The American Church Magazine - Nov/Dec 2015

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Dedicated to helping the church in America find their purpose, define their mission and reach their community. Vol. 4

November/December 2015

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No. 6

Editorial I’ve Been Divorced By Steve Hewitt

Reviving the Small Church Christmas Joy By Michael Henderson

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Cover Story Ministering to the Divorced By Steve Hewitt

Editor-in-Chief

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Steve Hewitt - shewitt@outreach.com

Article The Pending Exit of the Clergy By Thom Schultz

Contributing Editors Thom Schultz Tim Kurtz Michael Henderson

Copy Editor

Rachael Mitchell

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No Longer Church As Usual Emotional Weaning By Tim Kurtz

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Editorial

I’ve Been Divorced Saying those words are still very hard for me. Since I had been a pastor, and to be honest had some pretty negative thoughts about couples that allowed their marriage to end in divorce, it was really hard for me to deal with my own divorce. But, since I am “outing” myself, I can tell you that God can use all of our disasters if we let Him. Since I have been divorced, I have a better understanding of what those going through divorce feel and experience. My wife (she is a widow) and I have used my experiences to help hundreds of other Christian singles. We started a divorce support group at the church where we were members. Soon we had people coming from all over our city. They were all Christians, and most felt abandoned by the church. Helping them, loving them, supporting them through this tragedy was a great blessing, one that my wife and I are going to be starting again soon. There are other “divorce support” programs and materials out there on the market, so why are we creating our own? Because we found that most of what was already available missed the mark in one way or the other. It is important to support people while their lives are being turned upside down as the result of a divorce. However, it is also important to help them work through the process and realize they need to start a quest to heal if they are ever to have a good relationship in their future. Divorce can destroy their trust and their ability to have a relationship with anyone, including their family and friends. However, if they can work through the process of getting through the divorce and move from where they are at the time of the divorce to finding the tools to help them restore the emotional health issues that played a part in causing their divorce, then there is hope to heal the hurt. I am sure I will be receiving a lot of emails and comments about this editorial and this month’s cover story. Watch for more information next issue on how you and your church can start a divorce support group ministry that can really impact your community, as well as your church! Reaching out and ministering to the growing single adults in your community just may be the best missional opportunity ever!

Together We Serve Him,

Steve Hewitt, President of Christian Digital Publishers shewitt@outreach.com

The American Church Magazine®

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Cover Story

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By Steve Hewitt

onfusion abounds regarding divorce in America. Are 50% of marriages ending in divorce? Is the divorce rate climbing or has it started to decline? One thing we know is that the total number of divorces is declining BUT this is because marriages in total have declined. There are less young people in America than before. The baby boomers are now hitting 60. All of this impacts the statistics on the divorce rate. However, consider this! We now know that MOST adults over the age of 18 in America are SINGLE, NOT MARRIED. What does this mean? It means that most older adults were married back in the 70’s but are now divorced, and most young people are avoiding marriage altogether. Consider this statement from a report in the Huffington Post last year, “It becomes apparent that in the more recent decades, the divorce rate has not been declining as rapidly for those over age 35. The result is that people well into their 60s are divorcing at a higher rate than in previous decades.” (Huffington Post, “Is the US Divorce Rate Going Up Rather Than Going Down?” 03/06/2014.) The American Church Magazine®

Churches are all for marriage. We have marriage retreats, encourage marriages, and recognize those that have reached milestone anniversaries. However, we seem to also be declining in numbers and MOST adults outside are church walls are NOT married. I will share with you that most are hurting as a result. Divorce is a tragedy, it is a disaster, it hurts, it is painful, and those going through a divorce need to be ministered to. However, for most churches, they do not have a program to help minister to those who have gone or who are going through this catastrophe. Why? I believe if your community suffered the damaging impact of a tornado or flood, your church would November/December 2015

