NTS recently interviewed NTS alumnus Rev. Dr. Steve Estep. Dr. Estep serves as the president of the NTS Alumni Association.
What year(s) did you graduate from NTS? What program(s)?
I was a student at NTS from 1993-1996 and graduated with a Master of Divinity.
Tell us about yourselves/your family.
Michelle and I met at MVNU. We married in 1991 and have 3 kids. Brandon (25) is the Worship Arts Pastor at Fairview Village Church near Philadelphia, PA. Brooke (22) and Blake (20) are students at MVNU. Michelle is an elementary teacher. Our family loves going to the beach, riding jet-skis, movies and game nights. The boys all ride motorcycles and enjoy hunting and fishing. Michelle and Brooke are blessed with artistic abilities and never need a reason to go shopping. All of us cheer for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
How did you come to sense a call to vocational ministry?
I initially felt the call at age 16 while at church camp but resisted it. Three years later, I was at an ordination service at the Nazarene Camp in Summersville, WV. As the General Superintendent was laying hands on the ordinands and saying, “Preach the Word…” God gave a clear word that if I wanted to be fulfilled in the life He had for me, I would do just that – preach the Word. Two weeks later I went back to MVNU for my sophomore year, changed my major and have never looked back. I could never have imagined how fulfilling the preaching life would be, but it has been an amazing ride.
Where have you served throughout your ministry? Where do you currently serve?
Right out of college I served as youth pastor in Oak Hill, WV for 2 years before going to NTS. While at NTS I was youth pastor at the former Hillcrest COTN in KC. A month before graduating from NTS, we moved to Harrisonville, MO where I served as lead pastor for almost 12 years. We went from there to Clarksville (TN) Grace COTN for 9 years where we also started a non-profit ministry to military families called “Restoring the Warrior’s Heart.” We have been in Marion, OH since June of 2017. I have served on credentials boards, district advisory boards, district finance committees, and taught classes at MNU, NTS, and TNU.
What makes your current assignment unique?
Marion OH is a small city of 36,000 in north central Ohio. Marion First is a century church and I love how this 107 year old congregation continues to be innovative and aggressive in adapting to changes in community and culture while maintaining an unwavering commitment to the holiness life and message. In the last few decades, the community has seen hard times. Several businesses that employed thousands of people have closed, leaving a lot of empty houses and blighted areas in the community. Generational poverty, the opioid crisis, and economic hardship have taken a toll. Marion First has the biggest footprint in downtown Marion. We are across the street from city hall in one direction, and across the street from poverty and brokenness in another. We try to live with one foot in both worlds – engaging community leaders, systems and structures to make Marion a better place, while serving our impoverished neighbors and trying to provide means for the cycle of generational poverty to be broken. I love the ingenuity, resiliency, adaptability, willingness to take risks, and adventurous spirit of this church. I have the privilege of serving with an amazing staff, quality lay spiritual-leaders, and a congregation that really does want to see their city restored by the hope that is found in Jesus.
What are some of the unique blessings/challenges your context?
A church our size in a community this size has the opportunity to make a huge impact not just on a neighborhood, but on the whole county. We have a volunteer force of willing servants who can make things happen in big ways. Each summer we do a week called Restoration. Last year we completed around 70 projects with over 500 volunteers. In addition, we were able to establish a partnership with Habitat for Humanity and build two houses last year. This coming summer we’ll be working on a duplex with the help of the youth group from Fairview Village. It’s a blessing to make a visible impact in our neighborhood where our goal is to see it transformed, one heart and one house at a time. We have a beautiful facility that is used 7 days a week but the indebtedness is a challenge.
Are there ways in which your time at NTS especially helped prepare you for faithful and effective ministry?
Absolutely! The contexts in which I have done ministry have been varied. I’ve never lived in a community like Marion. NTS helped me see how faithful and effective ministry requires contextual exegesis just like faithful and effective preaching requires Biblical exegesis. NTS taught me how to think like a Wesleyan, with attention given not only to aspects of holiness in terms of personal piety, but to the larger picture of how personal holiness can and should lead to social transformation. NTS prepared me to work hard (getting an M.Div is not an easy venture!) and to utilize the resources – written and living- that are necessary for ministry that is theologically grounded and practically effective.