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 info@gcd.edu.

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.

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.

Data-Infused Learning for 21st Century Ministry

Charisma Media interview with Dr. Crowther: Training Emerging Leaders

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.

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.

Student Spotlight: I was in prison and you came to me