Our Compass is the Word of God: James Jackson

By: Noelle Beans

Reverend James Jackson is this year’s recipient of the Distinguished Wesley Seminary Alumni Award.

Rev. Jackson is not a stranger to authoritative positions. Throughout his ministerial career, he held many positions of authority and performed with great esteem and with great integrity.

The positions Jackson has held include the following:

  • Director of the Far-Eastside Action Coalition – a task-oriented community group for crime prevention and mentoring, and other projects.
  • Chief Administrative Officer of Valley Kingdom International – a group which seeks to advance the kingdom through intercepting the different systems of society.
  • Member of the Police Merit Board – governing body for the Metropolitan Police Department

Jackson was the first pastor in the history of Indianapolis to ever be asked to serve on this board.

Now, Jackson is the lead pastor of Fervent Prayer Church and the president of the affiliated Academy.

He founded the church 24 years ago and the school 22 years ago.

Somewhere along this journey of ministry, Jackson became frustrated.

Encouragement from Bishop Tom Benjamin to apply and enroll at Wesley Seminary came at the right time.

The first two years of seminary were difficult for Jackson because he had been out of school for a long time.

As he acclimated, the transformation in his life began. Rev. Jackson describes his time at IWU as a lift: “restorative, inspirational and informational – a second wind.”

He graduated in 2016 with his master’s degree.

There are now over 180 children enrolled at the Fervent Care Christian Academy from kindergarten to 12-years-old.

Jackson is a commissioner for the Indiana Civil Rights Commission. He was appointed by Governor Holcomb to make decisions on civil rights cases.

In his daily work, Jackson’s faith is his standard. He functions on a mantra of not who is right, but what is right. When seeking guidance on decisions his compass is the word of God.

Developing a relationship with God over all else is of utmost importance to Rev. Jackson. Apparent by his respected appointments over the years, Rev. Jackson chooses to live this out every day.

Watch the video from the Homecoming Celebration honoring Rev. James Jackson! https://youtu.be/UKuXqbJaGQI?t=494

Written by Noelle Beans, a writer for the IWU Alumni Center. Noelle is a sophomore Nursing and Honors Humanities double major at Indiana Wesleyan University in the John Wesley Honors College from Greenville, Illinois.

Pastor of the Week: Tony Bye

By: Dezaray Barr

Tony Bye

Tony Bye is the Lead Pastor at Brookhaven Wesleyan Church in Marion, Indiana. He graduated from Indiana Wesleyan University (IWU) in 1995 with a bachelor’s degree in Christian Ministry. He graduated from Wesley Seminary in 2013 with his M. Div.

During his time at IWU, Bye was influenced by many professors. “Dr. Bud Bence and Dr. David Smith, the David Smith that passed away several years ago, were two professors that influenced my life extensively,” he shared. “Dr. Bence made church history come alive in a way that made it seem relevant to today. Dr. Smith opened my eyes to see new theological thoughts that I had never even imagined.”

Bye loved spending time in the Student Center and Wildcat. He’d like to note, “Mike Brown made an awesome bacon, lettuce, tomato sandwich!”

There have been many times in which Bye felt a moment of recognition that he was to be a pastor, “but seeing God take my life experiences, both good and bad, and use them to bring hope into the lives of others has been a huge confirmation of my calling,” he said.

Brookhaven Wesleyan Church is a wonderful church right down the road from IWU that has a long history. Bye said, “It’s also a church that is working very hard to be intentional about reaching people in our community and around the world that do not yet know Jesus Christ.”

Bye’s life verse is Philippians 3:8, which reads, “Everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake, I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ.”

Some fun facts about Bye include that he loves the outdoors, and he finds himself becoming energized when in nature. Bye encourages IWU students to never stop learning. “Since the world is always changing, it is essential that we continually learn and adapt as people,” he said.



