Strange Things in Xenos
or Why Xenos will never be a model for other churches
Some observers have noted that Xenos is unusual. We agree. Our observations of other churches indicate that we are different than most churches in quite a few ways. Some are central; others 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.
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 should be like us. We learn from other churches all the time, and appreciate that there are more than one way to skin a cat!
At Xenos, virtually everyone attends a home church. Attendance at home church is more than 30% higher than large meetings. Historically, home meetings came before large meetings for us, and still today, they are considered more important.
How churches manage to train competent leaders during a one- to eight-week training program is a complete mystery to us at Xenos. Our training program takes several years of classroom and field training. Part of this training takes place while within leadership and part before. Our typical leader has completed:
- 190 hours of classroom instruction with homework and 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 in 1 Tim. 3.
Why do we call for such a high level of training for leaders?
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. A home church is a medium-sized group with a team of leaders. Since each home church 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 doubt anyone 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 insufficient 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?
Xenos singles live in over 100 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 subscribe to a ministry house covenant, 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 all operate two to four houses each, and the overwhelming majority of college members live in ministry houses. Adult home churches also sometimes 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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Some of the elders at Xenos 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.
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.
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 in song.
At a deeper level, we believe the modern church's idea of a worship service is based on the Old Testament concept of temple service, and in this sense is misleading. We believe the New Testament teaches that worship is something we do all the time, 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 and baptisms are also handled by home churches. The approach is up to each group. See a central teaching outline or view a RealMedia presentation on this topic.
Our approach to this issue has had an interesting and unintended result. Christian visitors visiting Xenos 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. 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 contributed to the high percentage of converts at Xenos.
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.
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.
At Xenos, sick people are visited and counseled by people in their home churches. This frees up more time for discipleship and equipping. Our elders consider this one of the really important features of Xenos, opening the door to lay ministry in a number of ways.
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 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 group idea, how likely is it that the church will see this as a central issue? People 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.
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 expect leaders in 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 and biblical standards are followed.
All of these functions require considerable maturity and good judgment on the part of home group leaders, arguing for thorough training.
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 hiring within the church because of the message conveyed 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?
Another reason for hiring only members is that people need to know those 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 confidence in a person they don’t know.
We know other 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, we should 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.
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, small groups, life groups, or similar. 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 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, deep learning, and transparent sharing.
At Xenos, most groups have a three-level structure. We have our big meetings like other churches, although they are not worship services. 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. Our cell groups are usually six to 18 men or women only. The men's or women's cell groups are for believers only, and usually have a fairly aggressive study schedule. They share and pray for each other as well. These are groups devoted to discipleship, friendship building, 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 our leaders feel the results were poor.
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 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 leaders 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. The group grows to 35-45 people, mostly through conversion. All of this takes some years of work and sacrifice. If the new church plant fails, they come right back to the planting church—this makes weak church planting a waste of time.
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 coaches, 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!
Xenos is very heavily committed to Christian community development. Urban Concern, City Light, and Renegade are efforts to reach the inner city in Columbus, and to eventually transform neighborhoods through the love of Christ.
The strategy is to focus on children, and stay with them over a 10 to 20-year period, hopefully raising up 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.
Xenos is mainly a church-planting ministry, but we believe the Bible also charges those with money to care for the poor. Not only do we believe we should care for the poor, but we also should invest in long-term change as opposed to handouts and short term relief.
In the New Testament, eldership is always plural. The accountability of collective leadership is an important control that we believe God prescribes 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 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. How were the eldership teams related to the house churches in that city? Of this, we know very little. Therefore, we conclude we are free to improvise in this area, as long as our structures result in the outworking of key principles 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.
In Xenos, we have a board of 10 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 sizable groups. 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 relatively 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 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 one 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.
- Planting groups with plurality of leadership is slower than planting with single leaders. Another potential negative for leadership teams is conflict within the 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 domineering individuals are weeded out by their inability to function as team players, and this is all to the good.
- 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.
- 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; home church leaders find their own minds eased by the opportunity to bounce ministry questions off other leaders who are actually involved in the same community. A lot of potential leaders who would not feel comfortable taking on leadership by themselves are more willing to consider being part of a leadership team.
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 60 leaders (net) a year just to keep up, and that number continues to rise. To succeed it’s best not to depend on the staff to accomplish leadership development. Instead, every mature Christian in the church sees it as his or her job to help raise up new leaders. This philosophy of discipleship ministry is explained in Organic Disciplemaking.
Today, around 2000 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 addressing many issues of application and personal character development. 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 or authority 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.
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, homiletics and discussion-leading 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.
Each Xenos mission team also has a home support team. We organize the home support team as a ministry team 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.
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, and our efforts to emulate the early church. 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.
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 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 share the same office (like most staffers at Xenos, where office sharing is encouraged). They meet for breakfast, sharing and occasional prayer on Tuesday mornings at McDonald's, as they have for 25 years.
Visitors are surprised when our main "service" ends and the pastor asks if there are comments or questions. People hold up their hands and speak, either with or without cordless microphones, depending on the acoustics of the venue. People can ask questions, share an experience, or add 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 quite 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!
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." We never chose the name, but people created it as a description of "the fellowship meeting at the Fish House." Fish House was 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.
When we incorporated, the elders left the choice to our home church leaders. They voted for Xenos Christian Fellowship over several more conventional options.
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.
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 flatly contradicts 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.