Eleven New Stories (8/1/2018)
Story One: “I felt completely exhausted and drained, pushed to the point of breaking. This is where Xenos wants its members.”
I was first connected with Xenos when I was 15. My brother joined the group when he left for college. The two of us grew up extremely close, and he decided to invite me out to see this new church he was involved in. At first, I loved it. Everyone was so friendly and nice, and I immediately felt welcome. However, a couple months after my first visit, a good friend of mine was killed in a car crash. I blamed myself and fell into a period of depression. This, of course, is when those in Xenos decided to strike. They pressured me into conversation after conversation about this extremely painful topic, pushing me to lock away my feelings and my emotions. I still deal with the fallout from this almost a decade later, struggling with feelings of guilt and sorrow because I was pushed to ignore and bury my feelings during that time. I spent the next few years being pressured into moving into a ministry house, and when I graduated high school, I almost immediately was pulled in. My brother put pressure on me at every moment that he could, assuring me that I wouldn't be able to be proper Christian unless I was part of a ministry house. I was a member of Xenos for 4 years. I wish I would have had the strength to leave sooner. I was wracked with anxiety and stress, afraid that I would step out of line and the leadership team of the church would kick me out. I tried to plan a way to leave again and again, unable to put up with the constant pressure that was placed on me. I struggled to go to school full time, work a part time job, and fit in Xenos's packed weekly schedule.
The stress of it all hit me hard, pushing me back into depression. I didn’t feel like I could be open and honest with the people I lived with, and it wore on me. By this point, that initial love I had felt was long gone at that point, my days filled with excessive meetings and events. I felt completely exhausted and drained, pushed to the point of breaking. This is where Xenos wants its members. They push you to the very edge of exhaustion, restricting you so much that you fail to see the full scope of your bindings. You're tied down by so many different things, other groups, discipleship, house requirements, that you see no escape. they make you believe that there isn't a different way to live your life, that you need to be restricted by all they have to "offer". If you feel tired or burnt out because of this, it’s not because of them, it’s because you failed. Because you weren’t a strong enough follower of God. The onus is on you.
I finally reached the point where I couldn’t take it anymore. I packed up my things and moved out, fleeing this group that had tried to consume me. I came back to say goodbye the day I left, and I was told that I was never truly one of them. I apparently had never actually been following God, or been a Christian. Once again, the blame is placed on the one leaving, not on the church. And to top it off, my brother, one of my best friends, cut me off after that. We saw each other at family events, but after I left, it was over a year and a half before he said a thing to me. No matter how friendly, or welcoming I was, he would ignore me, shun me. I had a couple friends who stayed in the home church for a bit longer after I had left. I heard from them that he was spreading malicious rumors about how cruel and hateful I was. That I viciously mocked and berated him. My own brother. It’s been years since I left, and even after I have cleared the air with him, he treats me like a stranger. I guess that whole "Love one another" thing doesn’t count if you’re not in their "Church".
Story Two: “I was told there’s no point in living a life without god so I was very suicidal when I left because I believed this even after leaving.”
I was in Xenos for 4 years and lived in the ministry house. They love bombed me and claimed to be my friend even though no one wanted to do anything with me that was unrelated to church activities so I always felt lonely. They told me that I shouldn’t be investing in friendships if they don’t want to join the church so I had no friends when I left the church, not that I really had any when I was in the church.
I was treated differently for having mental illness and that I’ll never become a leader because of my mental illness.
I was told there’s no point in living a life without god so I was very suicidal when I left because I believed this even after leaving.
I got a non xenos boyfriend and was accused of having sex with him when I wasn’t and kicked out of the house with absolutely no evidence. Even though I was completely honest and open about talking about my relationship, they completely lost all trust they had in me and started accusing me of all kinds of things. I honestly only lost my virginity when I did because I was mad and fed up with the church I wasn’t even emotionally ready for my first time.
Rent for the total house and utilities was $1200 and there was 7 of us but we each had to pay $350 a month to go to “house savings” that got spent on really expensive furniture from ikea for the house that we didn’t need,
I was guilted every time I spent money. I always got the “that money could have gone to the church” lecture, even if all’s I bought was a soda, but most my homechurch smoked cigarettes and that was okay.
Story Three: “They manipulate and abuse their members and literally excommunicate people its insane.”
As someone who studies cult activity and lives among many members, I’ve had many members urge me to join and when I explained I’m not interested nor religious they got very angry and next week rolls by and at least 12 of my friends hated me. They manipulate and abuse their members and literally excommunicate people its insane.
Story Four: “My mom started voicing concerns about it being cult like.”
I have greatly appreciated reading all of the content on this website, I found it when a dear friend sent me a photo of the fliers that were circulating.