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

Pastor of the Week: Braden & Jenn Petersen

By: Noelle Beans

Braden and Jenn Petersen, lead pastors of Resurrection Life NYC, are both currently pursuing master’s degrees at Wesley Seminary here at Indiana Wesleyan. Braden is pursuing his Master of Practical Theology, and Jenn is pursuing her Master of Divinity. They express that Wesley Seminary has been great for both their personal growth and the ministry in which they find themselves in now. The Petersens feel that the professors have taken a personal interest in them as pastors and as people and have been willing to invest themselves into their students. They have also met fellow seminarians who have become life-long friends.

Before Wesley Seminary, the Petersens’ ministry journey began in worship ministry in Dallas, TX with Braden having a bachelor’s degree of Music in Jazz Studies and Jenn, a bachelor’s degree of Music in Voice, both from the University of Northern Iowa. But while on vacation in New York City in the summer of 2014, shortly after Braden’s completion of his master’s degree of Business Administration from Oklahoma Wesleyan University, they felt called to pastoral ministry.

Three years ago, after 17 years of ministry in the Dallas, TX, area, the Petersens sensed God calling them into this completely new chapter in their lives. The Petersens call it “a series of providential events” that led them to plant a church in NYC which began with an innocent question, “Why are there no Wesleyan churches in Manhattan?” This question blossomed into a passion and emerging vision to plant churches that plant churches in the most influential and one of the most secular cities in the United States. In August 2015 Braden, Jenn and their children, Aidan (15) and Emma (13) moved to NYC to begin the process of planting Resurrection Life NYC in center-city Manhattan.

After nearly two years of living in the city and building their launch team, the Petersens launched Resurrection Life NYC on the Upper East Side of Manhattan on April 9, 2017. ResLifeNYC transformed into a multi-cultural and multi-ethnic congregation with 14 countries represented in the congregation. The Petersens say, “There is a groundswell of church planting happening in the city right now, and Resurrection Life NYC is participating in a move of the Holy Spirit to see churches planting in all five boroughs of the city, which we believe will influence a multiplication movement across the country and around the world.” They also state that living in the city is difficult and uncomfortable. They brought Resurrection Life NYC into existence to connect city dwellers with the resurrection power of Jesus to transform lives, families, neighborhoods, and cities amidst the busyness of the city.

The Petersens both shared a quote and a verse that shed light on their experience and mission. In his essay, Here is New York, E.B. White says, “By comparison with other less hectic days, the city is uncomfortable and inconvenient; but New Yorkers temperamentally do not crave comfort and convenience—if they did they would live elsewhere.” The Petersens wholeheartedly agree with this. Their biggest obstacle to living in NYC has been raising funds to do ministry because the growth is slow. Like White expresses, New Yorkers do not choose to live in NYC because they crave comfort and convenience, but they chose the chaotic life for other reasons, just as the Petersens have chosen NYC as their mission field regardless of the constant pressures on their ministry and family because they trust in God’s faithfulness.

Secondly, their verse for living in New York City comes from Jeremiah 29:7, written for God’s people who find themselves in exile. It reads, “Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” They hold fast to this verse because they truly believe that they are called to bring hope and peace into NYC. The Petersens said, “…as God blesses a movement of church planting in the city–that as NYC prospers–so will the Church in our country and around the world.”

The Petersens would like to share with current IWU students five things. 1) Consider helping a church plant wherever you end up living after graduation “If that happens to be New York City, please look us up!” they added! 2) Give yourself grace because it truly takes time to discover God’s personal vision for your life. 3) Live a life of surrender, generosity and mission. 4) Get out of debt quickly and 5) Learn to ask good questions. Be a life-long student wherever you go!

To connect with the Petersens please visit reslifenyc.com.



Written by Noelle Beans, a writer for the Alumni Center. Noelle is a freshman Nursing and Honors Humanities double major at Indiana Wesleyan University in the John Wesley Honors College.

Pastor of the Week: Matt Stewart

By: Dezaray Barr

Matt Stewart

Rev. Matthew C. Stewart is the Senior Pastor of Sweetser Wesleyan Church in Sweetser, Indiana. He graduated from Houghton College in 1992 with a major in Psychology, a concentration in history and a minor in Old Testament.  In the spring of 2018, Steward will be graduating from Wesley Seminary with a Master’s of Divinity and certification in Church Revitalization.

