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Pastor of the Week: Rick Weesner

By: Emily Neideck

Rick Weesner is the pastor at Garrison Hills Wesleyan in Battle Creek, Michigan, a small church with a close-knit group of attendees. On top of his work as a pastor, Weesner runs an adoption ministry and is actively involved in the Wesleyan Church Campus Challenge scholarship program.

Weesner felt his call to ministry is 1984 and began attending a program through the Wesleyan Headquarters’ Education Department that would allow him to take ministerial courses at surrounding colleges and eventually become ordained. The program was appealing to students with families and full-time careers because it allowed flexibility. Weesner was ordained in 1989, and he spent time pastoring other Michigan churches before settling in Battle Creek.

Weesner’s church, Garrison Hills Wesleyan, has a unique focus on children and youth ministries. Weesner said about his biggest struggle, “Ministry has changed over the years. I’ve always felt the call to a smaller church and that is difficult in today’s world when the focus is on everything big.”

Weesner and his family have a passion for the country of Colombia. The family has two adopted daughters from Colombia, and they have two biological daughters. Their second daughter has adopted two daughters from Colombia as well. After going through the adoption process multiple times, the family realized that the process was financially taxing, and they wanted to do something to help. Weesner and his family created an organization called Project Hope Ministries. The organization provides affordable housing for families that need to stay in a country for adoption purposes. Weesner said, “Our ministry also is working with the communities to help with education.”

Weesner is also involved in Wesleyan Church Campus Challenge and has been for 25 years. He stated, “My kids were also involved. They wanted to go to Indiana Wesleyan, so we looked for ways to raise money for that. Because the challenge was helpful in enabling my daughters to go to IWU, I’ve always wanted to help other kids as well, and the challenge provided that opportunity. I’ve always found enjoyment in hearing the success stories.” Indiana Wesleyan University is the most successful of competitions. Currently, Weesner is the director of the IWU competition.

The Wesleyan Church Campus Challenge will take place on IWU’s campus on July 29th. To learn more about the competition, click here.

 

Written by Emily Neideck, writer for the Alumni Center and a junior Writing major at IWU. She is active on the cross country and track teams. She is passionate about using her writing skills to share the good news of Christ with others and writes often on her personal blog at www.emilylehner.wordpress.com.

Pastor of the Week: Dan Berry

By: Emily Neideck

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Dan Berry, photo obtained from Facebook

Dr. Dan Berry is the District Superintendent for the South Coastal District of the Wesleyan Church. Before his position as District Superintendent, Berry served as a pastor in different churches in Pennsylvania, as the District Superintendent for the New England region of the Wesleyan Church and at a church in Warsaw, Indiana.

Although Berry graduated from United Wesleyan College in Allentown, PA, his sons Jason and Joshua and first wife Shelley and second wife Debbie, were graduates of Indiana Wesleyan University. Berry’s second wife, Debbie, has two sons that also attended Indiana Wesleyan.

Berry graduated from United Wesleyan College with a bachelor’s degree in Pastoral Ministry. He has since continued to pursue a master’s degree in Pastoral Ministry from Evangelical School of Theology, and he also completed a Doctorate of Ministry degree from Drew University in Madison, NJ.

As District Superintendent, Berry oversees over 100 pastors. The South Coastal District is also home to the largest Wesleyan Church, 12Stone Church in Lawrenceville, GA. The church has grown immensely since Berry has been in the district. He stated, “District Superintendent is sort of a pastor to the pastors. Having my previous pastoral experience, I understand what it is they [the pastors] are dealing with. You know what you have gone through, and there is probably nothing that happens today that you haven’t been through and are able to help with.”

Berry’s calling to ministry came through a single, personal moment during his freshman year of college. He said, “I had a moment of surrender, and when I surrendered my life to Christ, I knew that would be my call to be a pastor. I was fighting that because my father is a pastor.” Berry’s life since college has been an example of the deep surrender that he experienced in college.

In 2007, Berry and his first wife were in a terrible accident. He said, “The greatest life changing event took place in 2007 when my first wife Shelley and I were in a very serious accident. She was in a coma for three months and experienced months of rehab. I provided 24/7 home care for 2 ½ years until her death on March 5, 2010.” Much like Berry’s call to ministry, this event changed his life forever. He stated, “The death of my wife, Shelley, was the most painful, most difficult challenge I have ever had.”

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Dan and his wife Debbie, photo obtained from Facebook

However, in the midst of this hardship, Berry has been able to have joy. He said, “I am confident that she [Shelley] is at home with the Lord Jesus Christ. God has turned my “mourning into joy” by providing me a second chance with a new marriage and a new family.”

Challenges have arisen in both Berry’s personal life and his pastoral life, and he said about his pastoral challenges, “I think that the toughest thing is criticism and the personal expectations that are unrealistic that we place on ourselves. We hold ourselves higher than God. I’ve had to learn to lead for an audience of one. The only one I am trying to please is God.” To accomplish this, Berry, once again, practices complete surrender – an act of keeping God at the center of his pastoring.

