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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.

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.

Servant Leadership: Insights from a Leading Researcher

We are honored and privileged to be hosting a Q&A Alumni Lunch with Dr. Kathleen Patterson on Saturday, October 20! Dr. Patterson is known for her pioneering research on servant leadership, and her expertise and wisdom in this field will greatly benefit leaders today.

Looking at Jesus Christ as the basis for servant leadership, one could say that the concept of servant leadership has actually been around for centuries. But academically, servant leadership has emerged in the last thirty years, largely due to the research and discoveries of Robert Greenleaf. Even more recently, Dr. Patterson has been at the forefront of this leadership development; she describes servant leadership primarily as the leader being a servant first, then being a leader. A key distinction between servant leadership and other leadership approaches, is that the focus of the leader is on their followers, rather than on financial profit or organizational goals. True to the oxymoronic nature of the “Jesus way,” where humility leads to greatness, tithing leads to prosperity, and the least is the greatest of all, servant leadership places emphasis not on the followers serving the leader(s) but on the leader(s) serving their followers.

Dr. Patterson is currently a professor in the School of Business & Leadership at Regent University as well as director of Regent’s Doctor of Strategic Leadership program. In addition to being certified in Leadership Practices Inventory, Patterson directs Regent’s annual Servant Leadership Research Roundtable. She has won several awards such as Faculty of the Year and Chancellor’s Award, and she is involved with numerous leadership associations, The Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership and International Leadership Association, to name a few.  

For more information on Dr. Patterson and her development on servant leadership, click here.  

To reserve your spot for the exclusive Alumni Q&A Lunch with Dr. Patterson, visit www.GCD.edu/alumni

Event Details:

Saturday, October 20, 2018 | 12:00-1:30pm

$5 Admission (includes lunch)

Manna Church, Chapel (5117 Cliffdale Rd, 28314)

Childcare provided (lunch not provided for children)

Registration closes October 15

article by Rachel Choi

Study Tips, Pt 2

photograph and post by Rachel Choi

We know studying isn’t always easy or enjoyable, but we aim to help you minimize that! This post will address our top curated tips on studying for tests and exams. If you missed part one on good study habits and tips for writing papers/discussion posts, be sure to check it out here.

Studying For Tests & Exams  

Teacher Knows Best

Professors emphasize what they think is most important… The most valuable things to commit to MEMORY are the things emphasized in class. Sometimes you feel overwhelmed by all the things you could study, but your teachers already told you what was important. Go there.

Make Your Own Study Guide

Cross reference your study guide with other people for accuracy, but making your own study guide is pivotal to retaining information. A large part of the learning comes from doing the work yourself.

Write Notes By HAND!

This cannot be emphasized enough. Yes, computers and phones are nifty and save us a world of time and trouble, but nothing beats writing out study guides and notes in your own hand. Trust all those who have gone before you: you will remember better this way.

Enjoy Study Time

Trick your brain into enjoying study time by incorporating things you like. Try eating your favorite snack, going to a nice coffee shop, or listening to your favorite music. Then give yourself a small break every hour.

Freebie: everyone has their own taste in music, but research shows that classical/instrumental music provide the optimum level of concentration and energy for your brain.

Don’t Be Afraid To Ask

Don’t be afraid to ask professors questions in order to clarify assignments. They want you to succeed! There’s nothing wrong with making sure that you are studying the right information.

Work The System

If you have an open-book, at-home test, invest in a digital copy of the book. Use the search tool to look up keywords and terms. This really comes in handy, even when writing papers!

Exercise!

At least 20 minutes of cardio/day during finals releases endorphins and makes you less cranky and more productive. This is also great if you’re falling asleep.. Wake yourself up with a quick round of jumping jacks!

Use Mnemonic Devices

Acrostics and acronyms are a great way to remember lists of information. For example: TULIP, Every Good Boy Does Fine, Good Boys Do Fine Always, etc.

We hope these tips have been helpful!

Thanks for reading this list of study tips. We hope they help make your study time effective as well as fun. But make sure you remember that these tips aren’t the secret potion to good productivity; how much you get out of studying is largely based on how much you put in. Don’t overcomplicate it. As Amelia Earheart says, “The most effective way to do it, is to do it.”

Study Tips, Pt 1

photograph and post by Rachel Choi

Studying — like anything else — might not always seem fun. Studying takes grit and perseverance, and it has to be done whether we feel like it or not. After interviewing students, professors, church leaders/pastors, and educational researchers, here are some of the top study tips that will make your studying both more effective and fun!

Study Habits

PLAN Time To Study

If you don’t make studying a priority and actually plan time to do it, it won’t happen! Dr. Elmore addresses this in his principle “Big Rocks First”; there are always a million other things you could be doing, so be sure to prioritize what’s most important and then build your schedule accordingly.

Focus Where It Matters

If you can get an A in one class even if you get a C on the final, then focus on another class.