My story started in 2011, I was 20 years old when I joined Xenos. I had a friend "Z" that had made friends with several Xenos members at CSCC and continually badgered me and harassed me to come out to one of the home church gatherings. While I resisted for a long time, I eventually gave in to the constant nagging. My very best friend "G" started coming to the same home church as me at the same time. People were overly nice, made me feel special and wanted, all the typical Xenos jazz. So I kept coming, but still was a little hesitant to jump all in.
"G" and I were looking at getting an apartment together in that general area, and when we made an off hand mention at an apartment we had looked at, it suddenly became everyone's soul purpose to talk us into moving into a ministry house. There was a lot of pressure to do this, and us both being fairly easy going we decided that is what we would do. The house was disappointing, and incredibly expensive considering how many of us had to share rooms. The price was high since a portion (how big I do not know) was being used for "house funds" (which I think essentially picked up the slack for our roommate that was not working).
The church I was in was pretty unhealthy in general, and our house leader "N" more so - she was about 15 years older than all the other girls in the house, and constantly fighting with one of the other girls. I developed an absolute fear of her and would dread coming home if I ever saw her car parked out front. She was consistently emotionally damaging, telling us what we could and couldn't wear/telling us we dressed like sluts, getting in yelling matches, and manipulating people against each other by talking behind their backs. When I would bring concerns up to my discipler she would simply just tell me that is how "N" was and we should show her grace. I started feeling depressed and incredibly anxious constantly.
My church schedule started getting more and more overwhelming, leaving considerably less time for family, friends outside of Xenos, work and school. None of these things were supposed to be priorities. Luckily I still very much considered my family my safe haven, and would often sleep at my parents house when I felt distressed about my ministry house situations. They did not like/strongly discouraged me from doing this, which my parents found alarming. My mom started voicing concerns about it being cult like. I got to see my roommate "Z" kicked out of the house for sexual sin, again the amount of rumors and backstabbing circulating is just ridiculous.
Around that time a guy at school asked me out on a date. Feeling that this was my own choice to make, I said yes. This is when I started to have major issues with all of my leaders and friends. On our first date, he picked me up from the ministry house. When I returned I was informed I definitely should not date him, because he was obviously gay (from their five second observation of the color of his tie). I really liked him, so I continued to see him. Until I was talked to and told I had to tell him I could not see him anymore, because he was not a part of Xenos. So the next time I was with him I told him I couldn't be around him anymore, but I did end up continuing to contact him without really telling anyone [and we really stayed in contact forever since..we have been married almost five years now].
This ended up being the final straw for me. I told everyone I was leaving, and then faced a lot of backlash. When it came time to leave the house, they tried to tell me I had to pay rent even if I was not living in the house because of the house covenant I had signed. I told them that since I was not officially on the lease I was not paying. Or I would be happy to live there if I could have my own room, and not be a part of Xenos (this was obviously unacceptable).
My best friend "G" was going to leave when I was, but then decided last minute to stay. She is still in it, we still see each other from time to time, but it will never be the same that it was before. She is not the same person as before Xenos in any way, and has given up on many dreams along the way to be in the church.
The usual happened to me when I left, most of the people I knew from before didn't hang out with me anymore...Rumors were spread that I had to leave because I got pregnant.
I still battle with anxiety and panic attacks that get triggered by certain types of social situations, which I feel is because of how I was treated in Xenos by my house leader. But I am mostly just happy that this is the worst of it since so many people have experience much worse.
Story Five: “The longer you are there the harder it is to get out of. You know, like a cult?”
What You NEED To Know About Xenos Christian Fellowship:
“Xenos is organized by divisions. Our six divisions each have their own coordinator on staff, and usually several staff department heads. The coordinators meet with the lead elders to form the management team. They are in turn responsible, through the lead elders, to the board of elders...Xenos student ministries group reaches out to children (Oasis), junior high, high school and college students. We also oversee the Xenos Christian Schools.”
So what does that all mean?
What that means is that Xenos is a big ole’ group with lots of people in it and they’ve figured how to organize the bitch. If you were to follow Xenos’ preferred timeline, your life would look like this (and dammit, you’re gonna be happy about it).
You’re a kid at Oasis, Xenos’ elementary school. Once you get older and get to hang with the big kids you join a junior high “cell group” which are group teachings separated by boys and girls that meet once a week at the home of one of the group leaders and also collectively at “CT”. “Central Teaching” happens across all age groups, just on different nights of the week or at different locations. To visualize, just imagine yourself in a huge gymnasium with a hundred or so other people your age learnin’ about Jesus. Once you grow out of that, you get to high school and graduate from cell group to “homechurch” which is exactly like cell group but now the boys and girls can hang out, sorry, fellowship together. And when you graduate high school and go to college, guess what happens? You go to OSU or Columbus State Community College (because those are where you have to go to also be at Xenos), choose a college homechurch (because you didn’t really get to choose the college you went to, right?) and then based on which homechurch you choose you move into that homechurch’s ministry house which is just a regular 3-4 room apartment in Columbus, OH that typically houses up to 8-10 men or women. Note: OR, not and. People typically live in the ministry house until they get married, at which point they move out and begin their lives with their partner (who is almost always another member at Xenos). You grow up, have kids, and sign them up for Oasis, Xenos’ elementary school. The cycle continues.