“Since my college experiences were nearly three decades apart at two different institutions, the influences were very unique,” Stewart shared. “At Houghton, I was made aware of God’s mission field in a broader sense than my rural New York upbringing provided. The one unique venue that taught me a great deal was Sunday school with Dr. Bud Bence in the Houghton dining room. The class was engaging and challenged me to think of the world in different ways than I had before. Two other people that influenced me during the Houghton days also have connections at IWU. I spent a great deal of time learning about grace and truth by watching Coach Steve Brooks when I was part of the men’s basketball team at Houghton. Coach Brooks was great one-on-one with all his players and possessed an encouraging spirit. Finally, I was also impacted by Drs. Charles and Darlene Bressler when I spent my senior year living in their basement off-campus. They offered wisdom and humor on days they were needed.”

Stewart said that his experiences at Wesley Seminary have been fantastic. “I learned from professor and fellow students alike on a regular basis. ‘The Doctors’ as I would fondly call them—Lenny Luchetti, Bob Whitesel, Brannon Hancock, Ken Schenck, Kwasi Kena, Sofiya Fosua, and Colleen Derr—helped to increase my ministry capacity greatly in their classrooms over the past 4 years,” he said.

At just eight years old, Stewart received his call to ministry at a meeting in his home church. That day, he preached his first sermon on the way home in the car to his younger siblings, one of whom shares that moment as her day of salvation. “However, I ran from my call, like Jonah, for many years because I was painfully shy, hated weddings and funerals, and I wanted to have friends,” Stewart admitted. “I finally responded to the call after working a couple of years with an inner city youth group in Springfield, Massachusetts while witnessing the impact that a couple could have on the lives of many street kids. God providentially opened the door for our first church placement in Henrietta, NY. The way in which He did so assured me that ministry was where we belonged.”

Rev. Matt Stewart and his family

Every church is unique in its congregation. In terms of ministry, Sweetser Wesleyan is unique in possessing one of the most highly reputable preschool programs in the area. “The church continually receives rave reviews from teachers at Oak Hill that our students are the most prepared as they enter kindergarten,” Rev. Stewart said. “The word has spread among parents as the enrollment continues to grow to the point where a waiting list may become a reality.”

Sweetser Wesleyan also hosts a unique Bible quizzing ministry for teenagers. Bible quizzing enables teenagers to memorize God’s word, hiding it in their hearts and learning the truths of Scripture to the best of their abilities. Sweetser Wesleyan currently has three teams of Bible quizzers that compete and travel around the country.

Stewart calls his wife, Jennifer, the gatherer. “She has the God-given gift of having many people who are searching for a relationship with Jesus Christ dropped in her lap,” Stewart shared of his wife. “Without her as part of the team a major element of our work would be missing.” In his spare time, he goes by Pastor Mike and works with jersey dairy cows, selling milk, butter and ice cream.



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

Pastor of the Week: Phil Tague

By: Emily Neideck

Phill Tague is the lead pastor at The Ransom Church in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. He and his wife, Stephani, planted the church in 2009, and the church has flourished since.

Tague attended Wesley Seminary’s online program for his Master in Ministry. His group was one of the first cohorts to go through the online program, and although his time on campus was limited, he stated, “The program allowed me to not just feel like I received my degree, but that I actually graduated from Indiana Wesleyan.”

The Ransom Church began in a movie theater with only a few people. Tague said, “Since then, we have watched this church grow into only something that only God can get the credit for.” The church now has around 2000 people, two campuses and ministries in nursing homes, as well as a local jail.

Tague stated, “The words we most hear people saying as they enter our church are ‘authentic, relevant, real.’” The Ransom Church focuses application of The Gospel to everyday life, whether in sermon, small group or service. “We are trying to show them how Jesus is part of everyday life. It isn’t in a bulletin on a random Sunday. It is a lifestyle.”

Tague’s call to ministry came the summer before college when he was attending a youth camp. He said, “I did not want to study ministry. I went into the program kicking and screaming. I was playing all the stereotypes in my head.” He spent the majority of his freshman year studying ministry while talking himself out of his faith. All he had seen from Christianity was hypocrisy.

