Worship in Truth and Spirit: Alumni Devotional – Andrew Sutton

My name is Andrew Sutton, I am on staff at Manna Church as the Events Director for Fayetteville/Ft. Bragg. In December of 2018 I graduated from GCD with a BA in Christian Leadership.

This opportunity to share is such I gift. I hope it blesses you and draws you closer to the Father. The topic I am writing on is worship and how God has been teaching me to worship Him in all I do and through all I do. 

The things which have led me to this place of worship is multifaceted. It is a combination of many things: personal devotions, fellowship, mentorship, personal study, interpersonal relationships, spirit development, pain, joy, sadness, success, failures, brokenness and wholeness, experiencing grace from others, betrayal and forgiveness. God working in and through all aspects of life to lead me into greater depths of knowing Him and worshiping Him.

Below I have listed some things I have done that have helped me develop more of a heart of worship for God. Here are four points that came to mind: 

1. Know God

Regarding knowing God more and seeing Him more clearly there are things we can action to do that. That is studying the Scriptures and looking to see who God, studying His character. Mediate on these Scriptures and seek the Holy Spirit to bring deeper revelation to us that we may know God more fully. 2 Peter 3:18, Proverbs 8:17

2. Be Still

Practicing stillness has helped me know God’s voice more clearly. It has helped to develop my spirit. Start with 5 minutes of not speaking, reading or allowing your thoughts, feelings, or desire to lead you down a wayward path in your mind. If I am having a hard time getting my soul to be still I will shift my focus to Jesus and the Cross. Psalm 62:5, Psalm 37:7

3. A lifestyle of repentance and confession

Living a lifestyle of repentance, and giving thanks to God as He reveals sin to us, so that we no longer walk in that which so easily entangles us,  preventing us from running the race He has for us. Acknowledge known sin, seek forgiveness and turn away from it. Isaiah 30:15, Revelation 2:5, Matthew 5:24-24

4. Practicing gratitude

Being intentional about looking at and for the good things God has given and is giving in my life. I take time to think about the things I have been given a positive light. Psalm 136

Begin the process of having your eyes open to see how God is moving in all things and thank Him for it. Knowing God, stillness, repentance, and gratitude can begin to change our hearts as we take them to heart and can be a catalyst for leading us into worship. Worship puts God in His rightful place in our lives which then allows us to operate more fully in the place He has given us. It changes us and then changes the world we live in.

May God bless you all as you seek to worship in truth and spirit.

Sincerely,
Andrew Sutton

Not My Plans: Student Spotlight – Sade’ Wilson

Not My Plans: Student Spotlight – Sade’ Wilson

by Frank Brazell

Sade’ Wilson, the child of Army parents, didn’t grow up in any one city, but she did grow up in one place— the Church. She started to take her relationship with God seriously at the age of 15, and after a conversation with a woman while at church, life began to change:

“I just started to have these God moments, day in and day out… I discovered God was real and I could have a vibrant relationship with him.”

Everything Sade’ had built during that honeymoon stage with God was put the test during her college years at a large state university. She was able to use that challenge to go deeper in her relationship with God, receiving life and strength at a time when so many buckle under challenges to faith. After college, Sade’ knew that she was called to serve the Lord in whatever it was that He called her to do. At the time, it looked like a career in the Air Force was where God had called her. Sade’ has a profound gifting for journalism, and with a family tradition of military service, joining the Air Force and working in Public Affairs seemed like the next logical step. That step was interrupted.

“I always thought, and I still think that [my calling] will be in the marketplace or out in the world. I never expected to be back in Fayetteville, working in ministry. All that was completely God.”

Despite having all the pieces in place to launch a successful career with the Air Force, God redirected Sade’ to theExperience College Internship, a one-to-two year internship in association with Grace College of Divinity. Even though she already had a Bachelor’s Degree from a prestigious university, Sade’ felt God calling her to more training for ministry.

