Ladies of Value: Serving Local Adult Entertainers

Ladies of Value: Serving Local Adult Entertainers

by Frank Brazell

Sharyn has been on staff at GCD since 2010, and has not only made an impact within the college, but also brings a level of determination to loving the ladies in the local adult entertainment industry. Sharyn is one of the original people that began to go into the adult entertainment clubs with a small group from Manna Church six years ago. She was invited into the group because she had an earring making small group, and the other small group leader wanted to include earrings in the bags they planned to bring the ladies every month at the clubs. The Ladies of Value small group was formed because there was a desire to reach these ladies in adult entertainment, who are not likely going to leave the clubs and come to church on Sundays.

 “Unless we go and visit them, how are they going to hear about Jesus?” – Sharyn 

This small group, entirely made up of women,  goes into the dressing rooms to pray, talk, and just be there with the dancers. When Sharyn first began going and talking with these ladies, she was nervous and spoke superficially with them–she talked about their shoes, their make-up and tattoos, but now she is able to go in and really talk with them and pray for them to the point where they expect her and lovingly call her and the small group, “the church ladies” (a title which in the beginning wasn’t so loving, but has become endearing).  

The Ladies of Value group prays for these ladies, talk about life, and sometimes talk about what the “church ladies” want to hear, the process of getting out of adult entertainment. However, for some that is more difficult, going from making up to $1,000 a night, it can be hard to move on. 

Several of the dancers have told Sharyn the only way they could dance was if they were high on something. Even though drug use is prohibited, it is still prevalent. This small group still prays for them, goes with them to a church service; they have taken phone calls to give advice; they have gone to the local jail to pray for a spouse; they have helped write a job resume; they have been that shoulder to cry on and that person to call when they feel alone and will not be judged for it, but rather will be welcomed with love.

“We have many opportunities to show love in a very, very practical way.” 

“They’re ladies of value and their value is above rubies and diamonds, they’re precious, they’re God’s children, and a lot of these ladies have come from a religious, finger-wagging background…they’ve been hurt by the church, the church–their daddies, their mamas, their previous boyfriends, their baby daddys have all said ‘you’re never going to amount to anything, you’re not worth it.’” These ladies have value. Sharyn and others in this small group have been part of true life change in the lives of these women. Since beginning six years ago the Ladies of Value small group visits anywhere from 8-12 clubs once a month and have led 6-10 ladies to Christ!


Intercultural Studies Degree

Intercultural Studies Degree

By Frank Brazell, Director of Enrollment Management

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” – Matt. 28:19-20, New American Standard Bible.

When considering Jesus’ Great Commission, few would reject that for the Church, there is a distinct command to take message of the Good News to those who do not know Jesus, whether they live around the world or around the corner. However, much debate is made about how the Church is called to accomplish this mission; in the last three-hundred years, the Church has succeeded in going, but has met with limited success in making disciples. Thankfully, this trend began to reverse during the 20th Century, and missiological approaches have shifted to more effectively share the Gospel.

The efforts of the Church to create disciples of all nations prove fruitless when well-meaning Christians from a given culture or society erroneously bring with them the gospel of culture, rather than the Gospel of Jesus (Lingenfelter, 2008), and are shocked when an emerging local church is stifled.

At Grace College of Divinity, Intercultural Studies students across our three undergraduate programs, and graduate students with a focus in Intercultural Studies, learn effective methods of global and cross-cultural leadership, which consider culture in the context of organizational and church leadership. Effective cross-cultural leadership is essential in effective missions and church-planting, as local responses to the Gospel are influenced by assumptions and symbols from each society (Schein, 2010). Much damage can, and has, been done for the cause of the Gospel by well-intended missionaries who fail to navigate the brackish waters where cultures collide.

All of this is nuanced by a need to be faithful to the truth of God’s Word, uncompromising where necessary, yet flexible where culture has imposed upon the practices of the Church. At GCD, all programs are saturated with a core of Bible and Theology courses that teach students the importance of faithfulness to the intentions of the original authors of Scripture.


Lingenfelter, S.G. (2008) Leading cross-culturally: Covenant relationships for effective christian leadership. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.

Schein, E.H. (2010). Organizational culture and leadership (4th ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Inside the Student Mental Health Crisis

Inside the Student Mental Health Crisis

Frank Brazell

Director of Enrollment Management

“…even if you don’t struggle with mental health issues, you certainly have classmates who do. Many of them suffer in silence.”

The first time I remember confiding in anyone about my suicidal thoughts, I was in the process of applying for Bible College. I included my prior struggles in the mandatory essay about my life and relationship with Jesus, and of course it raised a red flag with my admissions counselor. When he called me to offer acceptance to the college, he first asked if depression and suicide was something with which I still struggled. I was able to answer honestly, that no, it wasn’t. I had left those feelings behind when I met Jesus.