I am aware of the amount of information I shared, however I provided it because it is paramount to understanding truly how organized Xenos is. They have a school, a library, mental health services (we’ll come back to that), multiple locations to attend central teaching. They start their programs very young and have a system that initiates growth within Xenos. You get excited to go to homechurch in the same way you are excited to get to go to high school. Xenos is an entire part of your life and it makes sense because you are realistically spending at least two nights a week either at a Xenos facility or homegroup. And that isn’t even taking discipleship into mind.
Once you become a real person with real formable thoughts and feelings (so around early high school) you are asked by one of the group leaders to be discipled. And what that means is that once a week you will meet them at the Panera on State Street to read the bible, talk Jesus, and discuss your entire life with them. It’s serves functionally as a sort of therapist within your homechurch that helps guide you through your spiritual journey. Also, a person to track your following within Xenos. Once you are strong enough in your spiritual journey you can begin discipling others at the same time. Once you are in college, you realistically have a discipler and (if you’re not screwing around) a disciple (or two or three) of your own as well. Think of it kinda like how you’re chosen to be someone’s little in a sorority or fraternity. Except your big is statistically someone that is gonna be around 4 years older than you and will never offer you jello shots.
I entered the Xenos system in sixth grade, right before the system goes into hyper drive. This is my story.
How I Got Into The Whole Cult Thing (The Good):
In the summer before I went to middle school my “best friend forever and always” (who I will rename as Tara out of respect) invited me to a church group that her older sister had been a part of. Tara’s sister was four years older than us and was just the coolest person in the world because she was in highhhh schoool. She got Tara to start going to the middle school version of her group (she was at homechurch at the time) called “Cell Group”. I went one week and had a fucking blast. There was free food, annual camp programs, fun games, cool outings, and a group of people who had to be nice to me. For a lame-ass insecure middle school I had found the Mecca (except not, whatever) for getting out of my house and having something to do. Tara got me and our other friend, “Cassie” to come with her and over time it became just what we did. We went through middle school as best friends and every week we would go to cell group on Friday nights and CT on Tuesday nights. Always.
Once we got older we were told to visit high school groups and choose which one we wanted to go to. We went to a few but let’s be real, we knew Tara’s sister and all of her friends already so it was way easier for us to choose a group we were comfortable in. Which was a relief because once you chose a high school group you were highly encouraged to stay in that same group the whole time you were in high school so you could form stronger fellowship within the group. So “Mobile” homechurch is where I went and it is where my struggle with Xenos began. Because cell group and junior high CT were fun as hell, the teachings were short and you got to just hang out and play with other kids your age. I fell in love with Jesus and all He had done for me and went into high school with God behind all of my actions.
The bad time I had with Xenos followed what I would consider a very successful time at Xenos. I was a bit rougher around the edges compared to a lot of the other kids at Xenos. My parents did not ever invoke religious thought into me because they didn’t spend a lot of time giving a shit about anything that they didn’t need to give a shit about (rent, food, oh, and drugs drugs drugs). So I was there on my own account and really wanted to be there. I preferred being there to being home so I poured all of my time into it and Xenos loved it. I was the poor girl with a tough home life that despite all odds of how I could have turned out (that would be a completely separate blog post), I was there, at Xenos and eager to learn more and grow more with God. I was Xenos’ sitting duck.
Shortly after joining Mobile homechurch I was approached by a leader named Becky (her actual name because you’ll see) and asked if I would like to have a discipler. I had been waiting for this shit for years, I had seen Tara’s sister get discipled and wanted “a big” so badly. I agreed and Becky became my discipler. She was also my last discipler.
I think one of the hugest lies that Xenos spreads is in their description of “non-evangelical”. I think that Xenos elders might not know what evangelism is because Xenos’ entire foundation is based on expansion. People were applauded and respected for bringing new people to homechurch and it was highly encouraged and discussed. How were you going to have friends if those friends were not going to be able to spend eternal life with you? If you want to keep those friends from hindering your walk with Christ, you need to compel (insist on) them to follow Christ (have them verbally or mentally accept that Jesus Christ died and resurrected for your sins and you accept that he is the son of God). So basically: Go to church, bring people to church, get them to stay at church, insist on them bringing more people to church. The cycle continues.
