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Pagan Christianity, Classes, Buffalo, and a Rainbow Coalition

January 12, 2011 in News

Pagans Galore!

The Erie winter wasteland depicts the evangelistic activity of Evangelicals.

For those who kept pace, the retreat covered an amazing breadth of issues ranging from Bible classes to “Pagan Christianity,” the latest iteration of Outlaw Faith (a.k.a. Revolution, a.k.a. Church Without Walls, a.k.a. the Persecuted Church). Keith stunned retreat attendees by demonstrating the New Covenant is nothing less than Pagan Christianity, contradicting the famous 2008 book by Barna and Viola called Pagan Christianity. Barna and Viola bemoaned the long, corrupting influence of pagans (non-Christians) on Christianity, but Keith proved “the mystery of the church” revealed in the New Testament was intended to be populated by a tremendous influx of pagans, as Paul describes it:

When you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit; to be specific, that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. Ephesians 3:3-6 (NASB)

“The Gentiles” Paul mentions were, of course, pagans in the truest sense of the word, worshiping pagan deities and and idols. The growth and expansion of the church was always dominated by “filthy pagans” and Gentiles, Keith said, even to the present day at NeoXenos. Mark wretched violently again as he left the room, but again it was uncertain exactly why. Despite the unknown potential for similar reactions, the Elders are determined to present this material at the upcoming 2011 Fiscal Support Team Retreat.

Bible Classes

LTC teachers collate grades

Grades were also finalized for the 2010 Leadership Training Class (LTC), another factor which greatly exacerbated Mark’s nausea, or so it was presumed. Although Greg Morscher has the final grades, he seemed somewhat reluctant to notify the students as a result, especially since Greg is notoriously gun-shy in the face of such violent reactions. Still, students can use the messaging system at Basecamp to lobby Greg to receive their grades.

Keith’s urgency and bold call for movement was concerning the batch of classes which begin next week, January 19th. Both LTC and Basic Doctrine will be held every other week on Wednesday evenings at 7:30. The LTC class will be held at the Howell’s, and Basic Doctrine will be taught at the Morscher’s. LTC will meet for 10 sessions and end on May 25th, while Basic Doctrine will be five classes and one week for the final exam.

Buffalo Scouts

Conference call over Skype

The Elders reviewed the recent NeoXenos query for planting home churches in Buffalo, then held a lengthy conference call with Jim and KJ Swearingen in Buffalo using Skype. The complications described earlier in The Portal news (see Shooting Fish in a Barrel) still remain, but the Swearingens identified more doors opening soon at the University of Buffalo (UB) through Columbus Xenos kids enrolling there. The Swearingens are not only enthusiastic, but quickly becoming our advanced scouting party for invading the UB.

Swearingen

The Swearingens are currently trying to find three solid NeoPagan-Christians ((NeoPagan-Christians—a technical term for the radical, lively Christians who were once “pagans”, commonly found at Northeast Ohio (NEO) Xenos.)) we need for launching a fellowship at UB. Please pray for the Swearingen’s protection while they continue scouting the “forward edge of the battle area” (known as FEBA) for NeoPagan-Christians.

Splits and Recombination

The new, middle-age (and near-middle-age) ministry groups called “Stow” and “Double Rainbow” were a topic of considerable debate at the retreat when the Elders tried to learn exactly how and when new Discovery Groups could be launched. These groups were formed by recombination shortly after the fall Deacons Ministry Team (DMT) retreat, but the holidays delayed action until now. The Michaleks and Morschers are temporarily working with the leadership in these groups to launch Discovery Groups, so news will be available soon on the exciting opportunities fomenting beneath the surface in these groups.

The student ministries were of paramount interest, largely because the High School ministry successfully split this fall. Elders were interested to compare that successful split against the unsuccessful split in the Identity Project, wondering how it was that high school kids could out-perform, out-grow, and overpower their college-age spiritual siblings, but someone pointed out such an analysis was unfair and misguided, albeit attractive.

More details on all these ministries and many other discussions covered at the Elders retreat will be published soon and presented at the FST retreat in February.

A lengthy, exhausting agenda - no wonder Mark was distressed!

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.