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leap into action to provide resources and meet the needs of those in your community that have been hurt by the disaster. Yet, knowing that divorce is impacting so many outside your walls (and inside your walls as well), we seem to just ignore those that are suffering. And, when couples have problems with their marriage and head towards a divorce, they normally stop attending church due to the embarrassment, shame, and feelings of judgement. I suspect there are two reasons why churches are not involved in a ministry to help those that have gone through a divorce. First, they don’t understand why a divorce breaks up a marriage and second, they don’t know how to help. Many church single groups center on helping young people date and find a mate. Few are designed for older singles and most offer nothing in the way of helping them to learn how to have a better relationship. First, why do couples, even Christian couples end up in a divorce? Here are some of the reasons I found while searching the Internet: • We live in a disposable society, so when a marriage has problems, people are quick to just throw it away. • Our expectations of what a marriage is supposed to be are childish, led by movies, songs and television fantasy. • People aren’t committed to anything these days, including keeping their marriages alive. • The sexual revolution has destroyed the concept of monogamous relationships and marriage for many. One partner has cheated on the other and was unfaithful. • Our nation’s morals have decayed, and sin is rampant, so divorce is now more acceptable.

who have gone or are going through a divorce do not really understand WHY it is happening. As a result of thinking they know, they remarry believing they will fix the problem that ended their first marriage. As a result 75% of second marriages also end in divorce. Almost 90% of third marriages end in divorce. People don’t get better at relationships by accident, but end up in a divorce for the same unknown reason that ended their first marriage. People get divorced because of abuse, yet I know couples that were able to survive abuse and save their marriage. People get divorced because someone was unfaithful, yet I can point to a num-

Did you know that these are not the real reasons people end up in a divorce? In fact, most people The American Church Magazine®

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ber of couples who survived this and their marriage has flourished for decades afterwards. The REAL reason people get divorced is found in core mental and emotional relationship deficiencies. And these deficiencies have grown as our society has changed the definition of marriage and our economic goals for the family. To understand the REAL reason some people end up divorced, you need to understand what has changed in our society in the last 50 years when it comes to relationships and marriage. These reasons are economic as well as social, and they are responsible for the rise in divorces we saw in the 70’s and 80’s. The structure of the home changed from a one-parent income to a two-parent income. We lost the “stay at home” parent. In addition, our society became more mobile with families no longer living near each other. How did this impact divorce decades later? The brain does most of its development during the first three years of life. If a child is moved around, spending time with baby sitters, day care, etc., and not given the proper opportunity to bond with a parent, that part of the brain that helps maintain relationships doesn’t develop properly. Since the 1980’s the rise of BPD (Borderline Personality Disorders) has been discovered and diagnosed. BPD impacts a person’s ability to maintain a relationship, and BPD is on the rise as a result of the way children are being born into families with a new social foundation which denies the child’s ability to develop their brain for future relationships. In 2015, it is estimated that 9.1% of the US population has BPD or other personality disorders. Attachment disorders are also a large part of why people end up divorced. If they have an Ambivalent or Avoidant attachment style (also established in their first few years of life), they will have difficulties feeling loved. Therefore, in their minds, they can list a lot of different reasons why their marriages ended, when in reality they need to address their attachment disorders. There is much more to this subject than I can share in this one article, but WE as a church NEED to stop judging those who’s marriages end in divorce. It is not about their level of commitment, or their desire to follow God. They need to be ministered too. They need help with the pain, anger, depression and emotional issues that go with a broken marriage. And we need to understand that regardless of how they are acting out their public recovery, they are in a state of enormous hurt, a hurt that will keep them The American Church Magazine®

