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

Ethan Linder: JWHC Graduate

By: Heather Cox

Ethan Linder
Ethan Linder

Ethan Linder graduated from Indiana Wesleyan in 2015 as a Christian Ministries major with an Honors Humanities minor through the John Wesley Honors College.

Linder grew up in Seaford, Delaware in a Wesleyan church. Linder said his church valued Wesleyan higher education, which led him to consider Houghton College and Indiana Wesleyan University. After visiting the campus, Linder felt IWU was the place for him.

“I came on campus and heard the stories of the people who were Christian Ministries students, and talked with some of the profs about what the program was all about,” Linder said. “I became pretty convinced that the story IWU is writing was something I wanted to be a part of. The story that God was writing in my heart harmonized well with the story that IWU seems to encourage their students to write in the world, so that helped me clarify where I was supposed to be.”

Though Linder ended up majoring in Christian Ministries, he did not always have that major in mind. Linder said that throughout high school he had been planning on doing something with Marketing. A trip to a summer camp changed this for him, when he felt he was being called into Ministry instead.

“I was very set against it. I wasn’t all about the ministry life; I was about marketing and figuring out what it looked like to help people,” Linder said. “I kind of came to the realization that I was called to ministry, and I walked alongside my home church back home to figure out what that call looked like for me.”

Linder also had a positive experience being involved with the John Wesley Honors College. He said that he enjoyed learning from people who were in other majors outside of Christian Ministries and loved that the honors college values shaping students not only in knowledge, but in virtue.

“You’re not going to just be shepherding Christian Ministries majors in your church after graduation, you’re going to have people who think deeply about nursing and education and journalism and marketing and things like that,” Linder said. “So having the opportunity to engage with people who were outside my discipline and find out how the spirit would draw them to shepherd areas of their own influence was really helpful for me.”

Linder was also a Resident Assistant (RA) on campus while he was a student in South Hall. He was heavily involved in the community of South Hall while he was a freshman, and decided to invest in the residents’ lives as a sophomore. Linder loved investing in people through residential experience, and growing along with them.

During his time as a student, Linder has come to really appreciate Indiana Wesleyan’s willingness to dive into difficult discussions that are important to have.

Ethan Linder and his wife, Sarah.
Ethan Linder and his wife, Sarah.

“I think that IWU, at its best, sits at the intersection of culture and Christianity,” Linder said. “In a way that doesn’t reject what culture has to offer, but fully engages and leans in to the conversations and the needs and the difficulties that are happening in our community, starting in Marion, extending through the church, and then into all the world.”

Since graduating from IWU, Linder has worked for College Wesleyan Church, just right off the IWU campus in Marion. He was hired on full time as College Wesleyan Church’s College Young Adult Pastor and the Pastor of Hospitality and Connections this past April. He also writes and leads a staff of writers for the Wesleyan church headquarters in Fishers, IN. Currently, he is involved in IWU’s Kern Master’s program, through which he will earn his Master’s degree at the end of five years.

As for goals for the future, Linder hopes to be known for his ability to listen and love deeply.

“I want to cultivate the discipline of listening,” Linder said. “Then I want to help the church to elevate our ability to listen to people’s stories so that as people come into our church, as people come into the church, they feel cared for well, loved deeply, and they know because of the way we listen, their stories can harmonize with what God’s doing in His church and around the world.”


Written by Heather Cox, guest writer for the Alumni Office. Heather is a Junior Journalism major at IWU. She is also the Editor of, 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!