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.

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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.”

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Student Reflection: Dog Days of the School Year

by Sam Fletcher

My struggle throughout each and every semester has always been the mundane and the consistency of sixteen weeks out of the year. It can be slow and frustrating, and sometimes I would just like to be done. If every student who is in school is being honest, then they would agree that school is not the highlight of their day or week or month.  It is not for me. It can really be taxing! School is about character and building on the knowledge that you have as a student.  Every great leader is a good student. The character aspect of school is about doing what you do not want to do.  

If I’m being honest, school has never been a particularly favorite hobby but it has taught me so much about discipline, diligence, and excellence. As a millennial, I tend to focus on my feelings. I do not want to do what makes me feel bad. School is that thing! School has provided me an opportunity to grow in discipline.  The hardest thing about school is that it never goes away when you are in it! When one week is done, here comes another the next. School has provided an opportunity for me to grow in diligence, in that, when I get to it early, the easier it is!

School can be frustrating, but I guess, it is on purpose!

Sam is a 3rd-year Bachelor of Arts in Christian Leadership student, and a graduate of theExperience internship. He currently serves as the Student Ministries Assistant for Manna Church, Fayetteville/Fort Bragg.

Devotional: Jessica Fletcher

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Jessica Fletcher is a GCD alumna, who earned her Bachelor of Arts in Divinity degree in the Fall of 2017.

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Scene: Africa. Subjects: wild dogs and wildebeests. The only way the wild dogs have the advantage is if the wildebeest run. However, if the wildebeests have the courage to stop running and stand their ground, the wild dogs are powerless. If you desire a more detailed and graphic demonstration of this truth, go watch The Hunt on Netflix.

Everyone is made on purpose and for a purpose, and that purpose ALWAYS involves others.

Here’s the big question: are you surrounded by people who are going to have the courage to stop in the face of danger and stand with you? Are you running alone? A very important lesson can be learned from the wildebeests. When we stop running and stand together, the enemy is powerless. We are not meant to do life alone. We need to surround ourselves with people who have the faith to stand and the courage to stop running. When we stand together, we halt the enemy.

Hebrews 4:11 (ESV) – “Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.”

Two words spring off the page: “us” and “no one.” Earlier in Hebrews 4, the author of Hebrews references the moment the nation of Israel fell prey to the fears of the faithless reporters.

Hebrews 4:2 (ESV) – “For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened.”

With whom are you united?

Now, let’s take a moment to look at the word REST.

In this passage, “rest” is the Greek word katapausis, used in three different ways. (1) Rest as in the way we would use the peace of God, (2) rest as in the Promised Land, and (3) rest as in how God rested on the seventh day after his work was completed.

Here’s the truth: being out of rest is being out of faith.

Hebrews 4:1 (ESV) – “…while the promise of entering his rest still stands…” He has promised, we need to enter. God has promised peace. God has a promised land for you. God has work for you to complete. Let us enter in; let us enter together.

Here are three action steps:

  1. Surround yourself with faith-filled people. Reach for the fearful ones, don’t surround yourself with them.
  2. Practice listening today (Heb. 4:7, ESV)
  3. Choose to remove the words ALWAYS and NEVER in reference to yourself and those around you. Those are eternal words, only God is eternal.

“Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” (Eph. 4:15-16, ESV)

Church, let us be found standing together, striving together to enter into His rest.

21st Century Apologetics: Diplomacy through Conversations

21st Century Apologetics: Diplomacy through Conversations

Many authors have commented on the erosion of belief in absolute truth among Western societies. The rise of relativistic thinking in post-modern America seems to discard long-accepted ideas like a heliocentric solar system in favor of a flat-earth theory. Relativism is commonly expressed as “My truth is my truth; your truth is your truth,” or “You do you.” Evangelical authors often pose a concern about the effect this trend will have on sharing the gospel. How can we share the truth of scripture when truth is viewed as customizable?

Mature followers of Christ are right to be concerned about this trend. The common response centers on training in apologetics, or defending the faith. That word often brings to mind some form of debate (which most believers do not feel qualified to begin) or verbal combat (which most believers do not enjoy). Is there another way to share the good news of enduring hope, joy and peace with our friends, co-workers, families and neighbors? Yes, believers have the best message to share to a confused, hurting world and can reach others through conversations that pose questions in a way that deepens relationships.

Know What You Believe

Christ-followers should know what they believe and be prepared to share this in meaningful ways. Speaking to the first topic, Francis J. Beckwith captured the essence of a Christian worldview in three points:

  1. There exists an eternally self-existing moral agent named God, who created the universe ex nihilo.
  2. God created human beings in his image.
  3. God reveals himself in special revelation, the Bible, as well as general revelation.1

Christian apologists rightly quote 1 Peter 3:15 – “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.”2 There is a Kingdom mandate for God’s people to proclaim the gospel, and to be prepared to do so. Study helps in preparation, but notice the phrasing of this passage. Peter is assuming that Christ-followers will live in such a way that others will ask about the hope they hold in their hearts.

Know How to Share What You Believe

Peter immediately follows that well-quoted phrase with a caution: “But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.” Training in what to say should be accompanied by training in how to say it. Speaking to tactics, Gregory P. Koukl challenged Jesus-followers to “artfully manage the details of dialogue.”

Here are a few questions that should get your friend to examine their thinking:

  1. Do you mind if I ask you a question?
    Believers can avoid coming off as pushy or preachy by “inviting others to participate in dialogue.” The answer will signal whether our friend is willing to engage in conversation or if the believer should prayerfully look for another opportunity for dialogue.
  2. What do you mean by that?
    Likewise, open-ended questions place an expectation on the other person to define what they mean when delivered with a genuine desire to understand them.
  3. How did you come to that conclusion?
    This question assumes the best for the other person: that they have thought through what they believe and can relate their position with clarity. It may also reveal where our friend has built their beliefs on feelings instead of evidence or careful thought.
  4. Have you ever considered … ?
    Here is where a believer can gently challenge another’s position. By presenting evidence for an alternative conclusion, believers can plant seeds in conversation that our friends desperately need to hear.3

This strategy is more like skilled diplomacy than heated debate or armed combat. Knowing what we believe is only half the preparation; knowing how to share the truth in a conversational way makes us effective ambassadors for the Kingdom.

If you would like training in either area, please consider one of these courses:

  • Contemporary Issues in Apologetics (graduate course)
  • Apologetic Issues for Cross-Cultural Engagement (undergraduate course, open to current high school students)

Follow one of these steps if you are interested in registering and you are not yet a GCD student:

High School students (not yet graduated): fill out this application

High School graduates: fill out this application

Graduate-level students (completed a bachelor degree): fill out this application

For more information, please contact our Admissions Team.

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Notes:

  1. Francis J. Beckwith, To Everyone an Answer: A Case for the Christian Worldview, eds. Francis J. Beckwith, William Lane Craig and J. P. Moreland (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2004), 14-15.
  2. New International Version.
  3. Quoted or adapted from Gregory P. Koukl, “Tactics: Applying Apologetics to Everyday Life,” in To Everyone an Answer: A Case for the Christian Worldview, eds. Francis J. Beckwith, William Lane Craig and J. P. Moreland (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2004), 48-54.