There is freedom to be found in Christ. The things from our past life in the flesh cannot be shed away, washed away, removed with any witty, analogous turn of phrase. But the reality for some is that these prior feelings and struggles have a way of returning because the underlying causes haven’t yet been examined or resolved.

In observing the big picture, it is important to understand that 39% of college students experience a significant mental health issue, which means that even if you don’t struggle with mental health issues, you certainly have classmates who do. Many of them suffer in silence. I did.

Things only improved for me once I started to regularly discuss my condition with others, both mentors and a professional therapist. I began to deal with the underlying issues of my depression, and only now have started to feel some measure of peace and freedom. To be clear: my condition didn’t get “fixed” overnight, but I can’t imagine where I would be if I didn’t start opening up about the realities of my experiences.

If you are struggling with anxiety, depression, or suicidal thoughts, there are a number of resources available for you:
  • If you or someone you know is in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255
  • Female students may contact the Chaplain to Women, Dr. Diane Sharp, at
  • Male students may contact the Dean of Students, John McIntyre, at
  • Thrive Counseling and Consulting, PLLC offers free counseling services to GCD students in the Fayetteville area. Call 910-483-5884 to book an book an appointment.
Activities to alleviate stress and take care of yourself:
  • Maintain a proper diet and drink plenty of water. No, sweet tea doesn’t count.
  • You don’t have to run a 5k every day, but you should spend some time in physical activity.
  • Set short-term homework goals to aid in time management so you don’t find yourself in a stressful time-crunch or tempted to procrastinate.
  • Meditate on the Word, eliminate distractions – even for just a few minutes per day.
  • Sit in silence and concentrate on your breathing.
  • Find a sounding board for problems or just to vent. A trusted individual or even a journal. Again, GCD has chaplains available to talk to students.
  • Everything in life is about relationships – take time to intentionally connect with friends.

Women in Leadership: A Perspective

Women in Leadership: A Perspective

Stefanie Ertel, M.A.

Dean of Distance Education

Program Director, Christian Leadership

Many people, organizations, churches, and others are focusing on the fact that every life can make a difference. Heidi Wills said, “we can choose to be affected by the world or we can choose to affect the world.” Every person has aspects of their life that will help them and hinder them going after a life of change and impact. One regular barrier to approximately half of the population is their gender.

The presence of women engaged in leadership roles is increasing across the United States (and the world); however, it is still evident that there is a drastic difference between men and women in this arena. Even with the drastic growth in the past decade, there is still a disparity in the number of women in leadership roles in the United States.

Female Leadership in the United States today

20.7% of U.S. Clergy

14% of college presidents and 25% of provost and college deans

6.6% of Fortune 500 CEOs

No matter your faith, there is a barrier; yet, because of some people’s faith this can also affect one’s stance on this topic. For Christians, several mainstream opinions are prevalent on what they believe about women in leadership. The most popular include:

─ women cannot have any form of leadership or authority over men.

─ women should not have authority over their husband or have governmental authority in the church (for example a senior pastor or elder), but can lead, teach, oversee, etc. over other men.

─ women are completely equal on the leadership scale as men (senior pastors, elders, etc.).

The scope of this blog cannot include details from all of these popular beliefs, nor even focus on one. No matter what you decide to believe, a few points should be reflected upon before determining where you stand.

─ Let scripture interpret scripture (if one area of the Bible seems to contradict another, look into it. Many factors of the culture and environment of the time it was written ought to be taken into account.)

─ Go into your research open-minded asking for the Holy Spirit to guide you.

─ Lastly, I want to encourage women to not have a victim mentality. God has created all of us on purpose, for a purpose. We all have the ability, through the Holy Spirit, to greatly affect this world.

Mary Wollstonecraft wrote, “I do not wish women to have power over men; but over themselves.” It is not about what men can do and what women can’t do. It’s not about decreasing men to increase women. We ought to look to our own race, our own calling, and sprint after it fully. The greatest leaders use every aspect of their calling to make a difference!

Jeremiah 29:11 (ESV) For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Christian Counseling Degree

Christian Counseling Degree

In the Fall of 2019, GCD was officially approved by both the North Carolina Department of Education and the Association for Biblical Higher Education (ABHE) to begin offering a Bachelor of Arts degree in Christian Counseling, which became the fifth Bachelor of Arts level degree offered by the College.

This new degree seeks to prepare graduates for further work at the Master’s level by offering intensive training in both counseling techniques and research methods. Even within the rigorous curriculum of this degree program, students are exposed to Biblical approaches to counseling, evaluating psychological theories from a Biblical perspective rooted in the authority of Scripture.

Less than one year into the program, GCD has already offered courses in Human Growth and Development, General Psychology, Research Methods, and Marriage and Family. As our first cohorts of Bachelor of Arts in Christian Counseling students advance through the program, they will continue to learn counseling techniques and theories in Abnormal Psychology, Marriage and Family Counseling, and Social Psychology, among other courses.

