Strange things in Xenos

 

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Strange Things in Xenos

or Why Xenos will never be a model for other churches

By Dennis McCallum (/web/20130301022527/http://www.xenos.org/personal/den.htm)

Some observers have noted that Xenos is unusual. We
agree. Our observations of other churches indicate that
1. High level of training we are different than most churches in quite a few ways. for home church leaders

Some are central, and some are fairly peripheral. Of
course every group has its idiosyncrasies, but Xenos
seems stranger than usual. Why do we feel the need to
do things differently? That depends. Xenos didn't come
out of an existing church, so we had no tradition to
serve. And we realize that other churches have
approaches that may be just as good or even better
than ours. We have agreed we don't want to be different
just to be different. But at the same time, we find that
these differences are a good way to understand the
thinking and values behind Xenos. Most of our odd
features are the result of our own reasoning process
and experience. For each feature, click to read a short explanation of what the difference is, and why we do it
that way. Please note that we don't claim other churches
(#worship) should be like us. We learn from other churches all the

time, and appreciate that there is more than one way to skin a cat!

Explanations

Home group leadership training standards higher than normal.

(#leadership)

2. Ministry houses

(#minhouse)

3. No designated giving

(#giving)

4. High proportion of converts (#converts)

5. Eldership limited in earnings and assets

(#elderlimit)

6. No worship services

7. Home group leaders handle all weddings, visitations and funerals (#weddings)

8. All staff and eldership required to be in a home group (#homegrpstaff)

9. Home group leaders

How churches manage to train competent leaders

during a one- to eight-week training program is a handle all church complete mystery to us at Xenos. Our training program discipline (#discipline)

takes several years of classroom and field training. We allow people to become leaders with relatively few qualifications. But if they want to remain leaders, they must complete their training over the next three years. Our typical leader has completed:

10. Staff hiring mostly limited to members

(#hiring)

11. High level of Bible

210 hours of classroom instruction with homework and content (#content)

graded exams;
Two to five years of personal mentoring from an older believer
Have either won non-Christians to Christ, or at least brought people who were converted
Have won one or more individuals into a personal discipleship relationship;
Have a proven character like
that required for deacons (/web/20130301022527/http://www.xenos.org/classes/um1-4.htm) in 1 Tim. 3.

Why do we call for such a high level of training for leaders

12. Three-level structure instead of two (#3level)

13. Church planting is a prerequisite for high leadership roles (#planters)

14. Urban community development ministry far more extensive (#uc)

15. Entire teams formed, funded and sent to foreign fields (#missions)

16. Most home groups with team leadership

(#leaderteams)

17. Generate all our own children's curriculum

(#children)

18. Most adults involved in discipleship pairings

(#discipleship)

19. Extraordinarily high percentage of those in youth groups are non- Xenos kids (#xenosyouth)

20. No scripted ministry approach for lay leaders

(#unscripted)

21. Students do expository Scripture teachings to large and small meetings (#studentteachers)

22. Home support teams for missions

(#missionssupport)

23. No formal membership (#membership)

24. Two lead pastors

instead of one (#2pastors)

25. Question and Comment time at main meetings (#questions)

26. Strange name (#name) 27. Unusual view of

Confidentiality

(#confidentiality) (/web/20130301022527/http://www.xenos.org/teachings/topical/xsi/2001/XSI2001-DennisMcCallum.htm)

?

First, Xenos home group leaders are responsible for leading and caring for groups that typically range from 15 to 60 people. These groups are "home churches," not cell groups like in many churches (#3level) . A home church a medium-sized group with a team of leaders. Since each home group takes care of its own leadership training, evangelism, pastoral work, teaching, worship, etc., we believe leaders need to be competent spiritual ministers (deacons) who are well-trained and capable of some sophistication. When you think about what leaders have to do, you see why:

We expect our leaders to motivate their people biblically, which entails not just relying on group-think or sociological pressure, but actually persuading members that a biblical lifestyle is the way to live.
Such persuasion implies leaders know the Bible well enough to be persuasive in all major areas of Christian teaching.

Our leaders have to be prepared to answer questions about all areas of Christian teaching and thought.
They have to be prepared to lead their home church in waging spiritual warfare, so they must know about Satan and how to avoid aberrant teaching in this area.

They need to be competent to counsel people through typical non-clinical problems. They have to conform to the character requirements of deacons as detailed in Scripture, which often entails some years of growth.
In most cases, they have to be mature enough to work on a leadership team without competing or fighting.
They have to be able to train their upcoming leaders in evangelism, follow-up, discipleship, pastoral work, Bible teaching, etc. This implies they know these areas themselves.
They have to serve as models of Christian living. In other words, their own lives must be stable and their relationships (including marriages) should be basically healthy.

Considering what leaders need to be able to do, we don't understand how churches could develop good leaders in a few weeks or even a few months. In fact, we think one of the reasons churches are reluctant to fully delegate true responsibility to their lay leaders is their shallow level of training. They know intuitively they can't trust their under-trained leaders with sophisticated ministry because they are incompetent. But if this is true, who's fault is it?

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Ministry Houses

Xenos operates over 60 rooming houses dedicated to discipleship and evangelism. These houses typically have five to 12 men or women (but not both) living in them. The members usually subscribe to a ministry house covenant

(/web/20130301022527/http://www.xenos.org/ministries/college/minhouseagmt.htm) , which is an agreement to be accountable to their room mates for involvement and basic Christian living. During our history, ministry houses have been exceptionally effective at developing leaders in Xenos. They also cooperate with their respective home churches in outreach projects and parties. Single Christians in Xenos commonly live in a ministry house for several years. College home churches (/web/20130301022527/http://www.xenos.org/ministries/college/minhouse.htm) all operate two to five houses each, and the overwhelming majority of college members live in ministry houses. Adult home churches also have ministry houses for their singles.

