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Pastor of the Week: Tony Bye

By: Dezaray Barr

Tony Bye

Tony Bye is the Lead Pastor at Brookhaven Wesleyan Church in Marion, Indiana. He graduated from Indiana Wesleyan University (IWU) in 1995 with a bachelor’s degree in Christian Ministry. He graduated from Wesley Seminary in 2013 with his M. Div.

During his time at IWU, Bye was influenced by many professors. “Dr. Bud Bence and Dr. David Smith, the David Smith that passed away several years ago, were two professors that influenced my life extensively,” he shared. “Dr. Bence made church history come alive in a way that made it seem relevant to today. Dr. Smith opened my eyes to see new theological thoughts that I had never even imagined.”

Bye loved spending time in the Student Center and Wildcat. He’d like to note, “Mike Brown made an awesome bacon, lettuce, tomato sandwich!”

There have been many times in which Bye felt a moment of recognition that he was to be a pastor, “but seeing God take my life experiences, both good and bad, and use them to bring hope into the lives of others has been a huge confirmation of my calling,” he said.

Brookhaven Wesleyan Church is a wonderful church right down the road from IWU that has a long history. Bye said, “It’s also a church that is working very hard to be intentional about reaching people in our community and around the world that do not yet know Jesus Christ.”

Bye’s life verse is Philippians 3:8, which reads, “Everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake, I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ.”

Some fun facts about Bye include that he loves the outdoors, and he finds himself becoming energized when in nature. Bye encourages IWU students to never stop learning. “Since the world is always changing, it is essential that we continually learn and adapt as people,” he 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. Visit Dez’s website at www.dezaraybarr.weebly.com.

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Pastor of the Week: Chief Harold Rodgers

By: Dezaray Barr

Chief Harold Rodgers

Harold C. Rodgers, Jr. currently serves as the Chief of Police for the McCordsville Metropolitan Police Department, and he has served in that capacity since September 1990. In October 2016, he was blessed with the opportunity to serve as a bi-vocational Pastor for the Knightstown First Wesleyan Church.

“I was a late bloomer when it came to my post-high school education,” he said. “As many young adults, I had other plans for my life, and college was not one of them. I was fortunate that Indiana Wesleyan University (IWU) offered several distance learning opportunities that allowed me to graduate in 2001 with a degree in Business Management. As for my time in law enforcement (approximately 31 years), I have attended more schools, seminars and training sessions than I can count.”

During his time at IWU, Rodgers learned a lot from some very special people. “Had I not attended IWU, chances are I would not have met Pastor Dr. Jim Dunn. Dr. Dunn had a true passion and faith in his words and actions. One of the things that has stuck with me through the years (and I will paraphrase) was a comment he made about scripture and his love for Christ. Dr. Dunn remarked that the Bible, while a book, was the teachings of God and his plan for salvation. He added that Christians should not look at the Bible like a buffet at the restaurant; you can pick and choose the parts of the bible that you wish to subscribe to and abide by and ignore the rest as mere ramblings of old men around a camp fire. Dr. Dunn was always open to discussion and ideas, but never wavered on his demonstration of faith,” Rodgers shared.

Knightstown First Wesleyan Church is known as the little church that could. “Initially, what drew me to the church was my wife,” Rodgers said. “My wife is a member, and at the time, her mother was the Treasurer of the Church. My wife and I were married in that little church on the corner, and I eventually became a member. When my mother-in-law was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease, Pastor Gail Whitmire asked me to step in and assume the role of Treasurer. Due to health issues, I had to step away from the position of treasurer and spend some time healing. The church went through some rough times with building issues, the retirement of Pastor Gail Whitmire and its aging congregation. That’s when I received a call from the church’s treasurer and met with Dr. Gorveatte, District Superintendent at the time.”

Knightstown is an unique church because of its spirit. The salvation of one human being in the church is more important to the congregation than the color of the sanctuary’s carpet.