Of course, we at Grace College of Divinity know how expensive college can be, so we strive to make all of our degrees, including the Bachelor of Arts in Christian Counseling, affordable. For more information about our Undergraduate Tuition, click here. To start the Financial Aid process, click here.

GCD Named #2 Online Bible College

GCD Named #2 Online Bible College

Recently, Grace College of Divinity was rated the #2 Best Online Bible College by, as well as their Most Affordable Associate’s Degree. This ranking, provided by Intelligent, an independent college-rankings site that does not accept advertising, ranks GCD against 200 other accredited Bible colleges offering Associates, Bachelors, and Masters degrees. GCD offers degrees in both Online and On-Campus formats, with campus locations in three states, and more on the way.

Advancing the Kingdom: GCD Student Plants Church in Central Missouri

Staci Tomlinson is a First-Year Graduate student in the Master of Arts in Biblical Studies program at GCD, but much of her time is otherwise allocated to family, working at a local radio station, and entering the next stage of planting a church with her husband, Learon. Last February, after moving from Fayetteville, North Carolina, Staci and Learon began hosting viewings of recorded services from Manna Church in their living room in Waynesville. We asked Staci what God has been doing through them since that initial meeting in her living room:

Oh my gosh… there is… it is crazy. So we started meeting at the beginning of February 2019, and slowly it [spread by] word of mouth. We never officially launched. We didn’t do everything the [church planting] model told us to. Everything was word of mouth. We have gotten some crazy looks from people when we told them we met for church in our home. [Then] …people who were coming started bringing people in. Back in August, one girl got saved, and then we ended up having four baptisms in one week.

Now, nearly one year later, Manna Church Ft. Leonard Wood will be holding official Sunday services for the first time in a local gym. The church has grown from three or four people sitting in the Tomlinson’s living room to 25-30 adults and their families. Now that they’re moving into a facility (at least for services), they plan to expand their existing community outreaches and small groups, serving Waynesville and Ft. Leonard Wood both spiritually and practically. When asked what advice she would give to someone who thinks God might be calling them to plant a church, Staci got excited:

Do it. Don’t hesitate. Have that conversation, take the next step. We became members of our church in September/October, but then left to plant a church in April. See what it looks like.

It’s hard, it’s weird. [But] Don’t let you own fears get in the way, because if God’s calling you, He will equip you. Follow your heart, listen. When you’re in the Word, you’ll know when God is speaking to you. Devotion is going to lead you. God can use anything to let you know, but when you’re in the Word, you’ll know when it’s God.

Manna Church is a close-partner and supporter of Grace College of Divinity, one among several local churches across the United States that is sending its emerging leaders to us for further training. If your church is interested in partnering with GCD, please contact us at

Spring 2020 Course Highlights: Communicating to Oral Cultures and Introduction to Counseling

Spring 2020 Course Highlights: Communicating to Oral Cultures and Introduction to Counseling

It’s that time of year again: A Fall semester has closed, Christmas parties are in full-swing, and our students are experiencing winter weather— at least, our online students above a certain latitude. Over the next six weeks, students will enjoy some much needed time off. For those about to graduate in May, graduation applications will open amid much jubilation.

But this year, just like every year, a few of our faculty are busy planning for what could almost be considered a GCD Christmas Break tradition at this point: January Intensives. This January, some of our students have elected to come back a week early for the chance at an on-campus course with some outstanding faculty. From January 13th-17th, we will be holding two intensive courses each night from 6pm-10pm, with one more meeting on the morning of January 18th. This year, we will be offering HUM 130- Communicating to Oral Cultures, and CNS 130- Introduction to Counseling.

These courses, in addition to the on-campus component at the Fayetteville Campus, will have assignments spread-out in the traditional 16-week semester, offering the best of both on-campus and online course methodologies.

HUM 130: Communicating to Oral Cultures- Taught by Dr. Steven Crowther, with assistance from two experienced missionaries from Frontline Missions, students learn how to share their faith in cultures that communicate primarily through storytelling and oral traditions. The skills learned in this course have aided students in practical ministry in Latin American and East Asia, working with indigenous populations and the local church. This course is only offered in this Intensive format.

CNS 130: Introduction to Counseling– Taught by GCD alumna Pat Parkinson and Christian Counseling Program Director Chris Floro, Intro to Counseling is a required course across many programs. This course offers an introduction to Christian Counseling rooted in client-focused, strengths-based models with emphasis on counselor-client interactions, while also applying counseling techniques for public, private, and church-based settings.

While the intensive portions of these courses take place on the Fayetteville Campus, they are open to all GCD students, even those who primarily take courses online or on other campuses. Online students or those from other campuses who are interested in taking one of these courses should contact the GCD office at 910-221-2224.