Ministry houses have proven to be a superb alternative to sending kids to Christian colleges. At Xenos, we have been very disappointed with the fruit born at Christian colleges, where students constantly surrounded with Christians seem to begin viewing Christianity as ho-hum. These students commonly come back spouting doctrinal trivia, but with no idea how to witness or relate to the real world.

We also notice kids sent to secular universities without the support of a strong Christian community usually lose their spiritual vigor or worse. With ministry houses, kids get personal support and real community strong enough to counteract the powerful draw of our culture. At the same time, they venture into the secular world every day where they have to fight for their faith, and that leads to strength and realism in their walks.
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No Designated Giving

Most churches permit members to make special gifts to particular expenses in the church. At Xenos that's rarely allowed. If people want to make a donation to Xenos, they give their money to the general fund only. Our reason? We have observed that wealthy donors often attempt to influence the direction of the church through designated giving. In this way, the wealthy may end up having more influence than the poor, and according to James 2, that would be partiality. In the book of Acts, we see the believers laying their gifts at the feet of the apostles. In other words, those who are trusted with spiritual leadership should also direct the finances of the church.

At Xenos, our financial decisions are made by the elders and by the Fiscal Support Team (/web/20130301022527/http://www.xenos.org/admin/fst.htm) (FST). The FST is a group of more than 1,800 households who meet once a year for a weekend. There, they go over the whole financial picture for every area of ministry and make decisions about fiscal priorities. We think it would be wrong for people to overthrow the authority of the FST and the elders through designated giving.

On several occasions wealthy members have protested this policy, even demanding that it be changed, or they would leave the church. We explained but did not change our position. A number of wealthy attendees have made good on their threat, which we were sorry to see, because we could have used their powerful financial help. Return to the List (#top)

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High Proportion of Converts

According to several recent studies on churches in America, over 90% of growth in growing churches is the result of Christians transferring from other evangelical churches. Disturbed by these findings, Xenos leaders did a church-wide survey of

our own membership in the spring of 2005. We were pleased and a bit surprised to find that 82% of Xenos members claim they were not involved in any church at the time they began coming to Xenos. Over 60% of our members reported that they met Christ at Xenos.

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Elders Limited in Income and Assets

Some of the elders at Xenos (leaders.htm) work full-time for the church, some part time, and others in secular careers. But they have all agreed to limit their incomes and assets, whether from the church or from other sources, including spouses' incomes. Our reason? First, we believe materialistic avarice is the curse of American society, often including the American church. As elders, we want to set an example for the church that says we can live at the need level, not at the greed level. Notice Paul did this by working hard and living simple in Thessalonica"We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to make ourselves a model for you to follow." (2 Thess. 3:9)

The level to which elders' incomes are limited is very comfortable so this is hardly asceticism!

We also observe that many churches are controlled by the wealthy, and are insensitive to the poor and even to students. When wealthy people get the church to commit to expensive options, the church ends up in debt and even more beholden to the wealthy.

Wealthy church members often want to pay others for doing ministry they should be willing to do themselves. For a number of reasons, we feel it's good for elders to live at an income level similar to, or below most of our membership.

Wealth can easily develop into an attraction that competes with the Lord for our attention. We want only elders who would gladly disown their wealth in order to have the opportunity to serve God. Those who refuse to divest themselves may be signaling a problem. We want our elders to have their attention focused on spiritual matters, not on the playthings of the wealthy.

Not only elders' incomes, but also their assets, come under scrutiny. In American culture, it is not unusual for adults to receive an inheritance from a wealthy relative that could unbalance their lives. A man or woman who hardly thought about money before, may become fascinated by money after receiving a million dollar inheritance. Therefore, we call on elders to disclose their assets, and if they are excessive (beyond a home and some modest savings or retirement), we agree to divest ourselves of the excess.

Although we feel our policy on this matter is somewhat soft, we think it is in general harmony with 2 Tim. 2:3,4, where Paul urges Timothy, "Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier."

On more than one occasion, the elders' limited income and assets have served to dissuade would-be elders from joining the board on more than one occasion in the past.
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No Worship Services

Visitors to Xenos are always amazed (and often appalled) that we don't conduct worship services. This often leads to the commonly heard question, "Why doesn't Xenos worship?" Xenos leaders are never happy to hear this question, since it signals a misunderstanding. We certainly do worship the Lord! The problem is that the modern Western church has a very specific understanding of what worship is, and visitors do not find that particular form of worship at Xenos.

Xenos leaders are not convinced the New Testament supports the modern American concept of the "worship service." The early church had large meetings as well as home church meetings (Acts 2, 22). However, as we have studied these and related passages, we do not believe these large meetings were for the purpose of corporate worship, at least not as we see it in America today, with music, choirs, liturgy, etc. The descriptions of these large meetings never mention worship as their goal. Instead, they appear to be meetings for teaching and evangelism. Some forms of worship, including hymns, revelations, and tongues, were practiced at the home group meetings, according to 1 Cor. 14:26. This suggests to us that home groups are the best place for group worship (/web/20130301022527/http://www.xenos.org/homegroups/worship.htm) in song.