My competitive nature and need to be the center of attention benefited Xenos a lot. Tara and I invited literally all of our friends to cell group and then eventually homechurch as well. If I made a friend in any way, I hit them with the, “Hey, well what are you doing Tuesday night? There’s this thing…” Teachings were occasionally led by non-leaders if the leaders felt you were spiritually qualified so you bet my ass was teaching other people my age about Jesus. I also wanted disciples of my own and by the time I was a sophomore in high school I already had two disciples as well as continuing my discipleship with Becky. So between homechurch, CT, and discipleship I was spending the majority of the days of the week spiritually. I converted people in Pizza Hut parking lots, I led group prayer in a cheap microphone, I prayed and prayed and prayed and everyone I loved in my life was a part of Xenos too and probably because I got them to be there. There are people I brought to Xenos and converted that are still at Xenos today.
In a twist of morbid irony, Xenos was also the first place to ever teach me what depression was. Rather, it was the first time someone articulated how I had felt for my whole life. In sixth grade, a friend’s mom (keep in mind, everyone was in Xenos) was acting strange and her daughter told me it was her mom’s depression. Sometimes it would act up but if she prayed enough it would go away. Sure, okay.
I got older and because of life I started to “grow” into the mentally unstable person that I am today. I was depressed due to a multitude of factors (and also because I would later learn that “depression” is just a part of my factory settings) and spoke of those openly with my discipler, Becky. Part of the reason I loved Becky was because toward the beginning of our time together she explained that she had suffered through a lot of the same transgressions. She was clinically depressed but was treated (through medication but medication that only works because of our faith in Christ) and she had also won her battle against self-harm which I also had struggled with. We worked together weekly to battle my depression and find consolation in Christ. I was cutting myself all throughout high school and looking back, Becky was probably assigned to pursue me as a disciple because of this. I stopped cutting for a long time when I was in the thick of Xenos. And part of that was because I had no way to hide me doing that.
There was no hiding anything at Xenos. If you were following Christ in the way they suggested you should you were open about everything that you were doing. And if you weren’t open about it, your friends (who were all at church with you) probably were. And they had all the same rules as most Christian churches: No sex. No drinking. No illegal activity. No talking shit about Jesus. But Xenos usually took it extra steps farther and never “officially”. One of the biggest examples I can recall is that I was told to never shave my pubic hair. Why? Because boys don’t like it when you haven’t shaved down there and if you shaved that must mean that you are trying to have sex. So don’t shave down there, okay?
The beginning of the end for my time at Xenos started when there was anything else in my life to fill my time. I had started to become more active in my high school's theatre troupe and became the secretary for the department. I started to hang out with those friends and while a lot of them were also in Xenos, not all of them were at Xenos. Like my ex-boyfriend (Bob, sure), who is an atheist.
I started catching signs of Xenos being bad news bears when I began dating my high school sweetheart, Bob. I didn’t agree to date Bob for a couple of months because he was a vocal atheist. I needed a Christ-loving boyfriend to spend eternity with, okay? This guy wasn’t hopping on the Heaven train any time soon. So I shrugged him off even though I had a crush on the guy. I had told Becky and Tara about him and they were pretty clear on their instructions: Don’t date Bob. That would be horrible and bad for my walk with Christ. Satan was tempting me to date Bob but that wasn’t God’s intentions for me and it would only cause complications for my walk with Christ.
I felt like I was different than other girls who went off and dated non-believers. I wanted to eventually convert the guy and how would that happen if I wasn’t close to him? I had an in for conversion and it was dating him. Meanwhile, I could also be a normal high school girl with a boyfriend and I was in high school so basically I really wanted a boyfriend. I wouldn’t never fool around with him, I would stay pure till marriage. I wouldn’t miss teachings or stop discipling my disciples at all. So I agreed to date Bob and was really happy about it. The weekend after I went to a Xenos retreat at a camping grounds about an hour from Columbus and planned on telling Tara the news.
Tara and I walked out into the woods on one of the last nights we were there. We were just walking and talking the way we always had, talking about Christ. I told her about Bob. It didn’t go well at all. She screamed at me, she cried, she was devastated. She was so scared for me and truly felt that this was me saying goodbye to my faith, which I hadn’t intended on being a departure just because I was dating an atheist. We were young and she was angry. She ran back to the cabins and left me alone in the woods. I walked back to campground feeling like I was on my way to Fellowship’s Death Row.
Becky learned of the relationship that same weekend and responded in a more mature yet still disdainful way. It was as if I had told everyone that I started dating John Wayne Gacy. Becky began to explain that Bob and I would never be on the same page as each other because of his lack of salvation. Bob was (as Xenos loved to say), “of the world” and would only invite sin. As soon as I began dating Bob there was a strange filter on my entire relationship with Becky that made me incredibly uncomfortable and anxious. She was disappointed with me and I felt that every time we studied together.