Rodgers said that it’s very difficult to define a time when he knew that he had chosen the right path in either category, be it ministry or law enforcement. “What I can do is relate a story that happened very early in my law enforcement career. When I was working as a police officer, in downtown Indianapolis in the role of security for a large government building, I encountered a homeless man that I’ll call John. John, like many homeless people then and today was unclean, smelled horridly, but was generally harmless. While I do not recall the exact month, I do recall that it was very cold and very wet outside. I observed John sitting on the ground next to the building.  While I could have cost me my job, I invited John into the building and offered him a hot cup of coffee. John eagerly accepted the coffee without uttering a word. I offered John the opportunity to stretch out and lay on one of the marble benches located close to the area I worked in. John got a few hours of sleep in a warm and safe area. This ritual went on for several weeks and had got to the point where I would give John money to grab me some lunch and let him keep the remainder so that he could eat. I had also allowed him the opportunity to use the showers located in the building’s maintenance area. While I would not go so far as to say that we were friends, I will say that he was one individual that touched my heart and still haunts my sleep.  The reason I say that he haunts my sleep is his tragic end. When I left that position, I received information from some acquaintances that my replacement did not treat John with the same kindness, and John passed away from exposure during the winter of 1992,” Rodgers shared. This is just one story of how Rodgers knows that he’s following God’s will.

In his work, Rodgers has a three-rule philosophy: “Is it legal? Is it moral? Will you feel good with yourself when you get home?”

Rick Carder, a volunteer at IWU, said, “Chief Rodgers is a tremendous mentor-leader in his community, his church and police department he leads. He shares his Christian witness through his actions not only his words.”



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: Joel Gearhart

By: Dezaray Barr

Joel Gearhart

Joel Gearhart is the Congregational Care Pastor of Brookhaven Wesleyan Church in Marion, IN. He graduated from Marion College (now IWU) in 1974 with a bachelor’s degree in Religion. “My college experience gave me an opportunity to develop spiritually and in the area of leadership,” Gearhart said.  “The opportunities for spiritual growth were endless. Through classes, chapel, Spiritual Emphasis Week, and life on and off campus, God was clearly at work in my life deepening our relationship and preparing me as a Christian to serve Him.”

Gearhart’s call to ministry has been confirmed many times over.  “While my path in ministry has lead in many directions and taken many forms, God’s guiding hand has been unmistakable. I have served as an admissions counselor at Marion College, a youth pastor, missionary pastor in Puerto Rico, a church planter in Chesterton, Indiana, an educator as Director of Church Relations at IWU, a hospice chaplain and now Pastor of Congregational Care at Brookhaven Wesleyan. My experiences at college and along the path of ministry have prepared me for what was to come,” Gearhart said.

“Brookhaven has been more than a place to serve,” Gearhart said, “it has been my church family. When I came to Marion, my wife was in the final months of a terminal brain tumor. The church was a support to me in those critical days as well as encouraging me as a single parent, and through other tough experiences God allowed in my life. It is gratifying to be able to encourage many in the church family who are going through difficult things now.  The body of Christ is an awesome thing. God is Good!”

Some fun facts about Gearhart include that he is a leap year baby, so he’s actually only 16.5 years old. He met Bill Graham when he was a kid and served as National Director for Wesleyan Bible Bowl.



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: Jim Sonnefield

By: Dezaray Barr

Jim Sonnefield

Jim Steven Sonnefield is the Assistant Pastor and oversees Adult Ministries at Lakeview Wesleyan Church in Marion, Indiana. He graduated from Indiana Wesleyan University with a masters degree in Christian Leadership in 2011, after previously receiving his undergraduate degrees in Education from Indiana State University and Ball State University.

When asked about his transition from education, where he spent 28 years teaching middle school and 7 teaching high school, into full time ministry, Sonnefield said, “After many years of teaching in Marion, I realized that there was more that I wanted to do with people than being in the classroom and coaching athletes. I wanted to spend more time getting to know people and to share in their spiritual journey.” This desire lead him to begin this new journey of earning his masters degree at age 53. Early on he recalls struggling with confidence, being that he was around 25 years older than the next oldest men in the program. But with each class, he grew in his assurance, as he begun feeling more in step with those who were already in full-time ministry.

His time at IWU was very special. Sonnefield greatly enjoyed getting to know and learn from Dr. Ken Schenck, Dr. Todd Guy, Dr. Eddie Shigley and Dr. Jim Vermilya. While he enjoyed everything he learned, he valued the communal aspect of IWU and definitely enjoyed his on-sight classes more that his online classes. He said that many of the peers he studied alongside during his courses are still his friends and colleagues today.

