Pastor of the Week: Josh Lavender

By: Dezaray Barr

Josh Lavender

Joshua Lavender graduated from Indiana Wesleyan University (IWU) in 2012 with a degree in Church Music. He went on to obtain his Master’s in Worship Studies from The Institute for Worship Studies. He’s currently studying for his doctorate from the same institution.

Lavender is now the Worship Pastor at Trinity Church in Indianapolis. He shared, “One unique thing about our church is our commitment to ‘equip the saints for works of service.’ Our gatherings are more like a mobilization center for God’s people than an evangelistic event for unbelievers. Our hope is that by focusing on equipping God’s people in our gatherings, we will learn to live evangelism every day of the week.”

Lavender said that IWU set him on the path that he’s walking today. He explained, “I will never forget the commitment to excellence ‘Prof’ (Dr. Guy) taught us in Chorale, the passion for prayer Umfundisi (Jim Lo) modeled for the student body or the burden for right worship Dr. Cherry instilled in her students. My experiences at IWU set the trajectory for me to study worship and serve in the local church. For that I am deeply grateful.”

Lavender said that he’s reminded of his call to ministry when at least once a week someone in his church’s staff office says, “I can’t imagine doing anything else with my life…”

He also said, “Whether it is when my church is remembering our unity at the Lord’s table, celebrating with new Christians being baptized into God’s family or serving the poor downtown, I am constantly being reminded that there is nothing else I want to do with my life than serve God and His people.”

Lavender and Trinity Church’s staff

Instead of explaining something he’s overcome in his life, Lavender explained that he is currently growing in a specific area. “I consistently feel the hurried current of consumerism,” he said. “Whether it is in my everyday life or our church’s worship gatherings, I am learning to resist the urge to rush. I am increasingly convinced that I can’t microwave things that slow cook… that efficiency can hinder development.”

Ephesians 3:20-21 is one of the passages God has stamped on his heart: “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”

Some fun facts about Lavender include that he loves tea. He has a proclivity for growing plants, and, “I talk about holiness and formation way too much,” he said. “I love reading and talking about liturgy and theology among other nerdy things.”

Lavender would encourage every IWU student to be bold! He said, “Don’t wait for people to reach out to you; initiate relationship. Show love without evaluating whether other people will reciprocate. Decide that no one will feel unloved in your presence! Not so you can have a ton of friends, though that may be the result, but so you can be like Jesus.”



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

Outstanding Teacher of American History: Matt Barnett

By: Mia Anderson M

The Education Division at Indiana Wesleyan University is one of the largest academic divisions on campus. To honor the students and graduates of this department, we will be telling the stories of several alumni and how they are using their God-given gifts to teach others. Special thanks goes to the alumni that participated in interviews, the faculty of the Education Division, and to the Division Chair, Dr. Jim Elsberry.

History is the grandest story of all time—telling the tale of nations, people, and events and Matt Barnett believes that, “America has a really great story to tell.” The mark of a truly great history teacher is found in the significance that this knowledge brings to each student’s life. Matt Barnett (’07, Social Studies Education) is one of those history teachers that are not easily forgotten by students.

Matt Barnett and his students gather around the hand-carved canoe he made.
Matt Barnett and his students gather around the hand-carved canoe he made.

Since graduating from IWU, Barnett has taught United States history, American government, and psychology at Lewis Cass Junior/Senior High School in Walton, Indiana. History is a true passion of his, which is shown through his hands-on approach to teaching U.S. History. Barnett enjoys teaching his students by immersing them in the time period they are studying—whether it be by building a 14-foot long dugout canoe and painting it by hand with his students, bringing in Native American replica tools for the children to see and use, dressing up in full Civil War uniform or as George Washington, or playing baseball the good ol’ way—with Civil War rules and equipment. He loves to see his students have that, as Barnett put it, “Light bulb moment,” where students open their minds up to the subject matter and how it applies to their lives.

Matt and Jaclyn Barnett with their children Lily, Caleb, and Lincoln.
Jaclyn and Matt Barnett with their children Lily, Caleb, and Lincoln.

Barnett’s teaching style has not gone unnoticed. Not only does he have the opportunity to see the impact of his teaching during parent-teacher conferences where parents are amazed that their children suddenly love U.S. history, but Barnett has just been granted a prestigious award. In the entire state of Indiana, Matt Barnett has been recognized by the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) association as the “Outstanding Teacher of American History”—an award given to a teacher in each state. Barnett has the opportunity to be awarded this similar award, but on a national level. He will be recognized for his excellent teaching at the Indiana State DAR meeting in Indianapolis. This award was given to Barnett because of his patriotism and ability to make U.S. history connect with his students.

Barnett came to IWU pre-declared, unsure of what he wanted to study or where God was leading him. He began to realize he had interests in worship leading, music, and history, but he had trouble figuring out how to integrate his passions into a degree. As Barnett looks back on his time at IWU, he says, “God was prepping me the whole time. When you’re in the moment it’s hard to see what He’s doing, but then when you look back it all lined up perfectly.” He soon chose his major of Social Studies Education after having a transformational class with Dr. David Bartley and an enriching student teaching experience. Barnett recalls realizing how he wanted to teach his students by way of example of Dr. Bartley’s story-telling style, “If you can tell a story that grabs someone’s attention and someone’s heart—you have succeeded,” said Barnett.

Upon hearing about Barnett’s accomplishments, Dr. Bartley had this to say:

At Indiana Wesleyan, we hope to do more than inform our students.  We hope to share our passion for life-long learning and to see that passion carried into the next generation.  As we are faithful to that task, we can have confidence that the Lord will continue His work in the lives and careers of our graduates.  We cannot imagine where their life journeys will take them.  On these occasions, though, we get a glimpse of what can happen when our students heed God’s call on their lives.  Receiving this teaching award, Matt has reached a level of teaching excellence as recognized by an organization well known for its love of America’s history. Clearly the Lord has multiplied our investment in Matt’s life, and will now increase Matt’s investment in the lives of his students.  To that measure, we join in the celebration of Matt’s accomplishment.  On behalf of the Social Science Division, congratulations Matt!

Matt Barnett not only teaches, though—he is also a worship pastor at McGrawsville United Methodist Church in Anvoy, IN. Barnett is also the husband of Jaclyn (’07); and father of Caleb (5), Lily (3), and Lincoln (1). Matt Barnett has embraced God’s calling on his life by utilizing all of his passions and knowledge.


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 hopes to work at a PR agency in Indianapolis after graduation in December 2016. Mia loves hearing others’ stories and sharing them with the world. Visit Mia’s personal website at