As I dated Bob I also started becoming more and more needed at rehearsals and theatre meetings. I began missing Central Teaching occasionally because of those rehearsals. Any time I missed a meeting it was met with that same face of disappointment from Becky. As time went on she became more and more transparent. One day we were shopping for snacks for homechurch and she told me that a new member had accepted Christ the week prior. I was delighted to hear that because I was trying to convert him myself. I said, “That’s awesome! When did that happen?” She responded with, “Well maybe if you were at the meetings you would actually see the Lord’s work.” At this point in time I had only missed two meetings. Ever.
This also began to drive a wedge between Tara and I but also everyone else at my homechurch. I was still there doing all of the same things but what was I doing when I was alone with Bob?
Which brings me to the answer to that question. Like all high schoolers, I learned on accident that I would have a hard time with the whole Bob wanting to have sex thing. I explained that I didn’t want to do that until marriage and he didn’t protest. We would make out and make out and make out. After that we would make out some more. But eventually I wanted more. And so I agreed that I would have sex with Bob but only after we had dated for a year, at least. Which I thought would have been a deal breaker but Bob stuck with me. At 6 months I let him run to second base. 9 months we both ran to third. And then, a whole year after we began dating, Bob and I did the do after watching the “Makin’ My Dreams Come True” scene in 500 Days of Summer.
I felt really guilty for having sex. I didn’t regret it and I definitely didn’t stop having sex but it was a secret. I felt like the worst sinner Satan could have created and everything that Becky had warned me about had come true. I was happy about it but knew that it was wrong for me to be happy with Bob. This was around the same time that my family politics had flared up, I was over scheduled with theatre and Xenos, and I felt all of my friends had drifted away from me. I started cutting myself again.
Becky found out about me cutting and was, wait for it, disappointed. She explained to me that if I was spending enough time on my walk with God that I wouldn’t want to to cut myself. I must be doing something wrong. I believed her. I felt like God was mad at me and that was why I was more depressed. But the idea of God being dissappointed in me didn’t help much and I definitely kept cutting myself, regardless of how much I prayed. One day after the teaching, Becky approached Tara to ask her to lead a teaching the next week on James. It was a passage that Becky knew that I enjoyed about overcoming struggle. She had always approached the both of us but it was at this time that I was deemed spiritually unqualified to teach. I was destroyed.
There was one night that I felt especially low. I remember it very well, I was laying on my bed with my green Envy cell phone, texting a friend (from Xenos). I told her I was depressed and felt horrible. I told her I wanted to die. While I understand the gravity of those words I did not anticipate the gravity of what would happen next.
My friend’s mom drove her to pick me up at 9pm on a school night. They took me to their house and my friend consoled me. I remember feeling that it was unnecessary and had really scrambled with my parents trying to explain why I was leaving. I didn’t talk to my parents about my depression or self-harming at all and it was to the understanding of everyone at Xenos that it wouldn’t be beneficial to tell my parents about my struggle. I mean, they were non-believers so what were they even gonna do? So I stayed the night and woke up the next day with no fucking idea of what had already happened.
My friend’s mom (also in Xenos) had contacted Becky and told her that I had contemplated suicide the night before. And Becky had a plan and her plan was to tell my mom about everything.
I understand the need for parents to be notified of important stuff with their kids, this was not a situation that justified the amount of bullshit I would have to go through if my parents knew that I cut myself. There are situations in which parents knowing can hurt the kid more and I was one of those cases. Becky knew that and in the three years that we discipled together we had the mutual understanding that my parents wouldn’t be able to provide support for me and we looked for support in other ways (LIKE JESUS).
But Becky had thrown that out the window. She called me the next day and told me that she needed to speak with my mom. She had my mom’s number (Xenos registration) and told me that she would be calling her soon to explain that I had been cutting and that I was suicidal.
That wasn’t going to happen if I had anything to do with. When I think of what happened next, I just imagine Richard Gere from Chicago doing the courtroom tap dance. Because that’s essentially what I did. In a matter of an hour I went from a Xenos rockstar to completely and totally out of the organization.
After getting off the phone with Becky I instantly went to my mom and told her she was about to get a call from Becky. She asked what it would be about and I said that Becky “thinks I’m suicidal and cutting myself”. But Becky was a liar and I wanted nothing to do with her anymore (not a lie). My mom asked if I was lying and blam-o I lied and said that I wasn’t lying. She said that if Becky was saying this that she never wanted me going to another Xenos meeting again. That’s when it hit me...I wasn’t going to be able to go to Xenos anymore. I didn’t have time to process any of that because I was focused on one thing: Making damn sure that my mom didn’t believe a word that Becky said. Becky couldn’t have known the gravity to which me cutting myself would affect my home life and I feared the idea of my family knowing. I told her to just get off the phone with Becky as soon as she could and we would talk after. The phone rang. My mom picked up the phone and I watched her the entire length of the phone call. She shrugged off most of what Becky had said and hung up. I spent another hour cleaning up the mess Becky made with my mom. I can’t even imagine how worse it would have been if I hadn’t gotten to my mom first.
