete with drummer. No more karaoke for us!”

“Pastor Jaci has remained a dear friend over the years. I first met her over 20 years ago, as she served to mentor and equip young people. I have admired her heart for ministry and her love for knowledge, and I believe she makes an excellent pastor today!” Rick Carder, IWU’s Director of Alumni and Church Engagement, said.



Written by Dezaray Barr, PR Specialist for the Alumni Office. Dezaray is a junior Strategic Communication, Journalism and Honors Humanities triple major at Indiana Wesleyan University in the John Wesley Honors College. At IWU, Dezaray runs both the JWHC Blog and her own blog. Visit Dez’s website at www.dezaraybarr.weebly.com.

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Pastor of the Week: Phil Count

By: Dezaray Barr

Phil Count and his wife, Amy

Phil Count is the Senior Pastor at Croswell Wesleyan Church in Croswell, Michigan. He graduated from Indiana Wesleyan University in 1992 with a degree in Christian Ministries.

While at IWU, Count was in the University Chorale. “University Chorale and Prof. Todd Guy taught me the pride of excellence in what you do,” he shared. “The memories of chorale are some of the best of my life.” He was also in His Instrument. “Being in His Instrument allowed me to travel all over the country and experience all kinds of churches and worship experiences,” Count shared. “I grew up in a very small Wesleyan Church, so these experiences were invaluable in broadening my understanding of what ministry looks like. It helped me so much when I launched out in ministry on my own.”

Count said that despite being told by others not to pursue ministry because it’s too hard, he’s never second guessed his call to be a pastor. “I can’t imagine doing anything else, and I wouldn’t be happy doing anything else,” Count said.

Count’s 3 children

Count and his wife, Amy, have three children. One is currently a student at IWU and another is hoping to join her at IWU next year. “Our youngest, Owen, is autistic,” Count shared. “He is 15 now, and he is tons of fun. He has a great sense of humor! He was diagnosed at 3 years old, although we knew earlier that there was something wrong. He didn’t say his first words until he was 5, and he wasn’t potty trained until he was 7. We were devastated at first, but he has been such a blessing to our family. He is fun, intelligent and God has used him to make our two daughters more compassionate to people with special needs. Our oldest daughter, Bailey, is a junior at IWU studying special needs education because of him.”

Croswell Wesleyan Church is a rural congregation of 350. “Our people are very generous and very outreach-minded. God recently gave us a vision for the next five years to reach the mostly unreached demographic of 20-40 year-old individuals with families in our area. We will be updating our facilities and starting new ministries to minister to them, and we believe this new focus will cause us to grow bigger and be more effective than we have ever been! We are already sensing momentum, and we are excited to get moving,” Count shared.

If Count could share one piece of advice with IWU students, he would tell them, “Work as hard as you can, but remember that the Holy Spirit is the one who empowers you to make an eternal difference in people’s lives. Seek Him first! Talent only goes so far.”



Written by Dezaray Barr, PR Specialist for the Alumni Office. Dezaray is a junior Strategic Communication and Honors Humanities double major at Indiana Wesleyan University in the John Wesley Honors College. At IWU, Dezaray runs both the JWHC Blog and her own blog. Visit Dez’s website at www.dezaraybarr.weebly.com.

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From Reluctance – Rev. J. Scott Howington – Pastor of the Week

scott-howington-3By: Rick Carder


What is the secret to longevity in ministry? This question danced around in my head while meeting this week with pastor Dr. J. Scott Howington, a twenty-year veteran at one church. The fundamental notion of a long-term ministry is not unusual especially in smaller churches. I thought to myself, others have served in church ministry for many years but not many remain in smaller congregations. To the point, in a recent survey poll from Lifeway Research, “suggested the average pastor’s tenure in a local church is 3.6 years (See Dennis Cook, July 18, 2011)” recorded in an article written by Dr. Franklin Drummons.

While it is suggested by Dr. Charles Arn from Wesley Seminary that long-term pastorates are best when leading larger, growing churches. Dr Arn shared;

I agree with Roger Parrot, who says: “Lead as if you’ll be there forever! Imagine that the organization and position you are in right now is what God wants you to do for the rest of your professional life” (Lasting Strategies for Rising Leaders, Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook Publishers, 2009, p. 19).

A pastor that exemplifies the maxim, “Lead as if you’ll be there forever!” is this week’s Pastor of the Week, Dr. J. Scott Howington. He pastors a smaller church in the suburbs of Chicago as a long-term pastor. This has worked for him now for twenty years. I wanted to know the secret. We have “become a community,” says Howington in a recent discussion we had over lunch. His acknowledgment that he knows of ministry colleagues who do not stay in ministry long term. He referenced that in days gone by many homes were built with front porches that symbolized the openness to having visitors. “We now have back yard decks with fenced-in yards,” he said. He is saddened that we just don’t seem to know our neighbors these days. In his usual optimism for church ministry he shared that we need to be intentional about efforts to “get to know people.”

Howington was a delight to speak with as he shared that ministry can be hard and disappointing but “People can let you down,” he shared. He said that his father, a pastor himself, cautioned him about this. “I went to Moody Bible Institute to become a TV news anchor,” he shared. He was not looking to go going into the ministry. One might say that he was it was his reluctance that helped fuel his commitment to ministry once he accepted his Call. “It was during a church service when a lady pastor shared a message about Abraham. It was the words he needed to hear that day that changed his future path and solidified his Calling. Howington said that the minister shared that, “God cannot have any part of you unless He has all of you.” These words forever changed his heart and mind and he changed his direction (completing the Communication Broadcasting degree). One significant lesson he learned which contributes to his longevity is that you must not hold onto things too tightly. He said, “Hold all things to God in an open hand.”

scott-howington-2“My wife felt a Call to ministry or missions,” he shared. It was and is her influence that has impacted my ministry. “If it weren’t for her I would be living and sleeping in a refrigerator box in lower Wacker Drive in Chicago” he shared with a smile. According to the church website.

“Charlene and I were married in May of 1981. We lived in Winona Lake, Indiana for 15 years while I attended seminary and then became a staff member of Pleasant View Bible Church from 1985-1996. (We can talk sometime about our penchant for churches with the name “Pleasant”).”

His ministry is intentionally focused on serving single mothers. His D.Min focused on research that he shared many “churches do not have specific ministry to single mothers,” he shared. This is one of the ministries he is passionate about and he shared a story about how his church recently helped a student from a single mother in his church has been mentored by the men of the church. This student shared with Pastor Howington, I don’t have a father but, “the men in the church are like a father to me. They have always been there for me.”

Pastor Howington shared the importance of teaching the Truth of God’s Word. Referencing his church website;

“I believe that my task is to understand and explain the Bible as it relates to living life in the 21st Century. Then I must model what I preach and teach. I am convinced that the Bible is the most relevant book any of us will ever read.”

Pastor Howington also holds a Master of Divinity and a Master of Arts in Biblical Counseling from Grace Theological Seminary and a Doctor of Ministries from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.

It is a joy to welcome Dr. J. Scott Howington to the ranks of the Pastor of the Week.


Written by Rev. Rick Carder, Director of Alumni & Church Engagement at Indiana Wesleyan University.