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WILMORE, Ky. — The theme for Asbury University’s 2013 Holiness Emphasis Week was “Liberation of Heart, Mind and Soul” — a theme that, at first glance, may not have much in common with popular conceptions of holiness and its rules for right and wrong behavior.

But according to guest speakers Steve DeNeff and David Ward, holiness is about much more than rules, and when it comes to living a holy life, liberty is both the cause and effect.

Dr. Steve DeNeff (left) and Dr. David Ward were guest speakers during Holiness Emphasis Week 2013.“What holiness means is ‘whole,’” DeNeff said to gathered students, faculty and staff during Monday’s Chapel. “It means complete, it means healthy … when a person is holy, they become what they were designed to be.”

DeNeff is senior pastor of College Wesleyan Church, a multi-generational church that meets on the campus of Indiana Wesleyan University, and Ward is associate dean of the School of Theology and Ministry at IWU. 

Throughout the week, DeNeff and Ward spoke of Christian holiness from the point of view that inward transformation by the love of God would naturally result in outward expression of that love toward other people. Using examples that ranged from the story of the prodigal son to “Les Misérables,” each spoke at Chapel and evening services in addition to a joint panel discussion during Wednesday’s Chapel.

By virtue of the location of College Church and Ward’s academic work at IWU, both speakers were familiar with the opportunities and challenges facing college students in their understanding of the sanctified life. The key for them, both to learning about holiness and living a holy life, is relationship.

“The culture has simplified and created practical steps for everything,” DeNeff said. “What remains to be seen is if someone can do ‘life’ for 70 or 80 years at that level. Something things can only be had through months of frustration and uncertainty, and it’s only after the struggle that you can truly own it. I think what college kids are looking for is a person they can trust and know. I don’t think they want to follow a spiel, but a person who is trustworthy.”

For sophomore Abigail Shetterly, a noteworthy aspect to the week was the message that holiness is an option for everyone, regardless of their background.

“I loved when Steve DeNeff told those who had grown up in church that they could extend grace to themselves, and that those who hadn’t grown up in church were still part of the family,” she said.

Recordings of the week’s services are available at