Berry spoke of God’s ability to know each of our unique gifts and talents. He said, “Remember that God has called you to be you and not someone else. He has called you with your talents, personalities, and skills and you have to trust that God knows exactly what you bring to the church, your job and your community. Just go ahead and be yourself – of course, be your best self.”

“It is a pleasure for us to honor Dr. Daniel A. Berry as this week’s Pastor of the Week,” says Rev. Rick Carder, Indiana Wesleyan University’s Office of Alumni & Church Engagement. Berry’s story of personal trial and triumph is inspiring to us all and a reminder of God’s faithfulness.

 

Written by Emily Neideck, writer for the Alumni Center and a junior Writing major at IWU. She is active on the cross country and track teams. She is passionate about using her writing skills to share the good news of Christ with others and writes often on her personal blog at www.emilylehner.wordpress.com.

Pastor of the Week: Richard Cole

By: Heather Cox

Richard Lee Cole graduated from Marion College (now Indiana Wesleyan University) in 1985 with a B.S. in Christian Ministries and an Associates degree in Christian Education. Today, Cole has been the lead Pastor and founder of Daybreak Community Church located in Lapel, Indiana for 20 years.

Before he was a Pastor, Cole was a student. Cole said that during his time at Marion College, he had professors and mentors who not only encouraged him in his pursuit to become a pastor, but they brought excitement into his life for what was to come. Bud Bence, Joe Seaborne, Wilbur Williams, and Duane Caldwell were some of Cole’s favorite professors and mentors at Marion College.

As far as how Cole became a pastor, his story is a bit more unique. Though he felt called to be a pastor starting when he was 18, Cole got married right out of high school, began working for General Motors and pushed his calling to be a pastor aside for a while.

Eventually, Cole came back to this calling and decided to do a course at home in order to obtain a license to become a pastor. Cole explained that this home course did not go well, as there were many distractions at home.

After working for General Motors for around 10 years, Cole was laid off, which was actually the beginning of something new. General Motors offered to pay for his education.

“They said that they would help with some of the financing on getting a degree in something, and I asked them about being a preacher. After negotiations, they said absolutely they would. I realized that I had everything going my direction, and I realized that this was a God thing. I’d been married ten years, had three boys and a home,” Cole explained. “I said ‘Wow Lord, you have opened up the doors… this is a no brainer.’ I just walked through that door that God had opened for me, and Indiana Wesleyan was the school I chose to go to.”

After becoming a pastor for a few years, General Motors called him back to work, so Cole began working full time at both the factory and as a pastor. Cole did this for 20 years, until he was able to solely focus on being a pastor.

“I have never thought of myself as anything but a pastor. I’ve never thought ‘Oh, maybe I’ll go to a different direction.’ Now, I’ve been a senior pastor for 32 years, and I’ve never wanted or looked at doing anything else,” Cole said.

Though Cole is continuously pursuing God’s calling in his life as a pastor, the job does not come without difficulties. Even returning to school brought Cole some difficulties that he had to overcome.

“I was never a good student in school, and it was very important for me to even pass my first test in college. I was dreading more than anything that I would not be able to read the material or write or get anything out of it, but the school really helped me with some reading classes, and I felt very successful,” Cole explained.

Cole said that one of the hardest parts of being a pastor was having to move his family around a few times when his children were young.

“The hardest part for the family is leaving the home that they had grown up in and moving off to a new school system,” Cole said. “There was a lot of soul searching not only with going to college, but also moving up to Marion. Moving to Colorado Springs for my first pastorate was a real tough thing for all of us to be on the same page, but it worked out beautifully.”

Cole’s grandson is currently in the process of pursuing an education at Indiana Wesleyan University to become a pastor, and Cole has a granddaughter doing the same in Oklahoma. In addition, all three of Cole’s sons have become ordained in the Wesleyan church.

One thing Cole has learned over the years and wants to pass on to current Indiana Wesleyan students is to not become intimidated or discouraged by people you work with or for. He said, “Every time I ran into a difficult time I had to remember: I’m not doing it for them. I’m doing this for my Jesus.”

 

Written by Heather Cox, writer for the Alumni Office. Heather is a junior Journalism major at IWU. She is also the Editor of GrantCOnnected.net, a community news site run by IWU students. She is unsure of where life will take her after college, but she knows she never wants to stop writing!

Pastor of the Week: John Freed

By: Heather Cox

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John & Danielle Freed

Reverend John Freed graduated from Indiana Wesleyan University in 2003, after majoring in Christian Ministries. Freed then went on to obtain his Masters Degree in Christian Leadership through Wesley Seminary, graduating in 2008.

Today, Freed is the lead pastor of Waterline Church located in Fishers, Indiana, which he also founded along with his wife Danielle, who is also a 2003 IWU graduate.

While pursuing his Masters Degree, Freed said he appreciated the flexibility of the program. He was able to continue working in Ministry while also going to school. Freed explained that he didn’t want to have to step away from Ministry to step into a classroom.