from enjoying what God intended for their lives, a healthy relationship! Second, we have a real problem with the way many churches are trying to help Christian singles. A singles ministry, especially one for those that have suffered through a divorce, needs to change their focus from fellowships, dances, and opportunities to help people “date”, to a ministry that provides relationship help to those that are hurting. If not, they will just repeat the disasters of their previous marriage(s). A great divorce program for those going through or who have gone through a divorce is vital. My wife and I have been involved in leading divorce support groups in churches for almost a decade. However, we have not been in love with the programs that are presently on the market. They seek to help with the emotional issues of divorce, the pain, anger, depression, etc., that comes from a divorce, but they fail to really build from a basis of understand what caused these people to be in this situation in the first place. We need to help those going through a divorce know that God still loves them and has a plan for them. They need to move away from simply blaming their ex, to understanding what needs to be fixed within them to enable healthy relationships in the future. As a result of my burden in wanting to help those who have gone or are going through a divorce, I have been creating my own divorce support group materials, which should be released the first quarter of 2016. I want to encourage churches everywhere to reach out to their members who have gone through a divorce, as well as provide a ministry opportunity for others in their community who have also suffered the pain of divorce. I believe it is a real ministry need for most communities, and one the church should embrace. We are about helping people in need, and in our country, there is an obvious need to help undo the damage (divorce) that has come from the broken and dysfunctional families that has caused our present crises. Over the holidays, as you consider your missional and ministry opportunities to reach out to your community, I would encourage you to consider starting a divorce support group, followed by a singles ministry that will help older singles repair their relationship scars in order to have a full life in relationships with others.

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Reviving the Small Church

Christmas Joy By Michael Henderson

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. —Titus 2:11

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ike most boys and girls, Christmas was first instilled in my heart while I was young. One of my earliest memories was waking up to a lot of snow and a white Christmas tree with red shiny ornaments and presents tucked beneath. Now, to a small child that may be all that is needed to procure interest in the day, but it wasn’t. There was also the sound of Christmas bells, music in the background—both traditional hymns and Sinatra swoons, a nativity scene, lights on the house, and of course the cookies and candy. How could a child forget that? As I got a little older other things began to stand out at Christmas. I slowly began to be captivated by the spiritual side of the holiday. Our Christmas Eve program at church was one of the tools the Lord used to instill its truth in my heart. At once, it became more than the gifts and toys and the cookies and candy. I was beginning to fully realize its meaning. On the evening before the morn, we would sing the carols and then light candles in preparation for the Christmas story which would soon be read. It was during those times that a sense of hallowed awe—even expectation—began surrounding and warming my heart. It was then that I truly fell in love with Christmas. Christmas became a time I anticipated! The American Church Magazine®

Since those earlier days of youth my anticipation has not let up. I still sing the carols and play the music; I still make the cookies with my children; I still read the Christmas story at night; and most of all, I still pray for peace to my one and only Savior. During the season I find an increased level of joy in my heart because I know what reflecting upon the incarnation will mean to me and all others who hear. For me, the story never grows old no matter what medium is used to bring it. I was recently amused by the following account I stumbled upon: “On Christmas Eve, 1906, wireless operators on ships off the New England coast wonNovember/December 2015

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They’re “spiritual but not religious.” They’re eager to talk about God, but done sitting through sermons. Want to reach young adults? Start a conversation. They’re looking to participate, not to be an audience. So let them ask hard questions. Grapple with tough stuff. Discover how God is reaching out to them. And Lifetree Café is all about conversation. Relaxing around tables, Lifetree participants hear inspiring stories, tell their own stories…and draw closer to God and each other. On college campuses, at coffee shops, and even in churches, life-changing conversations are underway. When you’re ready to connect, connect with us. We’ll help you provide tested, ready-to-go, hour-long guided conversations that let young adults experience God in a fresh, new way. Call 877-476-8703 or visit Discover.LifetreeCafe.com to learn more. “ D o i n g l i f e . D o i n g g o o d .”

