By: Heather Cox
Richard L. Deisler graduated from Marion College (Indiana Wesleyan University) in 1981 with a B.S. in Christian Ministries/ Biblical Literature, and also went on to receive his M.A. in 1994.
Currently, Deisler serves as the senior pastor at Whiteford Wesleyan Church located in Ottawa Lake, Michigan.
When Deisler first arrived at IWU as a student, he had not planned on majoring in Christian Ministries and Biblical Literature. Instead, Deisler had been planning on going to school to become a math teacher. As for what first changed his mind on this plan, Deisler said it was one week in college calculus, realizing the class was not his cup of tea. After one year of being at IWU, Deisler’s heart began to change as he felt God begin to lead him toward the pastorate.
Dr. Wayne Caldwell was one IWU professor who heavily influenced Deisler’s life.
“Wayne Caldwell was one whom I highly respected and could not take enough of his classes,” Deisler said. “Dr. Caldwell was not only a great professor and mentor, but was an encourager and ‘cheerleader’ on my behalf.”
Another professor Deisler enjoyed was Dr. Norman Wilson, who actually used one of Deisler’s sermon titles for one of his messages, which is what Deisler said is his personal claim to fame.
In the midst of pastoring, Deisler finds confirmation that he is doing what God has called him to do.
“Whenever we are part of changed lives, restored marriages, the privilege of baptizing, to watch disciples move to a deeper commitment, it is confirmed that this is what God has called me to do,” Deisler said.
Even still, Deisler said every church has its own unique obstacles, including his own church, Whiteford Wesleyan Church.
“We are a rural church so we have to be much more intentional about our “community,” Deisler said. “I think every church has to always be focusing on the ‘whys’ of our existence and that we do not exist for ourselves but for others. That means change and change is always difficult.”
Whiteford Wesleyan Church itself is 170 years old, established in 1846 as one of the first Wesleyan churches in Michigan. Deisler said that today the congregation is a mixture of young and older members.
“We are conservative with an upbeat approach,” Deisler said.
The church has also “adopted” the local school as their community, and have partnered with them to house ministries such as a Preschool and Latch-Key programs.
“We are blessed with a great location out in the country sitting on a main road, just a mile off a busy interstate connecting Michigan and Ohio,” Deisler said.
Deisler is currently in his 28th year of serving Whiteford Wesleyan Church, and finds joy in witnessing new infants being dedicated to the church, baptizing them as a believer, presiding at their weddings, and then dedicating their children to the church as well.
“We are unique for our longevity as a church,” Deisler said. “We are unique for having pastors who stay a long time.”
As for advice for current IWU students, Deisler said to get as much practice as possible.
“There is no training like ‘on the job,’” Deisler said. “Volunteer at your church for the summer. Invest yourselves in various ministries—children, youth, adults. Take on a project for the church and see it through to completion. Above all, learn to love your people and serve them.”
Written by Heather Cox, guest 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!