KEITH McCALLUM TO VISIT WEST COAST

March 3, 2010 in Headlines

The new & improved Keith McCallum

Elaine Stedman, Pastor Ray Stedman’s wife, calls Keith McCallum “the Firebrand from Ohio.” He will be flying out from Columbus to San Francisco the third week in March.  Keith has been on the forefront of Christian radicalism for thirty years. You can read more about him on his magazine’s web-site link and a little about his plans to visit the West Coast at link. I’m looking forward to meeting him and am planning to drive down to the Bay Area when he flies in – probably with Lambert Dolphin at PBC (Penninsula Bible Church) the church Ray Stedman led for close to thirty years.

Please be in prayer for his visit. Keith’s vision closely corresponds to mine.  He too has been touched deeply by the Luke 14 vision; however, instead of calling those who attend the the supper “the dispossessed,” he calls them the “disestablished” – and includes not just the “down-and-outers,” but students as well – calling them the “unestablished” – meaning persons not yet invested in the “here and now.”  We both place little stock in the “established” – meaning persons who are deeply invested in the “here-and-now” and have, therefore, little interest and little time for the gospel. Keith has played a pivotal role in raising up a church that ministers to almost five thousand persons in and around the Ohio State campus in Columbus. (I’m looking forward next year to Cal, my alma mater, thrashing Ohio State in football.)

The SLUM Gives Birth to Elders

January 12, 2010 in News

Greg Surveys

Greg surveys the spiritual landscape

For the first time in years, NeoXenos trustees gathered at an Elder’s retreat rather than a Sphere Leader’s Under-shepherd Ministry (SLUM) retreat. The Michaleks and Hughes’ were trustees, but at the the October Body Meeting they were appointed Elders by common consent. The difference is not small, because the Bible says it should be those with Elder character qualifications who lead Christian ministry (See 1 Tim. 3 and Titus 1).

Together with the McCallums and Morschers, who were already Elders, the group met for two days on the shores of frozen Lake Erie to survey the spiritual landscape and get a fix on future directions.

As we see in Acts 6, Elders should focus on “the Ministry of the Word” and prayerful leadership. The challenge of an Elder’s retreat is discerning God’s leadership, understanding how God’s Word applies to NeoXenos, and discussing how “to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:12)

The Ministry Landscape

The ministry in 2010 looks considerably different than last January’s SLUM retreat when we were faced with such tremendous persecution and opposition. Not only did Jesus lead us into vindication and protection, He also brought us tremendous spiritual victories:

  1. All ministries are reporting salvations.
  2. All ministries are seeing new and competent leaders and teachers.
  3. We saw unprecedented growth (nearly 25%) across our ministries.
  4. We were blessed with 12 new qualified Deacons and two new Elder-teams!
  5. We expanded our support to include the Meeting House in Canada and Ray Stedman’s people in California.
  6. We were blessed with free (and quite exquisite) meeting facilities at the KSU Chemistry labs!
  7. And two student Home Churches split!

All of these advances are quite astonishing, considering that NeoXenos was a renegade, vagabond Christian fellowship last January. It seemed the whole world was set against NeoXenos for no reason anyone could identify!

For 2010 please pray that Jesus will continue to provide for us! Even with all these great advances, we are still a church “with only a little power.” (Rev. 3:8)

[flagallery gid=3 name="Retreat Pics"default]

Issues for the 2010 FST Retreat

Despite all this good news, we are facing tremendous hurdles for 2010:

  1. Financial shortfalls continue to limit our future prospects.
  2. We desperately need to hire part-time student  interns in order to sustain our growth and take advantage of new ministry opportunities opening up to us.
  3. We cannot lose our zeal for spiritual revolution, now that we are no longer facing persecution and opposition.
  4. The expanding ministries with new leaders and teachers desperately require equipping in the Word.

These hurdles are significant, because we must also expand into these new and exciting ministry opportunities:

  1. We must spread and export the Jesus Revolution we enjoy so much; what a tragedy it would be if this ministry remained bottled-up in Ohio while spiritual decline spreads across the rest of the country!
  2. We must do more to “remember the poor” and suffering that surrounds us. New opportunities are under consideration.

The Elders emerged from their weekend with an exciting list of prospects to meet these challenges, however. And this will be the topic of the upcoming Fiscal Support Team Retreat (FST) in February!