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dered if they’d had a religious experience. Out of the midst of Morse code dots and dashes beeping through their headsets came the sound of a voice reading the Christmas story from the Gospel of Luke and a violin playing Silent Night. The voice wished them a merry Christmas, and then the dots and dashes started up again. The voice was that of Reginald Fessenden (1866-1932), an inventor and engineer who had been working on producing voice radio since Marconi’s first wireless broadcast across the Atlantic.” 1 Can you imagine the faces of those radio operators? Soon the startled looks would give way to gleaming smiles of joy as the welcomed interruption wafted on. But even more awe inspiring is the choice of reading on that hallowed night; the Christmas story to the soothing sound of the violin resonating with the tune of Silent Night. Like me, Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153) was also taken in by the Christmas story as a child. Historians have recorded that “One Christmas Eve, as a child, he had a dream about the infant Christ in the manger; and the memory of it, and consequent devotion to the mystery of the Word made flesh, remained with him throughout his life.”2 Later in life, he became known to Rhineland Jews as the “Righteous Gentile” for his work in stamping out a heretical attempt to wipe them out.3 The effect of Christ in His life was evident as manifested through his compassion. Christmas Joy Today The Christmas story is so powerful that 2000 years later it still moves hearts to joy. That being the case can you imagine the joy on the faces of Joseph and Mary the night the angels sang? How about those shepherds keeping watch over the sacrificial lambs in the fields of Bethlehem? As the light shone about them and the angels shouted, “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” (Luke 2:14) the scripture says they became afraid. But soon, their fear would turn to excited joy as they ran to make widely known the good news of God becoming man! “Joy to the world! Salvation has come! In the form of a child the Savior has come.” Isaiah tells us, “For He shall grow up before Him [Father] as a tender plant, And as a root out of dry ground” (Isa.53:2). And again, “There shall The American Church Magazine®

come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots. The Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon Him, The Spirit of wisdom and understanding, The Spirit of counsel and might, The Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD” (Isaiah 11:1-2). The Christmas story tells me that we have a Lord and Savior who loves us like no other. Truly, He became like us to represent us: To taste the trials of temptation, Never succumbing; To taste the pains of growth, Never retreating; To take upon Himself our sin, Never regretting; To open the path into the holiest, Never lamenting. His victory reached from scar to scar; Our Mediator; Our Lord; Our God; Our King “For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace There will be no end, Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, To order it and establish it with judgment and justice, From that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this” (Isaiah 9:6-7). Whether it is Peanuts’ Linus on stage with Charlie Brown and the gang shouting to TV audiences around the world or the late night radio personality reflecting the story in sounds and music, a joy that surpasses understanding can still be felt, seen and heard as God’s gift to the world brings everlasting joy to all who will hear Him. Merry Christmas! In Christ alone, “the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men.” 1 - A Science Odyssey: People and Discoveries: KDKA begins to broadcast. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aso/databank/entries/dt20ra.html accessed 10/14/2015 2 - AMG Concise Church History © 2008 by John Hunt Publishing Ltd. Database © 2008 WORDsearch Corp. 3 - ibid

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Article

The Pending Exit of the Clergy By Thom Schultz

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t the conclusion of Group’s Future of the Church summit, someone asked me, “What struck you most this week?” My answer surprised even me. The summit participants had explored several major trends that will affect the future of the church. We considered the implications of the growing population of “Dones”–those who have left the organized church, but not their faith. We explored non-traditional forms of church–house churches, dinner churches, even a surfer ministry. We experienced new and developing forms of corporate worship. But what struck me most wasn’t even on the agenda. It came from the crowd. I was struck by the number of church leaders who quietly expressed their deep distress with their life in the church. After summit panelist and author Josh Packard described the Almost Dones–active church people who are ready to walk away–murThe American Church Magazine®

murs spread across the room. “He’s describing me,” a pastor said. These leaders reflected a growing sense of desperation that is becoming palpable across the country. They’re seriously considering an exodus from congregational ministry. I don’t believe they represent the majority of ministry professionals, but their numbers and their angst seem to be growing. Why are we seeing this malignant dissatisfaction? There are many factors. For some people, it’s the bleak reality of being a part of a shrinking institution. It’s true, the majority of American churches are stuck or in decline. One pastor said, “I’m presiding over a dying organization. I’ve realized I’m in the church hospice business. That’s not a business I want to be in.” November/December 2015