One day, the Holy Spirit softened Tague’s heart. He realized that his answer for hypocrisy shouldn’t be hypocrisy. Tague corrected his fault and began to pursue Christ with his whole heart and mind. “I haven’t looked back since,” said Tague.

Wesley Seminary played a large role in Tague’s journey. He said, “My time laid a foundation for me and gave me the desire to not just be the best pastor, but to also be the best leader that I could be.” Seminary blurred the lines between leadership and ministry for him. Tague stated, “If there is a season when you’re not putting out fires, then you’re not moving. As long as you are chasing what God has for you, you’re going to face difficulties, but you’ll grow, too.”

Tague will speak in Chapel at Indiana Wesleyan on October 4th.

Check out his interview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gSWQqIuvhJQ.


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: Dale Munsell

By: Dezaray Barr

Dale Munsell and his family, photo obtained from Facebook

Dale Munsell attended Marion College (now Indiana Wesleyan University) in 1983 to work toward a bachelor’s degree in Christian Ministries. He spent some time studying in the FLAME program of the Wesleyan Church. He was ordained by the Wesleyan Church in August of 2005 and now serves as the Pastor of Cornerstone Wesleyan Church and the Principal of Cornerstone Christian School, both located in Albion, Indiana. He is currently finishing his undergrad studies through IWU and plans to continue at Wesleyan Seminary to complete his Masters of Divinity.

Munsell said that he has always felt a tug on his heart for ministry, and he received his calling around the age of seventeen.

Munsell is excited to be working in such a great place, especially one of both church and school.

“Cornerstone Wesleyan Church has had a great ministry of discipleship and learning through their Pre-school and K-12 Christian school,” he said. “Through the A.C.E curriculum, this school has raised up many godly leaders over the past 24 years!”

During his time as a student at Marion College and IWU through Wesley Seminary, many professors inspired him, but one couple in-particular stands out.

“Dr. Jim ‘Umfundisi’ and Roxie Lo have had an amazing impact on my life over many years,” Munsell commented. “He is a great prayer warrior, mentor and blessing, and has been an encourager in ministry to not only myself, but to three generations of my family including my parents and my children.”

Dale and his wife, photo obtained from Facebook
Dale and his wife, photo obtained from Facebook

If Munsell could say one thing to current students, he would tell them to be faithful in the small opportunities they have to love God and others. “He will increase your opportunities as you are obedient to his daily plans,” Munsell said.

He would also encourage students to hold loosely to their own plans and to not assume they know the will of God. “But instead,” Munsell explained, “stay close to Him and let Him lead you down the paths that he has prepared and blessed for you.”

Dale is married to Lori, whom he met at Marion College. “It has been my privilege and pleasure to serve God in all areas of my life,” Munsell said. “I am thankful for the opportunity to put my life in the hands of our Great God and King as we begin this new adventure… at Cornerstone Wesleyan Church.”


Summary thoughts by Rick Carder, Director of Alumni and Church Relations: I am thrilled to call Dale a good friend. He is a man of integrity and serves the Lord out of a servant’s heart. He is driven to teach and lead others and has mentored several alumni who are serving the local church successfully.


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

Alumni Awards Homecoming 2016: John and Patty Bray

By: Dezaray Barr

john-and-patty-brayAnnually, Indiana Wesleyan University presents the Distinguished Wesley Seminary Alumni Award to a deserving candidate. Two of the finalists this year include John and Patty Bray. John and Patty currently work at the university, where John serves as Dean of the Chapel and Patty teaches Old Testament Survey and mentors young women in the community.

Even as the couple continues to serve in the IWU community, their educations from IWU still have a large impact on their lives. John said, “In formative periods of my life, IWU equipped me for life’s practical ministry opportunities. It shaped my thinking.” His favorite professor while studying at IWU was Wilbur
Williams, and at Wesley Seminary was Chris Bounds.

Patty says earning her master’s degree at IWU taught her how to be a, “life-long learner.” Her favorite professors while receiving her master’s degree included Wayne Schmidt, JoAnn Lyon and Steve Lennox.