At a deeper level, we believe the modern church's idea of a worship service is based on the Old Testament concept (/web/20130301022527/http://www.xenos.org/classes/um1- 1.htm) of temple service, and in this sense is misleading. We believe the New Testament teaches that worship (/web/20130301022527/http://www.xenos.org/classes/um2- 2.htm) is something we do all the time (/web/20130301022527/http://www.xenos.org/teachings/nt/romans/dennis/rom8-2.htm) , through at least five different modalities, of which singing is only one. Others specifically mentioned in the New Testament (using worship terminology) are:

Financial giving (Heb. 13:16; Phil. 4:18) Evangelism (Rom. 15:15,16)
Works of service (Heb. 13:16)
Praise through prayer (Heb. 13:15)
Devoting your whole life to Christ (Rom. 12:1).

Xenos charges home churches with the mission of corporate worship. Our large meetings are for teaching and for outreach to non-Christians. Some home churches worship in song, and some just worship in prayer. Celebrating communion (/web/20130301022527/http://www.xenos.org/teachings/nt/luke/dennis/luke22-1.htm) and baptisms are also handled by home churches. The approach is up to each group. See a central teaching outline (/web/20130301022527/http://www.xenos.org/teachings/nt/1cor/gary/1cor11-2.htm) or view a RealMedia presentation (/web/20130301022527/http://www.xenos.org/teachings/nt/luke/dennis/luke22-1.htm) on this topic.

Our unusual approach to this issue has had an interesting and unintended result. Christian visitors from other churches come to Xenos and are often dismayed to learn the worship services they are used to are not available in our church. Some also miss the cross, altar, and other forms of iconography in our auditorium. As a result, many of these visitors leave Xenos for a church more in line with their expectations. Over the years, Xenos leaders have become resigned to this pattern, because we feel called to reach those who don't like going to church anyway. As those who long for a church worship service move on, they open up space for those in our field of outreach who are delighted they don't have to sing Christian songs at our big meetings. Over the years, this filter has caused Xenos to have an extraordinarily "un-churchy" feel, according to most visitors.

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Home group leaders handle all weddings, visitations and funerals

In most churches, the staff handles functions such as these. In order to marry members, home church leaders have to be ordained by the church, and this is something most churches are reluctant to do. Churches don't want to proliferate ordained pastors who may not be well qualified. This, of course, leads to the conclusion mentioned earlier: that we must hold higher qualifications for our home church leaders (#leadership) .

At Xenos, we not only allow home church leaders to carry out these functions with their members, we require it. If a couple approached one of the senior elders and asked to be married, we would point out that they need to ask their home church leaders to marry them. In a church where scores of marriages may occur every year, our top leaders would be unable to do much besides marry people every weekend if not for this policy. Visitation of the sick would require even more hours for the pastoral staff.

But at Xenos, sick people are visited and counseled by people in their home churches. When visiting pastors ask how we find the time to disciple new leaders, write, study, travel, teach classes, etc., we point out that half the hours normal pastors would spend in basic pastoral functions are covered by our home group leaders, enabling us to focus more time on discipleship and equipping. Our elders consider this oddity one of the really important features of Xenos, opening the door to lay ministry in a number of ways.
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All staff and eldership required to be in a home group

This is certainly not unique, but in our experience, it is relatively unusual. Particularly important to us is that our top leadership is fully involved and actually lead regular home churches. When consulting with churches interested in building their home group networks, we often find that the senior pastor and others aren't in a home group for a variety of reasons, and have no intention of joining one. We find it unlikely that such churches will succeed in building high-caliber home-based body life.

For one thing, if the top leadership isn't on board with the home fellowship agenda, how likely is it that the church will see this as a central issue? People also will quickly draw the conclusion that community of this kind must not be essential for spiritual health, because what's good for the goose is apparently not good for the gander.

We think it is important that those on staff for pastoral counseling be leaders of home groups. This is because we have noticed a tendency in those involved in healing ministries to discount the importance of mission and leadership unless they are themselves vitally involved as leaders. Finally, top leaders who aren't involved weekly in personal discipleship and motivating a home group will not be drawing their illustrations and lessons from that experience set. We want our leaders to regularly relate what they are learning in their groups when teaching and speaking.

We also believe the realities of group leadership and personal discipleship often bring to light the truth about Christian leaders' lives. We have seen repeatedly that when a Christian leader begins to develop a personal spiritual problem, it comes to

light first in that person's home group. Likewise, leaders who are drifting into negative territory spiritually are usually the first to begin to downplay the importance of home fellowship ministry, discipleship and personal evangelism. Large-group preaching can be ego-enhancing, but personal discipleship is quiet and obscure background work. That's another reason we consider effective discipleship to be a prerequisite to public ministry.

Finally, we want our paid staff to live the same struggle the rest of our leaders do: balancing career, family and volunteer ministry.
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Home group leaders handle all church discipline

Xenos home churches are like real churches. They carry out all the ministries a normal church would, including all the normal leadership functions. The only difference is that these leaders work under the oversight of our board of elders. Therefore, pastoral problems including those requiring discipline normally come up in the home church.

We believe it falls to these groups to initiate discipline along the lines of Mat. 18. If a case reaches the extreme of exclusion from fellowship, the home church leaders are expected to recommend such action to the elders. The elders and oversight staff will review the case and must agree with the discipline proposed in advance, but the home church leaders will carry out the discipline.

Normally, if the first several attempts to bring change have failed, a meeting is scheduled for committed members of the home group where the errant member can be confronted and admonished by the church. Group members have to be counseled and prepared for an experience so foreign to modern individualistic society. Leaders have to chair the meeting, making sure the tone is loving but firm. They have to make sure Xenos policy (/web/20130301022527/http://www.xenos.org/classes/leadership/appdis.html) and biblical standards (/web/20130301022527/http://www.xenos.org/classes/leadership/discip.html) are followed.