“The teaching was very relevant to what I was working with. I could tailor what I was learning to my ministry,” Freed explained. “As I went through the master’s program… it allowed me to really understand and clarify the calling that God has on my life.”

While he was a student at IWU, Freed had a few professors that were particularly his favorite.

“I would say Dr. David Smith and Dr. Jim Lo were both very influential,” Freed said. “Dr. Keith Drury was a very influential Professor and mentor.”

Freed is able to confidently say that planting Waterline Church with his wife is something he was created to do.

“When I was going through the beginning stages in the beginning phases of church planting and starting something from scratch, I could see that I was supposed to do this with my life– that I was created to do this. Because of starting this church and church multiplication, church planting is something that has only been reaffirming my calling in life,” Freed explained. “I talked to one person a few months ago, and they have said they’ve never really had that feeling that this is what they were created to do, and I can definitely say that starting this church with Danielle is something I was created to do.”

The process hasn’t been entirely easy, however. Freed said one obstacle he had to overcome was learning about fundraising and how to fundraise.

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Freed and his family

“Church planting requires a lot of resources and a lot of partnership. I didn’t know how that was going to happen, but because of God’s calling and strong mentors, I was able to learn the skills of fundraising. Now I teach that to other church planters,” Freed said.

Freed loves leadership development.

“I absolutely love pouring into the leaders of our church and developing them. All of our staff are very young, and they’re full time. This is their very first job out of college, so helping them discover their own calling and what God created them to do [is awesome],” Freed said.

Freed explained that Waterline Church is a unique place to be, because the church reaches a unique group of people. The church specifically reaches out to people and families without a church background.

“Maybe [Waterline congregants] have never felt comfortable stepping into a church. We’ve created a place for people who are curious about those things to come and just be curious, to be welcomed and accepted no matter where they’re at their spiritual journey,” Freed said.

Because Waterline’s goal is to reach those who do not regularly attend church, they like to host a lot of events to become connected with the community.

“We want to earn the right to tell people about Jesus. We do that by serving in our community: being generous and finding projects that maybe most people overlook, but that are a huge need in our community. Then we just pour leadership and resources, and we use all of our gifts and our talents to meet those needs,” Freed explained.

Among those events include benefit concerts for human trafficking and for victims of crime and abuse. Through events such as the benefit concerts, Waterline has paid for the therapy and counseling for 80 children and families who have been victims of sexual abuse.

Additionally, Waterline has partnered with various organizations. Recently they have provided 250 pairs of socks for homeless people and 12,000 items for expectant mothers, incuding 7,000 diapers and 5,000 wipes.

The church is also in the process of planning an Easter egg drop, scheduled for April 15. A hot air balloon is going to drop 10,000 Easter eggs onto a field for children in the community. According to Waterline Church, this is a free event for the first 750 pre-registered children up to age 10.

When it comes to words of wisdom for current Indiana Wesleyan students, Freed said to “start!”

“Start something. Even if you fail at starting it, at least you tried starting it. Just try to start something new, start something fresh, something that no one else has done. It will push you, and it will stretch you,” Freed said. “It’s not about actually accomplishing it, it’s about the actual process.”

 

Written by Heather Cox, writer for the Alumni Office. Heather is a junior Journalism major at IWU. She is also the Editor of GrantCOnnected.net, a community news site run by IWU students. She is unsure of where life will take her after college, but she knows she never wants to stop writing!

Pastor of the Week: Dwight Elliott

By: Heather Cox

Dwight Elliott

Dwight Elliott

Dwight Clark Elliott graduated from Indiana Wesleyan University with his B.A. in General Studies with a focus on Biblical Studies in 2013.

Today, Elliott is the Senior Pastor at Amboy Friend’s Church in Amboy, Indiana.

Elliott said that Indiana Wesleyan University greatly influenced his future. He said IWU helped him focus on core values and the importance of a Christian education– not just in the workplace, but in every place.

Some of Elliott’s favorite courses through IWU included Old and New Testament. He said that though he didn’t have Wilbur Williams, he had Greg Smith for Old Testament, and he really enjoyed his class.

As for how he transitioned into God’s call for his life, Elliott decided to first further his education.

“I grew up on a farm and had returned to working with my father, and was called from the pig pin to a pulpit,” Elliott said. “When I came behind the pulpit to work full time in ministry, I had already had a background of working part time ministry for a number of years, but I knew at that time the Lord was calling me to sharpen my focus to continue to be a leader, which means that I needed to be a learner. So I returned back to school to finish my bachelors degree in that time.”

Since then, Elliott said there have been a number of times in which God has confirmed this calling into ministry. One of these confirmations came shortly after obtaining his bachelor’s degree.

“Shortly after my graduation there was a knock on the door here at the church. It was a man to say he was had just been released from jail. We ended up getting him some help, because he said he wanted out of that lifestyle. It took a while to get him into a rehabilitation house, but shortly thereafter he was in that house living. I went to go visit one day, and he introduced me to the other guys in the house as his best friend,” Elliott explained. “It just … humbled me to think here’s this guy–he’s been through hardship in life–and yet God is kind of confirming that call. Because God may not necessarily always call the qualified, but he definitely qualifies those that He calls, and that was one moment I could say for certain I felt that confirmation of that call.”

