By: Dezaray Barr
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.