After one year of being equipped to lead through GCD and theExperience College Internship, Sade’ planned to resume her journey with the Air Force. Again, God had other plans.

While preparing to pursue her dream of being a Public Affairs Officer, Sade’ received offers to work in her local church, but knew that God was calling her to the Air Force. She signed up for the ASVAB. On test day, she walked into the testing site only to have the testing network shut down. She went back a second time, but her name was mysteriously absent from the roll call, and she again was unable to take the test. Several weeks later, rescheduled for a third attempt, but once again, her name wasn’t on the roll call. A call to her recruiter proved that her name had been submitted and she had been scheduled to take the test at that time, but she still was missing from the roll. Her recruiter had no idea why she wasn’t on the list, but she did.

God was calling Sade’ to something other than her planned career as a Public Affairs Officer— to lead people in the local church.

“I love the Church, but I didn’t envision myself working full-time, vocationally, in a church.”

After the third attempt to take the ASVAB, Sade’ was offered one final position in her local church. To her, God’s plan for her was clear, and she accepted a position as the Marketing Coordinator for a large local church. Now, there is no uncertainty, Sade’ is exactly where God called her doing exactly what He called her to do.

“God isn’t interested in what I can bring to the table. He is interested in who I am becoming.”

God already had a plan for Sade’. He gave her a set of gifts and a calling to lead people, but it was going to be on His terms, not hers. After everything, Sade’ is still a student with Grace College of Divinity, taking classes as a Non-Degree Seeking student in areas where she thinks she could use additional training as a leader, a Marketing Coordinator, and a daughter of God.

In His Image… Student Thoughts on Christian Spiritual Formation

In His Image… Student Thoughts on Christian Spiritual Formation

Graduate student Lacey Chavira shares her thoughts on Christian Spiritual Formation. Lacey is currently working on her Master of Arts in Christian Leadership degree and has been with GCD since Spring 2019.

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In order to understand spiritual formation’s connection to character we must first look at the concept of the imago Dei in which God’s design for mankind was made in his likeness, in his image. This is initially discussed in Genesis 1:27: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God, he created him; male and female he created them.”

Even though the image of God’s likeness in us was corrupted as a result of the fall of Adam and Eve, through the blood shed by Jesus Christ on the cross it was fully restored.  When Jesus came to earth, he was God in human form, the ultimate example of character, in God’s image and likeness. He is who we aspire to be like through the process of spiritual formation.

Our hope, goal, and desire is that through the power of the Holy Spirit are being transformed into his likeness, becoming one of ultimate character through his example. Paul discusses this transformation process in Romans 8:29: “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” He also discusses this transformation in Galatians 4:19: “My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you…”

As we can see, character is a direct result of spiritual formation, always being cultivated and nourished as we press in and seek God. We are daily having to crucify our false self, filled with fleshly things, in order to be refilled with God’s love and empowered through the Holy Spirit to become more and more like God, our true self, all that is holy.

One for the Books: Dream Run 2019

One for the Books: Dream Run 2019

by Frank Brazell

Last Saturday dawned as a perfect Fall morning for the participants of the Fourth Annual GCD Dream Run: Cool but not cold, with a light breeze. Coming on the heels of last year’s event, which had to be rescheduled due to Hurricane Florence, the conditions made for a great turnout. This event broke every measurable record for success; more participants, more partners and affiliates, and more sponsors. Perhaps most importantly, this year will break another record: More dreams fulfilled.

This event, a collaboration between Grace College of Divinity and the Fayetteville Dream Center, exists to raise funds and community awareness, not just heart rates. More information about both of these non-profit organizations, and how the GCD Dream Run makes a difference, can be found in our post from last week.

A special thanks to everyone who participated in this event. Whether you were a participant, a sponsor, or a Downtown Partner, your contribution added to a bigger dream, and will continue to have an impact long after race day.