This might make you cringe, but remember that doing your best often involves prioritizing where you invest your time. Look at your assignments objectively to see what needs the most attention and prioritize accordingly.

Eat, Sleep & Pray

  • Eat an apple or banana. They provide the healthy sugar your brain needs to function at its best.
  • Sleep on it. Besides the obvious benefits of a good night’s sleep, research shows that when you sleep, you “turn off” your conscious brain and allow your subconscious to connect information in new ways.
  • Pray and relax your soul. Seriously, ask God to help you study productively, remember important information, and test well!

Work First, Play Later

When Thanksgiving or Spring Break comes around, it’s easier to push through one or two extra days of homework first and then take the rest of the week off. It’s much harder the other way around.

Writing Papers & Posts

Teach Someone

Teaching someone is proven to be linked to how well an individual retains information. Especially if you’re an external processor, talking with someone about your thesis statement will help you process what you want to say, and then writing it down will be that much easier. Afterwards, be sure to change the vocabulary/style to be academically appropriate.

Outline Your Paper

When reading and researching, keep your paper and discussion post in mind and type up any quotes/notes you might want to use. Go ahead and include the author and page number; this way, when you go to write your paper, a lot of it is already written!

Get A Second Set Of Eyes

When writing your final paper, get a second set of eyes. No matter how good you are, you may have missed a comma splice, misspelling, horrible sentence, or even the paragraph that doesn’t have a link to your thesis statement. Get someone to help you.

P.S. When editing for grammar and spelling, read your paper in reverse. Reading backwards messes up the flow of your paper and helps you catch more errors — it’s what the pros do.

Stay tuned for Part 2: Tips on studying for tests and exams!  

GCD Student Spotlight – Christina Reed

Mom, Hair Designer, Student

 

What do you do all day? This is a question that makes many people cringe when they hear,  because we all feel busy in our everyday lives, but can’t always recall exactly what they did all day. I know that I felt absolutely overwhelmed with the things going on in my life and wondered how people could ever add the task of school to their lives when they already worked numerous hours a week and were raising two kids, like in my case. Yet the tug at my heart would not cease the gentle but constant tug to enroll at GCD. “Me, God? Are you sure you weren’t talking to the person next to me and I just overheard?” This was a question I kicked around for a while before enrolling here at GCD. I am a hair designer and have been for 19 years. This job suits my ADD quite well and my need for instant gratification from something that doesn’t lose my attention easily. I was sure I couldn’t focus long enough to make it through a class and actually pass it. I talked myself out of enrolling for some time. I had all kinds of excuses but the biggest one was that I did not have enough time. Time is something we all get the same amount of and choose to use in the way we decide is most important.

 

I finally quit ignoring the gentle, consistent tug at my heart to enroll at GCD and took the plunge. Thank God there was an amazing person that answered the other end of the phone and literally walked me through every aspect of the process; I’m sure she was tired of seeing my number pop up on the caller ID but she always answered the phone with grace and guidance. I was ready to quit the first week of school and another student there talked me out of it, how grateful I am now for these two people that helped usher me into a new era. I now have a much more positive outlook on my journey and have earned high marks so far in all my courses here at GCD. Every single day I am proving myself wrong; there is no place for the previous negativity that once controlled my thoughts.
I am still a hair designer and raising two beautiful kiddos and have somehow found time to add in school and still go the park with my sweet babies and not miss out on the life God had planned for me. God has a plan that involves me trusting Him and letting Him manage my time. So, what do I do all day? I am walking out God’s plan for me, one step at a time.

Grace College of Divinity was named one of the top colleges for Online Bachelor’s degree in ministry

Grace College of Divinity was named one of the best colleges for online ministry degrees by bestcolleges.com.   Bestcolleges.com examined multiple colleges with Online Bible College programs and ranked them nation-wide.  The rankings were based on courses offered, student outcomes, and other institutional metrics. Grace College of Divinity’s Bachelor of Divinity degree was ranked as the second best online Bachelor’s in Ministry in the country!

Student Spotlight: Jonathan Fletcher

Bible College Student:Manna Church teaching pastor

Meet our student spotlight of the week through his answers to a few questions about his life and what he is doing right now.

What is your current occupation?

         “I am the Teaching Pastor and Executive Place Site Pastor at Manna Church.”

How did GCD help you get there?

         “GCD has helped me by providing sound Biblical training to assist in my vocation.”

What was your favorite thing about GCD?

        “My favorite thing about GCD is that we are not just about people learning information. Rather, we attempt to provide sound Biblical teaching that helps people understand more about God, while at the same time helping them use that knowledge in practical ministry experience.”

Experience at GCD.

      “I have taken classes as both an undergraduate and in the master’s program, and I have found both of those experiences to be incredibly insightful. I feel better prepared as a pastor through my involvement at GCD.” 

There you have it, Pastor Jonathan Fletcher everybody. If you want to learn more about our students here at GCD and want to see more about our students’ lives let us know in the comments below.