Though Elliott has experienced confirmation from the Lord, there have been difficult times throughout this journey and process as well.

“I think sometimes the biggest difficulty we face is when we allow pain to to get between us and what the Lord is trying to do in our lives. And sometimes we let that pain block Him out, and it can become a distraction or a detour. When the truth is, we need to see that as an opportunity where the Lord’s working on us,” Elliott said.

Elliott also went on to describe some of the challenges he has faced in his life. Elliott explained he has a 15 year old son who is autistic and nonverbal, and he said he continues to learn from his son who always radiates joy.

“He reminds me every day of the fact that we shouldn’t take life for granted and to see joy in the smallest of things. Because the frustration that he must have every single day is hard for me to imagine– not being able to express vocally what he wants, what his needs are– yet he shows patience, and he is such a happy guy. I mean he is… he’s full of joy and we see that reflected in his eyes, in his smile, and his laugh,” Elliott explained. “It helps remind us that even in the midst of struggle and strife, and even a midst of pain, there is joy and that joy helps us to look past that pain, past that distraction, past that detour, to see the very thing that God wants us to focus on and is praising him.”

Elliott explained that his congregation at Amboy Friend’s Church is unique and values reaching out to the community. The church is from the Friend’s denomination. Elliott said another way of explaining that would be to use the “old school term Quaker.”

Elliott said one of the unique things the church does is a monthly outreach program with the community, called “Free Meal Ministry.”

“We give a meal that is absolutely free. We put it on here at the church, and we often make deliveries in the area. On average we have been serving about 175 meals every month for, I think we’re in our fifth maybe sixth year at this point, and we continue to reach out to community,” Elliott said. “There are people that will come into our family life center for a meal that would not feel comfortable coming into the church but on enter into our gym and there are some very healthy things that begin around the table.”

Elliott went on to say that healing begins to take place during these meals, as people share their stories, their struggles, their hurt, and what they need prayer for.

Elliott said another unique factor about the congregation, is the wide variety of generations.

“We have a lot of folks from previous generations, but we have held their hand as they went on to be with the Lord… and then we’re seeing more young families are coming into the congregation. It’s kind of a transition time a Amboy Friend’s. We’re seeing more and more young families coming into our church. Which is a blessing, and it’s an encouragement to see that happen,” Elliott said.

As for words of wisdom for current IWU students, Elliott wants to encourage students to persevere in the pursuit of their education, and to evaluate what is truly important in life.

“I would just encourage them to continue to continue their path. My bachelor’s degree was held up for a lot of years because of me, and I got in the way of it–in truth I should have completed it a lot earlier, but I was in the way of it,” Elliott explained. “Sometimes life has a habit of doing that, but if anything, I really learned through the online experience at Indiana Wesleyan how to be disciplined and focused so that my studies have their place in my life. There are plenty of times in life where ‘urgent’ is going to try to crowd out what’s important, and it seems to challenge us on a daily basis, but my time in Indiana Wesleyan really helped me to determine what was important, so that when ‘urgent’ came along, I knew exactly what ‘urgent’ was, but I knew truly what was important.”

 

Written by Heather Cox, writer for the Alumni Office. Heather is a junior Journalism major at IWU. She is also the Editor of GrantCOnnected.net, a community news site run by IWU students. She is unsure of where life will take her after college, but she knows she never wants to stop writing!

Pastor of the Week: Matthew Schwarzentraub

By: Dezaray Barr

 

Matthew Schwarzentraub

Matthew Schwarzentraub

Matthew Schwarzentraub, the Connections Pastor at Croswell Wesleyan Church in Croswell Michigan, graduated from IWU in 2012 with bachelor’s degrees in Christian Ministries and Biblical Literature. He graduated just this last year from Wesley Seminary with his masters of divinity from IWU as well.

Schwarzentraub has been a pastor of Croswell Wesleyan five years this June. He began as an intern in the children’s ministry. In the fall of 2013 he resigned, but just a few weeks later he was called back by the senior pastor to be the connections pastor.

“My job is to serve as the connections pastor, focusing on hospitality, connections and life groups,” Schwarzentraub said.

While a student at IWU, Schwarzentraub was involved in the young adult ministry at College Wesleyan Church and was a senator in IWU’s Student Government Association. Both involvements and his friends at IWU affected him in large ways.

Schwarzentraub said, “I believe that, even though I did not see it at the time, those two activities shaped the way I minister to this day. Another equally influential factor is the close-knit friendships that I made at IWU. I learned more about God and more about how he created me through my friends. We encouraged each other to lean into who we were made to be.”

Schwarzentraub favorite professor during his time at IWU was Dr. David Vardaman who taught Church Leadership and Wesleyan Church History. “What I love about him is that he is real, and he cares deeply about his students. I could sense that he wanted to teach knowledge, but he also wanted to teach character,” Schwarzentraub said. “I always knew that he cared about me personally.”