From his early teen years, Sonnefield was always involved somehow in ministry. He has always felt it was a calling on his life, but it became especially evident in the last ten years of his time working in public school education. This transition, then, was a natural step forward in faith, one that he always felt the call towards, that he accepted at the right time.

There have been challenges though, in taking on a life of pastor-ship and full-time ministry. As someone who values connection, Sonnefield has found the time constraints that come with helping shepherd a church body to be taxing. He has to very intentional to find time to connect with other congregants and accept that he cannot possibly know everyone as well as he would like to. He said cultivating relationships takes time and is all about building trust and becoming involved in their spiritual lives.

Sonnefield has found a lot of freedom in knowing that things take time and that while he cannot intimately know everyone, he can give them opportunities to get involved and he can continue to share with them as a Body. Over the last five years, he’s found finding a balance between ministry and family life to be challenging as well, especially early on when he was still coaching and teaching full-time as well. When his wife, Sue, retired from her teaching position, she became an integral part of managing his pastoral duties. He said, “She is a tremendous help in what I do each week.”

Lakeview Wesleyan Church has around 600 congregants, 400 of them being full members. Uniquely, the church has a counseling center comprised of nine licensed counselors. They also have a large children’s program, K-12 school and preschool within the church, and almost 75 employees on the church staff overall. They have also sent out several missionaries who serve around the globe.

Sonnefield said that his two favorite verses are Proverbs 27:17, which reads “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another,” and Proverbs 17:17, “A friend loves at all time, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.” He loves the communal emphasis both verses bring to the forefront of the readers mind.

His wisdom to current IWU students is, “Step out, take some risks, push yourself to do things you never thought you could ever do. You are on a wonderful journey, a process that will transform you, and God has given you everything you need to serve Him and others.”



Written by Kendra Housel, writer for the Alumni Center. Kendra is a sophomore Education and Honors Humanities double major at Indiana Wesleyan University in the John Wesley Honors College. She is also a member of the University Chorale. She is passionate about serving Christ through writing, singing and caring for others.

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Pastor of the Week: Todd Whittum

By: Dezaray Barr

Todd Whittum and his wife

Todd Whittum is the Assistant Pastor at Whiteford Wesleyan Church in Ottawa Lake, Michigan. He graduated from Indiana Wesleyan University (IWU) in January of 1993 with a bachelor’s degree in Music Education. After graduating, he completed his Wesleyan course of study program for Pre-Ordination in October 2000. He was ordained in July 2001 in the North Michigan District of the Wesleyan Church.

“As a senior in high school, I applied to a few colleges besides IWU,” Whittum said. “I was very into playing music, especially jazz. I really thought hard about going to a college that specialized in music. The more I prayed about it; however, I sensed that God wanted me to go to the college my parents both graduated from…Marion College (now IWU). Looking back at this decision, I believe that it was the right decision to make.”

After graduating from IWU, Whittum struggled to know what direction God was leading him in. He applied to many school districts, thinking he was going to teach music in a school setting. “However, after several interviews, nothing opened up in that direction,” he explained. “Then, in the fall of 1994, I landed my first music teaching job. My wife and I and our two boys packed up and moved to Michigan, where I started teaching in the Detroit area.”

Shortly after moving, Whittum and his wife visited a church (Dryden Wesleyan Church) she had grown up in. After talking to the senior pastor, they found out that the church was looking for a staff member to lead the youth and music ministries. “A couple weeks later, we were hired!” Whittum explained. “We stayed at Dryden for two years, but during that time, I really struggled with knowing God’s plan for our future. In the spring of 1996, my wife, Terry, and I had the privilege of attending John Maxell’s ‘Church Grow’ conference in Toledo, OH.  While we were there, God spoke to us and confirmed to us that He truly did call us into full-time ministry. After that conference, I started taking classes towards being ordained in The Wesleyan Church, and we have been in full time ministry ever since.”