Stay tuned for more…and fill out a Pledge Form for the FST retreat!

Back-to-School Again

August 28, 2009 in News

“These are the times that try men’s souls.”  — Thomas Paine

Such words aptly describe our position as we charge full-steam into the darkness: it’s a hideous world of hatred and alienation against Jesus, the atmosphere is thick with deceit, and it’s a love-killing world. Who dares stand out as a target? Read the rest of this entry →

Persecution and a Christmas Party

November 11, 2008 in Headlines

When classes are finished, we will have a Body Meeting Christmas Celebration Gala. There are several exciting and inter-connected efforts in-motion which we must explain beyond the few leaders and workers currently involved. As fast as we can, we’re posting it in the NeoZine, as podcasts and YouTube videos:

The Columbus Love Ethics Seminar now has its own Web space which also provides (new and improved) material for NeoXenos ministries.

Christian Persecution 101: view it at the bottom of the page or as a full-page Powerpoint presentation of Keith’s teaching at the recent Word/CBS worker’s meeting. (You can also see the full teaching as a 30-minute Google Video)

A new version underway...

A new version underway...

Revolutionary Christianity: related to persecution is the biblical mandate for Christians to impact the culture. Unfortunately, Christianity is meek and growing meeker – is it happening with us? Watch out for these provocative studies and insights.

Future High School and College ministries – Xenos reaches “church outsiders” with the Gospel message; but how can we reach more “Millenials” alienated from Christianity? Related to this, a growing bias against Christianity in public policies (especially in education) provide wonderful opportunities to spread the Gospel, we think. These policies violate constitutional freedoms specifically for Christians, and federal judges are overturning them fast, but they keep growing. These are welcome trends, and we want to jump on them and understand how to work with them.

Uncommon Sense – a booklet similar to “Common Sense” by Thomas Paine. Keith and Kalie Brooks are collaborating to write a simple, readable, small booklet for the MySpace generation. It is a series of pictures contrasting the Kosmos and God’s Kingdom. The reader is invited to pursue a hopeful future. The booklet is tied to Persecution 101, Revolutionary Christianity, and our school strategies.

Meetings without boundaries – the New Testament church was highly mobile, and we are studying this further. This Fall we stepped into some “meeting fluidity”, and we are now studying how the early church managed this. Our interest is to plant and plant without getting stretched too thin in the process.

Additional Background

For about six months we’ve been generating some articles which provide some background to these new initiatives:

  • The Protestant Reformation Series at the NeoZine surveys current church movements from a historical and biblical perspective. It explains the need to break away from Institutionalized Christianity. Noteworthy articles include:
    • The Fears in Legalism – the rise of Christian legalism and the differences between Old and New Covenants in the Bible.
    • The Dawn of Covenant Theology and Heartless Institutions – help Christian workers explain the problem of church history, which is a popular objection today.
    • The Fear Factor – is a bridge to these new ministry efforts, especially the “sending” strategy underway.
  • “I had a dream…” is an anecdotal (humorous) background for these “sending strategy”. (A followup is due shortly.)

Please pray for us!

We need help!

  • We need help researching, organizing, sharpening and publishing useful tools for our growing ministry!
  • We need to catch up with our finances, because money is quickly becoming a limiting factor in this effort!

New Discovery Group Discovered!

October 16, 2008 in Headlines

The Cool Poole-Pollock Ideas

[callout]The fearless Howells and Morschers launched a Discovery Group of their own[/callout]

First there was Doug Pollack’s book “Irresistible Evangelism” and his presentation two years in a row at the Summer Institute. Then there was the somewhat alien (by Xenos standards) “Bush Group” approach of Gary Poole’s book “Seeker Small Groups” and it’s plethora of real-world examples. Then there was the Xenos example of the fearless Howells and Morschers who launched a Discovery Group of their own.

Hearing their stories caused excitement and interest. Then the clip from the Dawkins/Lennox debate at CT attracted us and reminded me of our training in apologetics. Our men’s cell group viewed the entire Dawkins/Lennox Debate DVD. It was a ready-made presentation for an outreach group. We decided to invite some non-Christian friends to view and discuss the debate. Call it “Delusion I” (a play on the “God Delusion” title of Dawkins’ book).