Matthew Schwarzentraub during his time in children's ministry

Matthew Schwarzentraub during his time in children’s ministry

One of Schwarzentraub’s favorite people at IWU was Dr. Keith Newman. “I’m not exactly sure how I got connected with him in the first place. It was probably through SGA,” Schwarzentraub said, “but I remember sitting down with him and discussing options for seminary. I had my mind on an established, more prominent program. He told me a story about a surgeon and a family doctor. The surgeon sees people, operates on them and doesn’t see them again. The family doctor sees patients, knows them and checks on them frequently throughout their lifetime. Dr. Newman then asked me to think about being a professor or a pastor. The more prominent seminary will train you to be a professor and you will know students for a semester and then send them off. This other newer seminary will help you continue to develop the heart of a pastor and you will know people for a lifetime. Which one do you want?”

Schwarzentraub knew his calling to be a pastor was real as a child. “One of the most distinct experiences came from my senior pastor when I was younger,” Schwarzentraub said. “It was at North Lakeport Wesleyan. I was involved in the Wednesday night CYC (youth) program, and we had to interview the pastor. As I finished my interview with Rev. Steve DeNeff, he asked if he could ask me a question. ‘Matt, what do you want to do with your life?’ I replied, ‘I want to be a pastor.’ He smiled, and later he was talking to my parents and recalled the conversation. After telling them what I said Pastor Steve said, ‘If he would have said anything else, I would not have believed him.’”

If Schwarzentraub could give current IWU students one piece of advice, it would be, “Put people first. It is easy to get distracted and be focused on results,” Schwarzentraub said, “but people need hope and the best way to show them hope is by listening, encouraging and caring.”

 

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

Aaron Gross: Pastor of the Week

By: Heather Cox

Aaron and his wife Peggy, photo from Facebook

Aaron and his wife Peggy, photo from Facebook

Rev. Aaron Gross graduated from Indiana Wesleyan University in 2007 with a bachelor’s degree in Christian Ministry and graduated with a Master of Divinity in 2012. He became an adjunct faculty for Wesley Seminary in the fall of 2012 teaching a spiritual formation class for pastors. In addition, Gross is going to begin in the Doctor of Ministry program with a concentration in preaching in the upcoming summer of 2017.

Currently, Gross is the Senior Pastor of the Logansport Church of the Brethren.

For Gross, being an IWU student was a very rewarding journey which he is very thankful for. Gross began his journey at IWU as an adult student taking night classes in Fort Wayne to satisfy his General Studies. From there, he transferred those credits to IWU’s Marion campus to begin his Christian Ministries degree.

Becoming an adjunct faculty was a blessing which came through a very important conversation Gross had with Wesley Seminary’s Dr. Smith.

“I sat with him in Baldwin one day during my undergraduate degree and asked him, ‘How do I know if God wants to me to teach at a college level or continue to preach in His church?’ Dr. Smith said, “‘Is one of them wrong? Is it wrong to teach pastoral ministries or to preach God’s word?  This is not a right or wrong answer. Could it be that God just wants to give you the desires of your heart?’” Gross explained.

It was a few years later when Gross was walking across IWU’s campus that he expressed to the Lord what his desire was.

“I remember saying, ‘God, if it is okay with you, I would love to teach young men and women at this campus how to be good pastors,’” said Gross. “It was just days later that Dr. Schenck asked if I would lead one of the cohorts for the master of divinity program when I graduated. Dr. Smith was right, God was just wanting to give me the desires of my heart.”

Gross has a pretty powerful story behind his call into ministry. Though he had started out in his family run business straight out of high school, it was while on a men’s retreat that Gross felt God had ministry in store for his future.

Gross said he was nervous to come home and explain this calling to his parents, as this would now cause his father to have to close their family business at the end of his retirement.

“As I told my parents the story, my dad said, ‘Well, I guess it is time to tell him the story.’ I thought to myself, ‘What story?’ My mom started telling of her having rheumatic fever as a child, her struggles with infertility and being told she would never bear a child. She said, ‘Your dad and I were married and continued to hope that the doctors were wrong, but month after month it seemed if they were right. One night, I got on my knees and prayed, ‘Lord, if you will give me a child, I will give him back to you.’ Nine months later you were born,’” Gross said.

Since hearing this story and being in full-time ministry, Gross treasures this story in the midst of difficult times.

“I have thought back to that day many times. When times get tough and I don’t see God’s hand at work, or when I am just tired of the fight ministry always seems to present, I go back to that moment and remember I am a child of a parent’s prayer, and I continue the work God has called me to do,” Gross said.

Even with this confirmed calling to what Gross does on a daily basis, there are still hardships and difficulties that come with it.

“Ministry has had its ups and downs,” Gross said. “There almost comes a time when you are afraid of good days because you know what is coming. But how do you decide if a problem is big or small? It seems that big problems have a way of diminishing in size and small problems grow into great difficulties.”

Through the difficulties that ministry brings, Gross said he is blessed to serve a growing congregation in a dying city.