In 2007, Whittum and his family moved to Whiteford. Whiteford Wesleyan Church is located in southeast Michigan. “Our church is in a rural community. We’re a congregation of around 150 people that is committed to making more and better disciples. We do this through loving, growing and serving. One of the greatest ways that we try to serve our community is through partnering with our local school district. We have over 50 teachers or staff members that are being prayed for by families in our church. Our church also provides an after school program for Whiteford students who need a place to wait for their parents to get out of work. We have also recently partnered with other area churches to help feed Whiteford students that are considered homeless. Backpacks are put together each week to be sent home every Friday with these students to provide them with food for the weekend,” Whittum said.

It took Whittum five and a half years to graduate from college, but, he said, “all the effort, and hard work was worth it. Don’t give up, even when it gets tough. Look to God for your help!”

Whittum said that one of his greatest joys in ministry is being able to work with his wife and children. “My wife and I have served together in many ministry areas over the years, including music, youth and children’s ministries. It has been a joy to see all of our children involved in different ministries as well.  Three out of our four children are married and live close by us. Our youngest is a college student in Nashville, TN. We also have two grandchildren that we have so much fun being with (and one that will be born very soon!).  We are so blessed to have such a great family.”



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: 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: Jim Kane

By: Dezaray Barr

Jim Kane

Rev. James (Jim) Kane is the Senior Pastor of the First Church of God in Kendallville, Indiana. Kane graduated from Greenville University in Illinois with a bachelor’s degree in English. He graduated from Asbury Theological Seminary with a Master of Arts in Religion in Christian Education and from Western Michigan University with a Master of Arts in Educational Leadership. “I have benefited from wonderful professors at all three schools,” Kane shared. “They challenged me academically and, in some cases, spiritually as well.”

Kane’s journey to ministry is unlike most, and he did not receive his call until he was in his thirties. “My call to be a pastor has been a journey that has unfolded over the years,” Kane said. “It wasn’t until I was in my thirties that I said to my wife, Susan, one day, ‘I think that the Lord wants me in ministry!’ I had looked at my time in ministry as preparation for something else, but that has not happened.”

When Kane arrived at the First Church of God in Kendallville, it was nearly closed, but they chose to work with Kane and the Lord to move forward with the church. “We have had a significant ministry, especially a drama ministry, that became noted by the community, even today,” Kane said. The local community theater will stage Sleep Beauty for the kids’ theater program later this spring at the church.

From the church, there have been Lilly Scholars and other academic leaders and student leaders, such as National Honor Society Presidents and Vice-Presidents, School Newspaper writers and editors, class officers, academic athletic awards and other successful individuals.

Jim Kane, his wife Susan, and their two sons

Kane and his wife, Susan, have struggled with infertility throughout their marriage. “I had infertility surgery 11 years into our marriage,” Kane explained. “Praise the Lord it worked…twice! I remember announcing to the congregation I was serving then that if I did not have this surgery I might never become a father. You could have heard a pin dropped at that moment.” Now, Kane has two sons, Jonathon and Daniel. Daniel is a sophomore at IWU.

First Church of God is a congregation of hard-working individuals who works many hours throughout the week. “Most of our ministry takes place on the weekend, including our monthly Ministry Council meeting. That was something I had to get used to, because church meetings were normally on a weeknights. Weeknights are at a premium here,” Kane said.

Kane’s life verse is Jeremiah 29:11, and the verse has spoken to him during critical times in his life and ministry. “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

If Kane could encourage IWU students to do one thing, he would encourage them to study abroad. “If you have a chance to study/travel internationally, take it!” he said. “It is one of the regrets that I did not do some international study.”

At the beginning of February, IWU’s Master’s Praise, including Kane’s son, Daniel, performed at the First Church of God in Kendallville. Check out the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vYIZamzES54.



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: Todd Render

By: Dezaray Barr

Todd Render and his wife

Rev. Todd Render is the pastor of the Alliance Church. He graduated from the University of Rochester with a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering. He also graduated from Purdue University with a M.S. in Mechanical Engineering and from Grace Theological Seminary with a M.A. in Ministry.

“In engineering school, I was both awed and humbled by the great minds and the affability of some of the professors. And by some of the other students for that matter,” Render said.