I called Becky and explained that I wasn’t allowed to go to Xenos anymore. She yelled at me and said a plethora of inappropriate things for a 32 year old to say to a 17 year old. I kept it simple and insisted that my mom wasn’t allowing me to go to Xenos anymore (which btw, I told Becky before that if my parents knew about cutting I would probably not be allowed to go to Xenos anyway). She told me that I lied so much that I didn’t even know who I was anymore. That I was completely delusional. That I was becoming part “of the world” and that I was jeopardizing my place with Christ. And that one day I would realize how horrible I was and hopefully repent. And then hung up on me.
I invited Tara over and explained the situation to her. I told her that I wouldn’t be going to Xenos anymore. She cried and stormed out of my house in the same manner she stormed out of the woods. 7 years of friendship. Completely shattered. We were never the same again.
When I was in 7th grade I had heard of one of Tara’s sister’s friends leaving the church. Her name was Melissa and her and I clicked really well. When she left I was told to stop talking to her. She wouldn’t know that she missed the power of fellowship if she still had all the same support from us. So everyone stopped talking to Melissa and I never heard from her again.
Tara was only the beginning. I lost all of my friends that day. And I knew exactly why and that only made it worse. People would see me at school and avoid me. People were never rude or mean or aggressive but I honestly wish they had been. It was worse knowing exactly what they were thinking and knowing that they felt it was morally wrong to be friends with me. And I didn’t even want to leave Xenos when this happened, it was just what I felt was my safest option. So I was cast out of Xenos under the pretense that I wanted to live “of the world” and have sex with my boyfriend and become corrupt.
Living life “of the world” turned out to be better for me in the long run. I rebuilt a friend group from friends in the theatre department. After an entire year of being sexually active, I let people know that I wasn’t a virgin. I applied for colleges not in Columbus, Ohio. I went to college in Florida, notably far from Ohio. I actively chose to not pack my bible with me. I stopped identifying as religious and lived my life the way I wanted to, which in Xenos’ book is tainted with tons and tons of sin. But I’ve only ever done what I have wanted to do and that is obviously better for me.
However, on my darkest days, I still think of Xenos and the warnings they gave me. When I was sexually assaulted I remember feeling that I was being punished for “living of the world”. I still have a lot feelings of guilt attached to sex. I still sometimes think that my depression would maybe be gone if I prayed more. Sometimes when everything feels like it's collapsing in on itself I think about how easier my life could have been if I had just stayed at Xenos and married some Xenos guy and had that life. Xenos is still a voice in my head but thankfully it has become a whisper.
This is just my story. There are countless stories of people that have left Xenos whose experiences reflect mine. Countless college students have been kicked out of their homes because they were drinking or having sex while living in a ministry house (IN COLLEGE). Multiple of my friends in the LGBTQ community were encouraged to go through conversion therapy. Those friends were not comfortable coming out of the closet until months and months after leaving Xenos. There is now a website with submitted stories of people’s experiences. You can check those out at www.xenosisacult.com.
Last year I visited Columbus during the holidays. My sister told me that she had seen Tara out at a bar recently. Which was wild for me to hear because people were not allowed to be drunk at Xenos. Like, you can have a glass of champagne but you were never supposed to get crunk if ya know what I mean. But apparently Tara was turning the fuck up lately. I got curious and shot Tara a Facebook message and asked if she wanted to get together soon (something I hadn’t done in 5 years). Toward the end I said, “I don’t know if you’re allowed but would you wanna grab drinks together?” She said she was down and was no longer in Xenos. We agreed to meet the next day.
Tara was kicked out of Xenos. She was living in the ministry house and was a part of the college ministry at Xenos. had been going through a tough time in the church and felt pretty horrible all together. She developed an eating disorder but kept it a secret because she knew that would be unacceptable in the eyes of Xenos. She suffered silently and was eventually hospitalized after she attempted suicide through starving herself. The elders of her group and other women in her ministry house visited the hospital and explained that they had put Tara’s place in the group to a vote. They felt her actions and behavior would be bad examples for the other women. Because of these reasons, she was then asked to move out of the ministry house and leave the church. They told her this while she was still in the hospital bed. Her sister was in that room. Life long friends were in that room. Her relationships with them have never been the same.