 

Dream On: Grace College of Divinity and Fayetteville Dream Center Partner for Fourth Annual Dream Run

Equipped to Lead: Alumni Spotlight- Mackenzie Gear

Equipped to Lead: Alumni Spotlight – Mackenzie Gear

by Frank Brazell

Recently, we sat down with alumna Mackenzie Gear (Christian Leadership, ’18) to discuss her experiences as a student, and how it has prepared her to be the Director of Student Ministries for one of the largest and fastest growing churches in the United States.

Mackenzie Gear (’18) and husband Brady

Born and raised in Wisconsin, Mackenzie first felt God calling her to full time vocational ministry as a teenager, specifically the call to work with students. Mackenzie first found out about Grace College of Divinity from her fiancé, now husband, Brady. The military brought Brady to Fayetteville, North Carolina, where he began attending a local church affiliated with GCD; he told Mackenzie about Grace College of Divinity soon afterward. When they were married and settled in their new city, Mackenzie began taking classes at GCD, earning her Associate of Arts in Christian Leadership in 2018.

“I really enjoyed the fact that I could get my whole degree online… You can get your whole degree either all in class or all online.”

Mackenzie started by taking on-campus classes but had to switch to all-online courses when she was hired for a staff position at her local church. Getting hired was a direct result of being a student at GCD. A faculty member, who also happened to be an Associate Pastor at Mackenzie’s local church, noticed her work ethic and commitment to God’s call on her life, and connected her to an administrative position where she could still fulfill God’s calling for her: working with middle and high-school students.

Since then, Mackenzie has completed her Associate’s degree, worked with students while serving in an administrative capacity, and has recently been promoted to Director of Student Ministries. We asked her what that role entailed, and how her time as a student at GCD prepared her to step into that role.

“Now I get the opportunity to work with leaders at other sites [church campuses] in helping them and guiding them into leading them and growing their students at their sites, get to work with RUSH [Campus Ministries] in the local schools, and all things students at my local church.”

While still working weekly with students at her local church campus, Mackenzie now has the opportunity to mentor six adult leaders at that campus and five other site directors at various locations across the Fayetteville, North Carolina region. She works in conjunction with local pastoral staff to create a space for students that is a part of the local church.

“One of the biggest things I learned in class was through the Servant Leadership class with [Professor] Stefanie Ertel. In order to lead like Jesus you need to serve like Jesus. That’s something that I’ve been able to apply from my time at GCD to the role I’m in now.”

While a student, Mackenzie enjoyed not having to learn things on her own, but being surrounded by a group of like-minded people who want to grow and develop in their relationship with God.

“To be a pastor doesn’t mean that you need the title Pastor. You can do pastoral work in your everyday life, and I think that all of us are called to be somewhat pastoral in our interactions with people.”

Looking forward, Mackenzie is confident that God’s call on her life when she was 15 has brought her to where she is today. Now, she has the opportunity not only to lead students but to lead leaders, multiplying herself not for her own sake, but to advance the Kingdom of God faster and more effectively. While she may not know what the future holds, she never could have imagined where God would bring her and how He would bring her here.

We also asked Mackenzie what advice she would give to people who think God might be calling them to be a student at GCD. The calling that started when she was a teenager wasn’t put in place overnight, and her journey still isn’t finished; but the journey has been incredible, and God has been faithful through the whole process.

“It’s a big decision committing to school. If you’re on the edge of it, and feel like God is pushing you, it doesn’t hurt to try. Your efforts aren’t going to go to waste, and you’re going to learn something. The Lord can open up a lot of things, but we have to be willing to take the step forward. As long as you’re pursuing Him and seeking Him, He’s not going to lead you down a path that isn’t the right one for you.”

Five Things I Wish I Knew Before Going Back to College

Bible college student

Five Things I Wish I Knew Before Going Back to College

by Frank Brazell

In a previous post, I wrote about the Five Things I Wish I Knew Before I Started College. In this follow-up article I want to share what I wish I knew before I went back to college for Graduate School, this time married with a toddler and another baby on the way.

