Shooting Fish in a Barrel

January 6, 2011 in News

Sometimes 'Xenos' sounds like a good name!

“It’s just like shooting fish in a barrel,” someone said at our recent trip to the University of Buffalo.

“So it’s a waste of time,” a young honors student said when he heard about it, then explained, “Well, fish aren’t normally found in barrels, right? So it would be a waste of time to shoot in a barrel.” It raises the question how they determine “honors student” these days. Granted, he was in high school, but he was a senior after all.

“I thought it meant you were shooting fish into a barrel,” said his younger brother (names withheld to protect the innocent).

Beyond the Fish

Strolling down the "Campus Prominade" in the heart of it all.

The discussion originated over the University of Buffalo (UB) and its potential for outreach. With 30,000 students, UB is slightly larger than KSU, but unlike KSU there are no bars, restaurants or stores within two or three miles, so UB social life is largely restricted to on-campus activities. A Xenos Bible study would be a hot attraction, “like shooting fish in a barrel.” (Note: the phrase means “easy”.)

Yet another reason for campus groups to flourish at UB was evident in its architecture. The buildings were clustered together, connected by covered walkways. Clearly the campus layout made it easy for students to move around when heavy snow is dumped by Lake Erie, and no doubt on-campus groups are well-attended by students stranded in Buffalo snow.

A rare sign from Episopalians--does it mean outreach is easy?

Numerous Christian groups are working at UB, with offices located in “the Commons”, in the center of campus life. It is a good indication of growth potential when other Christian ministries are flourishing in an area. Xenos, as we know, should fare better than others at reaching non-Christians without the Singing Worship Service and other cultural barriers hampering outreach.

Opening Doors

A door opened at Buffalo when Jim and KJ Swearingen moved there, and most NeoXenos students know them from our summer ministry trips to the Buffalo Christian Center (BCC), which Jim runs. The Swearingens and McCallums were Home Church leaders for 10 years in Columbus during the golden era of high convert-growth, when Xenos grew from several hundred to nearly 6,000. Keith, Jim and KJ were the first “Seminar Graduates” (a teacher training course), taught leadership classes, and launched the magazine “Xenos” (the origin of our name). When KJ began dating Keith’s best friend Jim, she introduced her best friend Darlene Terman to Keith, the man destined to become her studly husband. KJ started Calumet Christian School, and then Jim and KJ started Urban Concern in the inner city, while Keith continued leading as an elder and Central Teacher with Darlene, his blushing, young bride. Jim and KJ eventually moved into the inner city, while Keith and Darlene pursued extra-local church planting, so their long tenure together ended. But their friendship continued.

The Swearingen-connection is significant because they know how to grow and plant Xenos home churches, train leaders, and are gathering contacts and knowledge about the Buffalo area. After a few short months, they are leading a home group which includes new believers.

The Cloudy Future

No future plans yet exist, but discussions at the Elder’s Retreat will consider the juncture between the Lord’s burden stirring NeoXenos to spread revolution, and the Swearingen move to a nearby city with such potential. UB is apparently the largest university in New England, and Jim is tied into two Christian ministries promoting inbound church-planting efforts, which includes financial support. Similar to the jump from Columbus to Cleveland, the drive is only three hours away, which facilitates long-distance support.

The big, unanswered question is to what extent Jim and KJ can redirect their ministry efforts towards UB, which lies 20 minutes northeast of their current ministry in downtown Buffalo. Although Jim will continue as director at BCC, his job there is evolving into a terrific platform for launching Xenos-style home groups, if they continue pursuing that course. They did not initially move to Buffalo to plant Xenos-style home groups, but like so many from a Xenos background, they discovered it is difficult to find radical freedom and the same relational emphasis elsewhere. The difference is largely due to the overwhelming percentage of converts in a Xenos ministry, which mitigates against a traditional, religious culture. The Swearingens are converts with secular backgrounds, so conforming to the religious culture, the arbitrary morality and the relational coolness of traditional Christianity was distasteful, but did launch their recent effort to build a home group. The question they now face is whether to build home groups by deliberation and not merely frustration.

11 responses to Shooting Fish in a Barrel

  1. Should Xenos go to a university where the Episcopal church is already reaching out? I mean, will there be enough pagans to go around?

  2. Sounds exciting, when do i move to Buffalo!? Praying for insight and vision at your Elders’ Retreat! The Swearingens are wonderful, powerful peeps! UB sounds promising too, psyched to see what the Lord has envisioned for this ministry here and at Buffalo!

  3. What do the Swearingens think of all this?

  4. You know how Jim feels, he feels like making bad calls on the basketball court. Just kidding. Although I dont know how the swangs feels, I do know that this opportunity sounds pretty dope. Interested in hearing more about it later this week.

  5. intriguing. I think it’s about time we do some church planting instead of just talking about it!

  6. This sounds amazing, I’m into what KJ is saying: Why don’t we do it?!? The university sounds chill, and it would be awesome to have the BCC nearby. I’ve learned so much from serving there at the summer camps, it would be cool to get into the university scene and see who we can save and disciple there. Like Jeff is saying, sign me up!

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