All of these functions require considerable maturity and good judgment on the part of home group leaders. No wonder most churches won't delegate this sensitive area to their home group leaders, especially if their requirements for leadership are low. Return to the List (#top)

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Staff hiring mostly limited to members

At Xenos, we hire all our staff from within the church. We don't consider this to be a biblical mandate, and for that matter, we could hire from outside if the need was great, just as they did in Antioch when Barnabas went to get Paul (Acts 11:25ff). However, we feel we should prefer to hire within the church because of the message this conveys to the church. What will our people conclude if, every time we need a highly qualified leader, we look out to the job market rather than to our own people? Doesn't this suggest they are qualified to lead and serve unless it's a high-level position; but in that case, we have to hire a pro from outside? Isn't this a tacit affirmation of the clergy-laity distinction that has caused so much trouble in the history of the church, yet finds no legitimate basis in the Bible?

Another reason for sticking with members is that people need to know those who

become their leaders. If a person comes from outside, how do the "sheep know his voice," to paraphrase Jesus' words. We find it hard to see how a community can feel confident about a person they have never known.

We know many churches often hire from within, and some even hire most positions from within. But we feel we should hire all positions from within. If we feel some positions are so sophisticated that they require graduate degrees, why shouldn't we challenge members to get those degrees? If the church is charged with equipping the saints for the work of ministry, we believe we should not go outside the local church for ministers except in very unusual circumstances, probably involving extraordinary growth too rapid to allow internal equipping.

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High level of biblical content

Visitors at Xenos often comment on the content level of teachings. Apparently, we teach at a level considered too heavy for public meetings in most churches. Xenos leaders comment that they don't like the simplistic teaching level in some churches, and that they often have felt as though they were being treated like children when in church.

We have observed an overall ignorance among the Christian public (as opposed to Christian leaders, who know plenty) that we find distasteful and want nothing to do with. The often-heard claim that the church today is too occupied with book knowledge and theology is confusing to Xenos leaders. We are aware of a handful of splinter groups where book knowledge might prevail, but the overwhelming majority of the church today seems incredibly ignorant, not only ignorant of contemporary scholarship in secular areas, but even ignorant of the Bible. We agree that even the relatively low level of Bible knowledge in some churches may exceed the level of actual practice of biblical teaching. But we don't believe that further reducing people's knowledge levels will help with their lack of action in obedience. In other words, if people are just studying the Bible but not practicing it, the solution is not to stop studying, but to start practicing. Paul was clear that our love should grow in real knowledge and all discernment (Col. 1:9,10).

We also disagree that the general public is not responsive to sophisticated reasoning. Many Christian leaders seem to feel nonChristians will be bored if we teach too in-depth. But we find people enjoy being challenged in their thinking, and even if they don't understand parts of what they hear, they are still attracted to people who seem to know what they are talking about.
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Three-level structure instead of two

Most cell-based churches in America today have a two-level structure. The large meetings are the corporate worship meetings, and the small meetings are the cell groups. Cell groups, or small groups are usually six to 15 adults. Some churches have their small groups limited to believers only. Others welcome new people. But we have talked to a number of leaders who find themselves torn with this arrangement. Some pastors worry their believer-only small groups will turn inward and lose interest in outreach. The small groups could become Bible clubs for Christians, or "holy huddles." Others worry that because their small groups are always geared toward new people, there are no meetings in the life of their church devoted to discipleship and deep learning. Churches have trouble raising up good

leaders when no meetings offer deep learning and accountability.

At Xenos, most groups have a three-level structure. We have our big meetings like other churches, although they are not worship services (#worship) . We also have home churches, which are groups of 15 to 60 adults. Home churches are open to non-Christian guests, and are really small communities. Within each home church there are typically two or more cell groups (/web/20130301022527/http://www.xenos.org/classes/leadership/cellmod.htm) . Our cell groups are usually four to 12 men or women, but not both. The men's or women's cell groups are for believers only, and usually have a fairly aggressive study schedule. They usually share and pray for each other as well. These are groups devoted to discipleship and spiritual growth. Thus, with our three-level structure, we have home group meetings devoted to outreach as well as some devoted to growth. For many groups, this means a third meeting each week. Other groups alternate the home church and the cell group meetings. We find that our three-level structure addresses all the needs in the church in a way no two-level structure is likely to do. We have experimented with two-level approaches on several occasions, but the groups always seem to go back to three-level arrangements after a time.

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Home church planting is a prerequisite for high leadership roles

Selecting good leaders is always difficult, and it's important, since the quality of any church is not likely to be higher than the quality of it's top leaders. We have observed many churches come under deficient leadership at times, and we want to avoid that. To select good leaders, we begin by limiting our search (#hiring) to our own church. This way, we know the person we are hiring and aren't dependent on secondhand reports from other groups. We try to get people with proven character as the top requirement. Then too, we find that for top staff—those directly involved in leading large sections of the church—we want those who are successful church planters.

Planting home churches in Xenos is very difficult. Home church leaders not only have to take care of a group of 25 or more people, they have to promote evangelism, train new leaders and provide field experience for their new leaders. They have to develop, not just a leader, but a balanced team of leaders and a following to go with the new team. All of this takes some years of work and sacrifice. If the new church plant fails, they come right back to the planting church.