Great Resources

[callout]We get so defensive when we witness to unbelievers[/callout]

Our group set the date, and Michael and Rick listened to audio versions of Dawkins’ “God Delusion” book. We found a wealth of online resources at William Lane Craig’s site (www.williamlanecraig.com), including debates and great evidence to believe in the Bible. In one of his audio files Craig said, “We get so defensive when we witness to unbelievers when we don’t know good answers to the questions or objections unbelievers give.”

I was amazed at the sophistication of the arguments piling up over the centuries. When compared to Dawkins’ arguments against Christianity, I really began feeling embarrassed for him. He did little to prove atheism or disprove theism.

It’s great to know the evidence for God’s existence for several good reasons:

  1. Great evidence is available!
  2. It’s very difficult to answer Christian evidence in one night.
  3. Since it may take several nights, weeks or even months to plumb the depths, it’s a new Discovery Group approach!

Then we prayed and prayed again and again.

And THEN…

Alas, two self proclaiming atheists and an agnostic showed up from Michael Toth’s long list of friends (one even grew up in the Riverwood Community Church!). Following a relatively short time of getting acquainted while eating hors ‘dourves prepared by chef Jordan, Michael, Bill, Katrina & I sat down with our guests to watch the first half of the debate DVD.

I thought, “Whoa, I have no idea where this is going…I may have to bite my tongue.”

I believe Lina was right in her Discover Group article: when you provide a safe forum in which to discuss the “big” questions of life, non-Christians feel comfortable enough to discuss their own views. One of our guests admitted to being a “closet atheist” in her work environment for fear of how fellow work associates might react to that fact. She apparently felt totally at ease sharing that with us. That was cool beans man!

The issues were varied and strayed from those brought up in the first half of the DVD. We determined “rabbit trails” to be fine for now. In fact, very little control was exercised.

Then one very interesting question came up: “What would it take for you to lose your faith?” Without blinking, Bill said, “if Christ had not been raised, our faith is worthless.” And I added, “Yeah, the Apostle Paul said we would be of all men most to be pitied.”

Is it possible to begin a potential Discovery Group, deliver your testimony and the gospel, all in the first night? Sure it is! We did it! It really happened so naturally.

Our guests are looking forward to “Delusion II” on Friday, October 17, 2008 and apparently an additional person will come along.

Please pray for us!

Why Not a Discovery Group?

September 25, 2008 in Ministries

Fresh.  Exciting.  Right.

These are the words that express how we felt about starting a Discovery Group (DG) last fall.  The guided discussions in an accepting and listening atmosphere were thought-provoking for people who came. Read the rest of this entry →

Outbreak!

September 15, 2008 in Innovation, Leadership

God’s power unleashed in Northeast Ohio — new groups, new people, new leadership, and unusual results – Greg, Joel, Keith and Mark discuss the amazing new ministries underway this Fall in a “Roundtable Discussion”. Let us know what you think of the Podcast!
[podcast]http://neoxenos.net/podcasts/roundtable_sept_2008.mp3[/podcast]

A Cool Paradigm for Xenos?

May 13, 2008 in News

Still interested in the implications from the 2008 Servant Team Retreat? There were many positive elements, but the STR also raised confusing issues. Read about the potential fallout and join the discussion about the future direction which affects NeoXenos almost as certainly as it will affect Columbus Xenos.

Two articles in the NeoZine discuss the need for change not only in Columbus, but Northeast Ohio as well:

  • Driscoll Versus the Weenie Wars, Part 1 discusses the sound leadership paradigm proposed by Mark Driscoll, one of the upcoming speakers at the Summer Institute in Columbus. It’s good exposure to how Driscoll approaches Christian ministry, but it some of what he teaches requires careful consideration at NeoXenos.
  • Driscoll Versus the Weenie Wars, Part 2 tackles the tough issues of planting new churches. The article raises issues that all Christians should consider, but certainly the impact on NeoXenos should be quite noticeable if these proposals are adopted.
  • The Real Xenos Model – did we lose our way somewhere? It doesn’t look good when our mentors say they lost their way! Willow Creek is now rethinking its “seeker-sensitive” business-leader model. This has implications for the new directions NeoXenos is undertaking as well.

Leave your comments about these articles at the NeoZine.