“Our town has gone from 22,000 people to 16,000 people in twenty years. But the church has gone from 34 in worship to over 200 on a Sunday morning in that same amount of time,” Gross said.

The church has also added a Friday night service called “Hurts, Habits, and Hang-ups,” which brings in 70 people who are recovering addicts and their families. The church also has a ministry called “Prayer and Share”, in which they partner with teachers and faculty in their local school systems. The ministry brings them cookies and candies once a month, to let them know the church is praying for them.

The church also started a daycare to provide teachers a place close to their schools to bring their children for child care.

“Eighteen years ago, the church was used one day a week. Now we have room numbers on all the rooms to keep track of what is going on each night,” Gross said. “These rooms are filled with activities like exercise groups, accountability groups and meditation groups.”

As for advice for current IWU students, Gross has something practical to tell students.

“When your time at IWU is over, live your life in such a way that others would want to attend this grand university because of what they see in you,” Gross said.

 

Written by Heather Cox, writer for the Alumni Office. Heather is a junior Journalism major at IWU. She is also the Editor of GrantCOnnected.net, a community news site run by IWU students. She is unsure of where life will take her after college, but she knows she never wants to stop writing!

Don Corder: Pastor of the Week

By: Heather Cox

Don Corder, photo obtained from Facebook

Don Corder, photo obtained from Facebook

Don Corder graduated from Indiana Wesleyan University in 1991, after attending the University for his MBA.

While working toward his MBA, Corder was also working for General Motors. Following graduation he went into business until 2000, when he experienced what he described as a burning bush moment, and began working in a mega church.

“In 2000 I had my own consulting business, and I had a little consulting role they asked me to fix something for them and it was a real simple fix for a professional operations manager,” Corder said. “I went in and thought I was just gonna do a little consulting gig.”

However, six months into working at the church, Corder was named the Chief Operating Officer over the 50 million dollar ministry which employed 500 people, and was affiliated with 1200 churches across the nation.

“I left there in 2010,and I was about 50 years old so I thought, ‘Good! I have just enough time to get back in the industry to make some money so I can retire!’” Corder said. “God had a new plan for me. So I went and did a little administrative gig for a big methodist church.”

This church was in the process of hiring a new Executive Pastor, so in the meantime they had Corder temporarily sit in that position. When the Executive Pastor was hired, he had a vision for a shared services plan which would help neighboring churches as well. In this process, the church realized their family of churches was overpaying positions and unnecessarily replicating administrative functions.

“I began working with the church to develop something that would be effective and save our family of churches money,” Corder said. “Shortly thereafter, however, the church went through a few changes and essentially asked me if I would like to run with this new initiative separately from the church. I agreed, and that was the day that The Provisum Group was born.”

The Provisum Group offers business services such as Accounting & Financing, IT Administration & Support, and Communications & Marketing to church and non-profit ministry leaders.

Over the past three years since The Provisum Group began, Corder said they have grown tremendously without trying.

“It excites me to know that when a new church signs up for our services we are literally saving them money and helping to put more dollars to use towards the mission and vision,” Corder said.

Don Corder, photo obtained from Facebook

Don Corder, photo obtained from Facebook

Through working in both business and churches, Corder eventually ended up writing a book, titled “Minding His Business,” (reminder to ink) which was published in 2015.

“In business I did mergers, acquisitions, and turnarounds for years. Hardest, coldest, most analytical, relationship void part of business and then all of a sudden I’m managing churches,” Corder said. “I’m able to be able to cross that bridge, and I can’t tell you how many times in my life I’m passing on experience or wisdom and people have said to me ‘You need to write a book!’. And my response to that was, ‘Well, if God wanted me to write a book he wouldn’t have made me hate writing so much!’”

Eventually, Corder was introduced to a ministry that desperately needed a business plan but was unable to pay him for his work. Corder said he made a covenant with God years ago that he would treat each meeting with pastors as a divine appointment, so he knew he had to help with the ministry. It was then he found out there was a ghost writer who was a part of this ministry.

“It was just the Holy Spirit who said ‘Well, time to write the book!’ so I swapped them a business plan for a book,” Corder said.

Written specifically for those who are right brain thinkers, “Minding His Business” is essentially a business primer written similarly to a devotional and was purposefully written in a language that pastors can understand.

“My calling in my life is to take stones out of pastors shoes, and the book was written to take stones out of pastors shoes,” Corder said. “I don’t care how well any pastor runs his church. I couldn’t imagine a pastor reading that book and not finding one thing that could make his or her life easier. That’s the purpose of the book.”

Corder said his mission is to help churches do their business. “I get so much feedback from pastors and ministry leaders– how they both laugh and they cry because they see themselves on the pages,” Corder said.

“You see, experience and wisdom are different,” Corder said. “Experience can be painful. Experience is what you gain from something going well and/or when something goes wrong. Wisdom is what you gain from the experiences of others. It is just as helpful but less painful.”

 

Written by Heather Cox, writer for the Alumni Office. Heather is a junior Journalism major at IWU. She is also the Editor of GrantCOnnected.net, a community news site run by IWU students. She is unsure of where life will take her after college, but she knows she never wants to stop writing!