We find the challenge of home church planting is so tough that only quality leaders with a fair amount of experience are able to pull it off. In Xenos, everyone respects successful church planters as those who know what they are talking about when it comes to ministry. That's why we select successful planters as home church consultants, course teachers, elders and other high-profile roles. It's great to be able to pick from those who have repeatedly accomplished a task we are all familiar with. We don't have to wonder how good such leaders are!

One exception to this rule of thumb are leaders who have served in youth ministry. We have many of our best leaders serving as high school or junior high workers, and these often don't engage in home church planting as such. Yet, if they are producing disciples of high quality, they would be respected and hired just as readily as church planters.
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Urban community development ministry uniquely emphasized

Xenos is very heavily committed to Christian community development. We have not found other churches with a ministry analogous to our Urban Concern.

Urban Concern is a $1.3 million-a-year effort to reach a one square-mile area of the inner city in Columbus, and to eventually transform that neighborhood through the love of Christ. The strategy is to focus on children, and stay with them over a 10-to 20-year period, helping their families bring them up in the nurture of the Lord. They will hopefully become leaders who will stay in the neighborhood and take over the process of transformation as indigenous leaders. We focus on both spiritual development and educational/vocational development. Over 20 full-time staff and hundreds of volunteers work in this ministry which operates an after-school program, an inner-city school, job training programs, Bible studies and church planting. Our inner city school has demonstrated improvement in student SAT scores from the 20th percentile typical of that part of town to a startling 60th percentile performance! These kids are in great position to break the cycle of poverty.

Most of the top staff for Urban Concern have actually moved into the inner city to live among the disadvantaged people they serve. Xenos funds the ministry to the tune of around $500,000, and they raise the rest from government and community donations.

Xenos is mainly an underground church-planting movement, but we believe the Bible also charges those with money to care for the poor (/web/20130301022527/http://www.xenos.org/classes/um2-10.htm) . We believe any middle- or upper-class church not actively seeking to share with those who disadvantaged is not fully living out the New Testament picture of the church. Not only do we believe we should care for the poor, but we also should invest in long-term change, not just handouts and short term relief.

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Entire teams formed, funded and sent to foreign fields

According to missions experts like Tom Telford, Xenos' practice in the field of foreign missions is also very unusual. In our experience, most churches send missionaries from their own church either through their denomination, or through a variety of missions agencies. These agencies are usually chosen by the missionaries, based on their own criteria. The church will frequently have some contact with the agency, but most communication with the field is through the missionaries. Many independent churches will find themselves involved with several different agencies, and large churches may work through eight, 12 or more agencies.

Xenos faced questions about how we wanted to do missions during the 1980s. We had been growing at a rate so rapid that it prevented us from sending missionaries earlier, in spite of a heartfelt desire to do our part in other cultures. Therefore, when our leadership considered where we wanted to go in world missions, we had the opportunity to write on a blank chalkboard rather than one cluttered with existing alliances and commitments.

The Xenos leaders decided we wanted direct involvement with our missionaries and their ministries. We didn't want to simply have our people feel called to different fields and agencies and expect the church to give its blessing and support. After all, in the New Testament, the church commissioned missionaries and discerned the leading of the Spirit together. We realized Xenos had its own ministry ethos and emphases that were quite different from other churches. Xenos is very nontraditional and eager to avoid exporting a western-style church to new people groups where those forms would become a nuisance. We also felt a strong desire to keep our

missionaries working together in teams on the field like they were used to doing in this country.

We also wished we could find a mission agency that understood and appreciated our approach to ministry and our theological distinctives. Such an agency might be willing to place our people together in teams, perhaps with missionaries from other churches who feel compatible with our approach. Also, we felt that if we were willing to commit a good number of people to the field, an agency might be willing to include us in a partnering agreement, and share key decision-making responsibility with us.

We set out to establish a partnership, first World Team (/web/20130301022527/http://www.worldteam.org/) , then also with Frontiers (/web/20130301022527/http://www.frontiers.org/) and OMF (/web/20130301022527/http://www.omf.org/) . These partnership agreements cover areas like

who would go to what field, including screening procedures; field selection and research;
missionary training and preparation;
how teams would be composed and led;

field supervision;
financial responsibility and budget planning; visitation;
home assignment arrangements.

Xenos World Ministries (/web/20130301022527/http://www.xenos.org/ministries/mobilizers/index.htm) and our partners have worked together under this agreement, with modifications from time to time, for 12 years. To date, we have accredited and sent nearly 40 career missionaries to six different fields under these agreements.
Some of the key benefits we see in these partnership arrangements are:

Leaders of the church and agency building rewarding personal relationships over years. If we had been working with half a dozen agencies, we never would have been able to spend time and energy at the same level. The friendships we enjoy at the leadership level have been very beneficial at times of need or crisis on the field. Nothing serves better when resolving misunderstandings than trusting relationships.

Xenos leaders have a visitation program for supporting our field operatives, and World Team, Frontiers, or OMF visit the same missionaries for regular reporting and oversight. This is very typical of course, but with the partnerships, there's a difference. We are able to work together both in pastoral issues and field strategy. Therefore, the issues one group of leaders sees when on the field or interacting via e-mail are regularly shared with the other. Nothing is more helpful than a well-informed "heads up" when visiting people we haven't seen for some time. Overall communication has been enhanced.

Partnership has been the spirit desired by missions agencies for many years. Yet, for some reason, churches and agencies have not formed specific partnership agreements very often, that we are aware of. Lately, large churches are increasingly interested in these kind of agreements.