But she left and found herself a boyfriend and a good job and she is figuring it out “in the world” just fine. She is aware of how toxic Xenos was and has apologized about the way things ended with us. She is doing really well for herself and I’m proud that she has come so far after being in Xenos for so long. The longer you are there the harder it is to get out of.
You know, like a cult?
Story Six: "but her homechurch told her to quit all her extracurricular activities to focus more on god.”
I have 3 stories to share. the first one is from my friend, the second is from my dad, and the third is from me.
My friend was extremely invested in her home church; she went there for almost 4 years, and it was all she ever talked about. she does a bunch of sports and is involved in band, but her homechurch told her to quit all her extracurricular activities to focus more on god. they also told her that she could only go to 3 different colleges because they have ministry houses, so she eventually had to leave.
My dad told me that he's always been wary of homechurch because when he was a teen, his friends got involved in xenos, and they got so clingy to my dads friends to the point of asking them the worth of their parent's house. it's insane.
I remember when i was there, someone had said that their friend can't come because their parents wants them to go to a catholic bible study, and another person said their friend couldn't go because they had homework, and at the end, our leader said "let's pray that god helps these people stop making bullshit excuses and actually come out" like wtf.
Story Seven: “Everyone knew your business which is why I would never allow myself to be "vulnerable" and disclose all of my personal life.”
I attended Xenos for nearly 20 years. I came to the fellowship well into my 30's so never had the college/ministry house experience. I will share that the youth-college-young adult demographics are the main focus of the senior leaders, now. I found my time with the church to be educational in terms of the Bible and spiritually, I grew and started my walk in the fellowship. I am a critical thinker and think for myself so I didn't relent or rather, give myself completely over to my home church or small group. I was not one to just share all my business.
While single, I was questioned many times about sex with my boyfriend and it was like an obsession with them. When engaged, it was the same. We never answered them. The church was known to kick people out for having sex before marriage but yet would not address the drunkeness at homechurch or the gossiping. Everyone knew your business which is why I would never allow myself to be "vulnerable" and disclose all of my personal life. The home church leaders report up to their sphere leaders and share everyone's business. Love bombing is real and It is creepy. This was my experience and very similar to other people I know. This church does do good, the Central Teachings are stellar, especially if you get Gary Delashmutt and I do hear that there are some good home churches there despite the senior leadership. Just beware.
Story Eight: “But I most definitely have been absolutely happier now that give left that toxic cult.”
Nearly 2 years ago a good friend of mine at the time invited me out to her home church, I had heard about this church before but I didn’t know much about it so me and my best friend decided to go out. From then on I went out to my home church for about a year before finally leaving at the end of 2017. All things started out well but after a couple months of going out me and another girl in the church became best friends. We would always hang out at the teachings and we’re always around each other but it wasn’t long before the leaders in the group started to start watching us all the time. I should now mention that I’m a lesbian and before going out I was scared Xenos would be homophobic but I was reassured multiple times that they loved and accept gay people (ps they don’t).
Flashing forward to about a year into me being in the group we went on a retreat to one of the leaders lake houses, me and the girl who became my best friend had decided we would room with two other girls for our stay. Nearly right after everybody chose their rooms one of the leaders came into the room and said she needed to talk to me and the girl by ourselves, she proceeded to tell us that nobody was comfortable with us sleeping together in a room together and that If we did she would be forced to take us back home. I was completely humiliated and was in tears for the rest of the night.
Me and the girl never did anything romantic and we’re just friends yet because we were close and I’m gay they assumed we were doing romantic stuff. Besides the complete humiliation for the rest of our time in the group we always had somebody watching out every move while straight couples in the groups could do as they pleased with none of the leaders bating an eye.
This group made my mental health decrease(to the extreme because Xenos was once a place I found comfort in and I thought that the leaders and other people in the groups loved me for who I was. I warn any LGBT+ people or anybody in general to steer clear of this horrible place. Even about 6 months after leaving the group people in the group are still saying extremely homophobic things about me and the girl. But I most definitely have been absolutely happier now that give left that toxic cult. I just hope other people leave before it’s too late.
Story Nine: “Leaders make close relationships with some of the kids so if something is happening that they don’t know about the certain kids will report it.”
They don’t care about you if you make “ungodly” choices. There was a girl in college group that I knew who lived in the ministry house and they were all basically like sisters because she’d been living there for such a long time but her depression got to her and she tried to commit suicide, the group didn’t give one fuck about her, they didn’t visit , they didn’t care and they kicked her out and not formally they removed all of her items and had her friends come remove it from their property and they don’t speak of her name or talk to her now when they should’ve been there.
I went to a Xenos wedding and I was disgusted in their vows they basically had the bride say that she would cater to her husbands every need no matter what and that he and controlled her basically and it was all for god.