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Others have become disillusioned with the job of minister. “I started with a passion to help people grow in faith,” one leader said. “But I spend most of my time administering things, putting out fires, and stocking toilet paper in the rest rooms. This isn’t what I signed up for.” And some leaders have been so wounded by church fights and personal attacks, they’re no longer willing to make the emotional investment needed to knit a healthy family of God. “They call it family,” one said. “But I’m not considered part of the family. I’m treated like a dispensable hired hand.” I ache for these fellow servants. With few exceptions, they sincerely wish to serve the Lord and make a difference in the lives of those around them. But, while some feel dejected and rejected, many others seem to ride above these draining factors and find true and sustaining joy. What’s the difference? Some observations and recommendations:

side and outside the congregation. Build a personal support system–beyond your spouse or family members. Stay Jesus-centered. Make time to nurture your own relationship with Christ. Do what works for you to enjoy and grow your most important friendship. As we consider the future of the church, we will need joy-filled, humble, healthy, Jesus-centered servants to lead us.

Save Time. Preach BeTTer.

Measure the right stuff. Focus on the stories, not the statistics. Don’t fixate on the ABCs–attendance, buildings, and cash. Remind yourself and your congregation of the miraculous things that God is doing through you and your people. Beware of the pedestal– and the hamster wheel. Help everyone see “we’re all in this together.” Ministry, doing the work of the Lord, making spiritual discoveries, and loving the community are not the exclusive assignments of the paid professionals. Reclaim the priesthood of all believers.

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Invest in friendships. Get past the fear of being betrayed or hurt. Develop true friendships with positive people–inThe American Church Magazine®

November/December 2015

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No Longer Church As Usual

Emotional Weaning By Tim Kurtz

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y now those of you who follow my articles know that I am a proponent of the house church. I am actively transitioning the fellowship my wife and I founded over 23 years ago, into a network of vibrant, interdependent house churches. This is a process that some have said is impossible to do. Although I disagree, this transition presents some challenges for us. In this article I want to deal with one of those challenges, EMOTIONAL WEANING. Emotional weaning can be defined as the internal struggle of disconnecting oneself from one thing to fully embrace another. For us, it is navigating through the process of leaving the traditions we are so accustomed to in order to embrace a system of ‘doing church’ that is foreign to us. It is becoming what we believe God has called us to be, rather than remaining in the place our comfort wants us to be. In previous writings I have made it clear that we are not angry with the traditional church. We are building upon the revelation God has given us about His Church. With that being said, the emotional weaning process is real. We still have strong emotional ties to a system that we know that God is calling us to leave. The emotions we have are exacerbated following five by factors. Each one creates its own challenges.

of church, as we know it, are disappearing. Choirs, praise teams, ushers, programs and special events are becoming less important; but they still have a draw on our psyche. We have done these things for so long that it feels abnormal not to get up on Sunday morning with the intent of doing them.

2. Well-meaning Distractors Since beginning our journey, we have been getting advice from well-meaning people who clearly don’t see the direction we are taking. Some even say the same things we say, but frame them in the context of the church system they understand. Implicit in much of what they say is that biblical truths, like submitting to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, the priesthood of all believers, the full expression of the Holy Spirit, covenant relationships, and meeting the needs among us, can only be realized in the traditional church context. 1. Habitual Church Stuff The transition we are undertaking is moving to- For us, their advice is often compelling. Their genuine wards a simpler, more organic form of gathering. concern, at times, will make you question what you Gathering from house to house focuses more on cov- are doing. They think they are helping, but in reality enant relationships with Jesus Christ at the core. All they are distractors who have the potential of drawof the trappings (and somewhat distracting practices) ing us off course. The American Church Magazine®