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Leadership Teams in Xenos

In the New Testament, eldership (/web/20130301022527/http://www.xenos.org/classes/um1-

2.htm) is always plural. The accountability of collective leadership is an important control that we believe was intended by God because of the fundamental untrustworthiness of human nature. By entrusting the local church to a group of leaders, the likelihood that one person will go bad or be misled and destroy the church is reduced. Satan's task is made more difficult—he must not only mislead and tempt an individual, but must win over a whole group of leaders to his ends. We believe the church would have done much better if it had stayed with plurality of leadership throughout its history.

We know churches in the New Testament were organized with group elderships in each city. But we also know that there were often multiple home churches within a given city (/web/20130301022527/http://www.xenos.org/teachings/nt/acts/dennis/act18-2.htm) . How were the eldership teams related to the house churches in that city? Of this, we know little or nothing. Therefore, we conclude we are free to improvise in this area, as long as our structures result in the outworking of key principles (/web/20130301022527/http://www.xenos.org/classes/um2-1.htm) of church life.

In addition to eldership, New Testament churches had deacons, which means ministers, or servants. Nobody knows exactly what these ministers did, but judging from their qualifications, they were trusted servants of the church at a high level. While churches debate whether elders could include females, we think it is very clear that deacons could be male or female (/web/20130301022527/http://www.xenos.org/classes/um1-4.htm) .

In Xenos, we have a board of 8 elders overseeing the network of house churches, but our home churches are led by deacons. We don't believe the Bible calls for plurality of deacons when they lead groups, but we often prefer plurality, not only for elders but for deacons, especially if they are going to lead a sizable group. Here are a number of practical and theological considerations regarding plural leadership:

With smaller group plants, forming a team would be a waste of manpower. We can't raise up enough leaders to form teams for even smaller group plants.
A plurality of untrained, ignorant, and immature leaders is no more reliable than a single leader. Only if the leaders on a team are all trained and mature Christian workers can we assume that a group will be more reliable than an individual.

We used to view our leaders as coequal within a team. Now we prefer to have a senior leader. Having a senior leader allows some insignificant decisions to be made without a meeting, which is easier for everyone. Also, recognizing a senior leader authorizes that person to take initiative in leading the group, and in leading the leadership team. This counters the paralysis that may result from "leadership by committee." However, a majority of the team can overrule a senior leader, so accountability is preserved. Medium sized groups, like home churches, are large enough to have an identity as a group or a community, and may develop loyalty to their own home church, more than to the larger church. On the positive side, this makes home churches very hardy— nearly indestructible. On the other hand, many churches are reluctant to establish medium sized groups because of their history of divisiveness. We think plurality of leadership is the answer to this negative tendency found in some medium-sized groups. While plural leadership may decide to divide from the rest of the church, it seems much less likely that an entire well-trained team would decide to take this unrighteous direction. During over 30 years of ministry, Xenos has experienced very little divisiveness from home churches. On the other hand, sometimes churches' efforts to prevent division cause more harm than division itself. We would rather have one of two home churches leave if they want to than have all our groups suffer based on the fear of division.

The size of the group suggests that teaching is more appropriate than mere sharing. Many churches worry this could lead to doctrinal aberrations. Again, plural leadership and good training is the best safeguard against doctrinal error. We find very suspicious the thought (sometimes openly expressed by pastors) that to prevent doctrinal error we

should keep leaders ignorant and teach groups not to study the Bible together.

Planting groups with plurality of leadership is slower than planting with single leaders. Another potential negative for leadership teams is disagreement within the leadership team. Corporate leadership requires a willingness to accept limitations on autonomy and decision making that the immature find irksome if not unacceptable. Leaders must develop skills of negotiation and patient communication in order to form a successful team. Certain self-willed and dominating individuals are weeded out by their inability to function as team players, and this is all to the good. Any individual who is too self- willed to work with colleagues on a team is not welcome to lead in our church.

In Xenos, home church leaders are not empowered to remove other home church leaders from leadership. Only the elders can remove a home church leader. This prevents a majority from overrunning a minority in a team without outside confirmation. Sometimes, the lone dissenting leader is in the right!

Since so many pastoral issues involve sensitive judgment calls, elders may find themselves wondering whether to trust the judgment of single leaders at times. But when a team of trained leaders concur in a judgment call, we have a good basis for trusting their view.

Not only the elders' minds are eased by plurality, but home church leaders find their own minds eased by the opportunity to bounce ministry questions off other leaders who are actually involved in their ministry with them. A lot of potential leaders are more willing to consider being part of a leadership team who would not feel comfortable taking on leadership by themselves.

Spouses who are not inclined to be leaders, either by gifting or temperament, find themselves willing to join in a leadership team with one or two other couples. We believe having couples lead together is healthy for marriages, and we strongly resist people leading without their spouses.

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Generate all our own children's curriculum

We know we aren't the only ones to do this, but we do see it as unusual. We started doing this mainly because our leadership couldn't find curriculum that wasn't "churchy." Xenos is a very non-churchy church, and we didn't want our kids subjected to a traditional church perspective.

Another complaint was that much of the children's curriculum was too simplistic and didn't really teach the Bible. Our assessment was that kids were feeling patronized by oversimplified material that wasn't really challenging them.

Finally, a lot of curriculum is legalistic. The focus seems to often be on good behavior, seeming to stress that being a good kid is what Christianity is all about. Our people were so frustrated they decided to write their own curriculum from preschool to fifth grade (/web/20130301022527/http://www.xenos.org/ministries/oasis/oacurr.htm) . The project took more than five years for a team of writers, all working at their own expense. Now we give the curriculum away for free to many churches. Come to think of it, the high price of children's curriculum is another gripe we had!

