Tag : steve-deneff

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Pastor of the Week: Steve DeNeff

By: Dezaray Barr

Pastor Steve DeNeff

Rev. Steve DeNeff graduated from Indiana Wesleyan University (IWU) with an undergraduate degree in 1981 and with his M.Div. in 1996. He received an honorary Ph.D. from IWU in 2003.

“The years I attended IWU were primarily in response to my call to ministry a year earlier,” DeNeff shared. “I navigated through those four years with a set of core beliefs I’d grown up with and with the sheer will to be obedient to God’s call. I garnered a few lifetime friends and intermittently focused on developing my theology of God and the church.”

However, it wasn’t always smooth sailing. DeNeff explained, “During my senior year, I found myself arguing with God and  my dad (who was in his 25th year of ministry), wielding a plethora of reasons that this was a dumb idea AND determined to win the debate. Ready to walk away and pursue another career, I clearly remember sitting in the living room of my parents’ home that Saturday night, following the heated discussion with my dad, alone and accompanied only by my surety I was right. As I sat there stewing, thinking, plotting and praying, at about 2am, I heard the creaking of the bed in the room above me. It was my parents, who had been on their knees praying for me, for the last two hours. I was finished! I remember telling God I could not do this. But if he called me, I would go…..reluctantly. Over the years, I continue to be a reluctant leader, but find this the best place to be; called out of my weakness; where God continues to show up and do things that are remarkably beyond my abilities and gifts.”

Pastor DeNeff is the Lead Pastor at College Wesleyan Church (CWC), which is strategically located between IWU and the Marion community, “giving us the unique advantage (and call/mission) to serve both,” DeNeff said. “When we built the church at its current location, we purposely placed the cross on top of the building, facing north and south as opposed to the more traditional east and west. This is symbolic of our intent to not only serve both campus and community, but to be a bridge that opens doors for shared community, relationship and spiritual formation. At College Church, we are privileged to have a myriad of resources in our people. Through them, we are able to resource the greater Church. While there are churches who are really good at incorporating current trends into their DNA and others who hold fast to long-standing traditions, CWC finds itself standing in the strength of both heritage and a mission that is timeless in serving an ever-changing culture.”

DeNeff is an avid reader, and he enjoys jogging. He likes time away at his cottage in Holland, Michigan, a great donut, bold coffee and watching his kids grow up into the life God has placed them.

If DeNeff could give IWU students words of wisdom, he’d say, “Develop early on, daily-time in the Word, with the intentionality to know Him more and a desire to become familiar with His voice.

Students at IWU who are regular attenders of CWC say, “Pastor Steve brings the truth (always with some humor and/or a sports reference) each week. He is the best encourager, but calls us out when we’re wrong. As he leads CWC, he leads me too in my walk with Christ during this important time in my life.”




Written by Dezaray Barr, PR Specialist for the Alumni Office. Dezaray is a senior 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: 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.