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 these special courses offered this summer:
Contemporary Issues in Apologetics (graduate course) – meets online and on-campus from May 6 – August 18, 2019.

Apologetic Issues for Cross-Cultural Engagement (undergraduate course, open to current high school students) – meets online from June 24 – August 18, 2019.

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.

Student Devotional: Pursuing Your Calling

Pastor Joshua Clarke shares his thoughts on pursuing your calling. Josh is a Master of Divinity online student with GCD, and his family has been instrumental in planting Manna Church, Colorado Springs.

One of the most exciting discoveries you make after deciding to follow Jesus is that you are uniquely called by God for a specific purpose to make an eternal difference. This is such a profound discovery that you immediately revert back to your childhood state and start to dream again about who you could be and what God has called you to do.

When it comes to pursuing that calling, I think the most significant thing to do is to never stop dreaming. To dream big is to have faith in who God is and what He is capable of. God desires us to be full of faith because otherwise we put our infinitely powerful, knowing, and loving God in a box. When we lack faith, we say “no” FOR God before he even gets the chance to bless us and use us. However, to constantly be living out your calling, there is a balance that you must find in dreaming big. I have always been a big dreamer, but sometimes I get so caught up in those dreams that I forget to make the most of where God has me now. This is the tension that we must live in; dreaming big for the future and being obedient to God right now. This obedience is ultimately what leads to the fulfillment of a dream. To pursue your calling is to be obedient to God in this moment. To pursue your calling is to pursue God. If you continue to pursue God, you will never be walking outside of your calling.

A year and a half ago I came to a cross roads. I knew that I was called to multiply God’s Kingdom through the local church, and I could either do that by staying where I was in Fayetteville and investing in that community or I could be a part of starting Manna Church in Colorado Springs. The question was not, “which makes the most sense” or “which one do I like most.” The question was simply “how can I be obedient to God right now?” The answer to the right question ended up being the illogical answer: to move my family across the country to be a part of starting a church. God’s dreams for me ended up being greater than anything I could think up. Since we have been out here, I have been able to be a part of an amazing church plant with unprecedented growth and Kingdom impact, and my family has experienced more blessings than I would have ever thought possible in such a short time. Pursing your calling is simply being obedient to God. There is so much joy in being exactly where God desires you to be.

Faculty Spotlight: Dick Gaffney

Long-time GCD faculty member and pastor Richard Lee “Dick” Gaffney has a heart for international missions, but that’s only part of his story.  Come meet him at GCD’s 9th Annual Golf Tournament this Friday (March 22).

Dick Gaffney’s first taste of a culture not his own came at the age of 12. His father served in the U.S. Army, with one assignment in Japan. Though Dick has served in many roles himself through his nearly 83 years, themes of service, education, and missions work have been continuously present.

Military Service

Following his father’s steps, he joined the Army in 1958. Dick married Judy Royce a year later. Susan, Rick, and Debbie were added to the family soon thereafter. The family moved with tours of duty stateside as well as two tours in Germany, allowing trips to neighboring countries. He also served two assignments in Vietnam. Diversity in culture was preparing him for a calling in global missions.

Education

His military service ended in 1979, when he retired at the rank of Major. Along the way, Dick studied at Fayetteville State University, Fayetteville Technical Community College, and completed his bachelor degree with Campbell University in 1980.

He taught in high schools for many years, and Manna Church became the family’s place of worship. Dick served in many capacities, including a role as an elder of the church. Feeling a desire to be better equipped, Dick completed a Master’s Degree in Biblical Studies with Regent University.

Global Missions

Unexpectedly, the Lord called Dick and Judy to teach English to students in northwest China for a year. Formal roles in missions work then followed. For a time, Dick served with the organization that prepared and placed them as teachers in China. In 1994, Michael Fletcher asked Dick to return to Fayetteville to become Missions Coordinator for an association of like-minded churches in North Carolina and Virginia. His efforts resulted in coordinating churches to adopt people groups in the “10/40 Window,” as well as in assisting Romanian churches toward growth in a post-cold war environment. These experiences uniquely prepared Dick to serve as the Missions Pastor for Manna Church until 2007.

Serving in Education for World Missions

Soon thereafter, Dr. Steve Crowther asked Dick to serve as Vice President of Administration for Grace College of Divinity. For the next five years he was busy helping the college achieve accreditation, establish a Veteran Services Office, and attain eligibility for student loans. Stepping away from an administrative role in 2012, Dick continues to teach GCD courses in World Religions and Missions.

According to Judy, Dick has several items proudly displayed in his home office: framed degrees from Campbell University and Regent University as well as a plaque from GCD acknowledging him as 2013 Faculty Member of the Year. Dick’s academic training and life experiences formed a heart for world missions as well as insight into what it means to share one’s faith in a culture not one’s own.

Student Spotlight: Rachel Choi

Q&A with a Master of Arts in Christian Leadership student

What is your name, and what are you currently doing (occupation/career-wise)?

My name is Rachel Choi, and I am both a GCD alum and grad student! I currently stay busy with two jobs. For my main career, I have the privilege of being the owner (plus artistic director and one of the teachers) of Alpha & Omega Dance Academy, LLC. On the side I work with Manna Church Fay/Ft. Bragg as a copy/editor and site administrator!

Why did you decide to become a student with GCD?

I decided to pursue my bachelor’s at GCD about a semester after graduating from theExperience College Internship with my Certificate in Christian Leadership and Certificate in Missions Leadership in 2011. I had the unique opportunity to be one of the first interns; it’s no joke that the directors called my class “guinea pigs” because we helped worked out all the kinks! After theExperience, I had a different plan for my collegiate journey, but that next semester I found myself at a fork in the road. I saw how much I had already changed spiritually and emotionally, as well as all the ways I practically grew in leadership through theExperience. And through God’s leading and the advice of trusted authorities and mentors in my life, I decided to redirect course and stay at GCD.

How has your time with GCD helped you with where you are at right now?

Two of the best ways GCD personally helped me was in public communication and specific, practical leadership skills, such as vision-casting, leading a meeting, planning/executing an event, team delegation/accountability/conflict resolution, and much more. With a team of over 20 at AODA, everything I learned about leading a team helped me get started on the right foot!

Would you recommend GCD to other aspiring business owners?

I would definitely recommend GCD’s leadership degree and/or certificate to aspiring or current business owners, especially if they are followers of Christ and wish to learn leadership through the model Jesus provides! Granted, if you need to learn how to balance books, fill out tax forms, set up HR, and start a website, etc, these courses probably won’t provide all the ins-and-outs you’re looking for. But honestly, I never took a class for any of that; I did my own research, talked to a lot of people who knew what they were doing, and worked hard — I mean HARD. But you know what I couldn’t have gleaned from just doing my own research that GCD provided? How to be a Christ-like leader. How to be servant-hearted, authentic, and transformational. How to communicate better. How to cast a vision and give direction, discipline, encouragement, and counsel. And I know for sure I would not have been able to bear the weight of the responsibility that comes with leading, had I not received the spiritual, emotional, practical, and knowledgeable training from GCD.

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