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3. Loss of Friends and Allies David wrote, “For it was not an enemy who insulted me, then I could have endured it. Neither was it he who hated me who raised himself up against me, then I would have hid myself from him. But it was you, a man like me, my companion, and my familiar friend. We took sweet fellowship together. We walked in God’s house with company” (Psalms 55:12-14 WEB). I have found that most people are more loyal to their fears, than they are to you. It is painful when those who you thought were your friends or allies turn and abandon you. We have suffered such losses. Transition exposes those whose hearts are really not with you (1John 2:19). 4. Dealing with Critics I teach that critics can be your friend. Why? Because those who are critical of you have no loyalty to your feelings. A person who dislikes you will often attack your work and your character. However, at times they, inadvertently, expose faults and weaknesses you need to address in your life. Too often your friends will love you in your dysfunction, whereas a critic will expose what they believe are your deficiencies in an attempt to discredit you. Whenever you do something outside of the accepted norm, expect to arouse the critics. Whether it is criticism of our mission or attacks on our character, we have taken the posture of Nehemiah. We know that the hand of the Lord is upon us to do this work. 5. The Urge to Return to ‘Egypt’ Conflict makes everyone uncomfortable. Dissention absorbs a ton of energy. The lack of resources creates discouragement. The longing for ‘what was’ is at the core of emotional weaning. Israel often spoke of going back to Egypt (Exodus 14:11-12). Lot’s wife died looking back (Genesis 19:26). Terah, Abraham’s father, died because he could not get past the place where his son died (Genesis 11:28; 11:32). We slow our progress because in times of discomfort we compare our present condition against the ease of traditional and past practices. The common system of doing church is predictable. Resolving conflicts, dissention, and lack of resources is often scripted by organizational or denominational policies. House, simple and organic church life can be messy. There are no cut and dried means for anything. It’s trust God and follow the Holy Spirit all the way. You are reminded that God’s calling does not come with a guarantee of comfort. What must be done? How can we overcome the emotional ties we have to our previous church sysThe American Church Magazine®

tems and denominations? How do we keep from being drawn back into a place that we know God has called us to leave? I leave you with three things that will help. 1. First, be clear of God’s direction, and don’t lose sight of it. I often read and re-read promises I have from the Lord that I have recorded in my prayer journal. Nearly every time I pray, I thank God for His mandate on my life. This keeps me focused. My decision making is clearer because I measure everything I do against my calling and mission in life. This is the first thing I recommend to you. Know what you are called to do. Keep a journal and refer to it often. Trust God to order your steps and to keep your steps in order. 2. Secondly, stay committed to your journey. Abraham left the Ur of Chaldees for a place that he could only recognize in his spirit. There will be problems, issues, and distractions, but stay committed to completion – even if you don’t have a clear picture of what completion looks like. Giving up is not an option. God has called you; and He will see to it that you make it. 3. Finally, don’t straddle the fence. Know where you stand. I am often reminded of Jonathan. He loved David (a type of what is new and revelatory); but he remained connected to Saul (a type of religious tradition). The result was that Jonathan died with Saul, when he could have lived with David. My encouragement to you is don’t die in the wrong place. We are admonished in scripture to make our calling and election sure (2Peter 1:10). I remain convinced that Jesus is still building His Church – His way in the 21st Century, and He’s doing it with believers like you and me. We will wean ourselves from the past. Not because we are mad at it, but because the Lord is bringing His church to a fresh place of maturity and strength.

Tim Kurtz is the founder of THE CENTER FOR NEW TESTAMENT CHURCH DEVELOPMENT whose mission is to plant regional churches that reflect the values and structure of the first century church. Like us on Facebook: www.facebook. com/newtestamentchurchdevelopment Website: www.ntcdonline.org Twitter: @timkurtz712 November/December 2015

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