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Over 50 percent of attendees involved in discipleship pairings

Xenos is an indigenous church planting ministry. Our approach to ministry assumes

qualified leaders constantly are rising up in our midst. We have to generate more than 50 leaders a year just to keep up, and that number continues to rise. When you consider how high our standards are for leadership, you realize this isn't an easy task. But we continue to succeed because we don't depend on the staff to accomplish our leadership development. Instead, every mature Christian in the church sees it as his or her job to help raise up new leaders. Lead pastor, Dennis McCallum has written a book on our philosophy of discipleship ministry, called Organic Disciplemaking (/web/20130301022527/http://www.amazon.com/o/ASIN/0975289691) .

Today, around 1,000 adults and students at Xenos have someone they are discipling in private meetings (and many have several). This is in addition to our home churches, cell groups and classes. We find that these one-on-one, or three-way times are good for building friendships, and that many issues of application and personal character development can only come out in these meetings. Also, nothing is better than these small meetings for coaching in ministry development.

We are careful to avoid any definition of discipleship that implies the discipler has control over the disciple, like in the so-called "Shepherding Movement." We teach our people that discipling is a facilitating and helping role, not a controlling role (/web/20130301022527/http://www.xenos.org/classes/leadership/leadershipandauth.html) . We are optimistic today that leaders will be ready when needed tomorrow because more than 2,000 of our people are actively engaged in personal discipleship.

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Extraordinarily high percentage of our youth groups are non- Xenos kids

We are excited to see our Junior High ministry (/web/20130301022527/http://www.xenos.org/jrhigh) is 30 percent non-Xenos kids (that is, their parents don't go to church here). Our High School ministry (/web/20130301022527/http://www.xenos.org/ministries/highschool/index.htm) is nearly 60 percent non-Xenos kids. Our College ministry (/web/20130301022527/http://www.xenos.org/ministries/college/index.htm) is over 70 percent non- Xenos kids. We think this is a sign of health, and bodes well for the future of Xenos. Based on visits to other churches and youth groups, we find the overwhelming majority of most churches' youth groups are kids from the church.

Altogether, our student groups from Junior High through College amount to more than 700 in weekly attendance. Our student groups focus on outreach to secular friends at school and work, and our meetings are all non-churchy. Xenos leaders put very heavy emphasis on student ministry, because we believe these people will be our leaders soon. By the time students reach the College group, they begin planting their own home churches and the pattern of ministry shifts from a staff- and program- based approach to a self-replicating, church-planting approach. By the time these students graduate, they are in their own home churches and intent on continuing to plant new home churches all over the city.

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No scripted ministry approach for lay leaders

Most churches we have studied provide a curriculum or lesson plan for their home groups. These may be based on the sermon that week, or may be nationally

published small group curriculum like Serendipity or Touch. We have looked at these options and experimented with some, but in the end prefer not to use any.

Our leaders are equipped to develop their own lessons, mainly based on expository study of the Bible. By far the majority of our groups are engaged in expository Bible study of a New or Old Testament book at any one time. In addition, groups occasionally do topical series on subjects of interest, like marriage, finance, social ethics or theological topics. Our Study Center provides all the materials leaders need to do personal research, and groups also leave copies of series they have developed at the Center for other groups to use. In recent years, our leaders have also benefited greatly from our extensive Web site.

We find that leaders who base their groups on prepared curriculum lose interest in teaching. The curriculum is often oversimplified and seems to do too much for the teacher. Teaching people the ways of God becomes something anyone can do and loses its challenge. People who are doing sophisticated work in their careers may come to lead their Bible study group and find themselves doing childishly simple work. No wonder they lose interest!

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Students do expository Scripture teachings to large and small meetings

Our visits to other churches reveal students are called on to speak at their student meetings, but nearly always to give a personal testimony, tell a story or discuss a topic. So far, we have never seen a student speaker in another church give an expository Bible teaching. Adults, yes, but never students. Actually, most youth groups don't have expository teaching even from adults.

We find this curious, especially in churches that believe in frequent expository teaching. Why not teach students how to interpret and present a passage of Scripture to their peers? Some churches believe such an approach would be too boring. But we don't find it's boring unless students have had inadequate training. Nothing is more exciting than a well-exposited passage of Scripture! Students study hermeneutics (/web/20130301022527/http://www.xenos.org/classes/hermeneutics/index.htm) , homiletics (/web/20130301022527/http://www.xenos.org/classes/homiletics/index.htm) and discussion-leading (/web/20130301022527/http://www.xenos.org/classes/discussion/index.htm) in class. They also usually go over and even give the teaching to a mentor who can correct any shortcomings. We think our approach has some benefits. For instance, students learn their Bible better when they teach it, and they gain experience teaching and preaching. Later, when they take over their own groups, they will already have significant experience speaking in front of groups.

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Home support teams for missions

Each Xenos mission team also has a home support team. We organize the home support team as a ministry team (/web/20130301022527/http://www.xenos.org/admin/minteam.htm) like any other. The leader has to be a Servant Team member. Other participants usually include the prayer and support team for all the missionaries on the team. They regularly meet for prayer and to share news about the ministry. They also assist the team by helping with their

newsletters or stories in the Xenos News.

Missions expert Tom Telford says Xenos is the only church he knows of that has such missions teams. He felt it was a good idea, because it served to entwine missions into the fabric and strategy of the church as a whole. Our missionaries love it! They have work to focus on where they are, and can still do a good job raising awareness in Columbus by giving their information to their support team, and letting them take it from there. On some occasions, the teams raise money for special projects, or gather clothes or other wish list items for the field.