1) Family comes first.

My second time starting college was quite different from the first: Instead of being 18 and on my own, I was 25, married with kids, and expected to provided for my family at the same time as completing my degree. With all these differences, I had to learn quickly that my family had to be my first priority, they had to receive my best. It’s totally doable to be a college student while taking care of your family, but you have to support them in order for them to support you. Be available for your family, give them the best of you, not the leftovers, and set your priorities early.

2) GPA isn’t everything.

This should probably point 1.2, but it’s been an important enough lesson to necessitate its own section. When you are in college with a family, and often with a job on top of that, something is going to have to give. The safest thing to let go of will be that over-the-top bit of effort in your assignments that separates a 93 from a 100. I’m not saying don’t do your work (excuses are lame), I’m just saying there is about a seven-point gap between excellent and perfect, and striving for perfection is just going to burn you out. I know this from experience, and have had to learn the hard way. So if you are done with the assignment, and its on-time, just turn it in. Don’t waste that extra energy trying to perfect at the cost of your family life and your sanity.

3) Work hard, rest hard.

Oh my goodness if I could only turn back the clock two years, I would have saved myself a lot of headache on this one. You’re not Superwoman/Superman, stop trying to be. Seven days straight of work, school, and taking care of family, week in and week out for sixteen straight weeks— that’s CRAZY! If you aren’t taking one day, or even a half day, to reset yourself and spend time with family (again, point 1), then you will burn out by the midpoint of the semester.

4) Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

As a student in the “nontraditional” (i.e., not 18-24) category, I knew that things would be different from the last time I was in school. For students who have been out of school for ten or twenty years, it can be an even bigger adjustment. Don’t be embarrassed to ask your classmates and instructors for clarification on how to do things, particularly as they pertain to technology, but even for simple things like what professors are looking for in an assignment. In my experience, people don’t get offended when you ask for clarification.

5) Don’t think you know it all.

I’m not talking about course content. Obviously you don’t think you have all that down, otherwise you wouldn’t be taking the class! During my first semester back in school I found myself constantly playing-up the fact that I’d been around the block before, and I’m sure it got pretty annoying to my younger peers. What I found was that while I had gained some life experience over my classmates, by no means did I have it all together. In some areas, my younger peers were leaps and bounds beyond me developmentally. It pays to acknowledge you don’t know everything about life, and to take time to learn from your peers, even as you seek to help them through areas you’ve already mastered.

Five Things I Wish I Knew Before I Started College

Five Things I Wish I Knew Before I Started College

by Frank Brazell

When I look back on my four-year, undergraduate education, I am left with many fond memories: meeting my wife, forming lifelong friendships, and the spontaneous road trips associated with being young and free. At the same time, there are just a few things I wish someone had told me on the front-end of things. Here is a brief rundown of my thoughts, in the hope that it will help the college graduates of tomorrow.

1) Pick a degree or major that appeals to you.

This may seem like a no-brainer, but if you’re like me as in impressionable 18-year old, you’re being pressed to choose a major that will lead to a JOB, which in the end is one of the major reasons for going to college in the first place. My mistake, however, was to choose a major in which I had absolutely no interest or passion, in the hopes that it would land me a job after four years. I slogged through two years in that major, hating every minute of it. And then came Intro to Philosophy… Instantly, I knew I had to change majors, and immediately jumped ship to something I was more passionate about— Humanities. In the end, by switching to something I was more passionate about, I was actually able to find a job, moreover a job that I love, and one that uses the skills and knowledge learned in my major!

There’s nothing wrong with choosing a major more likely to convert to employment after four years, but make sure you don’t select something solely for the economic benefits. Do something you could see yourself doing for the rest of your life.

2) Don’t be afraid to go in Undeclared.