Before returning to IWU to serve as Dean of the Chapel, John and Patty pastored for 41 years at Heritage Wesleyan Church in Rock Island, Illinois. After serving at Heritage, they lead as interim pastors at First Wesleyan Church in Battle Creek, Michigan, and then Patty served as the interim senior pastor at Fall Creek Wesleyan Church (now, Trinity East Fishers) in Fishers, Indiana.

This award is granted to an alumnus or alumna of the Seminary who has exhibited excellence in serving his or her profession, community, church, or alma mater in the spirit of Jesus Christ, and will be awarded during the Homecoming Weekend of October 7th.


Written by Dezaray Barr, Writer 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.

PotW: Kyle Ray at Kentwood Community Church

Petra & Kyle Ray

By: Mia Anderson


Reverend Kyle Ray is recognized as the “Pastor of the Week” last week (February 29). “Pastor of the Week” (PotW) is a renewed tradition honored by the Office of Alumni and Church Engagement which appreciates local pastors for their service and faith. Congrats, Pastor Kyle!

Pastor Kyle Ray has been the lead pastor at Kentwood Community Church (Kentwood, Michigan) since 2010. His ministry has served his congregants well by increasing diversity, creating a clear vision, and encouraging them to love their neighbors. KCC is a growing church that seeks to pour into their community through discipling members to share the Gospel, embracing other cultures, inspiring others to grow in their faith and to instill a devotion to serving in the name

Rick Carder (Director of Alumni & Church Engagement) and Pastor Kyle Ray

of the Lord.

Ray is not your typical pastor. He went to the University of Michigan and pursued a career in engineering, working for General Motors and other companies before his call to ministry. He and his wife, Petra Ray, came to Kentwood Community Church in 1999, not as a pastor and his wife, but as congregants. When the Rays chose KCC as their church, Wayne Schmidt (who now serves as Vice President of Wesley Seminary) was lead pastor. The Rays learned and grew in their faith under Schmidt’s leadership and in 2003 Kyle felt a call to ministry, which led to him attending seminary.

IMG_0874In 2006, Ray returned to KCC as an Outreach Pastor. Through his and Schmidt’s leadership, KCC began to go from a predominantly white church, to a church more reflective of the demographics of the community. Ray said this happened because of an increase in passion and intentionality for reaching those in the Kentwood area.

In 2010, Schmidt moved into his role at the Wesley Seminary and Kyle became the lead pastor of KCC. He said, “After six years of being a pastor, I followed a 30 year, founding pastor [Schmidt].” But, Ray implemented a clear vision to his congregation that has also helped structure staff and budget. The vision is “REAL”: to Reach all people, Engage the community, Awaken spiritual growth, and Launch everyone into service.

(from left) Malik, Petra, Kyle, and Matthew Ray

Ray embodies this vision by preaching the theory of the multiplication mindset to his congregation. This means making decisions that can help reach more and more people to Christ. One way KCC is doing this is by planting churches and founding satellite campuses in Wyoming, Michigan and Nagpur, India. The campus in India is in the center of a country with an incredibly low percentage of Christians. Others ways KCC shows the multiplication mindset is by showing hospitality toward other cultures by having specialized Bible study groups and services translated in real-time to Spanish. Ray said, “It seems like God has always blessed that desire to multiply and have more people come to faith in Christ.”

KCC continues to grow and impact the world through Pastor Kyle’s leadership. He said, “It’s been a crazy journey…but it’s been a great journey to go from congregant, to pastor, to lead pastor.”

Pastor Kyle’s wife, Petra, serves on the board of trustees at Indiana Wesleyan University. Together, Kyle and Petra have two adopted sons Malik (17) and Matthew (16).

Congratulations, Pastor Kyle Ray!

Written by Mia Anderson, Blog and Social Media Manager, Storyteller for the Alumni Office. Mia is a Senior at IWU studying Strategic Communication with her concentration in Public Relations. She is the Vice President of IWU PRSSA and will be getting married and moving to Indianapolis after she graduates in December 2016! Mia loves hearing others’ stories and sharing them with the world. Visit her personal website at www.MiaLAnderson.weebly.com.