Pastor of the Week: Brian Bradford

By: Heather Cox

Brian Bradford and his family

Brian Bradford and his family

Rev. Brian V. Bradford graduated from Indiana Wesleyan University in April 2000, after studying Political Science/Pre-Law and Religion and Philosophy.

Six months ago, Bradford began serving as Lead Pastor at Wheaton Wesleyan Church, and said it is because of Indiana Wesleyan that he is in full-time vocational ministry in the first place.

Bradford said it was while he was a student at IWU that he grew to become a man of confidence, and experienced many positive “firsts.” These “firsts” include raising his hands and singing aloud in worship, being mentored by an upperclassman, creating his own group for mentoring underclassmen, academically working harder than ever, and traveling to unfamiliar places.

There were many professors and other individuals Bradford developed a relationship with during his time as a student, and each of them has greatly impacted who he is today. These individuals include David Bartley, Glenn Martin, Keith Drury, Bud Bence, Scott Turcott, B.J. Fratzke, Rob Thompson, and Robert Otis.

“I will never forget Dr. Turcott taking prayer requests in class. I will never forget Dr. Martin teaching me more about how to think biblically and critically than simply sharing historical facts and world events. I will never forget Chaplain Gary Swyers believing in me enough to ask me to speak in chapel,” Bradford said. “However, one person who stands out above so many was Gale Richmond. Gale wasn’t a professor. He was an administrative staff member. However, he would frequently take me and a few other hungry college guys out to lunch and speak truth into our lives.”

Bradford also referenced Dr. Barnes (the president at the time), Keith Roorbach in transportation services, and Bonita Wuertley in the religion office. Bradford said each person modeled Jesus to him and with him.

Though Bradford is leading a church today, it was not where he had always pictured he would be. Even though Bradford led Bible studies in Bowman house at IWU, served in churches during his sophomore and junior years, and had preached several times before he graduated, he still struggled with his call to ministry.

Originally, Bradford felt called to be a lawyer. However, while studying for the Law School Admission Test during the second semester of his senior year, he began to realize if he were to be truly obedient to God, he needed to apply to seminary.

Even still, the process and the journey has not always been easy– there have been obstacles to overcome, as well. Bradford said his biggest difficulty has been to overcome his lack of faith and fear of failure. He said throughout high school, college, and even in seminary, he often succeeded but had to learn that his success was no what it was all about.

“God longs for us to have faith in Him, not in our own abilities, talents, and gifts. Early on, I errantly believed ministry was about my work ethic and the people I knew,” Bradford said. “Over the years, God has stripped away my pride and rebuilt faith in its place. Instead of fear, now I pray and step back and watch God work. He always shows up, time and time again. Whether raising money for missions trips or reaching out to our local community, God always provides, and builds our faith in the process.”

Brian Bradford

Brian Bradford

Today, Bradford said the congregation of Wheaton Wesleyan Church has a wide range of ages. The church got its start 60 years ago and is just west of Chicago, 8 blocks away from Wheaton College. Even still, the congregation did not have college aged students when Bradford first arrived 6 months ago, though that has started to change. Today, they have 10-20 college students regularly attending.

“On the other end of the age spectrum, we have Ms. Merle. She is 109 years old and can likely out run you with her walker! Merle is definitely the oldest living Wesleyan on the planet!” Bradford joked. “The challenge of being a pastor is figuring out how to relationally and pastorally connect with Merle, who has attended WWC for 50 years, and yet love on college students, who are simply trying to pass their statistics exam next week.”

Bradford said this generational gap is why he loves the local church, and Wheaton specifically.

“The body of Christ brings together people from all walks of life to accomplish one purpose, the glorification and edification of our Lord,” Bradford said. “Because we have been blessed with these students, as well as a large contingent of seniors, God has given us a task. Pass on wisdom, faith, and leadership to the next generation. Mentor them. Encourage them to become all God longs for them to be. And in the process, us older folks may just grow and learn as well.”

As for advice for current IWU students, Bradford said not to wait until after graduation to begin ministry; instead, start now.

“Become a Big Brother or Big Sister at the YMCA in Marion. I did, and I am better for it. Serve in a local church’s children’s ministry or on their worship team. Seek out a mentor and meet with them regularly. Start a midnight bible study in your dorm. Do whatever God challenges you to do,” Bradford said. “You’ll never be in college again. You’ll never have this opportunity again to surround yourself with Godly professors, administrators, friends, and coaches. Take advantage of this time.”

“My collegiate days at IWU taught me so much, but above all, they taught me to be faithful to the task to which we’ve been called,” Bradford said. “Thank you for highlighting my story, and my ministry. I am truly honored and humbled.”

 

Written by Heather Cox, writer for the Alumni Office. Heather is a junior Journalism major at IWU. She is also the Editor of GrantCOnnected.net, a community news site run by IWU students. She is unsure of where life will take her after college, but she knows she never wants to stop writing!