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No formal membership

This certainly is not unique, but it is somewhat unusual, especially for large churches. Our refusal to establish a formal membership is the result of our theological understanding of church membership (/web/20130301022527/http://www.xenos.org/classes/um1-1a.htm) , and our efforts to emulate the early church (/web/20130301022527/http://www.xenos.org/classes/um3-1.htm) . Our definition of the church is spiritual, (i.e. all true believers are part of the body of Christ whether they attend meetings or not) and therefore we feel it would be impossible for humans to accurately know who is a member and who is not. We believe efforts to establish membership can result in an institutional definition of the church rather than an organic or spiritual definition. Some that we define as members would be truly non-members, while others who we deny are members would in fact be members.

We see this distinctive as a good thing, but at the same time, a minor thing. We don't feel strongly critical of churches that have formal memberships, and in fact, it would be difficult to say how much actual impact this feature has had on Xenos' development. Our leadership feel that refusing to define membership contributes to a proper view of the spiritual nature of the church. We tell people that we let God keep our membership rolls for us.

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Two senior pastors instead of one

Xenos has two lead pastors, or elders, Dennis McCallum and Gary DeLashmutt.

We consider this distinctive to be an unimportant and peripheral feature, by no means mandated in Scripture. In fact, both Dennis and Gary have stated they would not recommend this arrangement for most churches. The arrangement at Xenos is based on the unique history (history.htm) of these two men who have worked as partners for 30 years, after knowing each other since kindergarten! They were not only partners in ministry, but also co-owned a business for years before Xenos put them on staff.

Their partnership has been mutually beneficial, as they believe their personalities are complementary. But they believe it would be both difficult and pointless to try to duplicate such a partnership in most cases, and if one of them were to die or leave, almost certainly no effort would be made to replace the lost partner in a coequal role. Usually coequal partnerships become a deadlock and a liability, but in our case it seems to work out well.

Today, the two men (like most staffers at Xenos, where office sharing is encouraged) work every day in the same office, with their desks adjoining. They meet for breakfast, sharing and occasional prayer on Tuesday mornings at McDonald's, as they have for 25 years.

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Question and Comment time at main meetings

Visitors are amazed when our main "service" ends and the pastor asks if there are comments or questions. People hold up their hands and ushers bring them cordless microphones. The teacher points to people who ask questions or who make a point.

This part of our Central Teachings is very popular, especially with new people. Of course, we have no way of knowing what people will say. Some guests may use this time to express outrage or disagreement with what was said. When this happens, the speaker gives a rejoinder and we move on. Once in awhile, someone may share something inappropriate or really crazy! Our teachers ask them to sit down and offer some appropriate response.

Usually, the questions or points are really good. It gives the church an opportunity to correct imbalances in the teaching, or to clarify points that were unclear or misleading. We love it! We have always wondered why more churches don't have this feature.

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Strange name

People are always asking about the name Xenos Christian Fellowship. Some of our members regret this name, because it can cause suspicion, like anything that is unusual. The name actually makes sense. Xenos is the Greek word for alien or sojourner, and the Bible says Christians are sojourners in this life; our citizenship is in heaven (Phil. 3:20). Also, the word means host, which we feel we are to non- Christian guests. But the reason we have the name goes back to the time of our incorporation as a church in 1982.

By 1982, we had already existed for 12 years under the even stranger name, "Fish House Fellowship." This name had never been chosen by us, but was rather a description of "the fellowship meeting at the Fish House." Fish house was the name of the original house on The Ohio State University campus we used as a headquarters. By the 1980s, the house had long since ceased to exist, so calling our church by that name was absurd.

The elders met at the time of our incorporation, realizing we would be stuck with any name we chose at that time. Some suggested a more conventional name, like some kind of community church. But the majority didn't want to be identified with the idea of a conventional church because our field of ministry is anti-church in attitude. We decided a name that raised questions, but didn't fit any known category (one that could be easily dismissed by cynical guests) would be better. At the time we were publishing a magazine called Xenos, so we decided to call it Xenos Christian Fellowship.

We considered changing our name when we moved into our new facility in 1997, but

decided not to. We were worried about becoming too conventional and being viewed like a normal church. Moreover, we already were known widely as Xenos, and felt it would be a major headache to change our name. We decided to keep our strange name and oddball image that comes with it. Xenos members jokingly refer to each other as "Xenoids," often pronounced with a robot-like tone of voice.

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Unusual View of Confidentiality

Xenos leaders take exception to the modern American view that counseling should necessarily be done in confidentiality, especially if confidentiality means counselors and pastors are not allowed to confer with other pastors and counselors. We find the notion of unqualified confidentiality may conflict with the biblical notion of corporate leadership and church discipline (/web/20130301022527/http://www.xenos.org/classes/servanthood2/counstools.htm#confidentiality) .

How can leaders pastor collectively, if they are not free to share what they know from conversations with members? We feel the idea of collective or corporate leadership becomes a dead letter any time members can forbid leaders to discuss cases with each other.

Likewise, today's view of confidentiality would seem to flatly contradict Jesus' call to "tell it to the church" when someone refuses to repent for sin. Sinful acts are usually those which clients are most eager to keep in confidence.

As a result of these findings, clients seeking pastoral counseling from Xenos staff counselors must sign a waiver of confidentiality. The waiver makes clear that information will only be shared with pastoral staff except in cases of formal church discipline. If a client feels the need to counsel in complete confidence, we refer them to professional counselors outside the church.

The same goes for informal counseling with Xenos leaders. We are on public record as rejecting the validity of unqualified confidentiality across the board, because as secrecy increases, community decreases.

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