Render became a Christ-follower when he was 39 years old, and he didn’t start seminary until after he was 40. “I was taking night classes while I was working for an orthopedic company in Warsaw, Indiana. That whole idea of allowing yourself to be transformed, of stepping courageously into something new, but something vital and important – well that’s the whole message of being a follower of Christ, and being transformed into His likeness, isn’t it?” Render said.

Render’s time as a pastor has been out-of-the-ordinary. “I’m still doing the bi-vocational thing, working full time in research and development and as part-time senior pastor (which is an oxymoron),” Render shared. “There are so many times when I am affirmed and encouraged and just uplifted by being a pastor. Last year, I performed two marriages, three funerals, and just yesterday, got to do two baptisms, my all-time favorite part! Yet each one is incredibly significant in the lives of people, to share in and bring out the magnitude of those events, to enter into the most significant moments of a person’s life, to point them to Jesus and affirm what God has done – and wants still to do in their lives. One of the hardest challenges is trying to lead the turn-around of a shrinking organization. This is true whether it’s for a department, a company or a church. To take the time to build relationships, to work together to see that vision of what God wants for the community, to love everyone and see them with the eyes of Jesus… I tell you what, some people are easier to love than others! But the Lord reminds me where I am on that spectrum, so I am often reminded of His mercy and grace.”

Alliance Church was born out of a prayer meeting in which three couples gathered 60 years ago in a family’s home. The first building was just a small sanctuary. Although the building has expanded a few times, the original sanctuary has been dubbed Tozer Hall, because AW Tozer preached there, as well as Ravi Zacharias. “I’ve been here only a year and a half now,” Render explained. “We have several congregants in their nineties, but at the same time a thriving children’s program on Wednesday nights with many kids from the community who don’t currently attend our church. After changes in leadership, the people who were left are devoted and love to serve, and eager to see God bring new believers. I will work and worship with a community like that any day.”

Render’s advice to students is simply stated. “Pray that God lead you to that place and to those people, and pray God give you such a love for them. That makes all the pain, and the struggles and the celebrations worth every moment,” he 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. Visit Dez’s website at www.dezaraybarr.weebly.com.

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Pastor of the Week: Zackry Langford

By: Dezaray Barr

Zackry Langford and his family

Zackry Langford is the Pastor of Surrendered Life Church in Marshall, Michigan. He graduated from Indiana Wesleyan University (IWU) with a bachelor’s degree in Biblical Studies in 2010 and from Wesley Seminary with an M. Div. in 2017. “Being a student at IWU solidified my call into the ministry and helped establish a foundation that I have been able to build on ever since. I transferred to IWU in 2007 after attending two other colleges from ‘03-’06, and IWU helped me to grow in my faith as well as help me to discern my next steps into ministry,” Langford said.

As a Pastor, there are moments when Langford feels a peace that surpasses understanding about his call to ministry. “There have been many moments in which I feel like I am on the right path,” Langford said. “To be frank, though, there are many moments in which I wonder if I am on the right track… The big moments are when I get to baptize someone or when I get to be a part of helping someone profess a belief in Jesus for the first time. Those are the moments where I know that I get to be a part of something incredible and that brings meaning to my choice to follow God into this vocation.”

Langford has been challenged, as he completed Seminary and Ordination while working in ministry and raising a young family. “I finally completed both Seminary and became an ordained minister in the Wesleyan Church this past summer, which has been a decade long journey. During that time, I got married (in 2007), had three kids and moved a few times. We still battle with the demands of ministry, raising a family and with a wife who runs a successful business.”

Surrendered Life Church

Surrendered Life Church is an incredibly faithful and loving congregation. “What has been both an excitement and a surprise is how willing they have been in taking risks to become the congregation that God wants us to be,” Langford explained about his congregation. “In the three and a half years since we have taken over the congregation, we have had two major fundraising campaigns, changed the name from Marshall Wesleyan Church to Surrendered Life Church and have seen new believers profess a belief in Christ and become baptized.”

If Langford could encourage IWU students, he’d remind them to “Learn how to have a ‘holy discontent’ about the world. I am not sure who coined the term ‘holy discontent,’ but I think it is probably the best way I can describe what it means to have peace and purpose in this life. You have to learn how to be content with whatever your situation is, but also have to have the ability to see what can or needs to be different.”



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.