Pastor of the Week: Neftali B. Lopez

By: Dezaray Barr

Naftali Lopez

Naftali Lopez

Neftali B. Lopez is the Pastor of Iglesia Wesleyana Amistad Cristiana in Carmel, Indiana. Lopez is a graduate of National Bible College with a degree in theology in 1996. He went on to receive his M. Div. of Chaplaincy and Ed. S. in Leadership from Liberty University in 2011.

Rick Carder, IWU’s Director of Alumni and Church Engagement said, “When I first heard of Pastor Lopez, I was excited about the opportunity to meet him and to hear about his ministry. His efforts to reach out to people that are in need & connect with a ministry of care is exciting. Ministries that reaches out to first generation immigrants is challenging. Pastor Lopez demonstrates the compassionate kindness that is needed to meet the needs of these families.”

Lopez felt called to serve in 1986, but was unable to discern specifically where or in what role he was called to serve God. Lopez said, “Since my dad was a pastor, I dreaded the headaches I saw he had with that responsibility.”

naftali-lopez3

Naftali Lopez and his wife

However, Lopez followed God’s calling for his life. “I interviewed with a church and out of three pastors I was selected,” Lopez said. “While I was going through the process there was a peace both my wife and I were feeling, knowing that if it is God behind all this, He will bring us through. That is when I knew all these years serving at different churches had been preparing me for this time. I let the river of God’s direction flow through its course and let Him, the Shepherd of His church, be in charge of this process as we became obedient to follow where he leads us.”

Lopez’s current church, Iglesia Wesleyana Amistad Cristiana in Carmel, Indiana, began in 2000. It was sponsored by Trinity Wesleyan Church in Indianapolis. Every service is offered in Spanish and also provides instantaneous translation to English for those who do not understand Spanish.

Lopez said, “For many who are far from their native home, our church is their piece of home. If you come to our church, there are a lot of friendly smiles, hugs and the warmth and humble welcome that characterized a redeemed person. The name: Amistad Cristiana is what we really are: Friendly Christians worshipping God and welcoming others to join.”

Lopez also currently serves as the IWU chaplain in the Adult Non-resident program at the West Indianapolis and Greenwood, IN campuses. Lopez encourages current IWU students to remember, “You can rise up, you and God are majority. Get up, pick up your mat, and walk!”

 

 

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

 

Spanish Translation:

Neftali B. Lopez es el Pastor de Iglesia Wesleyana Amistad Cristiana en Carmel, Indiana. López es un graduado del Colegio Nacional de Biblia con un grado en teología en 1996. Él continuó recibiendo su M. Div. De Capellanía y Ed. S. en Liderazgo de la Universidad de la Libertad en 2011.

Rick Carder, director de Alumni y Church Engagement de IWU, dijo: “Cuando escuché por primera vez al pastor López, estaba entusiasmado con la oportunidad de conocerlo y escuchar sobre su ministerio.Sus esfuerzos para llegar a las personas que están en necesidad y conectarse Con un ministerio de cuidado es emocionante.Los ministerios que llega a los inmigrantes de primera generación es un desafío.El pastor López demuestra la bondad compasiva que se necesita para satisfacer las necesidades de estas familias “.

López se sintió llamado a servir en 1986, pero fue incapaz de discernir específicamente dónde o en qué papel debía servir a Dios. Lopez dijo: “Como mi papá era pastor, temía los dolores de cabeza que veía que tenía con esa responsabilidad”.

Sin embargo, López siguió el llamado de Dios para su vida. “Entreviste a una iglesia y de tres pastores fui seleccionado”, dijo López. “Mientras yo estaba pasando por el proceso había una paz que tanto mi esposa como yo estábamos sintiendo, sabiendo que si Dios está detrás de todo esto, Él nos llevará a través.” Fue entonces cuando supe que todos estos años sirviendo en diferentes iglesias había sido Preparándome para este tiempo, dejé que el río de la dirección de Dios fluyera por su curso y que El, el Pastor de Su iglesia, estuviera a cargo de este proceso a medida que nos volvíamos obedientes a seguir donde él nos conduce “.

La iglesia actual de López, Iglesia Wesleyana Amistad Cristiana en Carmel, Indiana, comenzó en 2000. Fue patrocinada por la Iglesia Trinity Wesleyan en Indianápolis. Cada servicio se ofrece en español, y proporcionan traducción instantánea al inglés para aquellos que no entienden español.

López dijo: “Para muchos que están lejos de su hogar natal, nuestra iglesia es su pedazo de hogar.Si vienes a nuestra iglesia, hay un montón de sonrisas amistosas, abrazos y la calidez y humilde bienvenida que caracterizó a una persona redimida. El nombre: Cristiana Amistad es lo que realmente somos: Amistosos Cristianos adorando a Dios y dando la bienvenida a otros a unirse “.

López también sirve actualmente como el capellán de IWU en el programa no residente adulto en las escuelas de West Indianapolis y Greenwood, IN. López anima a los estudiantes actuales de IWU a recordar: “Ustedes pueden levantarse, ustedes y Dios son mayoría. ¡Levántense, recojan su alfombra y caminen!”