Leaders make close relationships with some of the kids so if something is happening that they don’t know about the certain kids will report it , me and my friend hung out by ourselves one night instead of going to homechurch and we posted about it and they had the same 3 people asking us both why we weren’t there and then info about other people and they try to control us and make us go to everything and especially stay on campus which isn’t all that fun.
don’t go to xenos camp epic if you aren’t entrapped in their trance before you go you most likely will afterwards, it’s where it’s secluded and they have you with group members and teachings almost every hour. Even when you come back they want to hang out with you that night or the next day to talk about what you learned and every time after ct and homechurch they always go over the teaching again to make sure we understand it.
Story Ten: "do not share anything you would not be willing to tell to the whole church."
At Xenos prayer=church-sanctioned gossip. Above all: do not share anything you would not be willing to tell to the whole church. I have known, and known of, too many people, especially young people, who have been deeply hurt by what occurred after a "private" conversation.
Don't expect anyone to have time for you any more if you don't go to home church . . . Even if you have been the best of friends for 18 years.
Don't expect the college ministry house to give your kid enough time to go to school, work and actually study. It would interfere with their spiritual life and/or what the leaders want them to do.
If said child moves out because he needs to study and actually still sleep, don't expect even one person from church to still have any time for him, even if he was still willing to go to teachings and home church.
If said child had a friend with whom he was best friends from age two and with whom he even had a shared graduation party, don't expect that "friend" to behave as if there was ever a friendship.
If you go to home church and someone else has not come for a couple of weeks, expect to be told that you are "wasting your time" hanging out with them because they won't join the church, even if that person is a friend. Apparently one should never put the love of a friend before Xenos.
If you question anything and don't immediately accept the answer you are given, expect your Christianity to be called into question.
If you want to experience true love and friendship . . . Look elsewhere
Story Eleven: "It is possible to maintain your faith without giving your entire life to a man made, power hungry, hypocritical, and cruel church. There are some truly wonderful people that attend Xenos, and I sincerely hope they can find the courage to question what they are being taught, and see if it really is what God wants. Something tells me that God wouldn’t want his sons and daughters to manipulate, falsely accuse, judge, or shun others."
So I had numerous experiences with Xenos, both directly involving me, or through close friends that were mentally and emotionally abused. Between middle school and high school I tried going to several different groups, based on which friend had invited me. My parents were okay with me trying this out, because my church youth group was rather small, and they felt that this would be a good way to connect with “Christian” friends. The first that that struck me as odd (even as a freshman in high school at this point) was that after the Central Teaching, kids would gather on the back deck and smoke. Some of them had alcohol concealed in some not so discreet bottles. The adults running the function proceeded to carry on like none of this was happening, acting as if it was totally normal to have 15 year olds smoking on their property.
I thought it was strange, but didn’t think too much of it. I attended a couple Xenos functions here and there, and they were fun, but I kept on being prodded to come out to a home church teaching. I did enjoy the friends I had made, and thought I might as well see what Home church was like. I made quite a few friends the first night, and was asked when I would be back. I truly didn’t know, because the large group smushed into a small basement honestly gave me a lot of anxiety. I didn’t always feel comfortable around the leaders because I felt like they were scoping me out and trying to determine if I was worth talking to. However what made this whole experience turn sour was two of my close friends getting kicked out. One of my friends was dealing with deep depression, and was falsely accused of many things that frankly just didn’t happen.
Another friend was in the process of coming out, and took a break from home church, only to find out that she had been excommunicated basically. Both friends were cut off completely, in the most disheartening ways. It’s hard to imagine being best friends with someone, and thinking that they truly have your best interest at heart, and then the next day they decide you don’t love God the way they want you to, so they cut all ties. The last instance that I knew Xenos was beyond messed up was several years later when I was visiting with a friend (I truly feel she is a good person who has been brainwashed beyond help). She invited me to her ministry house, and I agreed to go over and visit for a while. This house was jam packed with way too much stuff, and reason being because there were 13 girls living in ONE house. I asked how they possibly figured out a rooming system, and as I am looking in rooms, I see rooms designated to closet space, which has everyone’s stuff compiled into two rooms. And lastly we come to the attic (decent size) and there are 13 beds. In one room. With “curtain barriers” between some of them. I don’t understand why anyone would choose to live like a pack rat, but she insisted it was like a fun sleepover every night. Sounds pretty awful to me.
I could say so much more about the people I know who have been hurt and wounded by Xenos, but I hope they become brave enough to share their own story. It is possible to maintain your faith without giving your entire life to a man made, power hungry, hypocritical, and cruel church. There are some truly wonderful people that attend Xenos, and I sincerely hope they can find the courage to question what they are being taught, and see if it really is what God wants. Something tells me that God wouldn’t want his sons and daughters to manipulate, falsely accuse, judge, or shun others.