Along the same lines, there is a ton of pressure on incoming college students to choose a major early, to lock in. But many new college students haven’t experienced enough to even know what they want to do; it isn’t fair to expect them to have their whole life planned out. So, if your college has the option to enroll without declaring a major, and you’re still unsure what you want to do, why not go in Undeclared? Alternatively, if you don’t know what you want to do, start with General Education classes that apply to a variety of programs, so that when something does peak your interest, you don’t end up having to take an extra semester’s worth of loans to finish your degree.

3) Think carefully about Student Loans.

Speaking of Student Loans, I really wish someone had sat down with me to discuss how long they might take to pay off. This isn’t the case for everyone, and I know my own debt is tiny compared to some of the people I went to school with. Even still, our education system makes it way too easy for an 18-year old to lock in to 30 years’ worth of student loans with nothing more than a digital signature (I know that’s an extreme case, but extremes do happen).

4) It’s okay to take your time.

College is just as much about the experience as it is what you learn in the classroom. You spend a lot of time growing during your years as a student. Rushing that process, or even finishing in the standard four years for a Bachelor’s Degree, could result in you missing out on certain stages of personal development. You should never feel shamed about taking more than four years to finish a Bachelor’s Degree, especially if you are allowing your classroom experiences to form who you are as a person.

5) You’ll miss it when its done.

I know not everybody feels this way. Some people are so ready to be done with school. After all, you’ve probably already been in school for thirteen years, and you’re ready to get on with life. But in my case, I realized midway through my Junior year that I really enjoyed the freedom of being a student working only a part time job and having my weekends free. So I squeezed the life out of college, and experienced a lot (see point number 4) as a result. So build those friendships, take extra time to build relationships with your professors, and enjoy your experience!

GCD Named Among the Most Affordable Accredited MDiv Programs of 2019-20

NoGRE.com Recognizes the Grace College of Divinity Master of Divinity Among the Most Affordable Accredited MDiv Programs of 2019-20

NoGRE.com took a look at the tuition rates of every accredited MDiv program in the U.S. with one simple goal in mind: identify the programs offering the best value through a combination of uncompromising quality and affordable tuition. We set the bar high when it came to quality, looking only at programs that meet the rigorous standards it takes to earn accreditation from one of the three preeminent accreditors in the field of Christian studies. And since we only recognize programs with tuition rates below the state average, the bar for affordability was set equally high.

With the total tuition coming in at nearly $20,000 below the average cost of similar accredited programs in North Carolina, the Grace College of Divinity MDiv easily earns its place on our list of the The Most Affordable MDiv Programs in America for 2019-20!

2019 National Rankings

GCD RANKED AS ONE OF THE BEST ONLINE BIBLE COLLEGES IN THE NATION

We are pleased to share the news: GCD has received several national rankings for 2019! This is not why we do what we do, but it’s exciting to see recognition from five national education organizations. Here are the results:

ACADEMICS

ChristianColleges.com ranked GCD as the #1 online Bible College in the country. Academics weighed heavily in their scoring, as well as affordability and number of online programs.

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EDsmart.org listed GCD as the #1 accredited online college in North Carolina. This ranking was based on affordability, student satisfaction, and student outcome.

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BestColleges.com rated GCD as the #5 online Bachelor’s in Ministry program in the nation. Consideration factors included academic quality, affordability, and online competency.

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AFFORDABILITY

AffordableColleges.com listed GCD as the #5 most affordable online college in the country. Colleges on this list were ranked by cost and return on investment.

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The SR Education Group ranked GCD as the #1 most affordable online Christian college in the nation. Tuition rates for undergraduate programs and Christian affiliation were factored into this result.

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DEVELOPING LEADERS FOR THE KINGDOM

The word is starting to spread that excellent things are happening here at GCD! Our students engage at a high level and pursue God’s best with passion. Our faculty serve heroically to match academic rigor with practical application. By God’s grace, leaders are being developed to bring the good news of the Kingdom to the world!